At the end of the mad beast that was Day 3 on Andes Pacifico, my Garmin 520 politely informed me that I needed about 560 hours of recovery before attempting exercise again. Indeed, every single fibre in my body (and what was left of my soul) agreed with this AI bot assessment, but of course this isn’t how these events roll.
But how the fuck do you back up from one of the biggest (and highest) days you’ve ever had? Even my knees didn’t want pads on them any more. But by now, we were on autopilot mode. Yes, given we were entering day 4 of totally rad MTB immersion, we were now fully assimilated into “The Process“.
‘The Process’, aside from being something people spank off about on each other in large corporates, is where you pretty much slip into a triage like state and follow a series of repeatable steps to ensure your survival on a multi day blind racing ENDURO event. It runs from the moment your eyes half open, to when you finally collapse on top of your sleeping bag at the end of the day, or in the case of AP, perhaps early in the next day #fartnoise. I’m paraphrasing here, but in general it looks something like this (Disclaimer, in no ways is this the exhaustive list):
- Awake realising you’ve banked 30% of the sleep required to function like a normal human, let alone face another day of Chilean death gnar – Be too tired to fake concern
- Fight with your tent zips to escape in a desperate attempt to locate the local animal that has woken you up and give it a golden shower with your unreasonably full bladder (no animals were harmed physically in the making of this post, but emotionally, well…)
- Declare a jihad on the breakfast buffet, arriving 20 minutes earlier than the advertised start time to set up a perimeter and secure the 3 most valuable resources: Coffee, water and bananas. Then proceed to massacre any food in sight… Optional emergency yoga session on the grass, assuming you can make it down onto the ground. Vomit eggs into your mouth because you forced yourself to have seconds when you didn’t even feel like eating at all (To be noted, the food was awesome all week, stomachs however, that’s another story)
- Commence committing multiple hostile acts on the portable toilets, so grotesque in nature that the International Criminal Court in the Hague would consider them war crimes. However, the upshot being you finally feeling semi-human for the first time all morning as the reward
- Commence mind blowing vehicle commute, laden with roads you’d struggle to ride up on a dirt bike and spend the entire time wondering if you’re the only one about to piss your pants thanks to over-hydrating
- Get to the start of the first stage in time for lunch/dinner/desperately needing a shit (again) and feeling strangely hungry – Commence usual ENDURO racing pre start checks, including almost starting stages with gogs on helmet and suspension locked out… Like… A… Cunt…
- Spend whatever daylight hours that may remain available wrestling with 50 shades of Chilean death gnar and questioning your life decisions while dealing with looseness you haven’t seen since High School. Think about throwing the horns every time you see Gary, then immediately chicken the fuck out
- Arrive back at camp and commence the next race of truth as you take on 50 competing priorities – Beer drinking, eating anything that doesn’t smell like cock cheese, drinking red wine, bike faffing, shit talking with GC’s, results wanking, fighting for the last outlet at the charging station for your 5 devices, more GC shit talking, massage, more emergency yoga, epic fucking around in your tent, including vaguely getting ready for the next day and yes – Having a shower
- Collapse onto your camp stretcher and ponder how the fuck you’re going to do it all again tomorrow, with that thought being cut off by some local animal commencing its raid on your desperately needed sleep window…
- Repeat process
Indeed we were immersed in the process… Its a zone where you never really feel clean for that long, but that alone is something you relish. You somehow start to enjoy the fact your body feels as fucked as the local 3G network and that the outside world is somehow now a whole lot less relevant (Eat my dusty balls Twitter) as the days slowly start to morph into one giant beautiful rolling mess of anti-grip adventure.
Life on Andes Pacifico starts early and finishes late, but it is fucking fantastic – Something which I think took me until day 4 to really start to appreciate. If you love bikes, this is the place to be in February.
Day 3 had been so mind blowingly BIG that getting up for Day 4 was indeed slightly peculiar in its own right. 100% of the time after a day like we’d had, you’d chill right the fuck out, perhaps only heading to a cafe with your crew to sit around and debrief what a fucking mission it was. As there was no such luxury here (plus, no overpriced artisanal cafe’s were in sight), I instead reflected on the fact that with 2 days left and coming off the back of the soul eating monster, today was about chilling and letting fun back into the front seat to talk shit with.
The other thing that had chilled me the fuck out was some of the carnage that was starting to accrue around the camp. Perhaps the case that jolted me back to the reality of risk management was the fellow kiwi competitor who crashed towards the end of the final stage of the gargantuan Day 3.
Ok, so lots of people crashed… However this crash was different in it resulted in a concussion which left her unable to remember most of the insanely Yuuuge day 3. I was stunned at the thought of physically having to go through such a mental day and then being robbed of its memories… Muthafucka! The sight of seeing the Ambulance deployed and the concept of a Chilean hospital visit had me wanting to chill the fuck out on Day 4. I had a quiet relaxing self-talk as a result:
I will also quietly confess that my new “Bitch be cool” Strategy for Day 4 was mildly connected to the concept that this was my first big away race of ‘Dadlyfe’ and it would be quite good to be able to still have function in both arms to pick up a baby upon returning to HQ. Forgive me for succumbing to cliche’s here, but I look forward to some of our younger readers surrendering to that moment when you realise you may have incorrectly labelled some of your peers “pussy cunts” over the previous decades… Consider this an obscure retraction gents.
To the Coast we go
Once more into the trucks and back on the road 112km’s towards the coast to kick off Day 4 proper. I will admit, it was feeling slightly strange to see more civilisation again. No matter how many times I experience it, coming out of some crazy assed mountain range and migrating back into populated areas always feels a little… Underwhelming? Or should that be off-putting? Perhaps a combination of the two.
As you will note from the Day 3 report, I’m not even a proper fucking mountain hermit person, I’m like the fake-sugar diet cunt version of that and still I felt that disappointment that we were seeing everyday life again. This is the paradox of multi-day races – You spend a lot of time mildly melting down how hard it is and craving to break the back of its allotment of days, only to find the closer it gets to the end, the less you want that end to arrive, even though physically you’re now eating into your reserves faster than Fat Donny sexually assaulting a bag of cheeseburgers.
By Day 4, the AP toll was starting to show on bike, bodies and equipment in general. Some had more calamity that others, but the leader on Day 4 was definitely Mark’s 510’s. Some poor fucker on a race like this is going to have their shoes implode on them, and we all silently sat in the truck thanking the cycling gods it was Mark who took that bullet and not us:
Whilst it was feeling a bit weird to be leaving the wild vastness of the Andes behind us a little, moving towards the coast didn’t mean the adventure was being dialled down at all, fuck no – We may have been shaving a couple of thousand of metres in altitude off, but don’t think that resulted in a free lunch Muthafucka.
This included the truck uplift, which was so mental that some of the hairpins were 3 point turn material. Ordinarily not a problem, except for the slight issue of the edge being extremely close when the trucks rolled back. It may appear I got out of the truck here to help guide them back and take photos, but in reality I bailed as I’d done a quick risk management calculation and decided someone needed to scream if worst came to worse. Luckily for us we had the best driver in the crew, Patricio making this goat path his gimp as he invalidated the Rental agreement on every corner.
One thing was clear, Day 4 started to mark a change in the landscape of the race as we headed towards the coast, whilst you can’t really call it dirt per se, the terrain was definitely starting to feel like it was perhaps slightly lower on the anti-grip terror scale and in an alarming development, there were actually trees. I say trees in the context of it appeared not all of these ones wanted to probe you like an alien experiment:
But even though we had shaved off mucho elevation, Andes Pacifico kept on smashing us in the face with crazy vistas – This place, fucking stop it!
Yes, everything was ‘mini’ compared to Day 3, or as some people call it: Just back to normal – Half the racing distance from Day 3, half the elevation drop and a third of the altitude. Based on all this and the fact I didn’t feel like a totally flogged out cunt on the way up to Stage 11 gave a mild indication that perhaps it was going to be a good day… New terrain, new strategy, but the question remained:
Would I soar like an Andean Condor, or turn into a Chilean Mountain Donkey/Horse?
Let’s find the fuck out!
Stage 11 – Valle Hermoso: 2.7km’s with 330m drop
For the first time all week we got something I had secretly craved, even if its uncool as fuck to desire such a thing – A relatively ‘easy’ opening stage for the day. I’m not sure you can really use the word ‘Mellow’ at Andes Pacifico on any day, it would be a bit like saying “Yo Harvey, wanking into a pot plant is mildly out of line dude“, it doesn’t really seem proportional to the crime.
In fact, this stage is hard to write up, given I was rolling chilled AF and there wasn’t much happening with its more relaxed gradients and mildly lower gnar levels. Perhaps it was being back in an area where trees didn’t die that provided a false sense of security? The times it did get rowdy, there was always a photographer on station to capture making bad life decisions…
Before you hand me the “Railing ruts & Nailing sluts” singlet usually seen in the Boneyard at Whistler 1) I wasn’t really railing and 2) those days are over, but also note the smoother and I suspected much faster line on the right where it appears most people went. I guess the upsides of a Nomad 4 is that the more direct and homicidal route is always available to you.
Because the first stage each day in Andes Pacifico is run in reverse seeding order, it was a chance to see Gary while he waited half the day for the SC Posse to roll down. Gary had gone for speed over gnar, prompting the usual panicked response when spotting that orange helmet and noting the camera lens was moving upwards…
Shot of the week? My inner narcissist says that perhaps fuck yes it is, the greater benefit is that my desire to look rad for the camera made me stand up and finish spinning out what tiny amount of resistance remained in my pathetic 30 x 11 gearing firepower, given Gary is an Artiste, you can’t really tell:
Because I didn’t ride like a total fuckbag, of course it means that the individual stage results from Day 4 are nowhere to be found online… So much like being part of the race, you’ll have to wait until the end with a beer in your sweaty ENDURO hand to determine Condor or Donkey status.
Stage 12 – El Espejo: 3.5km’s with 570m drop
The initial awesomeness of Stage 12 was that it started a mere 500m from the finish of 11… Which meant not only a big Get Fucked to any heaving Tranny banging, but it also sent us into a race stage with the rare condition of being fully spooled up and ready to party… With no queue either. Holy shit, there was an ENDURO party in my pants.
Well, there was something else in my pants when we found in the initial phase of the stage that it contained the Mariana trench – Or if you’re optimistic, just like Beggars Canyon back home… Outside chance this was a chaotic moment in life:
However, once the aggravated assault on our pedals was over, this stage was actually turning out to be surprisingly rad… The top was fast, but as we munched through its 3.5km’s, the lower half started to indicate that it was going to be absolutely fucking wild. And yes, I know I have used the word ‘wild’ a lot in these reports, but that’s out of a desire to be authentic rather than unoriginal.
The #SwissMissile had suffered some navigational malfunctions as was more feral than a Kim Jong-Un Birthday rocket launch. Either he was having a bad stage, or the new strategy was working ok.
The other thing we hadn’t really seen all week so far, as you’d probably expect given we were essentially mountaineering, were spectators. Well, spectators may be overstating it, how about rabid Chileans, who also liked to help out the blind with some very enthusiastic line suggestions:
Let me summarise this stage by saying that this was the epitome of the awesomeness of riding your bike down a fantastic blind racing stage and experiencing the perfect balance of fun and competitive challenge (that’s cuntspeak for ‘racing’). It was indeed as much “Fuck Yeah” as it was “Holy fuck“, which I think for most of us is a sweet spot that can be elusive.
Not to sounder weaker than a Sarah Sanders denial, but the lower altitude, shorter stages and quicker turn around was all adding up as a recipe of fucking radness on day 4. As we headed to lunch, stoke and froth was registering off the charts. But a big part of what made this awesome was the beast of a bike I had the privilege of holding on to down such a stage, it would be a revolting understatement to say this machine was absolutely in its element here, I love you man:
If you thought the change in scene would see an end of mad portage in extreme heat, then I’m sorry to disappoint… Except aside from the change in vista, there was another distinct difference to the hike-a-bike vibe on Day 4…
… It felt fucking easy… I say ‘easy’ as a relative term of course, it was still fucking hard, but it was akin to riding grade 3 trails solo after trying to keep up with the Rodfather on Grade 6 tracks, suddenly it felt pretty straightforward given I could actually breath properly. I don’t even recall having a bitch about it.
Luckily for Joe given he had missed Day 3 due to injury, so he got to spend the whole of the Day 4 portage getting told by the more distinguished cunts/gentlemen in the group what a piece of mouse piss this was compared to the previous day. This clearly added a lot of value to Joe’s day…
Stage 13 – Petranova: 3.5km’s with 375m drop
The final stage of the day already? This felt weird to be honest as it wasn’t dinner time, nor was the sun setting, nor was I crying on the inside… Fucking bizarre. Did we still have another stage today? Nope… Only 3.5km’s between us and the end of the day. It was 50% confusing and 50% invigorating that I had turned into a giant bag of cunt. Perhaps we could even pull finger on the last stage?
So here’s the thing about blind racing, there’s a lot going on all the time… Usually you have some semblance of what may be coming next, even if its vaguely divided into sections in your ENDURO brain. Ideally you’ve even ridden the trail multiple times (Yes, I’m looking at you 2W muthafuckas), so you can focus on drilling that shit instead of the guessing game of what the fuck is about to accost me?
To illustrate, allow me to elaborate on a section of track at the start of stage 13, which I understand fucked up pretty much everyone, including some of your favourite PRO’s… Within a hundred metres from the GO, we find ourselves facing an 790mm wide gap in a treeline that you don’t want to come into contact with – But what next?
I was semi relieved to learn later that I wasn’t the only one that made a slight fuckwit of themselves with that spot, but given it was the only WTF course marking moment all week that I can recall, we got off pretty lightly in the navigational drama department.
If you thought a change in location and a return to manageable altitude levels saw some respite from loose as fuck craziness, then you’re sorely mistaken Esse… There was still plenty of terrain that hadn’t seen rain since 2003 to contend with:
I hadn’t registered that Stage 13 may have had unlucky connotations, mainly as I was having too much fun devouring it, plus I think it didn’t occur to me as it had one of the greatest attributes that a trail can ever have – Variety. We hadn’t seen some of the style of terrain that was now rushing at our faces in a gushing of radness, but it was obvious early this was a fucking winner of a stage.
Given it had 200m less vert drop than the same length Stage 12, it seemed out of place that this final stage of the day would be such a blast, but the froth-o-meter was banging hard up against its limiter, so it was time to get the panting turned up to horny Pug level and smash those cunty little climbs mid stage.
Shit must have been going ok, or I was just embracing the euphoria of not wanting to fall asleep, Scientists will likely never know, but I did catch up to Julian, a surprise given he had been killing it all week. I may have had a touch of final stage fever, combined with too many gels mainlining through my system like a Lemon Lime junkie.
This however highlighted one of the downsides of catching someone who is legit fast in their own right, especially if you can’t then get past them because you’re not going quite quick enough, or don’t wish to experience the pedal clip of doom by going off line – The dust… Probably best exhibited here, by being right in the kill box of Julian’s dust, any clues what’s lurking through that smoke grenade mess?
Yup, not only a Hippo sized rock garden, but also getting delivered right into the wrong line to navigate said rock garden…
In the end you have to decide if you want to be a pushy cunt and try to get past to grab a couple of seconds, or alternatively just enjoy the ride and do some formation flying to the end. Sitting in and getting some pace notes of Julian appeared to be the more exciting option and he kept it fully lit until the end, creating much stoke in the process. This stage was fucking rad and we could almost be accused of feeding of one another like a marooned Football team:
So whilst the individual stage results have been vaporised somewhere into the dark web, probably because I had my best day so far, at least I can let the results monkey reach for the hand cream and tissues for the overall Day 4 wash up.
Daily Results – 35th overall for the day and 6th in Masters, a big march forward in both classifications from a daily and overall results perspective, which pleased the wanking inner results monkey no end. One of those days where being smooth and feeling slower actually ended up being faster, or a slight tip of the scales more towards Condor than Donkey.
A tip of the hat to the “Chill that hairy bitch out” strategy. In better news, I was only 28 seconds per racing KM slower than our main man Mark Scott, pass me my participation medal immediately.
Actually, the best thing about Day 4 was that it was the first time any sign of fitness showed up… When you invest a reasonable amount of time in preparing for an event like this, the least you want in return for your suffering, falling asleep after one beer, gel tortured stomach aches, replacement tires, ‘Hanger’ melt downs and solo time in areas where they still legitimately play the banjo is that it actually fucking feels like you physically had some semblance of form or capacity to handle what’s being thrown at you.
For the first 3 days, it felt like I had spent most of January sitting on the couch surfing Stormy Daniels porn, which while I acknowledge is a noble pastime, wasn’t quite the vibe I was after. So when my fitness finally showed up on Day 4, not only did the fun factor getting a stiffy, but given we finished the day without need torches to unload the bikes, it was indeed listed down as a fucking good day.
Was Day 4 an anti-climax? Whilst it may have been harder to write up as a race report, I don’t think it would be fair to label it as such, I suspect it presented a case that sometimes when the epicness is dialled down, the fun factor steps in to take its place. Would this fun froth roll into Day 5 like the high tide of good times? Stay tuned to see how it would roll and if this march towards better results would meet Condor soaring levels, or return to Donkey status.