Monday, May 1, 2006

WVMBA - Big Bear

First mountain bike race of the season. I'd only done a handful of races last season, didn't have a lot of prior training, just riding a bunch of trails in the area. This winter was an easy one, so I was able to ride my road or mountain bike at least twice a week throughout the winter. Didn't really follow any plan, just tried to ride as much and as far as I could depending on the weather and my initiative. I lost about 15 pounds last year, and was able to keep it off during the winter. Also, I'm 43 and you know, that weight just like to come off as easily.

My goals for racing: to try and stay in shape, not get hurt, have fun, and not finish last.

Back to my first race of the season. Woke up early Sunday morning, had some oatmeal and started on the drive to West Virgina. About two hours later I arrived at the second race of the WVMBA series held at Big Bear Lake. I signed up for the sport 35+ vet category. Last year I raced as a beginner. Most of those races were about 10 miles long. This race would be 14.7 miles long with much faster racers.

I took a pre-ride to warm up some, something I never did last year. Did some stretching, and then sat around way too long for the start of the race, they had moved back the start time by 30 minutes, grr.

Lined up at the starting line, there were about 175 people in all categories, all waiting to start. Experts went off first, then sport category went off about a minute later. We started with about a mile and a half of road. This helped us spread out some, but as soon as we entered into the woods, we plunged into single-track riding and abruptly came to a screeching stop. Some of the less-experienced riders got bogged down at some "technical" areas. After about a mile things cleared up a bit. Mostly because there was a really steep hill (I did say we were in West Virginia) and I quickly got off my bike and started pushing. I noticed last year that it took me about 4-5 miles to warm up, and today was no exception. At least I wasn't alone pushing my bike, most of the sport riders were pushing.

I hooked up with a group of riders about my ability. I was able to hang with them for a while, until my right lower back started cramping up. It was a problem I had last year on these longer rides, but I thought I had stretched and strengthened enough this winter. But alas, I think it's that I need to tweak my bike set-up some more.

Anyway, my back was cramping bad, tried to stretch it while on the bike but it wasn't enough. So I had to dismount and stretch my back out. Probably lost at least a minute doing this. Meanwhile, my small group of riders continued on. I thought I'd catch them, but couldn't close the gap. About 2 miles later had to get off and stretch again.

About half way into the race I got in to a nice pace (except for my back problem) I had a decent speed going. Legs were tired but the lungs felt pretty good. I wasn't passing anyone, but the good news, no one was passing me either.

The trail at the top of the climb had some rolling hills, and I crossed over an old airstrip by going over a very odd looking "bridge." Half way up the bridge, I hoped that I was really supposed to be on it, as it's rickety state did not provide me with any confidence.

Back into the woods, and then down the backside of the mountain. About a mile's worth of downhill awaited me. There were a bunch of rocks, but my new bike cruised right through it. I have five inches of travel in the front and back, compared to the 2.5 inches I had last year. The new travel allowed me to just pick a line and go and not really have to worry much, what a great feeling. I felt like perhaps I was gaining on the racers in front of me, making good time. When I reached the bottom of the hill I took a bad line and ended up in a mud bog and had to dismount. Worse, one of the women riders went flying by me. Well so much for me thinking I had made great time down the hill.

Back to some uphill sections, made most of them but had to get off occasionally to stretch, losing more time, grrrr. Hit the top of another "hill" and saw a rider not too far in front. I pushed it for about a half mile and saw a water station. The rider was off his bike drinking some water. He looked like he was exhausted. I finally passed someone! I left the fire road and entered into some beautiful pines with "bank" turns. What a great section. Then I headed downhill.

This downhill must have been over a mile long, and rocky!!!! But once again my bike proved up to the task. I was in a groove, just cleaning the downhill rocky sections with no problems. I ended up passing two other riders who had to pull over due to the technical aspect. Well into the downhill I experienced something new. My arms were actually getting tired from such a long descent. I had done a lot of weights over the winter, thankfully!! But still my arms were wasted. The downhill section dumped into an old creekbed. Not much water in it, but a lot more bigger rocks. Got through most of it, barely and onto a fire road.

I heard a rider gaining on me a little bit into the fire road. He yelled up that he wasn't racing, just going from one monitor station to another.

"How are you doing?" he inquired

"Well , I'm still riding, so I guess I'm ok, " I replied.

"What category are you racing? Clydesdales?"

Arghhhhhhhhhhhh, the clydesdales. It's the category for riders over 200 pounds. I guess I look heavier when compared to the anorexic expert racers, but not THAT heavy.

After I let the rider pass, I tried to get past that traumatic experience and finish the race. I figured I had about 2 miles left. I tried to push it as much as I could, but had to get off a couple more times to stretch the back. Got back in a groove and pedaled hard around the dam and back into the woods. Suddenly in front of me I saw that the trail was to cross a creek bed. There were a lot of long thick branches stacked in the bottom of it to act as a bridge. There was about a foot drop off that I barely saw as I got close, not enough time to pull of the front end so I just rode through it. Bang! Wow, I hit the bridge hard, surprised that I rode out of it without breaking the bike or myself. Passed a judge shortly and mentioned to him that I hit that bridge hard. "I know, I could hear you from here."

Felt someone behind me, saw the finish line. I pushed to the end and kept the rider behind me. Realizing it was a woman that wouldn't have been in my category anyway. Ah well.

Post race. My legs were exhausted!! My lungs felt not too bad. My back was screaming, my arms were very tired (never experienced that before) and my neck was starting to tighten. I ended up in 30th place in my division - last place except from the riders who did not finish. Had I not had to get off my bike to stretch my back I think I would've finished about 5-8 places better. As it was I finished in a time of 2:11.07.

Lessons learned: I need to train more, lose more weight, or both. I need to adjust my bike setup so that I don't have the back problem (didn't have this problem with my old bike). My carb packing pre race was good, the oatmeal was a good breakfast. I had 3 gel packs in the 14.7 miles, that was about right.

Overall, I really enjoyed the loop, the people were friendly, weather was great, and if I can get rid of the back pain, I'll really be looking forward to the next race.

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