Last big effort before the Breck Epic in 2 weeks.
The Laramie Enduro is one of the premier races on the mtb circuit. With a lottery and a waiting list a mile long, they’ve grown to become one of the most popular races around. Alchemist was honored to partner with them, this year being the first to offer race jerseys to participants. proceeds from each jersey sale went toward the non-profits that the Enduro supports, including the Wyoming Red Cross among others.
Having designed and made their custom cycling jerseys, and being a sponsor of the race, I signed up to race it for the first time. The course takes place in the National Forest area between Laramie and Cheyenne, starting in the Hidden Valley Picnic area going through beautiful areas known as Happy Jack and Vedauwoo. Stats on the course: elevation=7200′, distance=111k, climbing= 6100′ of ascent (according to my Garmin).
Ken and I got in late on Friday, checked-in at race registration, said hello to Rich Vincent, and settled into the Econolodge. Nothing but first-class for us Alchemist boys. I wasn’t nervous for the race, it’s well into the season, but I had perhaps the worst night of sleep I’ve ever had. I thought I may have drifted off to sleep at one point, only to realize I was still awake. I couldn’t bear to look at the clock, not sure if I wanted it to be early (so I could still get some sleep), or late, so I could just get out of bed and get ready for the race.
Dawn did finally come. I wasn’t sure if I had ever nodded off or not, but I was glad to see the sun. I grabbed a cheese danish from the free breakfast area, and we headed to the start.
Ken and I had planned to ride together, so we could pace each other through the road sections. But this year, they staged the start so that the big boys started 10 minutes behind. The beta on the race is that you should get your ass out to the front early before it hits singletrack. Men’s age group category was big, probably 200 riders or more. I started around 20th at the gun, and hauled ass up the first road climb. I was surprised to find myself to be one of the top 5 riders as we hit the first trail section. Alex, who recently joined the Team, was around third. For the most part, we both stayed in the top ten guys for most of the race.
After the singletrack, the course opens up to dirt road climbs. This is where having a group working together would be helpful. I tried to stay with lines of riders, but mostly ended up at the front of the line as most everyone wanted to stay tucked away, out of the head wind. I traded pulls with a singlespeeder as we towed a line of riders along the dirt road. Alex was ahead, but I kept him in view until the first aid. But after waiting in line to fill my bottle, I lost him as he had made it through that first aid quickly.
I had forgotten to check the air in my tires, and the rear was feeling a bit squirrely on the loose gravel. By the time I was able to get a pump at aid 3, my pressure was about 15 psi. I pumped it up to 32, and just hoped that it would hold.
The course is a mix of dirt roads and singletrack, some of which is quite technical. It suited me well since I could go hard on the non-technical climbs, and also gain ground on the tricky parts as I picked my way through the technical sections. Having learned to mountain bike in rooty and rocky places like Texas and Virginia, I seemed to be able to work my way through the technical trail quicker than most of the folks around me. In the Happy Jack singletrack around mid-race, I came across one of the open women riders, who was struggling. I asked her if she needed anything, and she reported that she was cramping badly and needed electrolytes. Drew and Paul would argue that her cramps had nothing do to with electrolytes, but I wasn’t in the mood to chat about it with her. The trail opened up just a bit so I slowed down along side her and poured a couple Endurolytes into her hand. We hit a bump, and the rest ended up on the ground. Shucks.
After aid 3, there is a hairy, loose decent. I rounded a turn to find a fella standing on the side of the trail, with his hand behind his head. I thought he had injured his head, so I slowed down to see if he was okay. Turns out he wasn’t holding his head. He just couldn’t lower his arm because he had what he thought was a dislocated shoulder. He was in a lot of pain. Struggling with what I knew I should do, and what my racing mindset preferred to do, I paused, then asked him if he wanted me to put it back in. Without hesitation, the answer was “YES!”. So I parked my bike in a bush and scooted over to him. I felt around, and sure enough, he was dislocated. At first, I had him sitting up, and tried a couple maneuvers in that position to reduce the shoulder. But he was too tense, and the shoulder didn’t want to go back in.
In the ER, I have them lie on their stomachs with the arm hanging off the stretcher as I manipulate their shoulder blade. I pretty much reduce all my dislocated shoulders like that, and I don’t ever need to sedate them. But that technique wasn’t an option here, so I had him lie down on his back instead. I knelt down and stuck my knee in his armpit and gently gave a little traction and rotation, at the same time trying to coax his humeral head back into the joint. The trick with not sedating someone when reducing their shoulder is that you have to be patient. You have to be willing to wait out the muscle spasms that are keeping the shoulder out. It’s not a Lethal Weapon type of reduction, and if you aren’t patient, it won’t work. So I tried to be patient as I watched rider after rider zip by. I could feel his shoulder muscles spasm and relax, so I knew I was close, but it just wouldn’t make that final plunge. Time ticked by, and I started to wonder if I was going to be able to get it back in. Finally, I felt it move and then slip back into place. There was a collective “Aaaaaah” from both of us. He was banged up, but other wise, seemed capable of walking out. I had forgotten to introduce myself, so we made quick introductions, then I hopped back on and tried to make up for lost ground.
I caught back up to Jim Fu of Epic Endurance, and we rode together for a stretch. It was good to see him again, and it was nice to have some company for a bit. At aid 4, I grabbed a Cherry Coke, and tried to drink it on the climb out of the aid station. I think I spilled most of it, but managed to get enough down to perk me up a bit. I tucked the can into a jersey pocket and turned on the afterburners.
It was hard to known exactly who was in my category. I reeled in rider after rider only to see that they had white number plates, the color for the Open category. I didn’t really know where I stood in the standings, but I was riding well, so I just kept pressing. After aid 5, there is a section known as The Wall. It is steep, rocky, and relentless. Ken and Drew told me it was coming, and I had mentally prepared myself to walk parts of it. But once I was on it, I didn’t want to get off. I rode through it and tried to keep riding hard until I finally emerged from the trees and realized I was close to home.
I came in a shade under 6 hours, which was good enough for third place. As it turned out, Alex was a few minutes ahead of me and he finished in second. Ken finished not long after and took second in the Clydesdale category, which was an inexplicably deep field this year.
Good race for us all. Three podium spots. Hung out with Stu Fish afterward. We first met him in Fruita for the Fat Tire Festival. Claire saw him walking around and pulled him over to the booth and told him we had a jersey made just for him. And boy, was it.
Big thanks to Shaun and Rich and all the volunteers at the Laramie Enduro for putting on a stellar event.