Last Sunday was Round 2 of the series, "Mountain Challenge." We were supposed to have Round 2 about 2 weeks prior at the infamous "Flat Rock," but it got rained out.
I got there around 11 am, found a place to park, and set up the EZ-up and privacy tent:
After that, I went to sign-up to get my helmet sticker and handle bar punch card. The helmet sticker is your race number with bar code on it, which they scan as you come through scoring. The scoring tent ends out the lap, and they have a nice LED display there where you can see your class position, and how many seconds you are back from the next guy in the your class.
After that, I decided I needed to check out the course some so I'd have some idea of what to expect. I walked about the first mile or so of the course. During this time, the mini's were racing, so I was hopping on and off the track, dodging the little buggers as they were zipping buy. I came upon one little fella who had gone over the side of the trail and was stuck there with the bike on top of him. I helped him up, dusted him off, helped to start his bike, and he went on his way.
The dirt was good, there were some nice steep climbs, but nothing too bad, the dirt had good traction and there weren't a lot of jagged rocks or anything. And while it was not wet except for a few isolated muddy spots, dust did not look like it was going to be a problem. Conditions looked really good. Satisfied, I walked back down to the pit area and watched the Pro, AA, A, and young B riders line up and start. They normally start at 12:15 but got started about 30 minutes late. That means our race which normally starts at 3:15 likely won't start on time. No big deal.
I went ahead and moved my bike up to the starting line and got it into position. I made a few clicks of suspension adjustment. Not much more I can do at this point, so I headed back to my pit area, drank some fluids, had a light lunch, and some fruit.
The big change from prior races is that I really don't have the bad pre-race jitters. I was wondering when they were going to come, because they always did. Don't get me wrong, there was a little pre-race anticipation, but not the knotted gut I usually experienced. Maybe I'm finally getting used to it, it's only taken 5 races. lol
On the starting line, the starter gives the riders meeting over the bull horn. Conditions are good. The track is fast. Be careful the first lap until you know what's coming up. Someone gives a prayer, then they play the National Anthem. At the closing lines of the anthem, everyone fires up their bikes and you hear a lot of hootin' and hollerin'.
Everyone is stoked. They give a few minutes for everyone to warm up their bikes and then the starter waves the green flag overhead for everyone to cut their engines. We start in rows, one class per row, at 1 minute intervals, 12 rows. I'm in row 8.
As the rows get flagged off, the starter yells 30 seconds. Then 15 seconds. Then 10 seconds. The flag can fly anytime after 10 seconds.
Here's my row at the "10 second" announcement. There I am in the middle, beside the Kawasaki, KTM - white and black helmet, tinted goggles:
I get a pretty decent start, I think I was in 6th or so. I did not have a particularly good race, though, so that would be the highest I would climb.
So I think was around 6th, it's hard to tell in all that mayhem. And I held that pretty good for the first mile or so, dropping back a few places, but not many. Then right near the bottom of a steep uphill, I somehow got sideways, lost momentum, and the bike was wanting to fall toward the downhill side which was pretty steep. I quickly hopped off the bike on the downhill side and did everything I could to save it or at least push it over so it fell on the uphill side. It was a valiant effort, but the hill won in the end and it fell to the downward side. So I said to myself, "Oh crap, not this again," thinking back to the mud race at Devil's Ridge a few weeks before where I must have picked up my bike half a dozen times. At least I was still fresh at the beginning of the race, and so I hunkered down and hoisted the pig up from the downhill side and got it roughly pointed in the right direction.
About this time the rest of the positions in my class all go flying by since we were still fairly tight being so close to the start. So I get sorted and get going, get on up the hill with no more drama, then try to control the uncontrollable heart rate from the exertion of picking up the bike on the hill so I take it a little easy for a bit. I eventually recover and had a pretty good race after that. But it was a quick course, and by the time I got going again, I was only able to make up a few positions. I did catch and pass a few, but I lost too much time on the hill so early everyone had too far a lead on me to make it up. I finished out 17th out of 24 at least. But even so, it was still a good time, the course was great, it was well laid out with a good variety - some nice fast flowing, some tighter stuff, great hill climbs, a few places with some gnarly roots and rocks, good traction on 95% of it, and hardly any dust.
So I didn't bring home any hardware this time, but still had fun. Actually, while I would like to finish better, I'm fine with that finish. I think it's just going to take a while to learn to pick up the speed and be safe about it without riding too far over my head. The other times I have brought home trophies have all been mud races, and I've always said what I lack in speed, I make up for in tenacity. I seem to do better in those races of attrition, rather than races where all-out speed is more important. I gotta work on that.
Of note in this race, while it was still tough physically, it didn't wipe me out like the others. Not sure if it's the pre-race 1.5 hour non-stop simulated race practice rides that are doing it, or my general physical conditioning is improving or what. I have been working out more, eating better, and have lost 15 lbs since January. So I'm sure that helps. I want to keep going in the right direction, it's great on Monday to not feel like I got hit by a truck on Sunday.
Here's a couple photos of me nearing the end of a lap from the track photographer:
Post race cool down:
I hope to get the helmet cam edited and posted soon. I've covered up with work this past week though, and it is not done yet.
So I'm thinking this race might be a bit of a turning point in terms of attitude. I was far less tense than usual, and the whole event seemed more like a ride at the local spot with the guys, than the knotted gut intense arm pumping frame of mind I brought into most of my other races. I'm thinking this has to be a good thing - maybe I'll be able to settle down and ride smarter, looser, and generate some flow instead of riding tight and tense.
That's what I'd like to take away from this race, anyway.
The next race is NCHSA Round 3: Brushy Mountain, which is next weekend.
That's it for now.