The next race was last weekend at Okeechobee, Fl. The course was really fun, with a bit of everything. The weather was getting warmer, which would make racing a little tougher.
I've been spoiled because my first few races were on cool days, cold by south Florida standards even. Now, with the sun shining and the race at 2:15, heat, hydration, and conditioning would all become factors.
The morning practice lap went well. Ivor and I had a nice easy lap checking out the course and trying to make mental notes. Ivor and I seem to be pretty close in our skill level (and he's riding a 30 year old bike) so it's a lot of fun to follow each other around the course.
My goal for the race would be to try to catch him, as he starts one line in front of me, one minute ahead.
At the start, my bike took about four kicks to start and the pack left me behind. I need to dial in just how warm to get the engine for a one-kick start.
There were a few slower riders, probably their first race, so I quickly caught up and passed them. That made me feel a little better and I set my sights on trying to catch Ivor.
The first lap went really well. I felt great and was flowing smoothly through the woods, passing beginners and some Evo riders too. By the time I exited the woods for the open fields section at the end of the course, I could see Ivor up ahead.
The fields can be tricky because you want to go wide open between turns but you really have to be careful. There are many dips and holes that can throw you if you are not ready. The courses are also made with as many obstacles and tricks as they can find to make it more interesting and ultimately more fun to race. You sometimes go from open field to a small stand of trees where you have to go between two with barely enough room for your bars to get through.
It's difficult to find time to take your hand off of the bars to grab your mouthpiece for a drink, but you have to make time. I need to realize that taking a few seconds throughout the race to hydrate and catch my breath is worth it to not get exhausted later causing crashes.
Crashes for me are usually just slow speed tip-overs. No drama, but having to pick up the bike or push and pull it back on to the course and possibly restart it really drain a lot of energy. So far I hadn't gone down and I was moving through the competition nicely.
After 2 laps I was right behind Ivor at the finish chicane, and third in my class. I was excited and pushing myself hard.
The third time through the woods started to take it's toll, however. I started getting hot and tired. There was a small pond with a very muddy section that went around the edge of the pond. After two laps of racers and a practice lap as well, the mud was getting thick and had deep ruts. I decided this would be a nice place to stop and proceeded to face plant spectacularly. I jumped to my feet and quickly went for the clutch to get the bike up before it stalled.
I managed to keep it running with a handful of mud as the left side of the bars had been buried in the blackness. I had to struggle a bit to get out of the deep mud and now I was really exhausted.
The rest of the last lap got worse from there as my fatigue led to more mistakes and I dropped the bike again. My hopes of catching Ivor and winning my class were now gone and I just wanted to finish in one piece.
I finally got out of the woods and the open fields helped with some air to cool me down and knowing I was nearing the finish. There was still a good couple of miles to go and I could hear bikes behind me so it wasn't over yet. I got a few sips of water and reached down for whatever was left in my 45 year old body. I managed to hold off the others and finished strong.
I ended up 6th in my class and about a minute slower than Ivor, who won his class.
Immediately after the race I was as physically exhausted as I have ever been. I tried to drink as much as I could without puking. I wasn't panting and gasping for breath but just overheated and spent. I started to think about how embarrassing it would be to die there in front of everyone.
It made me feel a little better that Ivor was in a similar state. He's about 5 years younger and plays soccer regularly. He's in much better shape than me and he was exhausted as well. I guess it's what you call "giving it all you've got" or "leaving it all on the field". Regardless, I need to do some cardio work to build some endurance. That is why I am sitting at my computer sipping a cafe con leche at 11:30 am.
Here is Ivor with his trophy.