“Hey guys. Are you running hot water down there?” I shouted down the stairs to the boys on the Santa Cruz-SRAM Enduro Team, with whom I will be spending the 2016 Enduro World Series season. I don’t know these boys well…yet. No one answered me, so even though I was only in a towel and had soaking wet feet, I figured I might as well walk down the stairs to see why I'd been standing in freezing cold water in the shower for over 10 minutes. I took a step…and slipped. As I continued to tumble, I tried my utmost worst to keep my tiny Lululemon Yoga towel in place down a set of 12 stairs. Josh “Loose Dog” Lewis, standing at the bottom of the staircase, witnessed the entire event – and could only say “um. You ok?” when I finally grinded to a halt, pretty much naked.
That was the essence of my first 24 hours in Chile for Round 1 of the Enduro World Series.
So let’s not spend a ton of time on the challenges of 2015. No, it didn’t go as planned, but my shoulder surgery and training have set me up to be successful this season. We expected a big race when the course was announced last week (about 50 kilometers + 1600m of elevation gain each day) and the lack of shuttles allowed during training doubled those figures for our 4 days on bikes. Right out of the gates, sh*t got real in Chile.
The first day of practice was a huge shock to the system. We'd walked a couple of stages the day after we arrived and had a decent impression of what was in store, but I wasn’t prepared for riding in the heat of summer again for the first time this year. I wasn’t the only one complaining of leg cramps, however, and I soon realized that this race was going to be hard for everyone who tackled it. Practice, in general, was the hardest part of the week. It can be a tough balance to find the right people to train with; I couldn’t keep pace with the boys on the team in the heat of the day on their 29ers and I had pretty clear objectives of my own in mind (you know: not blow myself up before the race and to remember as much of each stage as I could with only having the opportunity to ride each one once before racing). Our team manager (and mountain biking ninja) Allan Cooke took me out on the second day of training and turned my perspective of the race around completely. Having someone to chase and learn the lines on the rocky, rutted terrain of Corral was game changing for me. I started to feel like myself again.
I was surprised to wake up on race day with a pretty serious “race belly” (nervous!), considering everything I had done to let go of the expectations I had for myself and what I perceived others had of me. Improving my mental game has been a huge process this year–I even spent a bunch of time alone on the climbs repeating different mantras to myself to remain calm and to embrace each moment (I also thought the climbs were a welcome distraction from the embarrassment of my epic, naked crash in front of Loose Dog earlier on). There can be so many negative distractions at races if you don’t know how to positively focus your energy: the results sheet, your bike, other people and the physical toll of each day…with the wrong outlook, I’ve experienced these things weighing me down like a boat anchor in the past.
I wasn’t able to truly appreciate the details that mattered at this event until the second day, after struggling with a lingering lack of upper body fitness (it’ll come!) and having a few crashes, I finally started to open my eyes. I was so wrapped up in my own ego and “performing” that I didn’t take the time to engage with the group of women I’d been traveling in a pack with for 2 days. There were riders from all over the world around me: of course there were the usual (amazing) suspects of the top 10, but the strangers who started in front of me who have office jobs, are engineering students and who were doing this truly for the fun of it blew my damn mind. This race was harder than Type 2 fun–and they were loving it and working their asses off. As I dropped into the final stage of the grueling 100 kilometers of the first round of the series, I just let it all go–the exhaustion, frustration, self doubt and expectations—and I had a really good time.
My friend Chantal said yesterday: “according to your doctor, you’re supposed to be riding green trails in Lost Lake right now, not riding with bulls and stray dogs down chutes in Chile!” Racing the full 2016 Enduro World Series is a dream. It’s one thing to be able to do one or a few in a lifetime, but the gift I’ve been given to challenge ALL of the races is huge, and it’s not one I intend to take for granted. I just finished stage 1 of an 8-stage season that will last nearly 8 months this year. Every stage will teach me something new and I can’t wait to be exposed to the new places, people and riding that this series has so thoughtfully planned out for the lucky few (hundred) of us this year.
On to Argentina!