Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Oslo Enduro

It was Saturday morning, and we were driving up the hill to the top of Oslo, Tryvann, in thick fog. I was thinking about the viral essay 'Wear Sunscreen'. In particular, I was thinking of one line.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

I think I don't follow this rule well enough. Instead I save up many many days of scaring, and I get it all over with in one go. That is what Oslo Enduro was.

Enduro is a form of mountain bike racing that has grown immensely in popularity in recent years. During the course of one race, you bike a number of timed, predominantly downhill segments. You bike the uphill as well, but it isn't timed, you just have to be ready for the start time of your next segment.

Ingvild excited to bike in Saturday's fog

Saturday was the practice day. All of the trails were marked and we set out to bike them, trying to commit to memory difficult sections so we could bike them as fast as possible on Sunday. A giant wound his hand around my stomach and clenched, hard, from the moment the bikes were loaded onto the car.

 
To be honest, I was scared of loosing. With only 14 girls in the field, and a number of them far more proficient bikers than me, I was, for the first time in my life, poised to be last. And it terrified me.

 

We biked through the first segment, and the course was difficulty, but not passed my technical grasp. Of course, while I brake and bump down the rocky, technical sections, better bikers flow by like water. If only I could let go of my brakes and roll fast!

Ragnhild keeping her balance over a slippery section

The second segment was the most challenging, and I spent most of our run-through determining where I would jump off and run with my bike.

We only got through three of the five segments before it was time for the seeding run. If you don't ride the seeding run, you start at the tail end of the competition. I almost didn't ride it, because, well, I kind of wanted to start at the end. But I thought it might just calm my nerves to have ridden some of the competition before Sunday.

The girls are ready for seeding!
Standing at the top of the steep, grassy hill that started the seeding segment, I wasn't so sure. Ingvild was due to start 30 seconds behind me, and I knew she would make up that lead in the course of the segment. But as soon as the volunteer holding the stopwatch said, "Go!", the adrenaline kicked in and I sped off down the course like I had a friend hot on my heels. Which I did.

On the first technical, rocky stretch of trail, I realized that I hadn't properly tightened my helmet before charging off down the course. As a result, it was falling into my eyes. I decided that loosing 10 seconds was better than crashing because I couldn't see, so I stopped and quickly tightened by helmet.

As predicted, Ingvild caught me in the middle. I roared on after her, screeching a little too quickly around the last corner and almost crashing. But I had made it through my first mountain bike competition. Well, seeding, anyway.

We preceded back up the hill to ride the two last segment, and the fatigue started to settle in. I may have wasted a little too much adrenaline on the seeding, and I felt sluggish and tired. We biked the fourth segment, a fast and flowy singletrack through the trees, before I opted out of running through the fifth and final segment in order to save my legs for the ordeal that would be tomorrow.

Foreshadowing: this was a big, big mistake. 

On Sunday we arrived early to pick up our bibs in the poring rain. Great conditions for a mountain bike competition!

Casper, all suited up for competition
The fastest men started a full hour and a half before me, so as the rain let up I decided to go out and get some photos of them going at it.

Niclas Andersen, 7th place finisher, rounds the corner of the first north shore.
 
I considered photoshopping my head onto some of the them. Because, of course, this is exactly how I executed this jump:

Espen Johnsen, the overall winner.
 
And the mud on the flats didn't slow me down one bit:
 
Joar Solem, who start hard but had a flat tire later in the race resulting in a 21st place.
When it was finally my turn to start, I was every bit as nervous as the day before. Possibly even more nervous, since everyone kept saying, "It's so wet and slippery out today. Just don't crash!"

Don't die. Don't die. Don't die.

And the volunteer signaled for me to start. Luckily, I had remembered to tighten my helmet this time. The trails were full of clingy mud, and I finished the first segment around 20 seconds slower than the seeding the previous day. I felt slower, too,  the adrenaline of the previous day replaced with a cautious, lets-get-through-time-alive sentiment.

I biked up to the start of the second segment with only three minutes to spare, and didn't have time to get nervous before I had to start again. The second segment went better. I jumped off my bike and ran the most difficult sections and biked a quickly as my brake fingers would let me down everything else. All of a sudden it was over, and I had a wealth of time before the next segment started. The race had canceled the third segment, giving us 20 minutes extra break.

I got back to the start in time to choke down a couple hundred calories of nuts and watch Audun repair Ingvild's bike before her next start. (Audun would be racing too, but he's out of the game on a twisted ankle. Long story.)

Happy camper during the break in the competition
I started the fourth segment resolved to bike fast. This was, after all, the fast, flowy, fun trail.

 

Go, go, go!

It started well, but as I crested over the top of a steep section, I saw Ingvild lying in the grass next to the trail, with someone I didn't know standing next to her. She had started nearly ten minutes before me - shouldn't she be racing?

"Come on Molly, keep going!" she cheered.

I realized she must have crashed hard, and was so put out that I went over my handlebars myself. I came down on my hip, but luckily not too hard. And all the parts of my bike seemed to be in order, so I got up and continued, shaken by the fall. I biked shitty for the rest of the segment, thrown out of concentration by Ingvild's apparent injury and my crash.

I made it up the hill to start my final segment - the one I hadn't previewed the day before - with only two minutes to spare. The timer started, and I cranked up to speed down the hill. Just get through this. You've almost done it. You've almost finished. I chanted. Don't worry about Ingvild, someone else was helping her.

 I headed into the woods, getting back into the flow, when all of a sudden a dirt half-pipe was in the way. A photographer was on the other side. "Just let go of your brakes, and you'll have enough speed to get up the other side!" he encouraged.

I looked straight down the near vertical side wall of the half-pipe. I looked up the near vertical side wall of the other side of the half-pipe. Then I thought, No way, mister, got off my bike, and ran. And yes, I'm ashamed that I didn't even try to cross the half-pipe. Oh well.

It was after this point that I got completely lost. I took a wrong turn down a steep ski hill and ended up on one of the other segments. I did the most constructive thing I could think of, and burst into tears. I just wanted to finish! Why couldn't I have ridden this segment yesterday, so I knew were it went?

Then I did the second most constructive thing I could think of, which was call my boyfriend Audun. As if he could help.

"I got lost and now I'm never going to finish!" I wailed.

"Have you thought of backtracking to the last place you knew you were on the trail?" he said. I hiccuped, hung up, and start running back up the steep hill from whence I came. Finish finish finish. Finally, another competitor blazed by and I found my wrong turned. I bumped down the last section of trail, barely aware of what I was doing. Finish finish finish.

The last segment took my 12 minutes. It took the second slowest girl 4 minutes. Moral of story: always preview the segments!

At least I finished.

And guess what? With my epic fail on the last segment, I did come in last place, and I feel kind of freed by it. After all, it's all uphill from the bottom. And guess what else? I'm already saving up my days of fear for the next enduro. Because I love a good challenge, and Oslo Enduro was a great challenge, with good company.

Ingvild pulled a muscle in her leg, and is recovering quickly, no harm done.

- The Wild Bazilchuk

4 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your finish!!

    Oh I enjoyed reading your post! So much, that if I didn't have a plane to catch today (I love saying that, because I'm not traveling too often, so being able to say that is kind of nice ;) ), I'd read it over again several times, because I really want to try ut enduro as well.

    I'm actually mostly intro triathlons, and blogging about that, but I LOVE mountainbiking. I live in Telemark so we have lots of hills around here, and I really enjoy the downhill parts as well. I got myself a new mountain bike last fall, and now I'm really addicted (I agree with you, three bikes is a minimum, but it feels even better with #4...).
    It's not full suspension, I wish I could affort one, but that'll have to wait.
    In stead of downhill racing that I guess would be more fun to train with others, and that you need a whole lot more equipment for, I guess enduro would be perfect for me since I also like to bike uphill ;)

    I'm fascinated by this whole Enduro thing, I only wonder why they don't time the uphill section, then it would be even more interesting for me. Going up and getting all those endorphins, and then biking down full of adrenaline...

    We'll see.
    I just stumbled upon your blog today, so I'll stop by again and read more, that's for sure, I get so inspired! :)

    Imke

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    1. I'm not sure I really 'get' enduro either, it's like downhill racing only not :P

      Don't worry about not having full suspension, you'll developed better technique without it!

      Anyway, glad you enjoy my blog, I write about both running and biking so maybe I satisfy about 2/3 of what a triathlete is interested in. Hope you do stop by again!

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  2. Great reading! :) fun to read others experience from Oslo Enduro. I entered the race for the first time myself and I was so stoked about it. Great trails, great people and I survived! :) Ps. I did try the trick and just let go of the brakes in the halfpipe. Didn't work.. Got halfway up the wall and slided back down :)

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Good job at least trying the half pipe, those walls were wicked steep :)

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