Rock Star Rider on the Bog Slayer: Laramie Range Epic
I am a rock star. I rode my fat bike 70 miles in the Laramie Enduro race last Saturday. Some things went wrong and some things went right but the things that mattered the most went right. Most importantly, it was fun, and I learned a few key things for next year.
Holy shit, did I say “next year”?
If you are a racer looking for beta on the Enduro, you won’t find it here. I am not a racer, I just ride….
Non-racer status aside, here are the stats:
- Bike weight: 41 lbs
- Rider weight: 126 lb
- Rider age: 47
- Time: 10:27
- Place: 198/200
There were 5 aid stations on the course. There is a cutoff time for each aid station and if you don’t make the time then you get a ride back to the finish line and a DNF. This was my biggest worry. I have the endurance, but I’m not fast so I was worried about making the cutoff times. My race strategy was simply to make it to the first aid station because the first part of any ride is the worst for me. I thought that if I could do that, I probably had a good chance of finishing the race.
Let me just say here that the volunteers for this race were AMAZING. There were super helpful at each aid station and they were stationed at additional spots along the course. The course was extremely well marked, too. Everything about the race was top-notch.
The breakdown by aid station:
Aid station 1 (mile 17): The first 5 miles were horrible, just as I expected. I couldn’t catch my breath and I felt like my heart was going to explode. I wanted to cry. I wanted to go home. I hated it.
My stomach hurt so much that finally I curled up in a ball in the woods and did some deep breathing. It seemed to help but as soon as I started riding again it started cramping.
To add insult to injury there was a stretch of not-fun gravel grinding. No part of me is a road rider. There was a headwind and I was demoralized and lonely, wondering what the hell I was doing with some 60 miles left to go.
Aid station 2 (mile 30): This aid station had Tums! And after a trip to the most beautiful porta-potty ever, I was feeling at least mentally better so I decided to keep going.
Aid station 3 (mile 40): Mile by mile I started feeling better and by the time I got to aid station 3 I was able to eat something : PBJ squares, boiled potatoes and ginger ale! Finally my legs were going to get some fuel, they were tanking. When I left this aid station I felt like I was finally in business. I started reeling in riders which gave me a mental boost.
Somewhere… I came across a monster truck heading in the opposite direction. It was a beautiful piece of machinery, gorgeous paint job. It wasn’t just a cowboy in a Chevy with a lift kit; it was a real monster truck that was as big as my house. The driver and I paused for a second to admire each other’s rigs. I would have loved to take a picture but in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t. It lwould have cost me the race – my time was so close.
Aid station 4 (mile 52): Going into this race I couldn’t decide which bike to ride. I trained on the fatbike, my Salsa Mukluk, all summer for two reasons: 1) it’s super fun and 2) I can carry what I need for long self-supported training rides.
But most of the pre-race advice I received was to ride my 29” hardtail which is light and fast. I planned on the 29’er until the last second and then decided I wasn’t excited about the race unless I was on the fatbike. I’m not a racer and it’s not about the time. For me, it was about enjoying the ride. The longest ride I’d ever done on the fattie was 28 miles.
So…. if I could make it 50 miles on the fatbike, it would be a major accomplishment. I hit mile 50 on a high open plateau with amazing hoodoo formations that looked otherworldly. I did it! 50 miles on fat – fucking A! Then it was just a few more miles to the aid station 4, with nasty storm clouds threatening and a pounding headache (complete with little blinking white lights in my right eye).
I took a long break at station 4, under the tent in the pouring rain. Volunteers refilled my water bottles and a friend of a friend gave me a beer (he might just be my new best friend). I downed Tylenol, watermelon, more boiled potatoes, etc. and I was good to go.
I left the aid station in a slight drizzle that turned into hail that turned back into a driving rain. Right away there was some really fun trail and I reeled in a few more riders who were pushing bikes up steep and rocky singletrack. I heard that this part of the ride was pretty hard but luckily it wasn’t as hard as I expected – another mental boost. I was in a groove, enjoying the scenery, basking in the fact that I cleared the aid station in time and still had a chance for a finish.
Somewhere after a boggy stream crossing (manned by a volunteer) I was headed uphill when my left inner thigh cramped up. I had a life-flash-before-me moment of panic. I had a blood clot 15 years ago when I was pregnant with our first daughter in the exact area that was now cramping. The blood clot nearly killed me and I spent months in recovery going from wheel chair to walker to crutches. I pushed the bike slowly uphill and tried to stay calm. If it didn’t subside I planned to ride back to the bog and ask the volunteer to call for help. Luckily, it subsided after a few agonizing minutes and I didn’t have any problems the rest of the day.
Aid Station 5 (mile 62): There was a guy on a flatbed pickup giving away beers to riders at aid station 5. He asked if I wanted a beer and I asked him if I made the time cutoff and he said yes — by two minutes. And I said, “Hell yes! I would love a beer!” We were shooting the breeze when one of the race volunteers yelled that riders had 30 seconds to clear the aid station. I was off. A few miles later, at the Headquarters Trail parking lot, a race volunteer told me that I had to be at the finish line by 5:00 or it was a DNF. He also said that I had 2 miles of uphill singletrack before the downhill to the finish. I thought I had made it but really I hadn’t? It was still a crapshoot? WTF?
I didn’t have the mojo to ride all of Headquarters Trail – it was rocky and I was beat. I figured that even with a DNF, I rode the whole damn thing. At the top of Headquarters there was a very nice family that said I had it in the bag — that there was indeed no cutoff time at this point and I was not going to have a DNF. YEEHAW!
It was then that I fully relaxed and enjoyed the rest of my ride. I stopped at an overlook and took a few pictures, ate a snack and then cruised the rest of the way to the finish. I know I could have shaved a few minutes off my time by not dallying, but the light was so pretty. You know – the way the sky looks after a storm clears and the land is golden with the sun dipping lower in the west. I wanted to bask in the moment and enjoy the quiet stillness of the forest and the success of the ride.
At the finish I did a stand up sprint and was psyched to see people still cheering racers on. And of course, the Back of the Pack Racing crew was at the beer tent.
The thing that I am most happy with, besides actually finishing the race, was that I did it my way. I rode my favorite bike, on my terms, and had an awesome time doing it. The fattie was a blast; I am rechristening her the “bog-slayer.” She climbed like a demon… she blasted through the stream crossings and plowed through the bogs – all with grace and style – or at least as much as I could muster. The big fat tires simply hummed on the flowy downhill. And while not particularly fast, she did make me feel like a warrior. Besides, being fast is overrated; and time is an illusion….