here's the offical post race writeup
Well after a year and a half of racing and finally placing in the top in my category, beginner 30 Ė34, I decided to move into the next harder cat Sport. The sport distance is typically twice the distance of the beginner and usually just 2 laps around the course the beginners run. My main reason was that I felt I had done the best I could do in that category with the limited amount of training I was/am doing. The guys who were winning deserved to win because they were training way harder than me.
The temperature was 39 degrees with very strong winds, up to 20 miles per hour. Needless to say it was very, very cold. The week prior had been rainy so we were weary of the trail conditions. This is the trail I have raced many times including 2 24-hour races and one of those being the awful that rained the whole time. I had decided ahead of time, even though I preregistered, that I was not going to race if the trail was bad the toll on the equipment is just to great to justify. I logged onto the net and checked a local MTB race board to see if anyone had road and posted conditions late Saturday night. Some had and posted that the trail was in pretty good condition and that outlook for Sunday was very positive baring anymore rain, thatís kind of a little white lie people tell to get people out to the race but I decided Iíd pack up in the morning and see for myself.
When I got there I was really hoping the ground would be saturated with water so I would have an excuse to bail on the race so I could just hang around and watch all the idiots brake their stuff and crash but unfortunately the trail looked tacky and fast and mostly dry . It was still freezing so I had something to complain about and a fall back excuse. But I ended up registering and decided to race.
At the start line when they start staging us I usually start to get really nervous but this time, because I wasnít really trying to compete, it wasnít so bad. A buddy who had catted up last fall was lined up next to me. He said ďWell since this is your first sport I fully expect you to beat me to the finish.Ē I said back that ďI was just out to ride. I had never race the sport distance and just was out to get a fell for it.Ē
The starter gun went off and we hit it. I was on the front line and instantly the faster guys jumped out front but I wasnít in to bad of a position. These guys didnít go of nearly as fast as the beginners had done in my last race here. There were a lot of people missing though because of the weather. Only 38 people showed up as opposed to 80 last year. As soon as the gun goes off the course starts up hill and doesnít really quit climbing for the next mile and a half. A tricky spot called ďthe drop zoneĒ was pretty fun but scary with all of those people going through. Fortunately this pack is more skilled than the beginners but accidents still happen. At the exit of the drop zone somebody had a wreck and it looked like his bike had exploded because there were pieces lying everywhere. Weird.
Next comes a short section of climbing with some really tight twisty trails. Places along this trail go between trees that are so close together that your handle bars barley make it though. I cleared this section pretty well and was still in a pretty good position maybe top 10. Once you exit this it goes straight into two big climbs, the last two for a while. One short one and one long steep one aptly named ďFat Chucks DemiseĒ after poor ďchuckĒ who had a heart attack going up it with the first group of people to ever ride it and had to be air lifted out. I am happy to announce that chuck survived and is doing well now. At the top of fat chucks the trail levels off at its highest point and the best of the single track starts. I did pretty well through this section and actually caught a few people but most importantly didnít lose any spots. Iím still trying to conserver energy because thereís still 13 miles to go.
About this time I started having a weird problem where my eyes started glassing over and I couldnít see. Iíve never really had this happen before and was really weird but I know the trail really well so I decided to keep plugging along. At about the 7 mile mark thereís a turnoff that I used to take when I raced beginner that looked so comforting and I really missed not being able to turn there because I would have been done soon and things started going bad. My back started hurting because I was using my back up bike that I just put together and hadnít really dialed in the fit yet and my vision was getting worse and I started going off the trail. People started passing me too. It felt like a hundred. But I decided to just keep plugging along. I also started having breathing problems about this point too. Me and the cold weather just donít get along. I had to take short quick short breaths instead of nice deep ones and it was starting to cause my sides to ach on top of my back hurting. Once you get to this place you start thinking, ďWhy the hell am I doing thisĒ and sometimes there isnít an answer back. I know why I do it itís just difficult to justify it sometime. So I decided to back off a bit I wasnít really going to go this fast anyway.
A group of people had gathered behind me but didnít voice any intentions of wanting to pass so I just kept plugging away. Some racers use this position to psyche out the competition but Iím very comfortable in the leader position because it seems that when Iím training or just riding Iím always in front. I actually use it to my advantage by slowing down a little on the hard stuff making them slow down an little more and then when I get over the obstacle I jam a little harder making them push just a little more hard and there by burning them out without them really knowing it, works pretty well. My little group had gotten to 5 tag alongs now. They didnít know it but I was still not able to see and it was getting worse. Unfortunately for me I didnít see a slight turn and biffed it and went off the trail. Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom and Zoom all the guys flew by and I got dropped. I was kind of mad but mostly at myself. I wanted to try to catch them but I had to keep reminding myself I wasnt suppose to push myself that hard this time out so I backed down. There are several open sections with double track dirt roads that I tried to just speed up enough to keep the people behind me at bay and it mostly worked.
I finally came out on the backside of the course about 10 to 12 miles in at a place called the ďAvenue of PinesĒ which is really just a dirt road with pine trees on either side. There were a lot of people bonking out here because itís more than the beginner race distance and these people werenít used to it. I didnít really notice but I guess I picked up a lot of spots here. I do remember seeing a lot of people but donít really remember passing to many of them. From here there is one long tough climb I had been dreading. There were several of us on it at the same time. I did pretty well and passed several going up it then on the backside they would pass me going down but I over took them again going up the next and last climb before going back into the single track. At the top there was a group of 3 riders cresting the hill. At the top there was a big log and a paper arrow pointing them in the direction of the trail but missed the arrow and bunny hopped the tree thinking it was just another obstacle to avoid but a fourth guy told them they had started going the wrong way. The followers were so focused they had no idea. I thought that was funny.
I had been ďrestingĒ for a while and decided to pick up the pace because the finish was only about 3 miles away and I wanted to at least finish strong. With about 2 miles I started picking up stragglers again and started using my ďJedi bike trickĒ to keep them at bay. I saw two riders in front of me that looked really strong and I decided that not only were the people behind me not going to pass me but I decided that I was going to pass the two in front. Weíre trucking down the trail and Iím not gaining much ground when we pass through a section called the wall. Itís a steep down hill that quickly transitions into an up hill and thereís usually a crowd cheering on the racers. I could hear them through the woods so I picked up the pace a little. When I got to the top of the drop I put my bike in almost the hardest gear there is and I pedaled all the way down and FLEW up the backside and the crowed erupted. That really energizes you. Now I set my sights on the riders. We started passing lots of slower riders from other categories but Iím still not catching up. The trail makes one final climb then has a long down hill run into a field and itís about a half mile to the finish from there. I crest the hill and I see the guy in front take off, the other guy is already out of sight there aint no catching him, but I didnít care how fast he was going to go I was going to get him. I take off through the field and start closing the gap. He picks up a little but Iím still gaining. We round a corner and Iím out of that saddle pumping as hard as I can with only a 100 yards to go. Thereís people standing around yelling at the dude telling him Iím coming up about to pass and he jumps out of the saddle and starts pumping but after I pass him and then we cross the finish line me first, he had started to late. That was freaking cool.
All in all even with the problems I was having I was a good race and Iím looking forward to warmer weather so I can really see how well I can do.