It’s the end September and I have been racing my bike for nearly six months this year. The fatigue is starting to pile up, my social life is dwindling, and I have one more race. It can be hard to stay motivated this time of the year when all you have been doing is training, traveling, and racing, all in addition to working a full time job. A weekend sitting around at home doing nothing starts to sound more appealing than being out in nature riding bikes with your best friends. The Monarch Crest Enduro is the final hoorah and I should be stoked.
The stoke started out differently. Reminiscent from last year when I had one of my best results to that point at the inaugural Monarch Crest Enduro. The trails are incredible, the vibe is perfect, the event is top notch. This time around though, I couldn’t seem to get excited.
Riding in the shuttle to the first stage I was anxious, nervous, excited, and ready for it to be over all at the same time. I wanted to have fun riding my bike but the element of racing was keeping me from turning off my brain and relaxing. I just wanted to get it over with.
At the start of stage one it was cold and rainy. We got word that one of the shuttles broke down and some of the other pro riders were delayed getting to the start so we made a group decision to wait for them to keep the racing fair, which only increased my anxiety. As soon as I started that first stage all of those feelings faded and I was having the time of my life. The ripping-fast, chunky top section of the track eventually faded into a flowy, pedally ending. The euphoria at the finish took over and carried me through the rest of the weekend.
Silver Creek was my least favorite stage from last year (keep in mind, all of these trails rank in the top ten percent of all the trails I have EVER ridden). But this time around I found a flow that rivalled everything else in the weekend and I might even say it was my favorite stage this year! The perfect mix of fast, technical, flowy and chunky riding.
Results for day one were not what I expected. I felt like I overcame my anxiety and found a great mix of fun and fast trail but nothing amazing. As it turned out, I had the fastest time on stage one and the second fastest time on stage two. Only five seconds separated me from the top spot overall held by the legendary Mike “Old Man” West.
Day two only had one race stage, but it was a monster. Two and a half hours of pedaling and hiking took us to the top of a 12,600 ft. peak. The stage started there. It descended 3,300 ft. over the course of 9.5 miles to the finish. It took nearly 30 minutes at an average pace of 19.6 mph with my heart rate pegged at 170bpm nearly the entire way. Sensory overload on every level and in the best way possible. The flow was found again and I held down my second overall with a second place stage finish behind Mike again.
As a successful race weekend comes to an end I can often let that get to my head in a bad way. I’ll think about how well I have done which strangely makes me want to ride harder than normal, resulting in mistakes and lost time. I was nervous about day three, the last day. I knew what I had to do but would my mind get the best of me again?
Stage four, although not the longest, was the most physical. It is a full on rip from top to bottom with no rests; 23 minutes of pumping and smashing. I still needed to put down a good run to maintain my position but, with two days of race fatigue, it seemed like I was bound to screw up. Greens Creek is my favorite stage of the entire race, which just added to my concern that I would get in over my head. I kept it upright, did not make any mistakes, and pedaled my heart out when I could. One more stage to go.
Again, I needed to have a good stage time to maintain my second place but I couldn’t risk a big mistake. That would be heartbreaking on the last stage. I dialed it back as far as I could and rode super conservatively on the fast, steep, and technical portions, but still put down some power on the flat, pedal-intensive parts. The whole time I was racing down the trail, I was telling myself, “stay smooth and stay safe.” When I finished the stage with a clean run, it felt like a massive burden had been lifted off of me. I still didn’t know the results from the day, and I didn’t expect anything amazing, but I was happy to finish with clean runs.
All the racers shuttled back to town and we waited for times to be tallied and final overall results to be posted. When the results finally came through I was amped to see I held my second place overall. I was even more blown away to see I finished the whole race with a win on the last stage. What a weekend! I can’t think of a better way to end the season; racing some of the best trails in the country as part of an amazing event and hanging out in the beautiful Colorado mountains with rad people and gorgeous yellow aspen leaves.
When I really think about it, I can’t believe how lucky I am to be able to spend my summers traveling the country and riding my bike. I wouldn’t be able to do it without the amazing support I have from Kona and my sponsors, as well as the encouragement from friends and family. I can’t thank you all enough. Now for some rock climbing, skiing, and hiking. Can’t wait for next season!