Last weekend, I rode the San Jacinto Enduro. I you've never heard of it, that's the idea. It's one of those under-the-radar, unsupported "rides" that keeps it's street cred by staying low-key. There are no entry fees and the start list is selective to stay under the limit for a permitted event in the National Forest. It showcases all the best trails Idyllwild has to offer and challenges even very strong riders. The "management" at the start of the ride said "It's a perfect excuse to ride your bike all day in the mountains; and that's a pretty cool thing."
I RSVP'd for the Enduro last year, but couldn't make it since I was on lockdown in Monterey. This year, I was going no matter what:
I broke my geared bike back in June; I can't seem to find a replacement part and I'm not buying new wheels for a bike I don't plan on riding any more...looks like I'd be riding the single speed. I was still field training for work and putting in huge hours when I RSVP'd for the start list. I got in as much training as I could ,but my preparation was still less-than-adequate; pacing would be key. The total ride is 78 miles and approximately 11k feet of climbing, however, my longest ride on the single speed had only been less than half of that. I was worried for sure. Since the ride was divided into two loops, I figured I'd ride the first one conservatively and make the decision about loop two at that point. I soon found out that turned out to be a popular game plan with the majority of the field.
I could only get race day off, which meant driving up Friday night after work. Ugh. I jammed home, threw the rest of my gear in Holly's car (girl packed most of it by herself!) and we hit the road. We grabbed dinner on the road, rolled into the campgrounds around 10 , unpacked and set up in the cold dark and crashed into the tent.
Race start was 6AM and that meant a 5-ish wake up, meh. I'm NOT a morning person. Too cold to mess with coffee, I chugged an Ensure, mixed my nutrition bottles and shivered while prepping the bike and my gear. I forgot to mention, this ride is totally unsupported; no aid stations, no SAG, no rescue crew and no course markings. You get maps and a "cue sheet" that details the route...that's it.
I climbed back into the tent, gave Holly a kiss on the cheek and rolled down to the start: hands painful and going numb with the feet following soon after. I signed in, someone sang the National Anthem incredibly well for the early hour and near-freezing temps and a voice in the dark counted down..."GO!" We were off.
Honestly, the stuff in the dark is a total blur. I vaguely remember: getting dropped on the hwy (geared out on the single speed, legs felt like blocks of wood) climbing for the first hour, incredible pain as my hands began defrosting and the most amazing sunrise I've seen in a long time. A sketchy fire-road descent into Hemet, a water stop at a fire station, and the arduous climb back into Mountain Center. The first 20 miles of near-boredom stand in sharp contrast with some of the most amazing single-track trails I've ever ridden. I've ridden these trails before, but in the reverse direction. It's way better this way. Friggin' sweet.
I finished up loop one (45 miles and about 8k feet of climbing) at about 11:37 or 5:32 of riding. The most time I've spent on the single speed by about 20 miles and 2.5 hours. My quads were trying to cramp the last 5 miles, loop two looked like it would take another 3.5 hours and Holly was sitting at the campsite by herself. I thought about how I would feel if I pulled the plug after loop one and made a quick physical assessment; I felt like I could definitely ride loop two, but couldn't think of any reasons to keep going. It would be nice to say I finished the whole thing, but I had gotten everything out of the ride that I wanted to when I started: rode some new dirt, made some new friends and had a blast riding some amazing trails.
Videos courtesy of Chris Branson and "My Idyllwild".