Nothing, in my humble opinion, gets you ready for a HIM like going out and racing your first mountain bike race, ever, accompanied by your eight year old who also went out there for his first attempt. It might not have been what my coach would have like me to do, but I do not have a history of being an extraordinary rule follower. Let's face it, I'm a musician. Worse, a composer and jazz musician. I might as well live in a van down by the river.
How did I fare?
Shoulder = 0 Course = 1
Yup. You know, when you race a triathlon, they put the trees much further away. I say all these more experienced riders in front of me navigating the twists and turns and thought "I should be able to do that." Negative, Ghost Rider. I raced in the "Beginner" category. I quickly learned that "Beginner" in MTB terms has a completely different connotation than how most people think of the word. You see, everyone who races does the same course, it is only a matter of how many laps you go around. The "beginner" race was only three laps, or 7.1(ish) miles. This was more than adequate for my first time out as I think I would have vomited if I had to do one more lap.
This is how it went down:
I was 3rd into the trails. It seems that MTB racing is dependent on the start to some degree. There is not a whole lot of room to pass doing single track. You basically have to call out "can I get by you?" Most of the time, people are very cool and will let you by. But you start in a big group and motor to be one of the first riders to the trail.
I motored on the first lap trying to pass as many people as I could. I passed a lot of the 5-lap racers who went out 30 seconds before us. This was both good and bad. I realized that MTB tactics are completely different than tri tactics. You really have to be smart about choosing when you are going to take another rider. I noticed that many of them were pretty agile on the single track but struggled up some of the moderate climbs. The problem is that you have to really pass them on the single track because it is even more difficult to try to pass someone on the climb. If I was behind someone moving more slowly, it slowed me down and made it more difficult for me to climb instead of clipping along at my regular cadence. There was this dude in front of me who was a little, um, "larger" who I tried to get around. He was breathing like Godzilla. I mean this guys was really huffing and puffing. I started imagining that it would be really funny seeing this guy with an oxygen tank strapped to his back like my hydrapack with a mask on his face the whole time.
Realized that this is indeed my first MTB race as I struggled to take in enough oxygen. I also remembered that I was in fact wearing my Hydrapack, and that I should perhaps take in some more to drink.
It was on these laps that I decided to smash my left shoulder into a tree as hard as possible, forcing me to the ground writhing in pain momentarily until my adrenaline kicked in and I heard people passing me. Nothing really motivates like hearing people passing me.
Later, I was trying to take someone in front of me. Instead of calling out "can I get around you?" I decided to take a 6" inch ramp rather than go around a tree to save time. This ended poorly. I ended up flying over my handle bars and landing on my head first. My neck was a little tight. When I got back on the saddle and started riding I could tell my balance was a bit off too. Ah, these things are only temporary, and who needs balance MTB riding anyway? Coincidentally, my little man cleared this ramp when we went out on our course ride through. Dammit!
Started to understand that you can not go out and "kill it" every second—even for a 7 mile MTB race. I finished pretty strong. Unfortunately, falling down MTB riding is a lot like a boxer getting hit in the face. It takes a lot out of you.
I am sure other people must have fallen out there, but I certainly did not see anyone.
WHAT I'VE LEARNED:
Mountain bike racing is no joke, yo! It takes a lot of mental focus to navigate your way around trees on narrow single track, make it up steep sudden climbs, and not topple over the front of your handle bars while trying to clear the tree that Mother Nature so conveniently left at the end of your descent after a quick switch back.
As luck would have it, my Rev3 family hosts an epic mountain bike race in November at the Shenandoah River State Park. The website describes the 6 mile trek by stating "This course is so sick we had to take it to urgent care."
I am suddenly salivating at the prospect of racing this!
This weekend is my annual "home" race. The Musselman triathlon takes place in the town of Geneva, New York and is a great event for the family to attend. It is right on beautiful Seneca Lake—one of central New York's scenic Finger Lakes. Many of my friends will be there racing with me this weekend, so I look forward to seeing many of them out on the course. Self proclaimed Race Dictator, Jeff Henderson, puts together a safe, wonderful, and fantastically eco-friendly race.
After the weekend, I am looking forward to the premiere of “Libba,” for flute and piano as part of the
American Icons Concert at the Cazenovia Counterpoint Festival. I was one of three composers asked to write pieces for the acclaimed Society for New Music to write
a a piece inspired by the songs of African-American blues and folk singer,
Elizabeth “Libba” Cotton.
When I finished "Libba," I went out for a two hour training ride. I chuckled to myself (yes, chuckled), as I thought about posting something on Facebook that read "Finished another piece and went out for a two hour training ride...you know.... just like Beethoven use to do." These are the things I think about while I am riding my bike. Not "What is my cadence?" "Is my heart rate under control?"
Okay, time to prepare for bed. Train Smart! More soon.