Monday, August 27, 2007

Absolute Bikes Race Report

On Saturday, my friends Sarah, Eric and I traveled up to Flagstaff for the Absolute Bikes Old Fashioned Mountain Biking Race. I really started mountain biking around three months ago, so even though I am still uber-beginner, I like reading about awesome racing and I felt that I wouldn't fully understand the sport until I saw a race first hand. The race was held just north of beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona, which for those that don't know is the highest city in AZ. The city is located at >7K ft elevation on the side of Mt Humphreys (a 12,800+ ft mt). It is an amazing place to ride with sunny beautiful temps of 70s, trees, grass, wildflowers, hills, rocks, and very twisty turny tight singletrack. Basically everything I DON'T have while riding in Phoenix. Since this was my first biking venture in any of these conditions, I decided to skip the beginner class of the race and go straight to the sport class which was two laps instead of one of the 11 mile trail. More for the money right? Always the bargain shopper, me.

Anyway, we got up there about an hour before the race and I was immediately overwhelmed by the hordes of professional looking racers in their fancy uniforms and special bike shoes. I was too busy trying to get my bike wheel reattached properly (quick release my a$$) to have time to get nervous. All of a sudden I am lining up at the back of a huge pack of mostly all male riders and people are taking off in 5 minute intervals. Suddenly its my turn and I nervously ask some other riders if the course will be marked because I don't want to get lost and never be found again. Follow the pink tape, they say. Gotcha. Bang. Pedal.

I am suddenly flying along a dirt road that stretches forever, up up up through a beautiful forest and all I can think is "I can't believe I am doing this." I quickly found a rhythm and just followed the lead girls up the mountain. I found myself in fourth place but closing in on third and finally glanced behind to see no one was relatively close. At some point, the dirt road climbing (2.5 miles in) ended and all of the sudden I was going down. I started cranking and reeled in third place thinking "Oh this is fun!" Just as I go blowing by her, I notice the person frantically pointing to the right towards a narrow path of singletrack entering the forest. Oops. Looks like I am supposed to be turning...can't stop ahhh. I went into a skid and turned my bike sideways in the first of many graceful (and not so graceful) wipe outs. I am pretty sure the girl I had just passed laughed her butt off as soon as she passed me. I would have, I am sure.

So I get up quickly, assure the concerned course guide that I am fine and take off into the woods. Something about this high speed wipe-out really destroyed me though and I immediately felt sluggish and tired and completely uncoordinated. People starting passing me, including some of the other girls, my friend Sarah, and many of the expert men on their second loop. It went something like this...climb onto bike, pedal until hitting large rock, lose balance, get frustrated, climb off bike, hike a bike and then start all over. The whole climb on the first lap I sucked. I ran into a tree while a guy was passing me, I went over the handlebars a couple of times just due to hitting a root or rock and not being able to bail out. I finally got to the "its all downhill from here" point and was almost too tired to feel happy. I even hit some loose sand on an easy downhill part and had my most painful crash of the day so far.

I think about the time I came back through the finish line and had to decide if I was going to take a second lap, I realized that I was so completely out of my game that I needed to snap out of it. I was hurting (hand, leg, arm) from my last crash, but mentally I was ripped. I remember thinking, you are riding so badly because you are frustrated and timid and it's killing you. So I kept right on riding through the finish line and started lap #2. At this point, for whatever reason, I felt a calmness spread over my body. I stopped breathing heavily. I started hearing birds, seeing wild flowers, smelling pine... and I just rode. Up the dirt road, onto the singletrack, up up up the rocky climb that so killed me last time. I hardly had to get off my bike. The path was almost deserted this time, since the good people were already past and the beginners had stopped after one lap. I think I rode at some points for 15 minutes without seeing a soul. I just rode and enjoyed the ride. I wasn't looking at my time, but I remember thinking, just learn from this, get better, stop less and ride more. And I did. I came to the downhill part and thought "Wow, that wasn't that bad at all that time." I just let go on the downhill, letting off of my brakes the majority of the time. And when I rolled across the line, I was smiling ear to ear.

See my smile :)

I ended up getting 7th out of 9 women in the sport class to finish in 3:15. However I got second in the 20-29 category as many of the riders were older (hence the trophy). I beat my friend Sarah (fellow ODP member who got third), but only because she had a couple of flats. But really, I didn't care at all about my final placing. I was just happy that I dropped 16 minutes off my time on the first lap from a 1:45 to a 1:29 and had zero crashes. Overall it was a great learning experience. I always feel I get so much more out of something when I have to fight through the quitters mentality that plagues the depths of my psyche.


joe studer said...

I am pretty impressed with the story of your race. Do you wear knee and elbow pads? Ava has a Disney Princess helmet and pads set, it's sweet. Can you beat TJ in mountain biking? How about Stratego? Beware, he moves his bombs like they are men. When do you break from racing so you aren't all banged up in your wedding dress?

chris thomas said...

Does your bike have breaks, or do you just pedal backwards? My dukes of hazard bike had the backwards pedalling thing, I used to do bad assed skid marks in the driveway.

la chaser said...

back breaks are awesome. okay joe and chris, i want to hear a story about tj riding his bike as a kid. crazy or timid? whats the story?

la chaser said...

also joe, i am already currently on mountain biking hiatus now for the wedding. just going to spend my time cooking and cleaning.

joe studer said...

Chris, you were the Matt Hoffman of leaving long skidmarks. Both in the driveways and in your pants. Hannah, there aren't very many good stories that involve TJ and biking. He always faked an asthma attack halfway thru any Watkins road bike races. The six of us Watkins Road kids had all kinds of olympic events, including; breakdancing, bike races, relay races, kickball, barnball, jump out of the highest point of the haymow, whitewater ditch can racing, etc. I think TJ collapsed in dramatic fashion into a fake convulsion in just about every event while he was between the ages of 5 and 9.......unless he was in first place.

chris thomas said...

Everything Joe says is accurate. The only competitions Teej didn't fake an asthma attack in was Bingo at the gomer Dads club, only because MawMaw was the sherrif of gomer, and bribed the ball puller guy so tom would win. Also Tom lost his anal virginity to the banana seat on susan's 10 speed. That's really the only cool tom biking story I got.