Introduction to MTB Racing
By Deb Moulton
After much consideration, and a little convincing, I let a friend of mine talk me into entering a race with her to see what all the excitement of mountain bike racing about .It was a 2½ mile loop that, depending on categories, racers went around any where from 2 to 5 times.
So, here we are at Maine Sport in Rockport, Maine, Kat and I. We have "shown up" We sign up with about 15 min to spare, find our buddy Nate, and warm up by biking up and down the paved road close to the race start. The Experts have already taken off and are doing their laps. Nate explains his pre-ride of the course the day before and says it was not too bad. "A little muddy in places." We wait, we chat.
Sport start time comes around and… Experts are still on the course. The time is pushed back 30 min. The course is so muddy it is taking longer than expected. So… start time plus 30 min and experts are still on the course, it will now be another 20 to 30 min to start. Oh and the laps maybe decreased from 4 to 3. I can go with the flow and I have to go to work when I get home anyway. A few of the more serious racers were not happy, but a vote was taken and the majority of the racers felt 3 was good. Me: no problem with that. I had decided my personal category will be called "sport/touring."
Then we are up, time to start and the word "GO" is said and off everyone goes at the same time. It is a mass start, men and women combined. There are only 4 women, lots of men. I choose to stay to the back, (remember "touring") and hey, staying to the rear, watching a whole bunch of guys who work out regularly go by, not such a bad thing.
Well ...to start with it had been raining the week before the race, so to say the track was "a little muddy" was an understatement.
Everyone pedals across a grassy part of the course and then down a small embankment into the woods, which at the bottom is a mud puddle so deep, it is almost impossible to pedal through and if you do, the mud that continues for the next 30 feet is too thick. I get off the bike, pick it up, as well as most of the riders ahead of me (that I can see) and carry my bike around the mud pit. In hindsight, I should have just continued to carry my bike around the course three times and it probably would have been faster.
While this is a really fun trail, it was the longest 2 1/2 mile loop I have ever biked in my whole life. I still want to go and re-measure the course. And in all my experience in mountain biking I have never seen so much mud. I am in low gears, standing up and pumping/pushing as hard as I can on the pedals, praying they keep going around because mud is building up on my tires, the crank, gears and frame. I swear the entire course is a huge mud pit connected with short burst of dry single track. Shifting is not so easy with all the mud in the mechanisms and "single speed" is running through my head.
Finally, I finish the first lap, which at this juncture before heading back down into the mud pit, is a water stop. Now I stop!!! Most of the others, grab a cup, or shake their heads no, and keep going. I stop, say thank you, to the nice men handing out water. I explain I am in the touring/sport division. The men are very nice and offer to have a cheeseburger waiting for me by the time I finish the next lap. I say "thank you, but not necessary" I would just barf it up at this point. I look behind me, my friend Kat is exiting the woods, Nate is way out front, and I say, "got to go, here comes my friend" and go for another grueling hell round with the mud and trail.
Round two. I think there is even more mud, the trail is getting pretty chewed up in spots and I am thinking "should I just carry my bike around the course? I used to be a pretty good runner."
Water stop, second time. "Hi guys. I am so happy you are here for water." Again. I stop. It is called a water stop. The boys and I exchange hellos, they are still working on the burger and it would still make me barf. One last time to go through the muddy woods. But now there is soo much mud on my bike I am pretty sure it has gone from 20 to 40 lbs. The wheels barely turn on the dry trail for the mud packed onto the wheels and frame. I have never been so happy to be doing 3 laps. I would have voted for two. I huff and puff and push the pedals around thinking, it is only 2 ½ miles. You can do it!!!!
I am getting close to finishing; the novices have caught up to me and are passing. But hey, I am out here, I'm doing it. I cross the finish line. Only 1 hour and 40 minutess to go 7.5 miles. Did I mention that I thought running would be faster?
And, oh! it gets better: I won a prize. Turns out I was the third of the four females. I get called up to (can you believe this?) receive a medal and am told "pick out one of the prizes on the table!" Shopping!!! For gear!!! Free!!! I think I actually held up the line, as I had to browse for a few minutes. I worked hard. I was going to enjoy this and hey, I'm a girl, those boys can wait a few minutes.
My bike, Myself, My friends, fellow racers, all covered in mud. There is a long line at the hose to clean off the bikes. Everyone is smiling and talking about the mud and the trail. Many people did have to stop and clean the mud from the frame and tires because their wheels would not turn. I end up meeting a couple of new people and ran into others I knew.
Brian: I thought you didn't race.
Me: I don't, I did the touring sport division.
Tips on getting into racing, by KT.
Show up at a race and enter! Races can be found at http://www.mainemountainbike.com. Bring a friend and enter together! It's FUN!
Why are there no women age groups? That might stop someone like me " (I tend to be in the higher age bracket)
Not enough women race! Plus we haven't had much of a call for it. If you have 12 women show up to race, it doesn't seem reasonable to sort them by category AND age.
Prizes: Besides the satisfaction of whuppin some butt? Usually the top finishers will receive some bike parts (women and men share usually. Unless it's spandex).
Reasons for Newbies to get into it:
Because you're bored.
To try something new.
Because all the cool kids are doing it.
Know that you can whup your friends.
Be a better rider.
Email nick [at] noumbrella [dot] com with your questions, comments and concerns.
Design and Content © 2002 to 2006 No Umbrella