Mountain bike racing is back in Virginia, baby! Just take a look at the number of people who raced Sunday at Camp Hilbert. Several hundred people showed up and plunked down their $30 to suffer and have fun in the dirt. The parking lot overflowed out the drive and onto the road outside the camp with cars bristling with mountain bikes. Seemed like there were twice as many people as last year.
For some inane reason, I decided to race my first enduro even though I had a new untested fork and a new saddle on my K2. I sort of figured it was early in the season and the more time on my bike the better for my later season form. I wasn’t alone. Kevin, Mark and Jimmy D were also in the 40+ person field. We started fast, or at least Kevin and I did, staying not far behind the jackrabbit leaders. Kevin sat up at the top of one stiff little climb about midway through the lap. I kept the pressure on and kept the leaders in sight until a ways into the second lap.
Naturally I started way too fast, but I felt great, so I just rolled with it. Despite a ton of rain in the two days before the race, the course drained well and was mostly dry save for two big mud holes. Early in either the second or third lap, I saw Kevin through the woods and I hooked a tree and went head over heels under bike. Ouch. I must have damaged the tire as well because twice during the race I had to stop and refill it. Still I cruised through nearly three and a half laps until my right contact slipped out on a climb. I had to pull over and try to get it back in. Kevin passed me back here. After a minute or so I got it back in and gave chase, passing him back later in the lap.
Each lap after two I’d stop in the pit and grab some food. I ate half a PBJ after two laps, a banana after three, another half PBJ and Clif blocks after four. But I think I was eating too much and not drinking enough. About a third of the way into the fifth lap, my back and hamstrings started cramping bad. Every climb my legs would seize up. I could barely move. The pro/expert field began rolling through fast, starting with a flying Jeremiah Bishop. Crazy Hosang came through not long after in fifth.
I almost quit at the end of the fifth lap. My whole body ached. My back hurt. My butt throbbed. My legs seized up when I stopped. And to top it all off my feet were cold.
As I stood there quivering, Marc, Kevin and Jimmy plus countless others rolled through. But I drank a bunch of fluids and climbed back on after about five minutes. I pedaled tough squares through the next lap. Bill G came by me on this lap and even dropped a bottle of Gatorade for me, but I was in such a daze I didn’t realize he did. I hooked up at one point with another enduro racer and we chatted about our mutual misery. He stopped at the end of the sixth lap, I decided to keep rolling.
Early on it was more of the same. I even fell over in the first deep mud puddle. But about 10 minutes in as I rolled along the beside the creek, I realized it was my last lap and I got a second wind. I started moving again instead of crawling along. I don’t know as I made up any ground on anyone, but I felt like I finished strong.
Jimmy finished ahead of me. Both Kevin and Mark got in an eighth lap and the winner turned nine! Much respect. Mark Junkerman and RunRideRace put on an awesome race.
I suffered Sunday. If I do it again (a huge if), I wouldn’t eat sandwiches, I’d regulate my drinking more and I certainly wouldn’t start so fast.
But as much as I suffered, I brought it on myself in the name of making myself stronger. Others suffered far more. Kevin learned on the drive home of a huge loss and my heart goes out to him. Another Tripower teammate’s father also passed away and he too is in my thoughts. And in California a sheriff’s vehicle crossed the double yellow and killed two cyclists training near Cupertino. Puts my little race in a world of perspective.
For me biking is one way to celebrate life, pushing my body as far as I can go and hanging with my friends. I can’t wait to celebrate life again with them.