Petey's Solo Single Speed adventure at 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest
teamEMS had an amazing time racing with Zia Rides at yet another great event - 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest! Team Athlete and Paramedic Petey shares his adventure, read all about it and start training for this amazing event!
"What can I say about a Zia Rides event that hasn’t already been said by literally anyone who has been to one of their events? Whether you are going to race, to watch, to work, to pit crew for a team or just for the experience - everyone really seems to enjoy the vibe of the event. I first participated in a Zia Rides event (the 12 hours in the Wild West) on a duo team two years ago I enjoyed it so much we decided to do the race again this year! (Be sure to read Edwin’s write up of the race.) Now, I’m not totally sure what provoked the idea and motivation to race a 24 solo on a single speed but I was excited to give it my best try. With the right attitude, some supportive people in your camp, and reasonable goals, I believe that anyone can enter an endurance event like this and have a great time.
I had never ridden any trails in Western New Mexico before but was really looking forward to get out there and experience them for myself. The Enchanted Forest race was a 13.1 mile loop with about 1000ft of elevation gained through the pinon pine forests of the Zuni Mountains, just a handful of miles to the South and West of Gallup. The course started with a mile or so of flat terrain as it left the expansive camping grounds at McGaffy Park where there were trailers, tents and campers scattered from corner to corner. Then the trail turned down for about 3 miles of fast and flowy fun on the Y2K trail. At the end of the Y2K trail we took a sharp turn to the left, where the climbing began around mile 4. Along the Quacking Aspen trail you must navigate a few steep punchy climbs, and some really fun and challenging rock slab features. Somewhere around mile 7 or 8 we reached the Albuquerque Bikeworks Bacon Station, which was situated in a great spot about ½ way through the course and close to the top of the climb. The super nice folks from Bikeworks had bacon and good vibes for every rider on every lap, thanks guys!
Not long after the Bacon Station the decent back to camp began. First through the tight trees down Plush trail, a super smooth and flowy track that is an absolute blast to ride, especially at night! Then we made our way along the Torreon trail which had some super fun features and rock gardens which kept us on our toes and smiles on our faces. After about 5 miles of exciting descending, the trail reaches a meadow where we know we are almost back into the campground. The campers along the trail were supportive of all the riders, cheering and ringing cow bells to bring us back to into transition area.
The entire loop is fun, challenging, rewarding, and just rocky and rough enough to remind you that you are mountain biking. I felt like it was the perfect balance of all of these things which kept me motivated to get back out there lap after lap. Having never attempted a 24 hour event solo, I didn’t know what to expect, so I decided on a few motto's to help me keep my head straight. (These are just extra or extended versions of the TeamEMS motto's!)
1 – Start slow, and finish slower. I figured the first lap was going to be difficult with all the traffic on the course, and I was right about that. Being on my single speed made this first lap extra challenging as I would end up behind long groups of people in lower (slower) gears, where putting out the effort trying to pass them on the uphill would drain my energy surely only to find another group of people in slower gears. So I held on as best I could pedaling at what felt like 10 RPM for a lot of that first lap. As for the finish slower part of the mantra, I added that in so I didn’t get hung up on slower lap times as the 24 hours progressed, and to remember I was just there to enjoy the ride. However, in the end most of my (actually riding) lap times were very similar. On any occasion that I came upon a rider stopped along the trail I would stop and make sure they were okay and if I could provide any help. Only one time was I able to help someone with a Honey Stinger gel packet I had in my pocket. He was stoked to receive the help as he seemed uncomfortable from some cramps and was especially excited that it was a tasty Honey Stinger product! Thank you Honey Stinger for supporting our team with delicious fuel!
2 – Have fun! The whole reason I was doing this race solo is because I love riding my mountain bike. If the conditions were bad, or I wasn’t feeling good, I wasn’t going out there just to suffer. The truth is I enjoyed every moment of the race, with the only exception being the first half of the lap I started around 5am. It was dark, I was cold and my muscles not warmed up yet after sleeping about 4 hours. That ½ lap was the most difficult from a mental and physical perspective. I found it difficult to find the fun in riding up the climb during that lap. But once I reached the top it became bright enough to see without my lights again the fun of riding came rushing back, I had no trouble finding the motivation to ride around the loop two more times on Sunday before time was up.
3 – Set a personal goal, and give it your best shot. I decided on what I felt was an obtainable goal of doing about 100 miles over the course of the race (7-8 laps) and I used this goal to plan out my breaks and much-needed rest time (and some sleep!). An interesting and challenging part of doing the race solo, is determining when you take your breaks and how it will affect your lap times. I knew I wasn’t going to compete with the complete maniacs that don’t even get off their bikes for 24 hours (the single speeder who won did 20 laps totaling 262 miles! Sorry, but that is completely insane) – so for me, a good way to compare my 8 laps with the rest of the field is to look at lap times. If I go around the course, and stop before the transition tent for a rest, then that lap will not accurately show my pace around the course. Conversely, if I go around the course and go through the transition tent, and take a rest after, then the next lap time will be skewed. I had not expected the mental challenge of keeping track of where I was with respect to lap times, start and stop locations, and managing the transitions and rest. It seemed like every lap I was continually thinking about what I was going to do when I got back to the transition area. Do I go through the transition? Do I stop before and get more water/snacks and take a short break? It was an ever-present struggle, and one thing is for sure, I didn’t want to mess up the transitions and potentially miss clocking a lap, or worse, be accused of cheating. But I managed to keep track of my efforts, and I even managed to get a few fast lap times on the board by resting and recharging at my camp before the transition, then going through the tent and all the way around and through the tent again to start and stop the lap time without any additional rest time included in the lap.
Takeaway’s from the event -
- Riding bikes is fun! When riding in a supportive environment it is especially fun!
- Zia Rides puts on really well-organized events, on great trails, and keeps the stoke elevated for everyone.
- My wife and daughter can attest, they had a blast at the race, and they just kept to the sponsor village where there were movies, games, freebies, etc.!
- My Point6 socks were so comfy I didn’t even think about my feet the entire race!
- Honey Stinger waffles and gels not only taste great, they truly kept me going strong for 24 hours!
- Anyone and everyone who likes to ride mountain bikes should try out a Zia Rides event!"
Eric Peterson, Paramedic - teamEMS MTB
About teamEMS: The team is designed to achieve one goal; Support the physical and emotional well-being of professionals in the emergency response industry by promoting a healthy work-life balance. We aim to help get as many of our peers outside as possible. teamEMS is reserved solely for dedicated professionals in the emergency medical field who are also Mountain bikers, runners and cyclists. These athletes come from Ski Patrol, Search and Rescue, 911 Dispatchers, Fireman, EMT’s, Paramedics and ER staff. EMS Unlimited provides our team athletes with access to free race entries and discounted gear so they can “…do it again tomorrow.” For more information visit them at http://www.ems-unlimited.com/teamems or contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org