I’m not quite sure why I decided to do this race, but as always, super stoked I did. We’ve been getting our asses kicked at work lately. The current episode of Longmire that we’re filming has been pretty much all on location high in the mountains near Pecos. We’ve been working late into the night, and stylistically it’s been predominantly hand-held. Numerous thunderstorms have put us on lightning holds and we’ve been working extra long hours to stay on schedule through the weather.
After three 15-hour work days in a row, my call time on Friday was 2pm. Just wonderful. I knew we’d be working until at least 2am shooting the final scene of the episode, and it would be ALL hand-held. My legs felt like stale pumpernickel, and I really could use a full night of sleep… so I almost pulled the plug on doing the race at all. But I REALLY wanted to ride these trails in Los Alamos that I’ve heard so much about… so I didn’t mentally count it out completely.
I prepped my bike a couple days earlier, just in case. Geared it 32:20. Grabbed some bananas, nuts, gu gels, water, and a Dr. Pepper and threw them in a bag for the one SAG drop. Filled my camelbak and a bottle of lemon gu brew. “Just in case” I kept telling myself. Downloaded the gpx file to my garmin, printed maps and the cue sheet as well. Figured I’d let my body decide. When I crawled into bed around 3am, I set my alarm clock for 5:40am. If my body said let’s ride bikes, I’d do it – if it said go back to sleep, I’d do it. 2o minutes later I was pumping Martin Garrix – Animals and eating a chocolate croissant on the 285… game on.
I landed in the Pajarito Grill and Pub parking lot at 6:45am. Perfect. Just enough time to run into Smith’s for a last minute potty break. It was closed for cleaning but the guy was super cool and let me handle it… wouldn’t have been pretty if I had to start the race with that extra 5 lbs 🙂
Ok then. Crowd had developed, around 24 people showed to start the A and B course and another 5 were shuttled up to the mountain for the C course. “Showed to what?”, you’re probably asking. The Pajarito Burnout. It’s a grassroots endurance mountain bike race, much like the Sedona Big Friggin Loop, Santa Fe Big Friggin Loop, etc (which was the impetus in creating the Mammoth Lakes Big Friggin Loop last year). It’s put on as part of the New Mexico Endurance Series. Seems like a great group of guys/gals, but unfortunately, I didn’t get to chat with many peeps – but the race organizer, Dylan was very friendly during check-in. No registration fees. No prizes. No fuss. Just riding bikes, setting goals, and challenging yourself. No podiums, just bragging rights. No course markings. Bring your gpx file, cue sheet and map, and hope you can stay on track. Backcountry racing at its finest!!
There were three race options this year – A, B, and C:
- A Course: 66.2 miles – 10,800′ climbing
- B Course: 36.7 miles – 5,200′ climbing
- C Course: 25.8 miles – 2,500′ climbing
Normally, I would’ve loved to give a crack at the “A” course. By “normally” I mean, having a chance to train for it and not be putting in 60-70 hour work weeks. But in my physical condition, and family time being at a premium on my miniscule weekends, the “B” course was the one for me.
In a nutshell: This course was spectacular and 100% new to me. I love riding new terrain for the first time!! Beautiful scenery and great trails with mucho variety. We started off with some techy bits on Graduation Trail, then quickly jump on Pueblo Canyon Rim Trail – aptly named as you’re riding flowy singletrack around a gorgeous, deep canyon. I was hanging with another singlespeeder and a couple other riders for the first 10 miles or so. That was really nice as they knew the course and there were a couple tricky turns. I never had to look at my Garmin, save for a glance once in a while to confirm my arrow was on the red line. All good. The Perimeter Trail was just technical enough to keep you on your toes and make the climbing a little more grueling than the nominal elevation gain would suggest. I enjoyed it very much. Very Moab-esqe. Then the “big climb” started. Up Quemezon Trail and Pipeline Rd. Over half of the total climbing of the race was on this relentless grunt gaining near 2,400′ over a 5 mile span. I found myself alone, quickly- the others I’d been following on Perimeter seemed to vanish. Needless to say, I spent much of this time hiking and talking to myself and eating bananas. Then I’d jump on and pedal for a bit and hike some more. I knew there was still a lot of riding to do, so it wasn’t worth red-lining too much now… didn’t wanna bonk this early. Before I knew it, I hit a steep descent, which I figured was just a small bit of relief. After flying down for a 1/2 mile or so, I got that feeling… shit. I looked at my navigation, and sure enough, my arrow strayed from the red line. Yup. I made wrong turn and had to climb back up the intersection. Oh well. I got back on track and eventually topped out at the summit and made the right turn on Guaje Ridge Trail.
What goes up, must come down. Next was one of the most epic descents I’ve ever done. 10 miles and 3,000′ of singletrack bliss down Guaje. While jamming down this sweet section, I punctured my front tire on something, but the sealant quickly plugged it up. A half cartridge of CO2 had me back in action right away… at least for now. This area has you riding through a huge burn area that was so sad to see, but you could imagine just how beautiful it was before the fires. I made it to the Pajarito trailhead around the 26 mile mark, where my drop bag pleasantly awaited me. Some salty nuts, coconut water, and a Dr. Pepper hit the spot. I refilled my Camelbak and was back on track. Only 10 more miles to go and about 1k climbing. Sweet!! I noticed my front tire was getting low again. Oh well. This persisted the rest of the race. Every 20 minutes or so, I’d give it a shot of CO2. Seemed better than putting a tube in – at the time.
The race continued by climbing up Barranca Mesa, and then on Bayo Canyon Trail which was fun. Some slickrock and other fun features like narrow slots that you could barely fit your pedals through… bike luge. Then to a fast, flowy singletrack trail called Fireline. This helped my body forget the pain and cramping that was setting in. After some fire road climbing up near a poo plant (it was pretty stinky) more singletrack awaited on the Tent Rocks Trail – very reminiscent of Slim Shady in Sedona. Up, down, around, repeat. Like a roller coaster. Fresh legs would’ve made this trail stellar, but I was riding it like a rookie. By this time, my body was in conservation mode, with one goal left: Get ‘er done. I was bonking, and it was time to get home. Shortly after this, it was all about retracing the start to get to the finish line. Towards the end, I ran out of CO2. My front tire had just enough air in it to last the rest of the race. While navigating the last few miles I took a couple more wrong turns, oops. Never got too far off track, but it adds up, especially when your legs are already shouting at you. Only 1 miles to go. Then my rear tire went flat. Really flat. Hmmm. Choices. No more CO2. Do I take it off and put on a tube and pump it up? Most people would’ve done that probably. Me? No. I figure, the last section of trail is barely rideable, so I’ll just walk it. I’m beat anyway. Then you hit pavement for the last 1/2 mile. I can ride a flat on pavement, no biggie. Again, probably not the best choice, but it’s the choice I made. Riding in to the finish on a flat rear tire and about 10 psi in the front – DONE! Finished. My official time was 6 hours 31 minutes. The other SS’ers in my group DNF’d – so that meant I was 1st SS and 5th overall in the “B” course. Some pulled pork sliders and a Woodchuck Hopped Cider at Pajarito Grill quickly eased the tortures of the day’s ride.
After all was said and done, I wound up riding 39.8 miles and climbing 6,084′ according to Strava. An extra 3 miles and 800′ of climbing tacked on for fun 🙂 So happy to be part of this memorable race. Elated that my body gave me the thumbs up at 5:40am, and I got a chance to taste the magical trail systems of Los Alamos and Pajarito. The gorges and canyons are phenomenal and I look forward to hitting the area again. Hoot!!