Cascadia Dirt Cup Enduro Nationals 2 day race at Port Angeles

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Soooo, ever since a severe back injury, and right after that a severe ankle sprain, I decided to lay off the downhill bike awhile and stick to the trailbike in order to build my fitness, strength and confidence back. Of course I can’t do without a challenge, so I also decided to take some time off DH racing and try Enduro racing this season. My hope is, and the progress I’ve made so far is confirming, that I’ll be back in better shape than before and ready to rip up the downhill in no time. Besides, half of endurance racing is the descending, so I get to learn how to excel on that stuff on a smaller travel bike with bigger wheels. It’s the cardio/fitness I’m working on the most right now, and as I’m getting older it’s feeling better to be in my body when it’s in good working order. It’s also just easier and more fun to ride when you’re in better physical condition and have increased control of the bike. Plus the fact that I just love to be outside, in the woods, on the mountain and on the pedals as long as possible.

And racing is the best time of my life.



Actually, I’d like to pause here for a moment to tell you what I love about racing. First of all, it’s a party. And since I don’t really “party” anymore, (I did turn 35 this year!) my attention is now focused on being present, showing up, living life to the fullest, reaching maximum potential, and helping others. With biking, pregression is pretty clear and I love to see what this amazing body is capable of! When I go racing, I see others who inspire me, there’s an air of excitement and a buzz that gets me stoked to try new things, I have people I can follow into new jumps or features, friends to cheer me on and those I can support as well.  I often go in with some doubt or a little fear and by the end of the weekend I’ve overcome all that and I get to walk away with more confidence than before. And more friends. : ) My favorite people come from all over the place to get together to challenge themselves and their abilities. The more I race, the more new favorite people I meet. And along with the women who inspire me I hope I get to do that for others. There’s always someone faster, and always someone slower, but we all help eachother progress. Trying the enduro format this year, I’m meeting a whole new group of women who shred. It’s super fun to see how different people excel in different ways. I’d like to become a more well-rounded rider, from being able to dirt jump, to pedaling more efficiently, to speed and style on the track. A lot of the enduro women have a different level of fitness and muscle set than what you gain when you’re lapping the DH bike, squating and sprinting. I want it all. And I believe if you shred on a little bike, it can only make your DH skills that much better. So more climbing and more hours in the shammy, I say! And afterwards, go jump a massive gap that the XC pedalers are afraid of! ; ) Haha ok I know I’m a little bit competitive. And an adrenaline junky, I finally admitted to myself. But hey, you might live more than once, but you might only remember this one anyway, so make it worth it.



Ok, back to the race recap. So I was on a bike after injuries only 5 weeks and I decided to sign up for this enduro race. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into but I figured everyone has tried talking me into doing some enduros for a couple years now so it might be the perfect time. I was having more fun on my trailbike anyways and even getting out to ride it on the stuff I usually ride my big bike on. “You’d kill it in enduros!” they said. “It’s free money you’re missing out on!” they said. “You’d have a better chance at better sponsorship!” they said. “There aren’t any DH women racing enduro!” they said. So I had some idea in my head that it might not be as hard as I thought and I might stand a chance at doing well in that discipline. I never liked the idea of racing up a hill, or even pedaling that much, especially in the summer heat, but I was willing to try. I had a bit of a panic attack when I put my full face helmet on after my back healed from that crash in January, so I knew it would be awhile before I was physically and mentally prepared to race DH again and figured I’d better just race this little bike instead! I haven’t had any major crashes on it and it’s just something different and more attractive right now that I can build skill on. I knew the Cascadia Dirt Cup held some pretty awesome races at really good venues I’d like to try, and this one was at Port Angeles, where I’d raced the NW Cup for the past 5 years. I felt somewhat confident that I was familiar with some of the trails we’d be racing and hoped that would be a bit of an advantage even, since I knew competitors coming from all over the West Coast. I did however, also take into account that I had 10 extra pounds of winter weight I needed to work off, and my endurance and fitness was not up to par since being off a bike almost 6 months. So for those 5 weeks leading up to the race I pedaled as much as possible. I got on Strava to monitor my progression. I’m so glad I decided to race because it motivated me to ride when I might not have. I need racing to keep me focused and working harder. So by the time I showed up to PA I was at least ready for a good time. I didn’t need to win, but I needed to be fit enough to finish the race without being miserable and dying! I knew it would be a two-day, 7 stage event, with 6,500+ ft of climbing, so I was ready to ride it, but racing this stuff was way different than I anticipated!


Pre-riding a course, stopping and looking at stuff, cruising through to get an idea of what the trial’s like, is way different than when you are actually going against the clock. Race day number one I had the thought that I might not make it. I mean, I knew I’d do it, but I was definitely struggling the entire day (mostly because of the heat) and just wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to be the last one on the hill! We climbed 4500 ft, pretty much all on open fireroad where the sun was just beating down. I went through an entire camelbak in a quarter of the time I went through it two days before when I was preriding the courses. Luckily CDC race organizers had water stations at the top and bottom of Dry Hill so we could refill our packs if needed. I couldn’t totally keep up with the other Pro Women on the climbs but I hoped I could do well on the descents. I realized by the third stage it was getting harder to maintain. After a knarly sprint climb up a steep hillside in the second stage, which pretty much took me out of the competition, my body was fatiguing and I was getting squirrely on the descents. My arms were tiring and I couldn’t control the bike as well. So much for technical handling skills when you’re exhausted! So I learned not only are these enduro chicks super fit, they’re super rad ’cause they shred on the DH as well, all day long! Mega girl crushing. I watched my friend Abby Hippley send it on a road gap (that I do on my big bike but was nervous to try on the little one, since casing it in clips might send shockwaves through that ankle that was recovering). That was the moment I knew I wanted to do more of this stuff. She kills it on the DH but is a robot up the hill and at the jump park! That was the inspiration I needed and I kept going, even just if it meant finishing the race with a not-so-amazing result but at least it was practice for the next one. That’s something I really like to keep in mind. It’s all just practice. That keeps me from getting too stressed out about results and keeps me having fun. Of course there are moments to capitalize on when you have someone who you know you can trust to follow for example into a jump you’ve never tried, and it’s helpful to think that “Now’s as good a time as ever”, or “You may not have this opportunity again so you might as well give ‘er!” But for the most part I’m pretty hard on myself so anything to be nicer is always helpful.


Charlie Sponsel and the pack of Pro Men caught up with me on a climb and I laughed and told him this was the hardest thing I’d ever done so far and wasn’t sure I was going to make it for the fourth and final stage of the day! His response was “This is where pain lives.” And of course he said it in a deep super sarcastic voice. ; )  He was the cheerleader I needed. And he was right. And I got to ride through it. And I finished the race. 8th out of 9, with no issues other than that was the most I’ve ever done physically in my life. And two Cat 1 women beat my time. But I realized that, having never raced this discipline, coming into a stacked Pro field where the women are in top form and myself just returning from injury, I was pretty okay with the results.

(Check out Pinkbike’s write up by photog Eric Ashley:)

In practice on Friday I said I wasn’t going to do too much but I climbed 3,000 ft anyways and had so much fun. Two more days of racing and I was toast. But man, after that weekend it was like my body turned a corner, realized what it’s capable of, and my energy, strength and mental capacity began improving exponentially. I was hammering trails back home that seemed like long rides before. Everything suddenly became less work and easier. I started making it up steep rocky climbs I was struggling with previously. I was riding longer and happier. And I’m hooked. Stay tuned for my Ashland Enduro race recap! It gets better!




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