This past weekend I decided to race my mountain bike. It was pretty much a spur of the moment decision at 7:30 pm the night before the race. I havent raced my mtb since the Test of Metal last June. Not only that but I was out until 1 am on a date and had been drinking all night. When the alarm went off at 7 am I had a crazy headache and cotton mouth. The eight ounces of water I drank before going to bed wasnt enough. I dragged my tired, not hung over ass out of bed (its was a headache that screamed “YOU DIDN’T GET ENOUGH SLEEP!”) and raced to Starbucks on my way to West Seattle to meet my friend Mike to car pool.
Our destination was Black Diamond and the fifth round of the BuDu Racing West Side MTB Series. Like any other weekend at Black Diamond we stopped at the gas station for a six pack for after the race. When we got there we headed to registration and as I signed up I noted my racing age for 2012 was 40. I have been joking about it for months now but having to write it was odd. Then when I had to pick which category I was supposed to be in I was thrown for another loop. For years I have been checking off either the 30-39 or the 35-39 category but today I had to check off the 40-49! I went from the old guy in the category to the young one. For someone who doesnt give a shit about their age and believes its just another number it was a bit of a reality check, which was quickly forgotten once I was ripping down the trail like a kid.
We had time for a descent warm up, where we got about 3/4s of a lap in. Since we had ridden here about a dozen times so far this year we knew the rest of the course without seeing it. I made my way to the start and proceeded to strip down, as I was way too over dressed for the pain I was about inflict on myself. Earlier at the car Mike was saying he already had terrible race anxiety. I did not but figured I would once I was on the start line. I was happy to be wrong as I lined up without a care in the world. I took up a sweet little spot in the back row and waited for the gun.
The gun sounded and I mashed on the pedals and off I went. I made it about 30 feet before my chain decided it didnt want to shift up to the bring ring, which I should have started in and even told myself at least twice as I wait for the start. Then it proceeded to chain suck, not once but twice. I was once again at the back of the pack. As the 16 other guys in my class sped away I got my shit together and gave case. By the time we hit the single track I was somewhere around 10th place. From now until almost the end of the first lap I was in traffic, fighting to make forward progress. The trails at Black Diamond are narrow and youd be hard pressed to find a straightaway longer than 50.
Lap two saw me about 200 yards off the wheels of two guys in my group I had been casing for the second half of lap one. Due to more traffic from people who started before us I only managed to catch one of the two guys. It was a mental victory since he was the only rider all day that passed me (only after I first passed him once before). Early on I made him my White Whale for the day. By this time I managed to catch and pass my Stanley teammate Zack Phillips racing in the Single Speed category. He hazed me a bit and we shared a good laugh.
About ¾s through the lap I started to make some small mistakes as I lost some focus. None were too serious but just enough to piss me off that I wasnt on my game, as I should have been. As I was giving myself a mental ass kicking for not being 100% focused one of my pedals caught a root and the bike quickly stopped as I kept moving forward. I did a half endo as I never completely left the bike. I ended up on both hands and one knee, which I banged on something as it was now bleeding. I picked myself up, cursed loudly and quickly did a cyclocross remount and took off again. Luckily I didnt lose much of what I gain over the White Whale (Bob Ludeman).
I was clearly in need of substances so on the long fire road I slammed a Gu and some water and regrouped mentally. Lap three went well except the fact I didnt drink shit for water the night before came back to bite me in the ass. On one of the earlier climbs I felt my right calf starting to cramp. Just then the rider in front of me went down. I was forced off my bike and when I dismounted and straighten my leg it went into a full cramp. I ran past my follow cyclists who laid tangled in his bike. As I ran by I noticed he was rocking knee high tube socks like the ladies do in cross. I ran through the pain and continued on as fast as the cramp would allow. The cramp stuck with me for a few minutes but eventually went away. At the top of a climb I grabbed some water even though I knew that if I was cramping I was already behind the eight ball on stopping it from happening again.
The rest of the lap went well and I kept the White Whale at bay. I could see other racers in my group but because of the nature of the trail system its almost impossible to know if their in front of you or behind you. It turns out the two racers I saw were in front of me and by less than two minutes. I crossed the line with a time of 1:31 and surprisingly took home the bronze medal. I was floored to see my name in third spot. I had no idea I would do so well. Turns out Mike got second in the Single Speed so all in all a good day for us both. Once we had something to eat and drank some water we went for a cool down ride, which turned out to be only 15 minutes shorter than our race. We were all pretty spent so we headed back to the cars to have some beer. I would say it was a great day with wonderful weather, racing and friends.