This was my first race since moving back to Missouri (2007), and my second race lifetime (my previous race was the 2005, 75 mile Laramie Enduro in WY). I went in to this race not really knowing what to expect from a local race on a short loop (8.5 miles) of semi-technical trail. I had been training at the gym most of the winter so that my casual riding would be stronger this year, and my previous bike outings this spring left me feeling I was in pretty good shape for a 39 year old. Probably riding stronger than ever before. For some reason this particular race at Greensfelder appealed to me, so I figured what the hell. But having no experience in racing made for an interesting ride…
One of my bad assumptions was that I could take it easy at the start since the group would probably be bunched up for a while and that fighting for position early on didn’t make much difference. I figured that I could catch people one some of the technical portions (I pre-rode the course so knew what to expect). This assumption was instantly shattered when I realized that since I was in the beginner class, there was a large disparity in skill level between the guy who got to the first big downhill first, and those who got there later. It turns out that since I arrived bunched up in the group, I was at the mercy of the slowest rider on the downhill – and was unable to safely pass. This slowed me down so much that the next age group caught up with us before we reached the bottom of the first hill – and they started a full minute behind us! I would say I easily lost a minute or more within the first mile.
My next assumption was that I would be able to catch people on some of the technical sections, and this was true to an extent. There were a lot of guys walking sections, and I was able to ride past them, but this wasn’t as big an advantage as I figured because the main field of my age group was so far ahead.
The trail itself was stellar. Lately refurbished by GORC (Gateway Off-Road Cyclists), the initial 6 miles or so are all flowing single track, reminiscent of some of the best (flatter) trails in Colorado. Never too steep on the ups or downs, it generally flows in and out of the hills and at times opens up into bullet train fast sections of nearly linear trail. If you aren’t smiling on this trail, even in a race, you aren’t alive! The last 1/3 of the loop is a fire road with a nasty climb out of the valley. It isn’t overly difficult, but does require grinding pretty seriously for about a mile. The loop ends with a wide section of double track that is pretty smooth and easy…making it very fast.
I placed 11th in my class (out of 17 riders) which I feel was about what I deserved. I rode strong, felt pretty good throughout, and can’t complain too much about anything since this was my first race. I was just happy to learn how things work, get a feel for where I rank generally in my age group, and I’m looking forward to the next race to see how I can improve my time. The winner of my age group finished about 10 minutes ahead of me…I don’t think I could shave off 10 minutes without some serious training. But, the 5th place guy was only 4:30 ahead of me, which means that 7 of us finished within just a few minutes of each other. This gives me hope that with a little smarter start I might have been able to get a few positions up the list and if nothing else it tells me that I’m in the right neighborhood for hanging with my fellow category 3 racers LOL. It was a really fun experience and I look forward to more this summer. The next race is on my “home trail system” of Castlewood, June 12.
If the race bug continues I can see that my 34lb All Mountain rig probably isn’t the best choice for such things…at the same time I have no desire to take my lunch to the gym every day to train for racing like my awe-inspiring cousin. Is there such a thing as recreational racer?