Red Star Enduro

What can I say about the Red Star Enduro, the lates race put on by Arkansas Enduro Series, except to say it was:

hot, muggy, humid, buggy, in the middle of nowhere, muddy trails, a slight goof with the first stage (the timing module hadn’t been placed where it was supposed to and so the stage had to start over again), beautiful light, quiet except for the cicadas, a too close encounter with a rattlesnake by a couple of riders (they’re fine, thankfully, except the snake attacked one of their bikes, biting clear down to the metal), a copperhead gently prodded off the trail on another stage, full creeks that the riders had to ford, and did I mention that the trails were muddy? And that the race was held on one of the hottest days of the year so far?

BUT!

It was fun as always, friends hollering out greetings as they rode past me, me cheering them on as I clicked their picture.

Just another party in the woods with bikes and friends.

Next up (and I’m pretty excited about this one) is the Coler Enduro. Talk about a party!

Bella Vista Enduro

The third installment of the Arkansas Enduro Series took place this last Sunday at the Back 40 mountain bike trails in Bella Vista, Arkansas. Much like the previous race held at Mt. Kessler, this race was hot and sweaty, but not quite so humid.

Dave and I got to Base Camp around 7:30, where there was a sleepy feel in the air. Voices were hushed as riders and friends and well wishers gathered together in small groups to discuss bikes, the upcoming stages and Life in general. I ran into old friends, hugs and quiet laughter were exchanged, finishing up with “good luck” fist bumps. I wandered over to the food tent, where the cooks were slinging eggs and bacon and setting out fresh pots of coffee. I’m telling you, the smell of scrambled eggs mixed with freshly cooked bacon hot off an outside grill is one of the best smells in the world.

Dave and I wrapped up at Base Camp and climbed in his car to head to the first stage we wanted to cover. It was one of those trails that was only big enough for a bike, meaning that once we picked out our spots, we were pretty much stuck there until that stage was over. He took a spot near the start of the stage, whereas I hiked a little further down to a pretty severe switchback and settled in for the duration.

Within minutes of setting up, my shirt was drenched and my camera was slippery to hold. I had a small hand towel with me that I used to wipe my hands off and my camera, but by the time the first stage was over, that towel wasn't much use anymore, seeing that it was just as drenched as I was. But I was having fun, using my wide angle lenses and my fish eye lens, a lens that I don’t utilize enough, and shooting in full on sunlight was a real treat, seeing that nearly every other race we’ve shot had been in heavy shade.

But something that I really loved during this particular stretch of the race was getting up close portraits of the riders as they emerged from the woods and into the sun. Seeing the looks of concentration, a little fear, trepidation, tongues clinched between teeth and even a few grins, made me feel like I was a part of the team.

After the first stage was over, I walked down to where Dave was and we trudged back to the car, both of us overflowing with talk about the riders, the heat and the call outs we received from our friends as they whizzed past us, the whole time slurping water from our quart-sized water bottles.

We decided to break for lunch and have a bit of an A.C. break before heading to our final stage, Stage 6, which people back at Base Camp had told us was full of rock gardens and berms and was fast and flow-y.

And it was. The stage was rather short, but it was very flow-y, very shady (which was a welcomed relief by now) and very “berm-y”.

In short, it was very fun to shoot.

I walked up to where David was shooting just in time to see a couple young men that mean a lot to us, @brycewatson.9 and @turtle_boss (a.k.a. Bryce and Austin) come ripping down the trail.

Bryce finished fifteenth and Austin finished third in the Junior Men 17 & Under division. We met the boys during last year’s season, and our friendship with them and their families have gotten closer this summer. In fact, this Saturday, Dave and I are headed to Montana to shoot the Big Sky Enduro where the boys will be racing. We wanted to cheer them on and take their photographs as they come flying down the trails. We’re all excited, to say the least!

Next up in the Arkansas Enduro Series is Red Star!

Mt. Kessler Enduro

The second installment of the Arkansas Enduro Race took place this past Saturday in my hometown of Fayetteville.

It was hot.

It was humid.

It was hazy.

Severe thunderstorms and torrential downpours were moving in from the west.

Did I mention that it was hot?

I guarantee you that everyone was wishing for a lake to jump into by the end of the race.

But everyone, I mean, everyone, was in good spirits, happy and out for a super good time.

And the day didn’t disappoint (and the storms held off till the next day, thank goodness).

Dave and I got there about 7:30 that morning and hiked into our spots, ready to photograph the participants. I had gone out the previous afternoon and hiked the entire course (a total of nine miles and over half of which was uphill) and Dave had ridden the trails on his bike previously, so we were pretty familiar with the course already, but of course, I pick the stage that I was least familiar with and wound up hiking up and down the trail trying to find the start, when all of a sudden the first riders begin appearing, so I hunkered down where I was and just started shooting. I never did find the start or the end of that stage, but it didn’t really matter because as I kept hiking upwards back to where I began, I came across a better spot that afforded a view of a great little rock garden section where the riders had to pick and choose how to ride over the rocks without falling over. That little spot quickly became my favorite, so I pulled up some dirt, got my water bottle settled in next to me, leaned back against a small sapling and got cozy, firing away with each passing rider.

Dave and I had agreed that we’d leap frog the stages, so after I finished up on Stage 2, I made my way over to Stage 5 and began working my way back down the mountain, stopping at pre-picked spots to capture the riders as they raced by me. It was fun having the race out at Mt. Kessler, the same place that I trail run and hike with the dog. The trails for the race, however, were pretty new to me, since I mainly stay on the older trails on the northern part of the park. I saw bluffs and views I had never seen before, but I also saw parts that were still familiar to me from six and seven years ago when I first started frequenting the hiking trails. These new trails were beautiful, the dirt packed down nice and smooth, great to ride on and great to run on, too, I bet.

And then all of a sudden, the race was over. These events are funny in a way: they start out chill and laid back, everyone still trying to wake up, then the race begins and the pace is fast and furious, spectators calling out “encouragement” (heckling, but all in good fun) and cowbells being rung; then it’s all over and the laid back atmosphere takes over again, but I think it’s more from sheer exhaustion and recovering from riding lickity-split over rocks and roots than the chill vibe from the early morning. At any rate, Fayetteville’s Mt. Kessler debut race was a vast success, with some good friends of ours making podium for the first time (for a list of winners and the race results, click here.).

Next up is Bella Vista on July 21. Hope to see you there!


















Eureka Springs Enduro, Day Two

Remember when I asked you to stay tuned for the second day of the Eureka Springs Enduro, like two weeks ago? Sorry for the delay, but I finally have the second installment ready for you to read.

The second day of the race began with an urban portion. Yep, riders rode their bikes from the top of Eureka Springs all the way down to the bottom of town, descending down stairs, green spaces made muddy from the previous night’s downpours, and the twisty turn-y streets that make up the eclectic town. The race actually began at the Crescent Hotel, a Victorian hotel said to be haunted.

Hmm, maybe that’s why David has never taken me there for a long weekend.

Crowds were gathered along the streets cheering every rider on as they careened around corners, some wearing looks of intense concentration, some times look of sheer terror. There were a few hecklers in the crowd, but the teasing and heckling was all in good fun, causing laughter amongst the onlookers.

The race then moved over to the trails at the Great Passion Play, a long standing attraction that Eureka Springs boasts. I can barely remember going there when I was little while we were visiting my grandfather once, but it’s quite a place. And to make it even more of an attraction, the great folks at Jagged Axe Trail Designs have built over 15 miles of beautiful dirt trails for bikers and hikers alike, complete with big, wonderful trail markers - - - you know, if you ever get turned around while out scouting the location before a race or something.

Ahem.

Anyway, Dave and I staked our claims on the trail and started shooting away as the riders, one by one, streaked by. The sun was out, the sky was crystal blue, the crowds were noisy and the cowbells were being rung. I can’t think of a better way to kick off the Arkansas Enduro Series, 2019, than how that weekend turned out to be.

Next stop on the tour . . . Fayetteville!

Eureka Springs Enduro, Day One

It was like a giant homecoming, family reunion and party all rolled into one.

This past Saturday and Sunday was the kickoff for the Arkansas Enduro Series, with the first race of the season being held along the gorgeous mountain bike trails in Eureka Springs. It was also the first stop of the Enduro World Series North American Series with pro riders coming out to play along our trails. The weather forecast didn’t look promising for Saturday with dire predictions of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes moving in later in the day, but that didn’t stop the race from going forward; if anything, it made it that much more of a rowdy good time.

Dave and I ran into old friends from last season and there were hugs and squeals all around.

Well, squeals from me, at any rate.

We also made new friends, which was just an added bonus.

Rich and the crew that makes up the ”YARD” program: Young Aspiring Rider Development, a group that he helped create in 2018 for young mountain bike riders in the area.

The race began at long last and from then on, it was fast and furious. Dave and I decided beforehand that I would start out photographing Stage Two and he’d be stationed along Stage Three, and we’d meet up later after all the riders had gone through.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Enduro mountain bike racing, the following information from Liv Cycling explains it as:

Enduro is a form of mountain bike racing, but you will also hear “enduro” used as an adjective to describe a certain trail, bike, piece of mountain biking equipment or clothing. When used as an adjective, the person is comparing what he/she is talking about to something that you would see or find in an enduro racing event.

Enduro mountain bike racing started out in Europe with influence from car rally racing and motorbike enduro racing. The concept was simple: get yourself to the top of a mountain and race to the bottom time-trial style.

In general, modern enduro races involve anywhere from 3-6 timed stages. The timed portions of the race are mostly downhill but can vary in steepness, length, and difficulty depending on location. Between each stage, there will be untimed “transfer stages” that are mostly uphill. Depending on the race, transfer stages can involve sections of hike-a-bike, a chair lift, and/or good old-fashioned pedaling.

Enduro combines elements of all racing disciplines from the physical fitness necessary for cross-country racing, the mental stamina necessary for XC-style stage races and the bike-handling skills to navigate technical gravity-fed singletrack.

You’ll find out that each enduro race has a different style, fitness and skill requirement – and, often, a set of rules unique to each event. For example, some races just require that you cross the finish line of the last stage by a certain time in the day to get your name in the results. Other races have a time limit for each transition stage.

But for the most part, enduro is meant to be a fun, approachable and exciting form of mountain biking.

And when you see the riders go by at lightning speed, taking jumps that seem to last forever, careening around berms and everyone wearing looks of ferocious intensity and concentration, well, it kinda gets your heart pumping.

And I love every minute of it.

Stay tuned for Day Two!

Kenny Belaey, award winning trial cyclist

Cody Kelley, pro rider, placed second in the Pro Men’s division

The Backroads

We decide to load up our mountain bikes Saturday afternoon and explore a gravel road that David found near Lake Wedington, a lake just twenty minutes from our house. The lake and the recreational area surrounding it has been around since at least the time that my parents went to school here, my dad taking my mom on a picnic back when they were dating, my mom telling me just a few months ago that he only brought bread and cheese, thinking that would be enough for the both of them. Lake Wedington was host to many an outing when I was in school here as well, both my dormitory and David’s holding games and cookouts together, all of us gathered along the lake shore. Today, it’s still a popular place for hikers, fishermen and families to explore and play, with the added feature of mountain bike trails.

But I’m actually not a big fan . . . yet . . . of mountain biking. Those narrow little dirt trails that wind around bluffs with steep drop offs right next to them make me a little nervous. Add in the speed you can pick up going downhill and it can be little hair raising.

Thus the safe, wide gravel road that David picked out for us to ride along.

To use a Joe Quote from when he was learning to talk: “That’s much more better.”

We splashed through streams and climbed long stretches of road. We came to forks in the road, each of taking turns determining which way to go. We had to stop a couple times to climb over huge fallen trees, lifting our bikes up and over. The wild plum trees scented our way, their fragrance our reward for the pedaling we were doing. I had to stop a few times (well, more than a few) to walk my bike up hill, my runner legs not used to biking. I spotted violets, bluets and Johnny-Jump-Ups growing next to the abandoned dirt road we were traveling. Looking out across the little valleys, the taller trees sported the finest of green lace along their branches.

We talked along the way, discussing various podcasts, fitness, the difference between single track and double track trails, our trip to Wisconsin and the beautiful trails that we used. We talked about the upcoming storms that we were expecting overnight. We rode in silence, too, each of us lost in our own thoughts.

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Maybe David will make a true mountain biker out of me yet, but as long as there is good wide dirt to ride on and a creek to splash through, I’ll ride my little red bike with him anywhere he goes.