Sunday, August 2, 2009

Laramie Enduro 2009

In 2005 and 2007 we rode/raced the Laramie Enduro as a final fitness test before Leadville. We decided to stick with that routine this year, too, so Friday found us loading up our gear and heading out for the 3 hour drive to Laramie.

The Enduro is by far my favorite cycling event. The field is small – between 400 and 450 riders. The course is unique – as the race organizer describes it:

Situated in the Laramie Range of Southeastern Wyoming, this course covers some of the best mountain bike track in the region. The course is a fast and extremely fun loop, covering no ground twice. It includes virtually every kind of trail and surface a mountain biker is likely to encounter in the Rockies, from wildlife trails to single track to dirt roads.

The course is a challenging 70+ miles which climbs over 8,600 vertical feet, all at elevations over 7,500 feet. You race over high grass plains, through serene aspen and pine forests, and through the renowned rock-climbing venue of the Vedauwoo (pronounced Veda-Voo) Recreation Area.

Friday evening it rained. It was the kind of rain that makes you look around for Noah and an Ark – sheets of water coursing down for several hours without respite. Luckily, we knew that the course is very sandy, so while there would likely be puddles and some boggy sections, most of the course would be rideable.

Saturday morning we were up at 4 am in order to get bikes and gear loaded and breakfast eaten (bagels with peanut butter – our pre-ride staple). We then drove out to the race start at the Hidden Valley picnic area off of I-80, got parked, set up our trainers and did a 25 minute warm up. Toweled off, geared up, and checked in for the 7 am race start – with 20 minutes to spare – just time enough to stand in the port-a-potty line – whew!!

My plan was to use the event as a high-intensity, long duration training ride – not to actually “race.” So I hung back at the start and let the folks who were in a hurry take off. There is fairly steep, short climb right out of the gate, so I ended up passing quite a few people on that – we have learned this year how much being warmed up before the start helps in those first few minutes. After about ½ a mile of climbing on the county road, the course takes a sharp right onto single track – and things start to get messy because there is a big jam up of riders. Eventually it sorted itself out, and we were off.

Phil was behind me on that section, but when the single track ended and we got back on a two track, he took off. I kept him in sight and just rode my own pace. At mile 7, there was a sketchy downhill section - very steep, rutted, very loose granite material and reclaimed 2-track. Phil pulled away a bit at that point and I let him go.

From that point on I settled into my all day pace – just a little bit harder than comfortable, but not so hard that I would blow up. I felt really good all day – I rode several sections of the course that I’ve had to walk in prior years.

I kept my eye out for Phil all day, but didn’t see him. I assumed he was just having a killer day and was crushing me. I was even sort of okay with that, because I knew he planned to “race,” rather than “ride.”

When I came off the Headquarters Trail ½ a mile from the finish line, Phil was there to take pictures. [I didn’t know it was him at first, and there was big dog charging at me too, so my expression is kind of weird. Hey, gimme a break, I just spent almost 9 hours riding my mountain bike 70 miles. At that point I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.]

I said “how long have you been waiting for me?” I expected him to say 45 minutes, or maybe even an hour. He said “6 hours.” I still had to ride to the finish, so I just thought “smart ass” and rode by.

It was only when I got back to the car (climbing that steep hill, yet again) that I found out he had crashed at mile 14 and was forced to drop out of the race at the second aid station (about mile 32).

He may have cracked a rib, we’re not sure. At the least he strained the ligaments between his ribs. He is in a lot of pain – especially if he draws in deep breaths.

For now it is day to day on whether he’ll be in any condition to ride at Leadville.

He is trying to keep a good attitude, but he’s worried. I’m preaching patience, ice and Advil. I’ll keep you posted.

As for me – the Enduro was a great experience. I don’t know what my time was at Laramie in 2005 – I was just glad to finish the ride. I had never done anything like that – a “real” mountain bike race with single track and technical stuff. In 2007 I finished in about 9 hours and 20 minutes. This year I finished in 8:53:27.

So, as a fitness test – I’d say I’m ready. Let’s just hope my buddy gets to ride, too!

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