Yesterday was a memorable day. Not because I won a race that I’d been trying to win the last 3 years, but because I had forgot how great it is to ride through the woods on a bike when everything seems to be clicking.
The race is somewhere close to 60 miles long. One lap. We cross through the Berryman Campground twice, where we can get fed. Out of that mileage, it is about 16 miles on gravel roads. We ride on pavement just a couple miles. So, most of the race is on singletrack. Pretty technical singletrack that is nearly always climbing or descending.
What I like about MTB racing, and cyclo-x for that matter, is that you always have to keep your mind focused on the task at hand. There were only a couple times yesterday, a few minutes each, that I could rest mentally.
Like I said above, I was pretty good all day. The start goes up a mile climb and we took it pretty casually. There was $75 to go into the singletrack first and I led there, not because of the $$$, but because I’d followed guys into the singletrack the last couple years and it seemed to jack up my “flow”. It was nice being able to snake through the woods at my pace, not trying to look through a rider ahead of me to see the rocks, etc.
I led from start to finish. I didn’t have a perfect race. I crashed once when I caught the tip of my bars on a tree, while descending pretty fast. I burped my rear tire and had to put air in it. Plus, I almost got lost once when I came to a leaf covered double track that wasn’t marked. Bill rode off course there and it led to a mile descent to nowhere that he had to climb back up.
I had juice all race. I was handling my bike better than last year. Maybe not better than the year before that. But I was climbing really good. Not off my seat, which is my normal power climbing, but sitting. And in small gears. It really helps in MTB racing on loose stuff, with rock and roots, if you can sit and keep the power to your pedals.
The most interesting moments of the race were me just surprising myself mentally. After I fell, I lost my shit for about 5 miles. I was kind of rattled, mainly mentally. This was when I burped my rear tire too. It took me forever to get my CO2 cartridge out of my seat bag. I was all jittery. I needed a good slap in the face, but finally actually said out loud, “Steve, get your shit together.” I took a couple deep breaths and got refocused.
Racing MTB in snakey singletrack is much faster, with much less effort, when you’re leaning your bike and not steering it so much. When that flow happens, it is nearly effortless. The energy you save doing this can be used climbing or in the open sections later. But when you loose that flow, which for me is nearly always mental, it becomes super frustrating.
There was $400 for breaking the course record of last year. I knew that I was going a lot faster than the record, but I’d only be given one time split of 2 minutes about 1:40 into the race, so I really had no idea how far ahead I was. I’ve flatted at this race a lot the last two years, so I wanted a pretty big advantage in case of mechanicals. I ended up winning by way too much. I had the wrong course record time, thinking it was 4 hour 11 minutes. It was really nearly 4 hours 15 minutes. I cruised the last road section, but kind of paniced when my time was approaching 4:05, so I started riding hard again. I finished in a little over 4:09, but that was 5 minutes faster than last year. I didn’t need to raise the bar that much.
The time gaps were pretty huge. Results are below. I’m not sure why that was. I thought the course flowed way better than the previous years. It can never get that good because it is a super rocky area and the trails are old. I only saw people at the 4 check points, about once an hour. It was so peaceful/enjoyable, being in the woods, so focused, alone, doing what you love to do. I won a little over $1500 all said and done. It is amazing I can do something that cool that actually pays you money when you’re done at the finish. I’ll never take it for granted.
The enthusiasm at MTB races is much more than road racing. Maybe even more than cross, I don’t know. Everyone had a story, a good story, from their race. It is refreshing.
I noticed that I saw quite a few people with ear buds, listening to music. There is no way I could race this race without being able to hear the noises of my bike. So much of my reaction time has to do with hearing. Maybe in Leadville or a long race where you are on roads more, but never here.
Syndey Brown won the women’s event. It was close though. I think the first three women were within just a couple minutes. Syd told me afterwards that her arms were super toast pretty early on. (It was my lower back.) She said she was almost glad that her legs started to cramp to take her mind off her arms. Her arms must have been pretty sore. Here’s a link to her race day.
We hung out the afternoon while everyone was finishing, drank a bunch of cold beer, did awards and then drove up to Columbia Missouri and had pizza at Shakespeares. Columbia was happening because of Mizzo football, plus the Cardinals being in the World Series. People were everywhere. We got back pretty late, but all and all, a pretty good day.
Today seems like Monday, even though it’s just Sunday. That is how it goes for me. I sometimes have a hard time knowing what day of the week it is when racing gets rotated or I miss a weekend. There is a local cross race in KC, but I’m just going out for a couple hours here. It’s supposed to be over 80 today. Not bad for the end of October.