I am thrilled to participate. With no major role, I enjoy the days. After the safety talk, I get on my first shuttle to lead my first ride. Half of the group are old friends from the Midwest. They’re planning on riding a two week stretch of the Great Divide together next summer to celebrate Sarah’s 50th birthday and I ask them to stop by the RockShox booth, so we can talk about it. The riding’s fun as hell. It’s a great mix of focusing on getting over the rocks and moments of joy at the beauty of the surrounding formations. I don’t think you could really have a bad time.
I’m back to HQ in the afternoon to eat lunch, pop into Liz Sampey’s Arizona Trail bikepacking talk at Revel and chit-chat at the RockShox booth for the “Happiest Hour” where every vendor provides a drink. Ours are apple cider with Werther’s Originals and hot cocoa with marshmallows. Then, it’s dinner time.
I go to bed at 8pm and don’t wake up until 8am-- the best sleep I’ve had since coming back from Europe. I’m finally over the jetlag.
My Saturday ride leaves from the venue. It rocks! We have a couple ladies from Flagstaff and a couple more from Ogden, Utah, and another that unexpectedly runs into her wife at the high point of “the longest climb in Sedona” and the way their eyes light up melts my heart.
We hear another woman go down in the bushes, but she comes around the corner and says she flew off at the right moment to avoid getting hurt. That’s worth celebrating! Another comes around with the broadest smile, saying that last little bit was her favorite part. We are actually sharing this trail in time and space and that’s special. We are all sweating and we all have different favorite parts. On the scariest descent, half the ladies ride it and half walk it. I’m one of the walkers.
“If you’re not feeling it, don’t do it.”
This is not a competition, there aren’t any rules and that’s a good thing.
Back to the venue and hungry for lunch, I grab a bite before hopping out to Angi Weston’s clinic addressing the “most underrated mountain bike skill”—track stands. It’s balance work that gives you more time before rock drops and helps you correct landings. Angi is an awesome teacher and gets us on bikes right away— practicing the knee wiggle, starting from seated, starting from a roll, keeping our eyes up. She encourages us to fit in practice whenever we can “20 minutes before picking up the kids or making dinner.” Rue’s a natural and gets it on her first try. “You’re so coachable!”
We head back for the “Ride Pack Hack” talk at the RockShox booth. I load my mountain bike with a bikepacking set up. It’s informal and it’s fun. People ask questions. I always love the range—from how do you filter water? (I don’t), to how do you monitor exertion? (I don’t). In bikepack racing, everything is about economizing time, staying on the bike, doing your best at every moment, making good decisions and actually enjoying riding through beauty for 20 hours a day, day after day. I always want to win, but I wouldn’t be out there if the overall experience wasn’t mind blowing—sunrises, sunsets, unexpected encounters, unexpected breakthroughs. Yes, it hurts, but that’s not the overall feeling I’m left with. I come out with gratitude for my body and the earth. It’s a huge gift to race thousands of miles self-supported.