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Transfer 1 in which everyone complains about climbing:

As an introduction into the enduro world, I signed up to race the Eastern States Cup Enduro Lite at Burke Mountain last weekend. It was on a whim and half dare/taunt from Dave. It was a gorgeous day in Vermont and I was ready to tackle this thing. I had registered for the beginner women’s class as I had never done anything like it before and there was a pro racer promised for support and questioning. Also, I was demo-ing the Trek Fuel EX8 for this thing- I was so excited to have such an awesome bike. As we began to climb to our first stage, many of the other women were complaining about the climb. I didn’t think it was bad, but I’m used to working for my downhill. It was the first indication that some of these women were not really beginners. The Fuel held it’s own on the climb and I didn’t notice any loss of power while pedaling. I did watch a couple of the other women bounce all the way up the hill and was grateful, not for the last time, for this bike. We got to the start of the first stage and waited patiently for our turn to start.

Stage 1 in which Casey craps her pants:

Ok, I didn’t literally crap myself but I was pretty scared. I realized that I had no idea what I was getting into and worried that I was never going to make it out alive. As I got started, I was having a blast. A super fun, good time. There were just some spots where I thought to myself- geeze, I might want to slow down a bit. It was hard to do though, everything seems set up to encourage speed. They told me it was an easy stage….I wouldn’t have called it easy, but ok. The scary part about this stage was the speed for sure- I am not practiced in the art of fast.

Transfer 2 in which Casey telepathically thanks Dave profusely for the use of the Trek

After that first Stage- the one where I was shaking at the finish- I was super thankful that I had the Fuel EX8. I knew without a doubt that there was absolutely no way I would have continued on my own crappy XC bike. Whoever said “nothing new on race day” never rode my Felt down a hill. I probably wouldn’t have even made it to the end of Stage 1 on that thing.

Stage 2 in which you start with an 8 foot (practically) vertical drop

Well, not exactly vertical but almost. You can’t fake it ‘til you make it down this one. You’ve either got it or you don’t. I was able to make it down the start, and actually all the way through (don’t ask me how- it had to have been the bike). The dropper post came in very handy down this stage. I was pretty much just running on adrenaline at this point. I was just scared, but in a good way. Way out of my comfort zone and way out of my skill level- this would catch up with me soon. I really can’t say enough how much the bike helped me through all of this. It kind of made up for all of my ignorance. It took all the bumps, drops, burms and rocks without me having to even ask it. I know that sounds weird but when I ride my XC bike over some of this stuff, I have to put in a lot of effort to make it happen. This bike just ate it all up. Which is great

because my head was not in a place of trying to remember where my body should be. I was hanging on for dear life.

Transfer 3 in which nothing eventful happened
Nothing. We rode up. That was it.
Stage 3 in which Casey takes a long leap over a short tabletop:

So, by this point I was having a good time but also looking forward to a cold beer. Also, at this point I had realized that at least half of the 6 women in my “beginner” group were not beginners. 2 of them rode Burke Mt. regularly- their home trails and another was just not a beginner. Rude for those of us who are beginners. I would like to take this time to remind you that I am out of my league at this race. In way over my head. Bond Brook is my technical ride experience. And Bond is challenging for me still. I’m not ashamed of it, this is my second year of riding. I’ve come a long way. Even though the event was advertised as “low-key” and “for fun and learning” it was technically a race and these “ladies” put themselves in a sandbagging-type position, which just made me….let’s say “flustered”. I am a little competitive sometimes I guess- I’m not proud of it, it just happens. So, this third stage is everyone’s “favorite trail”. (If you have a favorite trail at this place, you are not a beginner) I am thinking, great! It should be a fun one. They promised fast, flowey, smooth….It was all of those things. Super fun. YAHOOOO inducing even. I’m going faster than I should be (I don’t want to look like a nube at the end-don’t want to be the slowest- don’t want to come home and tell Dave I was last- don’t want these “ladies” to beat me) and I come out of the woods to what I thought was just a little “whoop” uphill but turned out to be a tabletop. Oops. Well, let me tell you something. The Trek Fuel EX8 can fly. She was smooth and graceful. I, on the other hand realized that the landing was not going to happen and I bailed mid-flight. I came down hard on my head (thankful for my helmet), shoulder, and somehow the opposite hip and leg waaaaay over on the other side of the table top. It took a minute for me to get up. I did the mind-check and while I hurt, I didn’t think anything was broken. It was also at this time that I couldn’t help but think about how much time was going by and I was definitely going to be last now. Also, there was another rider coming down. Get up! Move over! I did. I checked again for injury and decided enough time had been wasted, jumped back on the bike and finished the stage.

Transfer 4 in which we hiked our bikes:

For this last transfer we got to ride up the lift halfway before hiking our bikes to the final stage start. I thought about not going but not for long. I had some trail rash (is that what it’s called?) but I had some serious adrenaline running and wanted to finish. Once we got off the lift, There was a serious grade hill/mountain to get up to the start. I considered riding but my legs were pretty shot at this point and I wanted to save what I had left for the last stage. Not to be competitive, but just to stay on the bike at this point. We hiked.

Stage 4 in which I had the most fun:

The fourth stage was my favorite and I was so glad that I decided to do it. It was the longest stage but it was the most similar to what I am used to riding. It was a beautiful, flowy trail that just rode so perfectly. The “ladies” had warned me that this trail was hard because you had to do some pedaling. All I could think was- good, that will give my legs a break. It was by far my favorite stage.

Finish in which I finally get that beer:

Overall, I had an amazing day and that was in great part due to my borrowed steed. I said it at the beginning and I will say it again, I would have quit after the first stage if I hadn’t been on the Trek. It was versatile and forgiving, picking up slack where I was lacking in skill. It is a bike I could see myself growing into and becoming very comfortable riding. I was grateful for it on the uphill as well as the down. It is a rugged, capable long-travel trail bike with the responsiveness of an XC bike on the climbs and pedaling trails. Who will save me from myself and come buy it?