2019 Race Recap from Jeff Leenhouts

Let me start by saying that The Mule Trail is different than all the other bike packing races I have done. Way different. It is not a race where you spend an entire day slowly climbing out of a huge valley, in the mid-seventies, filtering spring water from the fresh stream you are following to its source, and ending up on a beautiful ridge where you set up camp, cook your freeze dried chili and enjoy the stars and dream about the next day that is going to have hours of descending and winding down through a deep forest with loam covered, flowing single track and bottoming out in a town that has a local breakfast place serving huge stacks of pancakes, eggs, thick slices of bacon and tons of coffee. And then after breakfast, strolling along a 50 mile, flat valley, letting your food settle, and just feeling the freedom on a bike we all find therapeutic. It’s not that kind of race at all. Sure, you are on your bike and you are pedaling, but the Mule Trail is about something completely different.

The Mule Trail is an experience like no other. It’s about history. It’s about culture. It’s about community. It’s about a humanity. It’s about the most gracious and benevolent society of people you will ever meet. It’s about the toughest and resilient people you will ever meet. It’s about not having any idea what is around the corner or at the top of a hill. It’s about not being able to read a single sign or have a conversation with anyone. It’s about not knowing what you are eating or drinking. It’s about being on your own. It’s about experiencing so many things you have never experienced before. And it’s about experiencing things in the most compact amount of time. You don’t have time to absorb, grasp or digest the experience before another new one hits you. It’s joy, it’s love, it’s compassion, it’s survival, it’s peril, it’s worship, it’s romance, it's respect, it’s existence, it's suffering, it’s honest, it's unmitigated, it’s enlightenment, and it’s self-examining. It’s Pura Vida.

Some tips for those thinking of trying the Mule Trail: First, be in tip-top shape. This was by far the hardest bike packing race I have ever done. It will challenge you beyond your physical and emotional limits. The climbs are steep and long and relentless and the weather is hot and humid. Get used to drinking warm water from your bottles and prepare your stomach for eating different food than you are used to. Wear bike shoes that you are comfortable walking in. Have a low gear. I had a 30-50, was in it a lot, and wished I had a 28. You really don’t have to bring a lot of the gear you need for a typical bike packing race. Go lighter than light. And if you can, try to brush up on your Spanish. As far as logistics, it is one of the easiest races I have ever done. Registration includes both a ride to the start from San Jose and a ride from the finish back to San Jose.

So if you are looking for an adventure, look no further.

Jeff Herrera