Race Report: Dawn ’til Dusk, Gallup, New Mexico

Endurance mountain bike races are becoming increasingly popular. Why suffer for only 20-30 miles when you can prolong that for 12 to 24 hours? That was my exact thought after completing my first mountain bike race a mere week before heading to “compete” in Dawn ’til Dusk.

Besides, I had heard rumors that there was beer for participants. I’d also heard rumors that beer can be acquired in places called “grocery stores” by merely waving a plastic card, but I prefer to earn mine through blood, sweat, and dust inhalation. So I headed off to Gallup, NM in search of suffering, sweet singletrack, and beer with my husband, baby, and a friend in tow.

Sweet high desert singletrack.
Sweet high desert singletrack.

In all honesty, I had been looking forward to this race since my husband and friends did it last year. As I had a parasite baby punching and kicking my kidneys from the inside at the time, I couldn’t participate. But since the baby has since broken free after serving 9 months of hard time, we were able to play hot potato in between laps. The baby, being a breeding ground for the unholiest of germs, had been so kind mere days prior to share its plethora of germs with the rest of the family. Lo and behold, I woke up with a 101 fever the morning of the race.

The race format was similar to John Fisch’s recent report on the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde. The categories ranged form solo (for the truly masochistic) to teams of 4 (for those looking to drink beer and bike). As we were a team of 3, I opted to go last in hopes that a fistful of ibuprofen would kick in and leave me feeling like wonder woman.

I didn’t quite make super human status, but felt well enough to pedal. The course was 13 miles of singletrack on the High Desert Trail System in Gallup. Each lap had a mere 1,600 feet of climbing, with almost 1,000 feet in the first few miles. Let’s just say I was second guessing my decision to bike while sick very quickly.

View from the top of the mesa of the campground and race tent. Photo by: jkldouglas
View from the top of the mesa of the campground and race tent. Photo by: jkldouglas
Photo: jkldouglas
Photo: jkldouglas

As you bike up to the top of a mesa, you are rewarded with spectacular views of the high desert landscape, as well as a view of the edges of the town of Gallup. The first few miles can be a bit of a lung and leg burner, particularly as the number of laps tick upward, but the remainder of the trail is smooth, undulating singletrack.

The trails were a bit dustier than years previous, due to a rather dry winter. This led to some corners being loose and washed out, making me brake more than I would have liked on the downhills.

Our team name was “Last Place,” which was more of a state of mind for us than it was a name. We rode hard, but didn’t try to kill ourselves, as our main goal was to have fun. As my laps took almost twice as long as my teammates, we almost lived up to our name.

I felt pretty hard-core biking with a fever. That is, until they announced a solo male rider finishing his 8th or 9th (might as well of been 20th) lap with a dislocated shoulder. Then there were the 14-year-old girls from Durango that were embarrassing just about everyone with their atrociously-fast laps. I hope my kid is that passionate about biking (or anything, really) when she gets older!

Photo by: jkldouglas

Towards the end of the race, the beer started to flow, which likely explained why there were so few riders on the course at the end. Zia Rides, the hosts for the race, had two kegs of La Cumbre beer. If you’ve never explored the microbreweries in Albuquerque, this has to be at the top of your list when you finally do. The brew master owns this brewery (which is surprisingly not common for micro-breweries), and as such, he cuts absolutely no corners. He uses the best and most expensive hops at every stage of the brew, even at stages when you can substitute cheap hops and fool other brewers. Not this guy. As such, his beers are top of the line, and an amazing reward after 12 hours (or 4 in my case) of hard biking in the sun.

Interested in endurance mountain bike racing in New Mexico? Check out Zia Rides. The last race this year is 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest, the USA Cycling National Championships. Come test both your mental and physical fitness!

And in case I wasn’t convincing enough, check out the video from this year’s race (filmed using drones):

(Watch the video here.)

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