What a name for a race right? Despite images of babesia, RMSF, and lyme disease flashing through my head (yes, I'm aware of the very low incidence of these vector borne diseases in Missouri) and after a great deal on deliberation within myself and with my wife, I decided to make the 4 hour drive from Columbia this past sunday. Luckily, 2 crazy friends, Shotgun and Green Beans, were also somehow able to justify 8 hours total car time for less than 3 hours of pedaling around in the woods, in possibly very muddy conditions, as it had rained a great deal the day before.
Looking back on the decision, I'm glad I went. The race went well and the conditions were very good in my book; low 60 degree temps, 90-95% tacky sweet-flowy-singletrack trail, and 5% mud puddles (keeping it interesting). However, as I was thinking to myself this morning, I re-justified a self-imposed rule of limiting my drives to 2-3 hours max for any bicycle related events. Any longer just isn't worth it. Living in Columbia, that is usually a great limit, since it gets me to Lawerence west, Alton east, and Springfield south. Plus, it also usually gets my wife and 18month old there as well!
My wife and I arranged to have my Mom come down and stay with Cassidy on Sunday, so that Maggie could study and I could head out to roll around in the mud (yes, that was supposed to be an image of regression and you haven't been clicking on any of these links, you should click that one). Since Maggie and Cassidy usually come to mountain bike races and Maggie loves to ride as well, I had a great deal of ambivalence about the decision of going without her. In fact, I didn't really commit to going until Saturday morning and even then, thought that the rain would probably cancel the race.
I just really, really wanted to race my mountain bike. As I've written about on many occasions on this blog, cycling has been one of my sources of meditation and I would argue, healthy regression to a child-like state. Yes, the competitive aspect of it often can be problematic but I am and will always be intensely self-competitive and racing provides a venue of that in addition to new camaraderie, getting to be outside, and in mountain bike racing, alone in the woods! I guess I especially wanted to race my mountain bike this year after spending months in doubt that I would ever be able to do so again, see last paragraph of link.
Racing road has been a lot of fun for me, but I've been a mountain biker since I got my first neon green and yellow Trek 800 from TC when I was in the 6th grade (age 11, circa 1991)then 2 years later, a sweet Fisher fromMesa cycles. I remember during 7th grade, my mom would go and drop me and a friend off at chubb trail and we'd ride the entire trail with only a bit of water, no tubes, pumps, chain tools, etc. Mountain biking is almost always an adventure and the events associated with mountain biking are completely different than road biking.
That was particularly apparent yesterday at the racers staging meeting before the race. I don't know how many kids and families were there, but I'm guessing 30 kids under 12, all stoked to go romp around on their mountain bikes and 'race'. And in the beginner race there were a ton of guys and gals in their regular clothes, just giving racing a shot for the first time. I love that about mountain bike racing!
Ok, on to my race. This was my first race with the following equipment choices:
-geared mountain bike (all last year I raced single speed) since I was 19
-full suspension 29er (I sold my single speed over the winter and with the help of Karl and the advice of Black Matt Francis opted for a squishy bike with big wheels with the rationale being to minimize the effect of "jarring forces" to my possibly weakened vertebrae.)
I think I need to race more to really have a better assessment of the equipment choices, but yesterday the trail was pretty flat and the gears were awesome (especially the big ring!).
The 4 lap-race went something like this:
-5th place into singletrack behind (1) singlespeed Garret (2) Shotgun and (3/4) guys in green/black kit.
-Shottler's chain dropped-->he's in last place
-I attack on the first possible location, head to front start time-trialing
-Shottler catches me, we ride together for 10 minutes and get a huge gap on the field
-I bobble, shottler passes and attacks (punk), I catch back on but with a 15 ft gap
-Shottler turns, I hear the familiar noise of him flatting, and I prepare to make fun of him, but then I turn (exact same spot) and flat as well.
-We change our flats right across from eachother, 3 minutes go by, field passes. Then sport and single speeders pass. A few mintes later, flats are finally fixed.
-Back on bikes, but shottler has 3 minute head start, I figure I won't see him again.
At this point, I'm thinking to myself that I should focus on riding smooth and make the decision not to push too hard for laps 1 and 2, so that I save some for laps 3 and 4.
Basically that is what happened. I started passing the expert field during lap 3, including Shottler who was on the side of the trail fixing his second flat of the day. At the end of lap 3, I was in second and knew one guy was up there somewhere. The motivation at this point however came from behind, as I expected young shotgun to quickly and with much frustration stomp all over us and win the race. So, I rode hard and caught the guy in first (passed him like he was standing still) and continued the effort to cross the finish line. As I did, I saw Shottler in his street clothes looking rather forlorn. That kid as the worst luck ever. He easily would have won if it weren't for the flats.
Hilly road races are a ton of fun for me and I hope to do more in the future, but not much compares to mountain bike racing on a cool spring day.