The Saddle Slingers and The Wasatch 50 Ride Report
On June 11th, Saddle Slingers Madi and KJ attempted the Wasatch 50 mountain bike race. Packet pick up was at 6:00 AM which meant an early morning for our riders. After a 4:30 AM wake up and an hour and a half long drive to Heber, the Saddle Slingers were ready to get going. The race started at 7:30 AM and so began what would turn out to be a very tumultuous ride for these two saddle slingin’ racers.
Is this your first mountain bike race?
KJ: To start, I love the Intermountain Cup Mountain Biking Series (ICUP). I raced ICUP in high school. The people who go to ICUPS create a great race atmosphere. I find myself with like minded people that like to push themselves on the bike, while also appreciating the camaraderie that comes with the racing/cycling community. Everyone says hi to one another and tells each other how excited they are to race the trail. At the start line, you make instant friends with everyone there. Something about the shared misery ahead bonds you together. These people are your competition but they are also your greatest supporters.
This race was going to be the longest mountain bike race that I had ever done. We had signed up for the full distance (50 miles), which at the time sounded awesome. But when the day came, I felt like I could have settled for the one 25 mile lap. But I was confident and feeling good.
Madi: This was not our first mountain bike race. KJ has been racing almost her whole life and I had only done one mid-week about a month before this.
Did you have any goals or expectations going into this race?
K: I didn’t have a lot of expectations going into the race. As I previously stated in my bio, I had taken the past year off of riding and am rediscovering a love for bike riding and not just competing. I wasn’t too stressed about competing. Plus, only one other person was crazy enough to be signed up in our category. If we all finished we would all be top 3. Easy. Or so I thought.
M: My goals and expectations going into the race were to give it my best and try to finish. Quickly on, we realized that this wasn’t going to be the smooth sailing race that we had hoped for.
Tell us a little about the course in your own words.
M: The course was so beautiful!! I loved the switchbacks going up and how winding it was. The views were so pretty and it was hard to not look around! The climb was not too steep, it was a nice grade that let me keep a decent pace. It was a little bit more technical than I was expecting, I crashed within the first mile on a sharp turn with a rock right in the middle of the trail. The downhill was really fun, winding with sharp turns. The views on the backside were really REALLY amazing. Seeing the Jordanelle and all the mountains around it was so beautiful! Taking pictures was a must.
How did the race go? Highlights? Lowlights?
K: When we created the Saddle Slingers, we decided it is best that we race as a team and stay with each other no matter what. We are best friends and the number one rule of biking is to HAVE FUN. We made a commitment to each other to stay with one another, even if one person was slower than the other, crashes or has a mechanical etc. Within the first mile Madi had crashed and then again at mile 8. I’d say crashing twice in less than 10 miles can qualify as a bad day for anyone. By then, most people had passed us, even the people only doing one lap. I didn’t mind when people passed us because it's a race against ourselves and no one else. Everyone who passed had flawless race and trail etiquette. Passing at appropriate times and asking politely, waiting for a safe space to go around and having encouraging words as they rode past.
By mile 10, after crashing and being passed by everyone Madi wasn’t having fun and having an overall bad day on the bike. Everyone has those days and I could see it was no longer fun. Since we weren’t adhering to the number one rule in biking, we decided it was better to finish the first lap and then DNF. I am definitely a little sad about not finishing. I had never DNF’d before and at first it felt a little embarrassing, but then I realized that it was still a fun ride. I got to ride a trail I had never done before and it was so pretty up there in Heber. Throughout the ride I definitely thought to myself about how lucky I am to be here and how I can’t wait to come back to this trailhead and explore more. The chunky rock gardens at the top of the climb were technical and challenging with smooth switch backed descents. The loop was so fun!
At the end of the day, it’s OK we didn’t finish. Probably not the typical race write up you’d expect but it is realistic and honest. Progression isn’t linear and sometimes you're going to “fail” and that's OK. What matters is you pick up where you left off and keep trying! It’s about having fun while you're doing it. That’s what we're here for and still stoked to be going to the Grodeo!
M: The views were definitely the highlights, the race itself was the lowlight…I crashed probably close to ten times in the first lap (Editor's note: this is most certainly an exaggeration). It left me feeling pretty defeated. KJ is a great teammate to ride with and did a good job keep spirits as high as they could.
Not every race you attempt is going to be a win, and not every ride is going to be fun. You may encounter races you don't finish for one reason or another. The great thing about biking is that every ride is a personal experience to learn from. Whether you're on the bike struggling with your ride, or a bike partner trying to offer support, there's something to be gained from experiencing a DNF. There's a lot of gusto in the practice of moving past disappointment and getting back on the bike to train for your next race. The highs of racing sure are fun, but the lows are really where we grow as cyclists.