I set out to try MTB racing this year by competing (ha!) in the GSC series for my LBS sponsored team, Oconee Outfitters. The carrot that goes with this stick is that after racing in 6 of the 8 series races, I can buy a new bike at a large discount. Today I completed my 5th race. I will be out of town when the next race runs, so my final race will be the season finale in Macon on August 5th.
Today's race was at Flat Rock Park outside Columbus Georgia. I left home at 5:45 and drove 2-1/2 hours to the race. My race started at 9:30. By the time I got registered and did about a half hour of warm up, it was well into the 80s with high humidity. I was well on my way to being sweat-soaked before the race even started. I met the guy I've been finishing just ahead of in every race. One of very few older than me in the 40+ beginners class. He is 61 and a heck of a nice guy..
After a group start with a tight turn around a tree and a hundred yard sprint across a flat lawn, we went into the woods for a 2 mile run through very tight trails with no chance to pass. I was about mid pack going into the woods and got stuck behind several slow riders. There were several bottlenecks before we finally came out into more open ground where there was room to pass. The worst part is that the tight twisty sections like that are my strength. I need to make time in those sections. Slow and go riding in all that traffic is more tiring than going faster in a smooth flow. Although the course was mostly flat, I still lose time to other racers on even small climbs like we had today. When we went back into the woods again I had a clearer trail and was able to get into a rhythm through the tight turns, short drops and rises. Then came the one technical section of the course, a fairly steep downhill and then uphill with switchback turns through big rocks. People were falling all over the place. I lost momentum going in and had to run the bike to get through quickly. By then, the heat and humidity started getting to me and I had to take it easy for the next couple of miles to recover. By the time I was able to run hard again, I had lost a lot of ground. Then my back started hurting and I had to stop and stretch a couple of times so I could go on. I finished strong, but once again I was in the last quarter of the riders in my class. I was 18th of 23. My new friend finally beat me, by 3 minutes despite going over the handlebars in the rocky section. Not bad for a guy 10 years older than me.
I'm really looking forward to using my team bike purchase when I can scrounge up the bucks, I'm earning it. I've already decided that my first year of racing will also be my last. I have enjoyed being in the races, but it is just not really my thing. It hurts my back and it is taking a big toll on my road mileage. I have missed a few of my favorite road rides because I either had a race that day or had to rest for one the next day. I have not done a century ride all year.