April 19

Flashback Friday: The report from my first mountain bike race last year, The Ridgeline Rampage in Castle Rock, CO – part of the Rocky Mountain Endurance Race Series…

It’s that time again. Another installment of what Race Rookie doesn’t know about racing. (In other words, WARNING, an unnecessarily long-winded recap). This time it came as a bit of a surprise since I was at least on familiar turf with my trusty 5 inches of travel and miles of dirt underneath. I prepped by reading a friend’s race report and understood the need to get out front early before we hit the singletrack. However, I was not aware the race coordinators had added an extra challenge by strategically placing obstacles at all of the most inconvenient places on the trail (men who can’t climb, men who can’t corner, men who can’t descend, men in white lycra, and some dude with a shark helmet). But I’m jumping ahead…

T minus 5 minutes and counting and I line up for the race, where? Yes, near the back. My nonexistant strategy already kicking in. In the 10 feet of pavement and dirt road we have until the singletrack (okay, maybe a tiny but more) I realize my mistake and try to get up front but I’ve only managed to pass half the field when we hit the turn. Instantly I realize the horrible joke the race directors pulled by starting us a couple minutes behind the Sport Men’s field. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to enter something I’m probably not qualified for, but I do so assuming I won’t be hindering anyone else’s performance. So I don’t blame the first guy we come upon who tips over on the very first switchback. Nor do I blame the massive traffic jam of guys who jumped off their bikes and walked up nearly every 10 foot mound of dirt instead of standing and hammering. Hell, I don’t even blame the guys who putted down the only ripping descent in front of me at 10 mph (on the second lap I was finally free to do 27mph).

You’re starting to get the idea, right? Major congestion and a lot of frustrated females. NOT GOOD! So we’re trying to make our way around them and I can hear the girls ahead of me yelling at these guys to “get out of the way,” “we’re trying to go fast, this is a race.” NOT COOL. Silly me tries to make up for their bitching by being uber polite. “Excuse me, but when you have a minute, I’d like to pass, but there’s no rush.” Yes, I seriously said this. What the hell wrong with me?

After passing the guy with the shark helmet and a couple girls who didn’t realize that kitty litter corners meant low tire pressure, sticky rubber and you’ll be good, I naively tried to catch up to the smart girls who had hit the singletrack first. It was no use by this point as they were long gone. Not one to give up, I went from riding the first half hour of the race at 150 bpm (Zone 2 heart rate for me) to doing the remainder hour and a half at an average of 182 bpm (I think that’s Zone 100-times-above-threshold).

On the back half of the course there’s an awesome snaking singletrack atop the ridge that’s another fun place to fly at 30 mph. That is, unless you’ve reached the Dude in the White Lycra on a Mountain Bike obstacle. So this guy’s spinning along at 1500 rpm in his granny gear on this sweet little descent while the whole rest of the field starts to pile up behind. I’m trying to let him know we’re passing because apparently I am the only one on course trying to respect the open space and not go off the trail to get around. No response after multiple attempts and I realize he’s got earbuds in. So I pull up next to him when the trail widens a bit and tell him a bunch of people are trying to pass, take your headphones out. He tells me “Race your own race.” Then he swerves into the lady behind me who also tried to pass him. Her tire rides on my back wheel for what seemed like forever until she finally went down, taking him out with her. I hear them yelling, about to trade blows, and look back to see a bunch of people standing there with them so I ride off. (I apologized to her after the race for not stopping but she said she was glad I kept riding, she was okay).

Lap 1 down! By now the temp has reached 1098 degrees and I know there is no hope of getting a respectable time, but I keep plugging along, motivated by the thought of the snowcone truck in the parking lot at the finish. The 2nd lap is smooth sailing and I can finally ride at full speed so I push as hard as I can, but my legs are questioning my mental status. I tell them to shut up, there’s a snowcone waiting for us.

I crossed the line at 2:06, hot, tired, and disappointed. Then angry because the damn snowcone truck had left already. Next time, I’m packing one in my camelback.

If you want a glimpse of my stupidity (and a guy with a shark helmet), here’s a quick and dirty (really, my lens was caked in dust) video:

Actually, it is kind of long and really crappy quality, so feel free to fast forward.

Results: 5th in age group, 10th of 24 Sport XC Women

Lessons Learned: 1) It cannot be overstated: BE FIRST OFF THE LINE! I was fully capable of meeting my goal of a sub-2hr finish but it was impossible in my position at the back of the traffic jam.

2) Polite passers don’t win. I realized, not quickly enough, that you just tell people you’re passing and do it, rather than wait until they let you.

3) Respecting the trail won’t get you first place. I find this unfortunate, because I could see the abuse the open space was taking just from our race, but I really don’t think anyone but me tried to stay on the trail while passing. Thus, I didn’t win.

4) Don’t park a damn snowcone truck at the finish tempting racers and then leave before we’re all done. That’s just plain rude.