Raven Enduro Weekend
This weekend I set out for the Raven Enduro, a 19 mile test of endurance and riding skill. For those wondering what “enduro” is, it’s a stage race where you have timed downhill stages and untimed transfer stages where you ride to the next stage.
The event was held in Spring Mills, PA which was a 3hr & 45min drive for me. I left early Saturday morning so that I could get some riding in on the trails to be used for the course. I arrived and met up with Ryan Eisenhower, the race director and all around good guy. Ryan set me up in my own bunk house which had a bathroom, shower and electricity! All of that for $25 for the night, not bad at all.
After setting up camp Ryan gave me some tips on where the course was so off I went with map in hand. I drove about a mile up the mountain to a parking lot and rode from there. This would save my legs a little as well as save some time as I was heading out in the afternoon. I wanted to see all of the stages and be back with time to get some food and relax. I missed the turn for stage 1, the entrance wasn’t marked to keep the local motos out and there were guys out cutting up trees along the road, I think they were blocking the entrance. I rode past them and wound up riding down the transfer stage that takes you to stage 2.
I found stage 2 after some additional riding on some lower trails and it was a fun one. Now I was on track and made my way to stage 3 but didn’t follow the planned transfer stage which was almost 5 miles long. I opted to stay on the gravel road and pick up the last .5 mile of the transfer to the stage 3 start.
Stage 3 looked interesting on the map as it showed a steep downhill and it did not disappoint! On to stage 4 which had parts that reminded me of some photos I’ve seen of trails from Super Enduros in Italy. Loose and fast rocky ravines with natural drops (small) off of some small boulders. After reaching the bottom of stage 4 I felt my rear tire going flat. The stage winds up at a house and there were some of the course marshal’s hanging out but nobody had a pump so I had to use up an air canister to get back in action. I would make my way back to the top and decided not to pre-ride stage 5 as I was getting tired and the sun was getting low. After getting back to the car I checked out my rear tire and concluded that I must have burped air on the descent on stage 4.
After a night of unsettled sleep, thanks acorns falling on a tin roof, I woke to find that my rear tire was completely flat. I used my last air canister to re-inflate and then check for any leaks. I did see three small pin hole leaks and would try to get them sealed. This was the first incident I’ve had running tubeless tires in a year! Later I would find out that I had little to no sealant left in my tire. I just forgot to check the amount of sealant I had left in them before leaving for the trip. This was a costly mistake that would affect my day.
I got to the start and was lent a floor pump to get my tires up to pressure so I thought I’d be all good. At the time I didn’t realize that I was leaking air on the way up to stage 1 but also still didn’t know that I didn’t have enough sealant.
Stage 1 [.9mi]: I was the third one out of the gate and off I went. Fast as you can down the mountain riding a course blind, always an interesting experience. I encountered a gnarly section of loose rocks with a right turn and wound up in the bushes. I corrected that mistake and sprint off. Into another rock section and bang, bang, bang…I could feel the rear tire getting soft. I limped down the rest of the stage and would be passed by one rider.
Onto the first transfer stage and I had people offering help, pumps and tubes. Pretty good group of people out there! I tried using a hand pump and it was letting out more air than putting in. As I pushed my bike up the trail Ryan came along on his moto and asked how he could help. Off he went for a bigger pump as I made my way along the mile trek to stage 2. I stopped along the way as I was given a pump to try and get some air in. Bent over the bike, sweating as I pumped furiously my arms were feeling it already, this would catch up to me later.
Stephan Kincaid, eventual winner, came along and offered to ride me to the stage 2 start. What a good sport and nice gesture but I didn’t want to take away from his experience. As I arrived by the trail head that leads to the stage 2 start, Ryan showed up with a bottle of Stans sealant just in case I was low! I worked my tire bead off and sure enough, no sealant left. I would use the hand pump to try and get the tire to seat. With the help of a fellow racer we managed to get air in but it wouldn’t last.
A floor pump arrived and I was in business! The tire was still leaking some by the valve but I was sure I’d be good. Time to compose myself, have a couple Honey Stinger energy chews and some water then refocus.
Stage 2 [.5mi]: I’m the last racer to go as everyone else has passed me during my ordeal. I was looking forward to this stage to get me back in the game. 5…4…3…2…1 off I went and was feeling good, for now anyway, a short up hill then onto to the majority of descending for this stage. I hit the last right turn before a short climb got off course and wound up in the bushes…again! Sprint up the short hill and make my way to the finish. I felt happy to be back in the race! My stage 2 time (2:55) wound up being 33 seconds off of winner’s time for that .5 mile stage. I could be happy with that given the circumstances.
Onto the 5 mile transfer to stage 3. I would wind up catching up to and passing 5 riders, not that it counts for anything but it was good to feel like I wasn’t alone out there.
Side note, the last week I noticed my dropper post wasn’t holding in the extended pedal position. It was becoming more of an issue during the race. It wasn’t staying up and would drop about an inch and a half. I would have to pedal with more of a bent leg than is ideal. Not cool.
Stage 3 [1mi]: Out of the gate onto this stage you have some flowy single track and some rocky sections then a short rocky up hill that you really need to hit with speed. Unfortunately this section slowed me down a bit but I got through it without fully stopping and was looking forward to the drop straight down the mountain side. No brakes today, I needed to make up time as I dropped in. What a rush flying down this trail and avoiding rocks then into a tight right and then left to avoid a tree. Sprint through some tight sections with a gully and onto the finish. Again :30 sec off of the winner’s time for this stage. The bobbles cost me and in enduro every second counts.
Onto stage 4 transfer and I’m enjoying life again after stage 3, I got the fun back in me! My strava report showed a max speed of 39.1 mph for the day and I think it might have been on this stage. I waited for several other riders to ride to stage 4 and off we went. We arrived at stage 4 to see a line of about 8 riders ahead of us.
I got the fun back
Stage 4 [1.5mi]: Of all of the stages, this is the one I was looking forward to the most. 1.5 miles of 98% descending. As you start you are riding on flat terrain so you have to sprint out of the start to get a good time for this stage. I got out well and hit the first descending section but coasted to compose myself, this hurt my time. As I started to pick up speed I caught the guy that left in front of me.
He was nice to get to the side quickly as I made a right up a short climb then across some fresh cut trail and now onto some fun loose rocky terrain. You quickly pick up speed through here as you have to find a line that doesn’t throw you off of the bike. I round a left turn and a rider is down, pass him as I barrel through to a tight left with a slight up hill.
Momentum is key here and I manage to make it through. By now my arms and legs are burning! I find little spots to coast and sit for a second or two then get back after it! One more short uphill then let it rip the rest of the way. I pass another guy and make my way to the tire obstacle. Up and over that and head to the last section of tight woods trails with berms and rutted trail. I pass another guy and maneuver through the trees. Cross the line and gassed. What a fun stage!
The finish of this stage is right by the finish of stage 5 so there were people milling about, a table with water and apple slices. Top notch support for this one! I take a short break then start heading straight up to the mountain for the final stage.
Stage 5 [1.3mi]: Another blind stage to ride as I skipped pre-riding the day before. How bad can it be, right? This stage started out with some nice new trail. The upper section really had you thinking. First there were some fast descents but then a sharp turn and a short climb. My legs were burning getting up the climbs, I wound up running up one or two of the climbs, but looking forward to a fast descent to the finish. One of the upper trails had a sharp left and I came in hot, wound up on my butt. Jumped back on and hit the rest of the course. I managed to stay on the rest of the stage and make it down in one piece. I was beat.
I wound up 9th in the Open Division, 15th overall. When I look at the times I can see the drop off after my issue on stage 1 and riding two stages blind but that’s racing. You have to be prepared for flats in an enduro race. I thought I was prepared the day before but turned out it was all because I didn’t check my sealant levels.
My strava report for the race can be found here.
The take away
Coming from the flat lands near the ocean I knew I had to be careful not to do too much pre-riding of the course so not to be too worn out for race day. Given that I only have a maximum of 47 feet of climbing in my area I was happy with my result against the “mountain men”. Had I not worn myself out doing all of the pumping to get my tire inflated, I think I would have had a better result. By the time I hit stage 5 I was beat but that’s what enduro is about. I know what I have to work on if I want to get better results.
As always, it was great to catch up with other riders and meet new ones. The event ran really well with hand timing and Ryan had a crew of excellent course marshals out on motos to keep things in order. Without their help I would have been done after stage one. I look forward to doing that race again next year. I think we all enjoyed the spread of food and beverages afterwards.
I want to thank Transition Bikes, Kenda tires, Royal Racing, Ryders Eyewear, Honey Stinger, Crank Brothers and Community Bikes and Boards (Philly) for their support.
Edit: A big thanks to Ryan’s wife for the photos!