Super Sunday

Before the underdog Eagles took home the Super Bowl win, I took home a third-place trophy in the Women’s Elite class at Round 1 of the National Enduro Series in Sumter, S.C.

Ray Newton Photography

What a day to remember. Turns out, waking up Monday morning after celebrating my accomplishment of feeling like one always feels after racing a 60-mile enduro – if you don’t know … – I actually finished fourth even though I was recognized on the podium with a third-place trophy the day before.

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Returning this to its rightful owner at the next race

Oh, well. I’d achieved my goal of a top five finish, and that alone motivates me to put in more effort for the next one. See, you learn a lot about yourself racing a 60-mile enduro, like how I need to do more squats and lower back exercises, and the vice grip machine I bought to use at my desk worked wonders on my grip!

You learn a lot before and after the race, too, from how many snacks and bottles of water to bring, to what muscles will start cramping first and which part of your body will ache most the next day. I wondered what it would be like to NOT be sore after a race as I dreamed of riding my motorcycle for a living one day and training on the bike more than once a week.

Throughout the race, I challenged myself to stay tuned in to the world around me without letting my mind wander off like it did exactly 365 days before when I broke my arm there last year. The track was made up of generous pine rows that were so tight in spots I struggled wiggling my handlebars through. I benefited by staying calm and focusing on my surroundings and body positioning on the bike, trying drastically to move high up on the seat and force my front end around the tight corners. The course provided a variety of obstacles for me to become more competitive in multiple areas, specifically soaking wet log crossings, which will make a huge difference once mastered at speed.

This time, my mindfulness-like attention training helped me to stay connected and balanced on the bike, which made me more confident in my riding ability, and rewarded me with that short-lived third-place* finish, and only one giant crash of the day.

*Even though I ended up fourth, I impressed myself with my ability to stay calm and not overthink, especially in the midst of a cold, wet and rainy day. I was honored by my pit crew’s support; enduro spectators only get to see their rider for about an hour total across the 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. contest.

With a month until my next race, it’s time to dust off the ol’ pedal bike, after my dad reminded me that mountain biking is how he “got fast.”

For me, I got fast by training with someone faster; with seconds between our times at more than one of my five checkpoints, I’m full of gratitude and especially encouraged to stay as close as possible and finish out the rest of the 10-round season successfully.

Throwback to my summer ride in Colorado with Seat Time Adventures

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Will show

Today marks 29 days until the start of the national enduro season in Sumter, South Carolina, and after a season of rest and recuperation, including a recent frigid ride in the mountains, I’m looking forward to returning to head-to-head competition and getting back on the podium. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and preparing for this upcoming season, imagining all of the obstacles and how I’m going to overcome them. Just the thought of returning to racing is energizing and gives me something to focus on, even if, in full disclosure, the odds are long that I’m racing for the win; I’m still going to try, and my perseverance will show. Racing a 60-mile enduro is the one activity I’ve found that taps into my reserves of effort and motivation and helps me produce the energy for what I need to succeed, whether it’s negotiating better in the turns, adapting to obstacles or finding the capacity to make every second count. I never know what I’m getting myself into at the start, but I know I’m capable of anything, and that’s the best part.

Intersection

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To celebrate my birthday this week, I took myself twice in the last four days to the same place I’ve been riding for 20 years and headed back to my comfort zone for the first time in over month. One would think that riding around the same trails for more than half of your life would get boring – heck, even I’ve thought that before – but I’m luckily looking back on two of the best sand whoop training days I’ve had all year.

At first, it felt strange, like I didn’t really belong anymore, since I’d been steering clear of the woods lately and practicing on the motocross track. Frustrated and resistant, it was hard to stay interested in my tough, singletrack training, despite two months until the start of the 9-round 2018 National Enduro series. (Did I mention I was riding without barkbusters?)

But, as I listened this week to the Tim Ferriss podcast with Walter Issacson, I saw how it was a lesson in stepping outside of my comfort zone and a new experience for me to be questioning my skills in these woods. It was almost as if I was riding with a chip of experience on my shoulder, and I found myself at a clear crossroads wondering what to think; I couldn’t stop self-evaluating.

Looking back, I just wasn’t warmed up yet, because I turned a corner and became curious again when my bike hooked up coming out of a corner and I seat bounced three whoops in a row, which made me feel like Wonder Woman, and I really wanted to make up for lost time.

“…if you can be interested in everything, if you can be cross disciplinary, then you can see the patterns of our Cosmos and how we connect to it.” – Walter Isaacson

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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!

 

In return

I celebrated my return to riding in Florida at Croom, almost a month to the day that I’d even thrown my leg over my bike, so I warmed up first by myself, burning over 200 calories in 16 minutes over 5.16 miles, before hooking up and hitting the woods for a ~13-mile “trail ride,” averaging 11.6 mph and burning 770 calories in 1:11:55.

It didn’t take long to return to my repetitive practice of doubling as many whoops as I can, which requires looking ahead on the trail, watching where the leader’s wheels are in that moment, instead of looking down at where your tires are right now. It builds your confidence muscle, having no fears of crashing or failing and being seen looking like an idiot. It’s all about mindset, and I was hell bent on turning off my squirrel brain and being at one in the woods with my motorcycle.

“We seen you guys go by and tucked in behind, yeah not a chance. Y’all were GONE”

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Sunday fun day!

Mission accomplished.

Honored

It’s going on four weeks that I haven’t seen or touched my dirt bike for no fault other than my own. I’m kind of over it, to be honest. It’s too hot to ride, at 90+ degrees and 90-100 percent humidity, or it’s pouring down rain, or it’s just the same ol’ Florida: sandy and flat.

Last weekend, I planned on dusting off the ol’ girl – literally – and showing up at Tampa MX for Round 5 of the Top Gun Dealer Cup, but torrential rains on the tail end of Hurricane Harvey ended up cancelling the race, forcing me to hit the gym instead.

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Photo at Tampa MX by David Lando of WFO Action Shots

On this week’s PulpMX show, Denny Stephenson talked about riding dirt bikes as “an honor, not a burden” when it comes to all of the training and traveling and everything that comes with being a champion.

“It’s part of the responsibility that you get when you’re a champion. At any level of any sport, when you become the best, your responsibilities triple,” Stephenson said.

After hearing that, I’m itching (finally) to get back on the bike, and what better time than Labor Day weekend.

“A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.” – Albert Einstein

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Photo at Tampa MX by David Lando of WFO Action Shots

Practice progress

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4 Diamond “Expert Only” Trail 25 at Highland Park

I was probably never more ready to race the 2017 Kenda Tennessee Knockout Extreme Enduro in Tennessee last weekend – the toughest off-road race in America – after riding in Georgia less than a week after returning from my epic Colorado riding vacation with the Seat Time crew, one of the most fun and frustrating times I’ve ever had riding dirt bikes. (Read my story on DirtBuzz.com.)

What a great trip with new friends. This is what Colorado is all about.. spending time and enjoying what the good lord has granted us… – Slavik

 Warms my heart! Way to kick ass and keep chugging girl. Glad you joined us!!!! – Brian

 

Riding Highland Park was incredibly easier this time around, despite the extremely dusty and overall rougher-than-expected trail conditions; Georgia was flat as a pancake compared to the steep verticals we rode in Colorado. Maybe I was just coming off the high of getting my ass kicked riding in the Rocky Mountains, but I redeemed myself blazing the Georgia trails where I remembered struggling before using everything I had.

The biggest difference was my bike was back to wheelieing over everything and performing at its peak, which was such a relief when I realized I could get on the pipe again; riding above 9,000 feet was not conducive to my balls-to-the-wall riding style. Boy, was I glad to be closer to home at 1,000 feet.

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Trail 7 is motorcycles only

This year, I just couldn’t swing the solo trip to Tennessee to race the TKO last Saturday, regardless of the $1,000 purse to be paid out to the top three Women finishers ($500, $300, $100 for first second and third respectively).

“Beta’s Morgan Tanke (@mtanke31) took the Saturday Women’s class win over Victoria Harcy. They were the only two female riders that finished the morning lap and faced off in a main event on a special short course.” – tennesseeknockoutenduro.com

Maybe next year. (At least then I can find out more than 37 words from the 900-word article.) As Jeremy McGrath said recently in this Racer X interview, “Timing really is everything.”

I’m hoping to attend the 2017 USGP in Jacksonville next month. As MotoXAddicts’ Geoff Meyer put it, “if you don’t want to get to this race, then there has to be something wrong with your passion for motocross.”