Saturday, June 25, 2011

24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest Race Report

My constant attempts to play mountain bike racer found me back in New Mexico for the 2nd annual 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest this past weekend. My coed duo partner, Erick and I registered for this event back in late April after learning the course was 100% singletrack and reading very positive things about the previous year. We were also coming off some excitement and energy from a 3rd place finish in Tucson in late February, so we decided to throw our hat into the ring once again.
Jen and Erick left early Thursday morning and I rolled out of Denver Thursday evening. I got to the race area early Friday and camp was set up and ready, complete with hammock:

camping with the cows!

After hanging out a bit in camp, the three of us set out on a mid-afternoon preride. This was Jen’s first time on a mountain bike in two years, and after this past weekend I am guessing the Lord’s may have a new 29er in their quiver soon. 
The pace was really mellow and we were just getting a feel for the terrain, the turns and the climbing.  I followed along in the back just loving the fact I was on my bike and trying to calm a few nerves. The race course was about 16.5 miles long. (For those who aren’t familiar with 24 Hour Mountain Bike Races: the race starts Saturday at noon and ends Sunday at noon, racers ride laps in many different categories (solo, duo or team) and the most laps in 24 hours wins. The laps are timed and if a team has the same number of laps, the winner is decided by time)
 The first 5 miles of this course was a meandering climb through the trees. The corners were sandy and the trail was really dry. After mile 5, it flattened out a bit and went through the trees with some fast ups and downs. The blazing descent that occupied about mile 10 to 13 was manned with three search and rescue volunteers at all times.  Very rocky with loose gravel and serious opportunities for catching A LOT of air, but one mistake and it’s a ride out on a stretcher to the nearest road. The last three miles provide just enough climbing to dispel the hero notion one begins to obtain upon exiting the rippin’ downhill.
Erick lined up for the mass start on the gravel road and put us in 4th place after the first (shortened) lap:

The first lap was a shortened version that saw a mass start down some dirt roads

Erick on the opening lap
Our camp was on the actual course, and since the timing chip was the actual race baton, we simply made our camp the exchange area.

I was able to catch two of the women to put us into second after my first lap. We steadily gained time over the team in third place and chased the Stan’s No Tubes team all night long. I remember hoping that each person I came up upon in the dark was wearing the white No Tubes jersey, because we were so close. On my 5th or 6th lap at about mile 10, I finally saw Karen. She had about 7 or 8 minutes on me at the beginning of the lap, but was on her second lap in a row. I stood in camp, watching her head out, waiting for Erick to finish his lap and I knew this would be my only chance to take the lead. Once I finally caught her, it was a race. One of those moments I crave. And, one of those moments in which I grew as a cyclist. It was dark and we were on the loose, rocky downhill. Just ride, Jill, don’t think, don’t analyze, get off the brakes, lean back, push the comfort edge, come fully alive, stay with the bike….GO!
We both missed a weird turn in the dark and were seconds apart for a couple miles. I found another gear or two and managed to pull away in the last three miles and finish a couple minutes ahead, but was very impressed with her strength after pulling double laps.

Headed for the exchange tent

Enchanted creatures appeared overnight and remained for the final morning laps
As the sun came up, we found ourselves again in second place. Allan (the other half of Stan’s No Tubes) seemed to “have a turbo-pack on his bike” (Credit Erick Lord), and was too much for either of us to catch.Thus, just past noon on Father's Day we stood on the second rung of the podium next to some very talented cyclists.

Click here to see lap times and full results. The timing system didn't keep track of who rode each lap, but we alternated laps with Erick riding the first one. Our division is Coed Duo, Team Adrenalin Cycles.

Next up: Kit Carson and Challenger summits, Durango Dirty Century, Full Tilt in Telluride and continuing high altitude riding all as part of Colorado Trail Race prep....

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