January 13th, 2018
Short version: Wrong turns, oddly-marked course, kind-of 4th place, kind-of DQ
Extended version: Welcome to 2018! It’s been awhile for me. No racing since the FATS Flowmaster back in October. I took a nice relaxing off season and have been hard into training since then over the past few months. Winter-time is always difficult. Cold weather, the holidays. The 2018 season is coming in fast, though.
Trying to plan the year, I wanted to get an early season race under my belt. It must have been during November or December when I saw a posting about this race. The Whole Enchilada. The Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC is home to a plethora of activities at their complex. Water sports, zip-lining, rock walls, just to name a few. They also have nearly 35 miles of mountain bike trails. I’ve visited in the past for various races, but the races usually only cover a fraction of the total miles of trail available to ride. This race, however, was planned to cover each and every trail the Whitewater Center has to offer in a single race.. The Whole Enchilada.
I took off towards Charlotte the night prior to the race. Not wanting to drive nearly 3 hours the morning of the race, this was also my opportunity to try out some of the recent van improvements. I stopped 30 minutes outside the city for the night. It’s fair to mention, it rained the entire day prior to the race. I think every time I go to the Whitewater Center it rains.
Saturday morning came early. Coffee, breakfast, then on the road again. I arrived at the trails with enough time to pick up my number and custom Whole Enchilada water bottle. Temps were nearing 40 degrees by the beginning of the race. Also, no rain in the forecast today.. I’m just anticipating leftover water puddles and slop on the trails.
0800: The start of the race is set to go off in waves. With nearly 130 riders ready to tackle all the trails, this made the most sense to keep the congestion down. I line up at the front with some other well-known faces. The Whole Enchilada ciclistas are off! The pack quickly forms into several small groups as we head out a high-speed trail that parallels the paved road into the trail system. I’m part of the 4-man second group through the beginning parts of the race. With 2 others separating themselves right near the beginning, the 4 of us stick together. Not 30 minutes into the race we make our first wrong turn. The races has us double-back on the same part of the course we started on. With no additional signs directing the riders into the trail, our group passes by until we realize we probably aren’t on the race course. We turn around; get back to the split; and take the trail.
Josh Whitmore and I ride nearly the entire race together. Mostly getting to navigate back through the field that didn’t take the first wrong turn, we find ourselves in 3rd and 4th place, respectively. Another hour later, we come across another intersection not marked well. We get turned in the right direction by a bystander.
The course held up fairly well from the large amount of rain the previous day. Parts of the course had us navigating through a field, which was the worst. Some water laying on the course, but not bad. The trail soaked up the rain well, only leaving few spots where it was slick.
Josh and I finish up the first 20 miles of the race. Not seeing many other riders. We continue to hold 3rd and 4th place. With one loop remaining, we come to an intersection that was manned by a volunteer. This intersection was not clearly marked which direction the riders were to take. We get pointed in the wrong direction and are prematurely sent towards the finish line, skipping the last 6 miles of trail. We’re the first two who finish. Our only indication of not riding the last section was the mileage on our bike computers. Several minutes later, the leaders arrive at the finish.
This race was kind of a disappointment in regards to course markings. This made it difficult for anyone who doesn’t regularly ride the trails.
On the other hand, this race was nothing more than a way to kick off the season. I’m glad 2018 is underway and i’m excited for this year!