I am foraging new areas with this race report and not really sure what to think about it. Let me start with the week leading up to this race. I was being asked if I was going to attend this race or not. I really didn’t have anything on the calendar that I could not miss that should keep me from racing this race. I typically am not really in to XC racing that much, so I did not have a huge desire to attend. I was leaning toward just staying home and putting in a long ride here. The week leading up to the race I was starting my 3rd week in a row of feeling sick. I was still riding, but coughing and over all just feeling run down.
My arm continued to get twisted about attending. It turns out that several team members were going to be able to make it to this race. We have not really had that many people be able to make it to the same place very often over the last couple years, so I agreed to go along. I didn’t expect to do very well and I was really good with that. It was going to be more about hanging out with friends and riding my bike. This mentality had me doing some things that I normally would not have done before a race. There was supposed to be a soccer tournament the two days before. There was a lot of rain that came in and they had to post pone the tournament to the next week. This allowed me to join a couple other friends on a ride Saturday morning.
This ride was not typically what I think I should do the day before a race. We did a 43 mile gravel ride that had a fair amount of climbing. I knew it was going to be a pretty big ride, but like I said above I was not overly concerned about finishing well at the race. We had a great ride! I tried to not go too hard on the climbs just so I didn’t completely destroy myself. After the ride I tried to do a few things to make sure and recover and re-hydrate, but did allow myself to have a couple beers too. Later that night my legs were hurting and borderline cramping while I was sitting on the couch. It was not looking very promising that I would have much for Sunday.
Sunday morning came much earlier than I wanted it to. I got ready and headed over to the meeting place and we loaded up the team trailer. Down the road we went to Griffin Bike Park. We made it there with plenty of time left before the race. It was not as early as we wanted, but it was just fine. We all signed up and got ready to go warm up. I had never been there before. I figured that the one person who did know the trail would lead us in the right direction of a sample of the trail to warm up on.
After a few miles I realized that me and Kade were all alone. Neither one of us had any idea where we were or where to take any short cuts to head back. The trail was not that long and I knew we should have enough time to finish the lap, but that was not my plan at all. When we finished the lap we rolled up to the car with about 12 min before the start of the race. I grabbed what I wanted for the race and tried to eat and drink a little then headed to the start.
I didn’t really plan it, but when we rolled up to the line from the dashed line, I found myself in the second row. I was not too worried about it as I was not really sure how the legs would be. There was also a long road section before we turned in to the woods. We took off fairly fast. At first it was not bad, but then the road was getting longer than I wanted it to be. I backed off my pace a little so I didn’t completely blow myself up before we even hit the woods. I noticed that there seemed to be a little gap behind me so it was all good.
I went in to the woods somewhere a little above the top 10 I think. It was hard to tell and I didn’t want to slide out on the 180 degree turn in to the woods. I was a little worried about this first section since it had some tight corners and some short up and downs. I figured if the group was all bunched up and everyone slowed a little at the top of the hills, it could turn in to a bad pile up on the face of the hill. That would not be good at all. Luckily it was not too bad and I tried to keep enough room in front of me where I thought the issue would be worse.
I made a few passes here and there where it worked out. I could also make some moves on the open gravel section that went by the finish line. Somewhere in this lap I came up on Tristin and followed him for a while. At some point he dropped me. I kept going as best that I could. I was happy with how the legs were working. Somewhere late in the first lap I found myself behind JJ. I figured that I probably was not doing too bad as I had noticed him toward the top of the finishers lists on some of the other Dino races. I was content being where I was and just stayed with that group. At some point it ended up just being the two of us as we started the second lap.
I felt like we were not rolling along too bad. I expected to be working harder than I was, but was happy with where I was and stayed there. Next thing I knew Barry came up on us pretty quick and on one of the more technical little climbs he went flying by us on the other side of the trail. We both followed him for a little while. This is the point that my day changed a little. Barry had asked if he was holding us up and if we wanted by. JJ declined and said we were good. It was then when Barry asked where we were sitting. When the reply was 2nd and 3rd I just about crapped myself. I knew I had passed a few people, but I never expected to be that far up. It gets a little confusing on where you are after the different age groups get mixed up. It had been a very long time since I had been in this situation. It was back in the 90’s when I frequently found myself near the front of the Sport class. Every since getting back in to racing I had just been pack filler.
At this point I could not have been any happier. My legs were feeling a lot better than I could have ever expected after what I did the day before and with my warm up ride. I figured all I needed to do was try to hang on and maybe be able to make a run for the position at the finish. I was not sure if Barry was in our class or not, but he dropped us anyway. Now I was potentially going to have to sprint it out for a 3rd place finish. I was hoping that he was in the 50+ class, but I was not sure. I just wanted to keep an eye out behind me to make sure no one was catching us and possibly loose another position. Somewhere in there we caught back up with Tristin and rode with him.
We had moments where we were really moving out. Overall the legs were feeling pretty good, but had moments where it felt like they might be working on cramping soon. I downed a Honey Stinger gel and took in some big drinks. In no time those feelings went away. I am not sure where it happened, but JJ was taking a turn at the front and I ended up passing Tristin. Not sure where he fell off, but it was back to just the two of us.
Somewhere in the third lap another rider came up on us before I knew it. He asked to pass, but right then there was not really a good place. In just a little bit I knew we would be hitting one of the double track sections and there was no need to move over in a dangerous spot. I knew as soon as we hit the double track he would be making his move. I didn’t want to risk loosing any more positions so when he went, I jumped on his wheel. We flew down that section and back in to the woods. I kept on his wheel the best that I could. There were not too many spots that I really felt like he was going too slow.
We crossed the parking lot section where the start turned in and where we were parked. I was wearing down and getting worried I would run out of gas. So, I finally asked the question, what class are you in? He said 50+, how about you? I said 40 and he replied, oh thank god. That means we won’t have to sprint it out at the line. LOL we were both hoping that. I am not sure if it was the release of the stress or what, but right after that I started to feel a little stronger. He had just asked if I needed by and I didn’t think I wanted to at that point. A corner later I was kind of thinking I should have passed, but at that point it was all good. I just didn’t want JJ to catch back up to us and kept looking back as the trails crisscrossed. We went hard when we hit the gravel, but I didn’t have enough to pass him and I was ok with that.
Well it turned out that I ended up in 2nd and was able to stand on the podium. It felt awesome to be able to have such a great ride and then have the best MTB result that I have had in probably 20 years or more. It is great to finally feel like all the work I had been putting actually making a difference. I know I have not done everything that I need to or even had planned, but I have been doing more than previous years and it may just be starting to add up. Now I just hope to keep moving forward.
Now for the what if’s that I just can’t keep out of my head. It is really hard to talk myself in to some things when I really didn’t expect to be somewhere to begin with. There are a lot of things leading up to this race that had me thinking I would not do very well, even for my normal finishes. I had been sick for 3 weeks and just barely getting over it. I had rode some in that time, but had some days that I really struggled and was really run down and wore out. Then I look at the ride I did the day before. This was not what I would call a good idea the day before a race. Not enough sleep the two nights leading up to the race and then that much longer warm up ride than I had planned. Any and all of those things should have kept me from having a good race. So, how did it go so right?
The other side of the second guessing myself is what would have happened if I would have pushed forward and made a couple passes that I didn’t make? The guy who won the race was only 1 minute ahead of me. Could I have made up that time? Would I have blown up and fell apart? I will never know. Part of me thinks I did so well because I didn’t make a couple passes. When I was on someones wheel and I was able to rest a little, it could be the whole reason I was as strong. After being stick and everything else, I am not going to beat myself up much wondering about the what if’s. I am just very happy to finally have a good result. I just need to keep doing what I have been doing and working on improving. Maybe someday I will feel good enough about myself to go back to Cat 1 or even race Sport Open. My real goal is to be able to do better at the longer races. I feel like I am getting closer, so maybe one day I’ll be “there”.