It was the casino part that hooked me. When else would I get to ride my mountain bike through a casino? The Fears, Tears and Beers race in Ely is not your typical mountain bike race, as it begins riding through the Jailhouse Casino. The inherent whimsy in that made it appealing to this non-racer.
Let me back up. If you had asked me to enter a mountain bike race a few years ago, I’d have laughed at your audacity. It’s taken me a long time to embrace this sport. I’ve owned a mountain bike for well over 10 years, though it’s only been in the last few that I’ve come to understand the joy of gravity, and the gratification of earning my descent.
An enduro race, especially one like Fears, Tears and Beers, meant that I only had to race a few timed downhill sections, with the rest of the course being essentially a ride with friends.
That seemed manageable.
Because it was my first race, I started small by entering the Fun category. Only twelve miles and two timed descents. I could do that. But when a good friend learned my intentions, she called me out.
“You can totally do more than that. You should be in at least the Beginner category, but probably Sport.”
I may not have a lot of confidence in my ability, but pride prevented me from being perceived as a sandbagger. I capitulated, and convinced the three women who made the trip with me from Lake Tahoe to upgrade to Sport too. None of us had any idea what we were getting into, but at least we would be discovering it together.
The morning of the race dawned sunny and clear, and we gathered with the other riders in Ely’s Broadbent Park to wait for the start. I let my utter ignorance of the course be my guide, and tried to be in the moment. This meant enjoying the novelty of inhaling stale cigarette smoke as I rode past slot machines; savoring the views of the mountains, wildflowers and juniper trees on the untimed climbs; chatting with my friends as we took ample breaks; and pedaling my lungs out whenever I hit a timed section. I finished the race tired, happy, only slightly bloody, and full of a sense of achievement.
That I rode faster than nine other women to take first in the Sport category was a confirmation that I was capable of more than I thought possible.
Lesson learned. I am not a sandbagger.