A while back I promised a post on epic riding near Silver City, NM.  Time to deliver.

On my second day in Silver City, the folks at Gila Hike n Bike notified me of a rare occurence: the riding of the Burro Enduro.  Riding conditions would be perfect, the owners assured me, because recent moisture had rendered the sandy approach ridable.  This epic, four-hour ride, was a mere seventeen miles up and over the Burro Mountains.

Having only ridden once in the last four months, I hesitated.  I’d been snowboarding and hauling wood but did not have the aerobic fitness for four hours of riding.  I checked my topo maps and noticed that peak elevation did not hit 7,000 feet. Rides–I convinced myself–had to top out over 10,000 feet or be at least 30 miles long to be epic.  Surely I could handle just over half the length and height?

Hubris beat out logos, and I showed up at the shop at ten am, ready to ride.  I was wearing a light fleece jacket and brought as much water as I could carry.  Riders began showing up, one truckload at a time, and most of them were men.  And racers.  My spirits began to sag.  I wasn’t in racing shape.  Hell, I wasn’t even in shape.

But another female showed up, and I figured this would be just another recreational ride–a rare chance to ride the Burro Mountains when the conditions were just right, right?

We drove five miles south on Highway 90 to the old town and mine of Tyrone.  Took a right turnoff then navigated the jeep roads until we came to a little parking lot.  I hadn’t had time to adjust my brakes the prior day and they were too loose for a ride of this proportion.  Determined not to ask for help (hubris wins again), I fiddled for a few minutes with my brakes until one of the racer dudes came over and got me calibrated.  The rest of the pack had taken off already, and we were in for about ten miles of climbing. 

I started off behind and stayed there the entire ride.  Fueled by testosterone and years of lung-busting riding, these guys were out to play king of the mountain.  It had been so long since I’d ridden with a group of guys that I’d forgotten about the dude mentality that drives them to be the best, even on a leisurely weekend ride up and over the mountain in the middle of winter.  The group, all seven of them, were waiting for me at the first fork in the road.  They were sneaking sidelong glances at one another, wondering how long I would last.  I looked to Martha, my sole female companion, and all I saw was pity.

The length between me and the pack would grow as the ride slipped into its second hour–at about which time we began pushing our bikes up the mountain.  Even the most technically skilled of the bunch was ped pushing instead of pedal pushing over the loose rock.  As we neared the top, we stopped for breaks.  Most of the riders equipped themselves as any good racer would–a light windbreaker, a single water bottle, a few cubes of Clif Blok Shots, maybe an orange.

I, on the other hand, wore a light fleece and carried over 100 ml of water, two Luna Bars, and two oranges.  Someone had remarked (or mocked) earlier that my fleece would be too hot.  It wasn’t that my fleece was too hot–it was that their light windbreakers were too flimsy to shield them from the windy peaks as they waited for the out-of-towner to catch up.  Inevitably the group would begin to head out just as I came into view.  This happened for four hours.  By the time I heard or caught sight of the crew, the cilia on my lungs was frozen and screaming for help, lactic acid was coursing through my thighs, and my hands were shaking.

I’ve got a pretty severe blood sugar problem, and I need to eat frequently on physical outings such as these.  Usually that’s no problem because I’m either surrounded by loving friends or out on my own.  I couldn’t convince these strangers–who were being very tolerant of the speed (or lack thereof) at which I was climbing this mountain–that I really needed a break: not for the cilia or the thighs but for the shakes.  It didn’t happen. so I just sucked it up and climbed that mountain with sheer determination.  I would not turn back.  I would finish this ride.

I almost cried when we summited.  I’m a much stronger descender than ascender and knew I finally had a chance to close the gap between me and the rest of the group.  As I crested, the group gave me a silent round of applause with its eyes: the out-of-shape out-of-towner was about to be rewarded for hauling her fat ass and bike up a mountain with a bunch of overfit, testosterone-fueled racers.  Tears of relief welled up in my eyes.

The descent was no picnic: beautiful and scary off-cambered and snow-covered singletrack that wended its was through the alpine forest.  I kept my eye on the trail, and the lead group within earshot.  We celebrated with beers at the bottom.

I desperately needed a shower but knew that my legs could not hold up my body for the duration of the shower.  Instead, I covered myself in Tiger Balm, ordered and ate an entire pizza, and watched the Patriots beat up yet another team.  I’d spent the entire day trying to keep up with another league–a position I so rarely find myself in.  I’m used to waiting, not being waited for.  I had a slice of humble for desert and drifted off to sleep, my thighs medicated and my lungs open.  For all its travails, 2007 had been a good year.