Sunday, October 5, 2008

LSD and MTB Races

Friday I got in about 36 miles, which felt really nice. I'm trying to start doing base miles in preparation for the road season (called LSD... so I'm not talking about the drug here). I averaged about 18.4 mph, which is a little fast for a zone 2 workout.

Saturday I got up at the ass-crack of dawn (6 am) and went to Pfeiffer University's mountain bike race in Uwharrie National Forest with the rest of the cycling team. Now I am not a mountain biker by any stretch of the imagination, and this was the only race I've done all season because of schoolwork.

The original plan was to do all three events: XC, TT, and short track. The XC race was 8 miles of mixed singletrack and fire roads that had been described to me as "flowy". Seeing as I don't do a lot of mountain bikeing and I was riding in road shoes and cleats, flowy is a good thing. A couple of teammates and I pre-rode the first mile or so before the race started as a warm up and to get a feel for the course.

When the race started I was in fourth position out of 10, but going around the first downed log I understeered and ran wide, which put me in (I thought) second to last. I assumed I was essentially going to be non-competitive in this race, so it didn't bother me.

The general flavor of the first half of the race was I would gain crazy time and positions on the uphills and smooth sections of singletrack and fire roads, due to my "roady power". The first half felt like about 60% singletrack and 40% fireroads, and the singeltrack was not very techinical.

On one of the later fire road sections I caught sight of a teammate David trailing a Pfeiffer guy ahead of me and hit the gas to catch them, thinking they were sitting something like 3rd and 4th position. I thought it was kinda odd that David would sit in on a guy when there were riders up the trail, but I didn't think about it too much and blasted past them. I didn't look back to confirm, but I felt them accelerate to hold my wheel, which I also thought was kinda odd given what positions I thought they occupied.

About a minute after passing them the road turned down and I kept the hammer down, determied to gain as much time as I could on those ahead of me. So here we are, barreling down a rough section of fire road at something like 25 mph, and I catch sight of a downed tree about 30 feet in front of me. I scream out, "Oh SHIT!! STOP STOP STOP!" and hit the brakes as hard as I can without locking up wheels. I come to a dead stop about 2 feet from the tree, the Pfeiffer guy (who David later said nearly rear-ended me), does an elegant little bunny hop over the tree and takes off, and David follows him. I manage to get one foot unclipped and stumble / drag the bike over the tree. That was the last time I saw either of them, because diretly after that we got back onto singletrack, which turned extremely technical (at least for me).

After this point things got quite hairy for me: the trail got rougher, with a lot of loose rocks and very steep uphill and downhill sections. My pace slowed to a crawl. I got passed by several people from the C field, and at some point just assumed I was DFL: dead fucking last. Operating on this assumption, I took things very easy, really just out enjoying myself and going as fast as I felt comfortable with. On one downhill I got passed by one of our A riders doing about 20 mph when I was doing something like 3; he went past me and looked like he was spending more time airborne than on the trail. I just kinda shook my head in amazement and kept chugging along.

The trail gradually got a little less rocky, cutting through some relatively young forest. It was here I crashed. It was at low speeds and similar to my other mtb crashes: some random little thing in the trail just kicks my front tire out from under me. I haven't wrecked on something I'm actually worried about beforehand yet.

I should mention that I really dislike crashing. I sat on the ground for a bit, then took my time fixing the chain, which had dropped in between the cassette and spokes. I got passed by another C here as I wiped the grease off my hands and got back on the bike.

At some point we got back on the fire roads for the last mile and a half or something, and this section was straight uphill. At one point on this section I pulled off the road and stopped to take a drink - I can't get a bottle off of my frame rolling because it's essentially wedged in place between the top and down tubes. After this I felt better. This section was pretty unremarkable except for the sheer amount of uphill that just kept going and going and going.... I was really feeling my 36 miles from the day before on this section.

And then the last 100 yards were singletrack again. Overall I finished 7th out of 10, with something like an hour and one minute. David took first when the Pfeiffer kid dropped his chain on the fire roads with a time of 47 minutes and change.

After the race he told me that him and the Pfeiffer kid were first and second when I passed them, which made their behavior make so much more sense!

In retrospect, I could have finished a couple of places better if I had known I was not non-competitive. But live and learn - mountain is not my sport, so I was happy to come out in one piece.

I learned after finishing that the time trial was going to be that same trail backwards.... Yikes! There were quite a few sections of downhill rock gardens that would have nearly impossible for me going the other way, and this combined with the trail as a whole and my level of skill encouraged me to back out, so I did. I also decided that staying overnight for one short event the next day wasn't worth it, so I came home a day early with David.

Overall I'm glad I went to one mountain race this season. I'm really, really bad on a mountain bike, and maybe with enough practice I can stop crawling along trails scared for my life.

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