The Manifest Joy of Singletrack

Posted by on Sep 9, 2009 in Bike, Races, Wasatch | 5 Comments

Where does one begin, in trying to recap a 9 hour odyssey that comprised some of the greatest singletrack on Earth?

At the beginning, of course.

But then, I wonder where that even is. For the Park City Point to Point has occupied my brain for far longer than the duration of the race itself. In fact, it seemed to creep into my psyche long ago. Immediately upon its official inception and its public proclamation the seeds started taking root, expanding, growing, until eventually the fruit they produced sprouted out of my ears and spilled over onto the ground in a rush of excited, nervous anticipation. Is it odd, I wonder, that grown men can become no different than small children who are caught up in a Christmas Eve like mess of apprehension and fidgety discontent before the simplicity of a bike race?

For months the PCPP lingered in the back of my brain. And when the AMC died its ignominious death, that lingering quickly hurried itself into a brash flurry of logistical plan-making and last minute ambition mongering. And then, at long last, there we all were, lined up together in the pre-dawn light of the Park City mountains, apprehensive smiles and jittery jokes were spreading throughout the field. I wondered, if like a herd of flighty deer,  whether a loud noise would not spook us all into a frenzy, sending bikes and colorful lycra into a diaspora of chaos and confusion. But the group held the line, and its composure as we headed toward the unknown and the pain and the sheer, unmitigated joy of racing a mountain bike high in the mountains of Utah.

Thematically speaking, that was the dominant chorus of the day: joy. It was ever present, ever motivating. Despite the difficulty and the daunting nature of climbing up and up and up, and then descending down and down and down, only to have to rinse and repeat, there was never that hollow, cold, lonely feeling of enduro induced despair or self-condolment. There were no thoughts of retirement and retreat to the soft life of the couch and the easy living of processed sugary foods. Albeit, I did indulge in such – indeed I still am – for the time being.

But rather the day was, from end to end a demonstration of that elusive it. And a concrete answer to that perennial inquiry from outsiders: why? The intangible becoming reality and the mythical becoming historical. But, to be certain, it still challenged every aspect of my mind and body. From the long climbing to the exigent, arduous descending, the course came together to create a gauntlet of mountain bike idealism, like some fantasy encumbered dream from the mind and heart of a deranged and disturbed individual, a person rooted in a reality that simply does not connect with fact and common sense.

In other words, a mountain biker.

Which is why, I can only guess, that from start to finish there were giddy, stupid, muddy grins plastering the faces of everyone. In spite of the inherent pain. Indeed, most likely because of it!

Are we all not masochists?

For the first time in my life I am standing in the wake of an endurance race hungry to compete once again. Eager to challenge my mind and my body and my bike in yet another catechism of incalculable proportions. A vehement hankering to witness again the collision of the tangible and the mythical.

Alas, I fear that it will be spring before that opportunity arrives in earnest. However, I quite like the idea of spending a Utah Winter hungry and engaged.



  1. mark
    September 9, 2009

    I realize I may be branded a heretic and run out of town for saying so, and I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but I don’t get the allure of racing on singletrack. Riding on singletrack (for fun), yes. But what aspect of not being able to pass or being yelled at by the jerk anxious to pass who can’t is appealing?

    I am 100% with you that riding singletrack is fun, more fun than riding fire roads by several orders of magnitude. But riding and racing are two very different things. At Leadville, and I imagine other endurance events being similar, I was grateful that the last climb up St. Kevin’s was paved most of the way up and that I got to ride a good chunk of pavement before the finish. After that many hours in the saddle, smooth roads are a welcome respite.

    I’m not ever thinking, “gee, this is a fun trail” during a race. I’m just trying to go as fast as I can and avoid being consumed by the pain of my ears bleeding.

  2. Grizzly Adam
    September 9, 2009

    In a short race (higher speeds) those are certainly concerns. I’ve never once had a passing issue in an enduro. And anyway, the singletrack at PC is double wide most of the time anyway. But even in the beginning passing was not an issue.

    A nice road section is great for eating and drinking and regrouping. I thought the PCPP had enough road or wide, steady trail that eating and such was never a big deal. And I don’t mind racing dirt roads at all. But when the trail is absolutely incredible, it only adds to the experience as a whole.

    A larger issue with the one-track racing would be field size. It is pretty easy to accommodate 170 people at the PC resorts. But above 300 or so and I think you’d start to see issues.

    1300 like Leadville? Fuggetaboudit.

  3. Sonya
    September 9, 2009

    AMEN!!! 🙂

  4. KanyonKris
    September 9, 2009

    Glad you got some good mojo from the race.

  5. Aaron
    September 10, 2009

    I guess that it’s different strokes for different folks. I’ve never agreed with the whole “the best courses for riding are usually not the best courses for racing” school of thought. I think this holds true for both CX and enduro events.

    In the icup, my favorite courses are Solitude, Sundance, Deer Valley, Tetons, and St. George. All of these are great places to ride outside of a race. I’ve started skipping 5 Mile and Hurricane altogether. I wouldn’t ride there, so why would I race there?

    I’ve had very few passing issues. Most people are super cool about it. The few issues I’ve had have maybe moved me from 10th to 12th place, and who really cares?

    Over 75 miles of racing on Sat, I had exactly 0 passing issues. I didn’t pass much on Round Valley,

    I’ve also found that most passing issues can be resolved by moving up to the next class. Just sayin’. 😉

    I PLEDGE: to never do a race that has less than 50% singletrack.

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