Free spirit

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It’s taken me over a week to recover from the shock of finishing (and podiuming) the Lead Belt National Enduro in Park Hills, Missouri, a place that I’d visited prior but not for this: round seven of the Kenda AMA National Enduro Series Powered by FMF. The infamous enduro was dustier than usual – which didn’t take much getting used to; it was what the dust did to the rocks – I’d heard rumors of these rocks – that threw me off, making them soft and slick. My grand master plan was to finish the race because the last national I entered resulted in a broken arm. So, this was my redemption race and, boy, was I in for a ride.

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I showed up to the riders meeting without a row assignment, but I quickly learned fate had me starting on row 41 along with three others: a pro, A 40+ and C 50+ rider. We hit the first section and into the woods, getting up to speed on the slippery singletrack, where I drew confidence from some of the biggest names in the sport who were undoubtedly struggling in the dusty conditions but still staying ahead of me. I could tell it hadn’t rained in a while, but I focused on playing into my strengths and not pushing too hard to cause a crash or a mechanical. The terrain varied from tight rocky sections to off-camber singletrack. In the end, I started stronger than I finished, and was sitting in second place after the first and second tests, but struggled in the last 3 sections where small mistakes cost me precious time, especially when holding my own waiting for the pros to pass (in the 5th test, one actually clipped me when he went by, which sent me and my bike into a dry creek bed where he left me with a, “Sorry!”)

 

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Relaxing at a reset

Overall, I finished 208th overall out of 442 and third in the Women Elite class, just 23 seconds behind second place (205th overall) and 30 points behind series champion, Tayla Jones (130th overall.)

I came into the finish, after following the live scoring on my phone during the resets, anticipating a second place finish but I was still overjoyed with a third and my first pro podium, which I sacrificed since I was committed to work on Monday and we had a 15-hour drive back to Florida.

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After – notice the right bark buster!

On the way home, I wondered what made the difference: if it was all of the extra time I’ve been spending at the gym on the rower before squats and shoulders, or the amazing Alfredo pasta I demolished the night before, or the Pedialyte® Powder Packs that I was turned on to, or my brand new tires, or my summer riding vacation in Colorado, or, or, or … all of the above.

The best thing about enduros is that the difficulty is not based on a man or woman’s perspective; it’s the very best offroad riders in the country mixing it up against the clock (even though the Women Elite class runs the same course as the National “B” classes; we’re not required to complete the last section.)

My success, I realized, called upon my skills (a little luck) and the help of my team, topped with being in touch with my bike – I had to stop and take air out of the rear tire TWICE – and thinking ahead to bring a spare set of gloves in my Camelbak, knowing I get distracted if my gloves loosen up – the tighter the better!

 

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