I recently had the opportunity to race in Pinetop, Arizona at the Tour of the White Mountains. I knew this race would be a great training course for the Cape Epic: Lots of climbing at altitude to stretch those lungs and a break from the sweltering heat in Lake Havasu.
Tour of the White Mountains is one race in a series of off-road races by Epic Rides, a passionate group of people who work to spread the “gospel of mountain biking.” This is my second race in this series and I was not let down by the plethora of support on the trails, from excited and cheering volunteers, well-stocked aid stations, and pre and post-ride food and entertainment. All Epic races are not without amazing views… they may come with a little work (leg burners) to get to there but I have a feeling that’s why these are considered epic rides. Notice, that even though this was considered a race, Epic rides means just that. The organization promotes rides from beginners all the way to pro and all ages are welcomed. This race/ride included a 50-mile single track challenge, 35-mile single track challenge, 30-mile gravel grinder fun ride, 9-mile single track fun ride and a kid’s ride. So there was a ride distance for any level!
My husband and I opted to camp this race as we wanted to be up close and personal with the race excitement. Camping offers great, low-budget lodging during races or out-of-town ride weekend. Stay tuned for my guide to bike camping!
The night of the race proved to be rather chilly. My husband and I woke to 36°F (2°C) on race morning. Not what we remember seeing on our iPhone weather app, but nonetheless it was RACE DAY!
The 50 milers started at 7 AM and I was up and trying to thaw myself out at 5:45. I usually have a list of “to-do’s” on race morning:
FOOD (I make sure to have a filling breakfast, which includes coffee!)
GEAR CHECK (Do I have my helmet, fix-a-flat items, glasses, phone, sunscreen, etc. I usually set these items out the night before to make sure everything is ready to go.)
BIKE (Pump up my tires, do a quick safety check to ensure my bike is ready to ride. I always do a longer bike check the night before the race with a quick pre-race check.)
NUTRITION (Packing enough nutrition for a long ride/race is essential and knowing what is offered at aid stations always helps to only pack what I need at the start of the race. This race I ate more whole foods such as fig bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and dates. I have found that gels and processed foods give me more GI distress on longer endurance events. Learn more about athlete nutrition.)
I quickly found out that racing in cold conditions is not my strong suit. Heading into the first single track, I even chuckled out loud at my slow-moving, short, cold legs. “Geez,” I thought, “warm up already!” I craved to be warm and sweating as I struggled to keep a consistent cadence.
We started our 53-mile pedal through thick forests of spruce, oak and aspen trees near streams that meander through meadows of wildflowers bounding with wildlife. But no view comes without work and the White Mountains definitely did not disappoint. There were nice, steady climbs along this course and one “demon mountain,” as I called it. This climb was laced with racers footprints as it was obvious many were opting for pushing versus pedaling… myself included.
I made my way up that last nasty climb with the crew that I had settled in with, two very feisty older gentlemen that kept me laughing the whole time. The reward for completing the final climb was about 10 miles of mostly downhill, flowing single track. I was beyond ready to cross that finish line.
Two flats later, I was rolling into 51 miles on my Garmin when a gentleman finally yelled, “Less than two miles to go!” I love single track, but the rocky terrain proved to not be in my favor. Luckily, the last few miles were easy, fire road and pavement back to the finish.
Finally, after 6hrs of riding and some added obstacles of my own during this race, I crossed the finish line. Around mile 25, I accepted this would not be my fastest race but decided to make the second half mentally better. No matter what happened, I was going to embrace the pain. This race taught me about resetting your race brain and restarting YOUR race, even if that needs to happen in the middle of a 50+ mile effort. I focused on what I could control (breathing and pedaling and putting food in my mouth) and let go of what I couldn’t. I was tired, I gave what I could, and above all, I finished with a smile on my face, a few hugs at the finish line, and a solid kiss from the husband.