Monday, July 24, 2017
Last week I attended Nationals at Snowshoe WV. After being sidelined from racing for a year, I prepared as I could in only 6 weeks. I knew there was no way that I could get in race form in 6 weeks, but I feared that if I blew it off, I would never get in shape. I am getting to a point in my life that if I want to do the things I like, I need to be in shape. Riding a techy trail is so much more fun when you are floating effortlessly over rocks compared to sucking wind and thinking about all your aches and pains. Once I stop moving, it gets harder to move again. I just need to keep moving and stay fit. My fitness enables me to experience the beautiful outdoors on my mountain bike. It is my favorite thing to do, and I am not going to let it slip away just because I am getting older.
I had raced at Snowshoe 15-20 years ago, and never liked the course. I heard the course had been improved. Improved in what way, I had no idea. Once I got on course for a pre-ride, I could see that it no longer went completely up and down the mountain like in the old days. It also was not straight down fall line and 6 inches deep in mud. There were some really fun machine made downhill sections that were a hoot! They also had a beautiful enchanted forest section filled with moss and wet roots. I dug the wet roots. They reminded me of Mt Snow racing way back. The climbing was, well, just boring dirt roads and I was out of shape, so that made them seem a lot worse. I know there needs to be passing room, but why is it always on boring roads? The general feel to the course was all roads. Even the tech section was only 50 feet long and man made. I like the idea of a promoter making some tech, but it never seems like real mountain biking to me. The boring courses along with my lack of fitness, has been making it harder for me to enjoy racing these days. I suppose nothing will ever compare to the awesomeness of Bear Creek Nationals. That place had a super fun course that felt like real riding.
There were some really fast ladies in my class this year. My start was crazy fast and way over my current fitness level. By the time I hit the single track, my heart rate was so pegged that my hands went numb. It took me going through the course tape to realize that I was over my limit and had to back it down. Once I did, my hands came back and I was able to continue at just riding pace. I struggled on the climbs, and they seemed to be in my face all too much. It was really nice to have friends out there cheering for me. It helped make the race more fun. I finished 5th, which should be a solid finish, all things considered, but it did not feel like a great race. I am happy to be back out racing, and I suppose there is always another year where both my health and motivation will allow me to prepare earlier.
After getting home from my race, I went out for a ride at my favorite place. It felt wonderful to be floating over the rocks and soaring through the giant ferns again. The gentle wind on my sweaty body felt great, and the familiar smell of ripping ferns made my day. There is way more to mountain biking than can be found in a race. Additionally, what goes into racing can enhance the ride. So a little racing now and then is good, as long as it does not take away from the enjoyment of the ride.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
The race at Port Jervis has been on my “to do” list all year. The township has been promoting new mountain bike trails and putting on races. It is always nice to go someplace new. I did the Erie 40 in the fall and while many of the trails did not seem finished, the ones that were new, were really nice.
I checked out the course a few days before the race and could see that much more trail building had taken place since the fall. I was tired the day of my pre-ride and did not fully get a grasp on how fun the trails would be at race pace. Actually, I did not know if I was even capable of a race pace. This race would certainly be a part of my training preparation for cross-country nationals next week.
The race looked to be on the long side with two 9+ mile laps. According to Strava, Cat 1 Men were running just under an hour and and Cat 1 women about 1:10 per lap. My casual pre-ride took 1:26. I did not like the thought of a 3 hour race, and hoped that I would have some more energy on race day.
I lined up in the back row behind the pro women and got what I thought was a good start, but as I was entering the single-track, everyone insisted on squeezing by me. I guess if I was young, I would try my best to pass any old lady before the singletrack too. I made an effort to hang on, and it worked. I rode the back of a train with my heart rate pegged for close to 20 minutes waiting for the right time to pass. I knew it would present itself, when I was ready.
When we hit the powerline climb everyone wanted to pass. I made my move, digging for my legs and lungs and they answered. First time in quite a while, so that in itself was good, but that on top of the 20 minute effort was really exciting. I am not super fast on the downhill, so you can be sure I booked as hard as I could trying to hold my position. I ended up catching the leader, who may have had a mechanical problem, but I will take any motivation that comes my way. I was pretty excited by that point, and the course was so much more fun at race pace. I was having fun and racing hard. I don't know if I have done that since nationals at Bear Creek in 2014.
So my first lap was super awesome, but as the clock ticked away, my legs started to fade and lap 2 was not as good. My foot and calf started to cramp. I kept the wheels rolling best I could, trying to ride smooth and drinking everything I had left. I took my last sip of water a few hundred feet from the finish line. I held my placement, but lap 2 was more of a struggle to complete.
This race by far was one my best efforts in the past year. I am happy to be back racing and actually racing. I am looking forward to racing at nationals.