Race Report: Spring Fling Mountain Bike Race

9:19 PM

I stopped getting nervous for races years ago (sort of a happy side effect of my getting burned out as a collegiate runner), but even if I still got butterflies before a race I wouldn’t have had any on Saturday.  The Spring Fling race is really a tune-up for local mountain bikers for the real season that begins next week with the opening race in the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series.  Originally I was going to ride in the beginners category (one lap as opposed to two), but when my week went off the rails (1,700 miles in a car over four days will do that) I decided that I was in need of the type of serious butt-kicking that only a two-lap race at Hillside will give you. 


So I lined up with…wait, I have to describe my great victory for the day…

Ok, they really are scary when going down them...
My great victory actually happened during the warm-up, when I finally attempted and conquered the scariest feature I’ve come up against in our local trails.  Hillside has a curving staircase you ride down with a bit more exposure on the right hand side than I am comfortable with.  The trick is that you have to ride gently down the dozen or so twisting stairs without applying the brakes too tightly – a sudden jolt from a riser drop and an abrupt squeeze of the brakes and it is end-o city down a rather steep drop-off.  The stairs are tricky, but it is the possible consequences that have always made me walk down them. 

With a few deep breaths and a strong commitment to not brake and to look at where I wanted to go (not where I didn’t want to go), I made it down safely.  I decided against riding them during the race as I had to stand at the bottom for a couple of minutes before I could get my legs and hands to stop shaking. 

So I lined up with about 40 advanced men and two other women (got to love a race with a guaranteed podium) and steadied myself for about two hours of pain.  It was really strange to be in the middle of the bumping crowd again once we all got going.  As a result I was way too tense during the first lap, something that dawned on me as my back started to seize up heading into the second hour.  From then on I entered a very embarrassing whiny phase where every hill, rock, root, and tricky turn was soundly cursed as I passed.  Mind you, I was pretty much in no-man’s-land at this point, as the local category-one woman was off ahead of me, and the other woman was far, far behind me.  With second place all wrapped up and no one around, behaving like a four-year old seemed the appropriate choice.

The last 15 minutes of the race were awful, as the radiating pain in my back increased and I could find no comfortable position on the bike.  I crossed the finish line and immediately sat down in the shade of a tree bent over double.  When the category-one woman crossed the line a couple of minutes later my first thought was, “Sure, she actually went out and did a third lap for a cool down and still almost caught me!”  Even when she started talking to one of the other racers about a flat tire, I didn’t put it together.  It turns out that she flatted out in the course and had to walk all the way back to get a tube, and my bellyaching for the last hour and fifty-three minutes had actually netted me first place…

A glorious victory celebration followed…um, no…we had a nice picnic lunch, I won a cooler-bag as a door prize, and I ate way too much carrot cake for desert later that night.  It was, after all, just a tune-up…

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