I decided to go down to Lawton Oklahoma for a Mountain Bike Race this weekend. I hadn’t ridden my MTB bike for awhile, let alone raced one. I plan to mix it up a little more this year. Catherine Walberg from Topeka was up for the challenge too.
The race is appropriately named The 12 Miles of Hell. It is a mass start event in the Wichita Mountains. It was actually alittle over 17 miles this year, but it’s name is for the original race. It would of been just fine by me if it was only 12 miles long. It’s the last official time for the race and I’ve won it three times previously, so I though I’d go down and try for another rock. Those are the prizes-rocks with plaques. Perfect.
I’ve won the race previously in about 1:10, so on Saturday, when I was pre-riding the course, I figured it would be an hour and a half. I wanted to go as easily as possible, since I hadn’t been off-road in such a long time. I thought trying to keep Catherine reined in was going to be the issue pre-riding. Not the case. 2:15 later, I was back at the car, worked. It is one of the most technically demanding courses I’ve ever ridden. Nearly all the single-track is rock. Loose rock, solid rock, sharp rock. Pretty much just rock. The climbs are steep, loose, super technical. I found that there was no way to ride the course easily.
Anyway, Sunday, race day, I felt OK. The start is on about 200 meters of pavement, then a sharp turn straight up a 3 minute loose climb. I led off the pavement and had a pretty good line up the early portion of the loose climb. Will Black (super good rider from Texas) and Cameron Chambers (ex-Gary Fisher 24 hour rider) were on a different, but good line also. About half way up, I was still leading and Cameron passed me on some loose stuff on a single speed. Big gear. I’m thinking, “what’s wrong with this picture?” Anyway, by the time I’m to the top of the climb, my lungs are pretty much blown. I guess I wasn’t ready for the exertion. After a short technical descent and a little single track, there is another open, tank track, loose, climb. I was leading again when Cameron came charging by in his huge gear. This time the gear got a little big and I passed him for good. I looked back a little while later and he and Will were riding together. The rest of the race went fine. The most memorable part of the race was the view from up on the ridge. Looking down at the mass of riders, single file, serpentining their way across the rock. Many found it easier just to walk. The course is so demanding that you can’t let your guard down for an instant. I found that out close to the finish when my barend caught a small tree and threw me over the bars. It seems like the majority of times I fall in a MTB race it is when it seems tame and harmless. I won in 1:28 something. Will was 3 or so minutes back. And amazingly, Cameron was just another 3 minutes back. It was not the course for a single-speed. He rode incredible. Catherine won the woman’s race in 1:56. She finished 25th overall. There were officially 729 starters, so her result was excellent, obviously.
Below are a few photos. Click on them to enlarge. Thanks to Michael and the gang at Wichita Mountains Bicycle Club for promoting such a cool event for such a long time.