I got kind of turned around while riding alone in Squamish last week. It was later in the evening, and the woods started to carry that spooky feeling that I try to be cognisant of when I’m riding by myself (which I do pretty frequently at home in the Sea to Sky corridor). It had been over a year since I had ridden to the trail I was looking for and I started to sense that I might have missed a turn. Just as I felt a twinge of concern and directional confusion, I heard voices up a trail I didn’t remember existed. Two women popped out of the singletrack and I asked for directions. After some friendly banter and direction taking, one of the women said “nice work in the race last week!” Taken aback, I stopped in my tracks and was blown away that this stranger in the middle of the Squamish sidecountry, whom I’ve never met before, not only recognized me but was stoked with how I had performed at EWS 6 in Whistler the week prior. Until that moment, I hadn’t seen my result as noteworthy at all.
Enduro racing at all levels is really the management of averages. I have spent a fair amount of time sweating specific sections of trails that scared me or I found to be difficult, mistakenly pinpointing them as the difference between success or failure in a race. What has taken me forever to learn, however, is that the result we all earn at end of each event is the realization of a thousand tiny things happening over the course of a 5-8 hour day. In Aspen, for example, my top speed on the second day of racing was nearly 60km/h. I didn’t make any big mistakes and I didn’t have any considerable mechanical issues. I ended the weekend in 19th place, which to me, was disappointing, but I saw it as an indication of the high level of riding between the top women in the world. What is the definition of a successful race if I did my absolute best, made minimal mistakes and got through the end of a day in one piece?
Anka came to Whistler straight after Aspen and for the first time since we’ve been on the same team, we rode together just about every day FOR FUN. We rode in Squamish, all over the place in Whistler and did countless dinners and lunches in the village while we waited for the circus that is Crankworx to settle into town. Those days spent in adventure mode were some of the most incredible days I’ve had on my bike, and it was the most at ease I’ve ever felt riding here at home, maybe ever. We let go of the stresses and worry of the upcoming race and just made an effort to enjoy the condition of the trails we were riding and the good company we kept. Practice for the race was more of the same, as we hosted an all-star crew of our buddy Britt Phelan, my boyfriend and interim “TECH” plate holder, and visiting Americans who finally landed entries in the biggest race of the year.
Temperatures on race day were crazy high for Canadian polar bears like myself. My Garmin read 33 degrees Celsius on the liaison up Blackcomb to stage 2/Crazy Train, and I can safely say that is the worst I’ve ever felt while racing my bike. I told Kelli I didn’t think I’d make it through the day, and I fought tears and nausea the entire way up the climb. Maybe it was the 15-minute bike park stage 1 we raced before this liaison, or some other nutritional gap I’d left for myself prior to the day, but I was a mess when I arrived at the top of the stage. After some serious supplement force-feeding and self-reassurance, I stood in line behind Anka, who looked at me and said “we’ve got this, right?” A chute near the top of the stage had us feeling overwhelmed. I responded “yes. We’ve got this.” We did have it, and somehow I started to feel better.
The rest of our race day in Whistler was pretty standard as far as nearly 8-hours of racing (5+h of moving time) can go for anyone. Highs, lows, thirst, hunger, crashes, jokes, black flies, crowds (so many amazing locals took to the trails to cheer us on and it was more than humbling, to say the least) …you name it. When I sprinted through the finish line after the final – and longest - stage of the day, I was greeted by some of the best people I know. My friend Candace said “Well, at least you’re smiling!”. My day was an accumulation of averages. No big events, some stuff I wish I could do differently, but mostly moments I’m good with. Wherever I landed on the results sheet, my performance and experience was a reflection of a thousand tiny things that went mostly right in the day…and I consider that a raging success.