12 hours in the Wild West has become one of my favorite races over the past couple of years. The venue for the race is at Grindstone Lake Trail system in beautiful Ruidoso NM, the first time I came to this area I was impressed with the mountains and cool vibe the place has. The course for the race is a gem! definitely a mountain bikers course with a good amount of climbing, challenging technical sections and a super fun decent back to the finish. The folks at Zia rides who put the race on and an endurance race series in New Mexico do a great job of mixing competitive racing with family fun and a good amount of partying afterwards as well!
This winter was a dry one in the southwest and the course was loose and dusty. During practice, I was having fun, kind of ignoring the dry conditions and going pretty fast on the decent. I took a hard fall, the kind were you just lay in the middle of the trail for a couple minutes. I finally collected myself and got down the rest of the way back to start and cleaned up my bloodied body and got to work getting all the particulars ready for the race.
I used to get so stressed out before a race that I wouldn’t be able to sleep the night before an event. For years I struggled with this until I realized the value of the overall experience, good riding and great people. Yes, the race will be hard and painful, but if I’ve put in the effort for training and come prepared, there’s no need to worry at the last minute. Then it’s just time to go out there and do the best I can and have fun.
Race day came with beautiful weather, a bit cold in the morning probably in low 30’s at the start but by mid-day it reached into the low 60’s for a perfect racing temp. The start of these things is usually way too fast for my liking but it’s better to get to the front especially with so much single track.
We started with about a half mile of road to break up the pack, then it was into the trail for a fun and flowing 4-mile climb, The trail really is good even on the climb it’s broken up with short downhills and technical sections, it really flows well and keeps you entertained the whole way up. I get so bored on road climbs, this was definitely not a boring climb.
I got to the front pretty quick off of the start and paced with some team guys for the first lap. I have been trying to get video of racing and I thought I was recording but for some reason my camera has been turning off after nine minutes. It’s too bad because on the first lap I got out front and was descending down when I spooked about nine elk who kept running straight downhill at me as I was traversing across the fall line. They did this three times before finally heading away from the course. It was a pretty intense experience when huge animals are crashing through branches, rocks are flying and you’re just trying to determine if an elk is about to run you over while negotiating single track. Definitely a cool and scary experience and would have been a lot cooler if my camera had been recording, oh well maybe next time.
After the first lap I settled into just ticking off laps enjoying the riding and perfect weather. I kind of knew what my lap times should be to get 11 laps and be close to my time from last year. I was right where I wanted to be for time and was trying to beat my time from last year, I really had no idea if anyone was close behind me I figured I was going as hard as I could and if someone came from behind and beat me then good for them!
I ended up getting the win but missed beating my time by 2 minutes on a much slower course from the year before. I was very happy with the effort I was able to put down and only felt bad for a couple laps in the middle of the day, I do love that feeling of being done with a race! I talk a lot about fun in races but make no mistake, it’s F@%$ING hard every time especially on a course like this your body gets beat to hell, Mountain biking on technical single track for 130 miles will beat you down but there is no better feeling of accomplishing something that is not easy. That’s why we do this type two fun thing, it doesn’t make sense to other people you either get it or you don’t.
Instead of praying for an easy life pray for strength to endure a hard one
– Bruce Lee