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It’s that time of year to renew annual permits for year-round riding seven days a week at Croom Motorcycle Area. I pulled up Sunday morning to fork over $80 this year and was waiting in line with a few fellow enthusiasts when one of them complemented the model of my bike and Nicky Hayden tribute graphics before turning to his friend: “This girl says she’s faster than you.”

I glanced over thinking, “I never said that,” and no one said anything for a second while his comment hung in the air. I finally heard his friend reply something like, “Anyone can beat me on my clapped out Honda” before I walked back to my truck without a word. What a welcome.

Thankfully, I had the forest to myself along with another buddy, and we ripped about 20 miles in just over an hour and a half.

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In other news, I finished a Kenda AMA National Enduro for the first time in months last Sunday. The morning started off slicker than I like and took a minute getting used to riding smart, having been training wide open in the flat sand at Croom. It’s a totally different calculated style of making the right decisions ahead of time for the varied technical terrain, and I was on a mission.

The afternoon was much better once the trail dried out after lunch, and I could hang it out a little more on the throttle, thankful for my long legs in all of the off-camber sections.

By the end of the solid 80+ mile (including transfer roads) day, I’d achieved my goal of a top-five finish by riding smart and finishing strong (thanks CrossFit.)

Thanks, Pops, for the pics and pit crew!

Looking at the times, I wasn’t too surprised at the gap between me and the top two (28 minutes over 6 checks, and they finished 19 seconds apart (and 118 and 119 overall.) Third place was closer, 147 overall, and I was within 2 or 3 minutes behind her most of the day, but she was still way out of my reach 12 minutes ahead at the end. I had to face it: my competition, the world’s best women enduroers, was flying and absolutely on rails. I was no less than 3-4 minutes behind the leader at every checkpoint (and at most 7.) As much as I had tried my hardest chasing them down, pushing my limits and leaving it all out there, I just wasn’t on the edge far enough and finished 197 out of 360+ entries. I can work out, eat right and meditate all I want but when I only get to ride once a week, if I’m lucky, all I’m missing is seat time to get good at riding fast from start to finish.

“There’s nothing like riding a motorcycle fast, especially when you can do it damn good,” said Ryan Hughes on a recent PulpMX podcast.

GPS from the Cherokee Enduro

“All they do is train,” my dad said after we saw the scores. Anyone will tell you: it’s the work on the bike – when two becomes one – and what you gain in terms of knowledge and experience being able to ride every day that makes the difference. Those of us who only ride only on the weekends struggle against those who race for a living. And it’s still one of my wildest dreams: to be No. 1 again at racing – God knows anything can happen.

In racing, as in life, you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. You can’t just ride off of your talent alone, you have to continue developing your skills along the way. I’ve come a long way since I started riding almost 30 years ago! I always come away with more reasons to continue (and keep getting better) knowing this time I was within minutes of the top two who get paid to race at multiple points throughout the day, even if that was only one second better than I was before.

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