About a week and a half ago, over at BikePortland.org, I saw a blurb about mountain bike short track racing. After reading and watching the videos, I said, “That looks like a blast. Maybe I should give it a shot.” So Monday was my very first mountain bike race, of any kind (unless you count racing traffic to the next light). But first a little background.
I’ve been biking in one form or another for years. My involvement has waxed and waned as did my time. When I had no time, I didn’t ride. When I had time I did. Then I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona. For those who haven’t been there, Flagstaff is a near mecca for mountain biking. Plenty of trails, great weather, close proximity to places like Moab and great riding all over the West. I never rode. Granted, this was during nursing school where a little recreational riding would have done me a lot of good, for both stress relief and to start dropping the weight I had earned flying a desk for 4 years. But I didn’t ride until the last summer I was there. Even then, I didn’t ride much. After moving up here to the NW, I figured I would have time to ride. I did. But more it became transportation. A discount transit pass provided by work was a far cheaper alternative to $3/gallon gas, with a little bit of exercise thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately my off-road riding has been limited to very few dirt tracks I have found locally, nothing more really than shortcuts through fields. Not at all real mountain biking. But I figured I had a built a pretty good base fitness to at least give the race a try.
Yeah, right. Who was I kidding?
I got there on a balmy Monday afternoon with wife and MIL in tow. From the start I was surrounded in a sea of spandex. Nothing says “fashion” like glaringly gaudy neon colored spandex outfits. I nearly went blind before the race even began. Not me though. I was a little more “blue-collar”. Granted, I had spandex bike shorts on. Underneath my baggy shorts. I’m not letting that freak flag fly, nobody needs to see that.
So I paid the entry fee and went out to pre-ride the track. Around the second turn hit a unseen divot, launched off the seat and jammed my crotch, just a little north and east of the jewels. Except for damaged pride, nothing to worry too much about. I thought, “At least I got a crash out of the way early.” But thanks to the wonderful efficiency of public transit I only had about10 minutes to see the track, not a lot of time. So I headed to the starting line. The gun went off I started quite possibly the most painful 20 minutes of my life.
I didn’t hurl. Thought I was going to. I didn’t crash. I didn’t pass anyone. Everyone passed me. I thought about dropping out. But I didn’t. I made it through the 3 laps that my class (beginners…they didn’t have a fat ass class) ran. I was the last off the track. In fact, they nearly had to shoo me off so that the next class of racers could think about getting going. The course was great. I had a blast. But I learned a couple of things.
- Get there early to pre-ride. That way you can scope where you can puke and no one will see. Also, it helps to crash early, thereby getting it out of the way.
- Train for the race. You go all out for 20 minutes or more. If you’re not used to that, it becomes a very painful experience.
- Line up near the front of the group. If you don’t, when you start you end up sucking down everyone’s dust. I spent the next 12 hours post-race hacking and coughing like and asthmatic COPD’er with black lung.
- Realize that you will get passed. I got passed by everyone, including the 7 year old it seemed like. I even think some passed me twice.
Most importantly though:
- Have Fun!