I’m on my hands and knees, trackside, during training for Stage 1 of Round 1 of the Enduro World Series in Rotorua. I’m looking for my damn earring that’s just been ripped out from blowing the flagging tape on-course with a crash, fighting tears and thinking about quitting. Rosara Joseph rides past me and cleans the section that just took me out. The earring is brown. The ground is brown. I’m elbow deep in loam and I can’t find what I’m after. ‘What are you gonna do,’ I think to myself, ‘lie down and die here? Are you gonna call Steph (my mom) to come get you?’ I look around and see other riders flailing…time to get up. Dust off. Pull myself together. This is supposed to be hard.
It had been kind of a stressful couple of weeks before I jumped onto a plane bound for Auckland, New Zealand. I had just returned from a mega trip in Africa in early March (more on that here in the couple of months) and I struggled to find a groove in training as I prepared to race Round 1 of the Enduro World Series. I felt super tired and so full of doubt and fear: would I be ready for this event? Did I even know what to expect? I hadn’t raced my bike since June ’14 because I broke myself off last summer – there was a lot hanging in the air and I had little confidence in my own abilities.
On my way over the Pacific during the 12 hour flight from Vancouver, I decided to stick to the rules I set for myself when I started training and planning for this season: Try hard. Have fun. Appreciate every minute of it and learn from the challenges. It was all I could do to keep my cool as I mentally prepared for the days ahead.
I had a couple of days in Rotorua to fly solo and shake the jetlag once I arrived. I spent a day with Anka and Sven exploring the trails in the local forest and then scheduled some time off before we started to practice. When Allan and Kelli arrived, it was hard to resist getting back on the bike but I really wanted to feel fresh going into what was looking like a massive week. My trainer, Monika Marx, and I had to put together a pretty clear plan of how to approach the event and I didn’t want to stray from it. I rested for two days like it was my job, hung out with the team and caught up with some long-lost riding buddies.
We got thrown into the mix so deep on day one of training that my head spun. We trained on what would be Stage 7 first thing in the morning (about 7am). It was legit – wet, rooty chutes with jumps and high speed stretches. Parts of it were totally my style, and parts of it made me feel like I’d never been on a bike before. In the afternoon, it got crazier – we trained what would be Stage 1, which is where I lost my cool (and my earring) and had to regroup. I started to believe that this event might actually kill me.
The final two days before the race were spent training on the remaining 5 of 7 stages planned for us on race day. I’m not sure specifically what switched in my mind, but I made an effort to be grateful for where I was, what I was learning and the people I was spending my days with. After all, Crankworx and the Enduro World Series had busted serious ass to put this race together for us – the best thing I could do was make the most of being a part of such cool event. I had a ton of fun out there with the team, as well as Rosara, and Katrina Strand, and I felt pretty fresh going into race day.
So much has already been written about the race itself, so I feel like it’s pretty safe to keep it simple. Stage 1 remained brutally difficult. I laid on the ground a few times, had a few magical (surprising) moments but I still wasn’t all that fast out there. I was just relieved to have survived it. My pod of top-20 riders who I spent the day with barely made our transfer to Stage 2 – I was well into my threshold heart rate for the entire time it took to get to that stage and we only arrived with one or two minutes to spare. Stage 2 went well for me, I had fun and I think the result showed. The rest of the stages were a version of the same thing repeated by all of us. My focus was to leave a mark on the stages I knew I could ride well and above all else: have a good time doing it.
I felt pretty good through the entire day out there, which was a pretty cool thing to realize after all the doubt I’d had leading up to this event. I had no idea what kind of results I had posted before I dropped into Stage 6 and I cracked a bunch of inappropriate jokes with the girls at the start as I was about to set off. I can’t say exactly what was going through my mind at the time – I felt good, I felt relaxed, and I felt happy with how the day was going overall. When I came into the chute section of the trail at mach pace, I didn’t realize I was in any trouble at all until I was in the air...
I knew right away that my shoulder was dislocated and I instantly realized my day was over. I think at first I was more bummed about having to pull out of the day of racing than having an injury. After about 20 minutes of whining and moaning trackside, a nice stranger/spectator appeared and reduced my dislocation. I began my pity party as I texted folks at home. What a letdown. What a stupid, stupid mistake.
Once I had a little cry with team co-boss Allan back at the pits (the media ninjas were kind enough to drive me back from Stage 6), I decided to just get on with it. There really was no need for disappointment - it’s only March. I’m going to go home, get an MRI on ol’ lefty and get back at it on the bike to nowhere. I’ve learned so much here in New Zealand. I am lucky to be where I am, to be riding my bike and to have the support of my friends, family and sponsors along the way. Injuries are a bummer for sure, but this one won’t last forever. I’m not gonna call Steph Leishman to pick me up and take me home – I’m gonna try again and have a good time doing it.
Because…it’s supposed to be hard…