Race Report - Red Wing Classic (MNMTB Series #3)

3:56 PM

“The only difference between a good race and a bad race is that you learn something from the bad race.”  Joe Friel
Ok, it wasn’t a complete disaster of a race – I rallied and was able to achieve one small victory at the finish.  Long story short: I enter the long, rock strewn climb called Stairway to Heaven in the last lap much farther back in the placing than I wanted, and I was pretty much out of contact from the women ahead of me.  I put into play all that I’ve learned when attacking this technical hill: get low, relax the arms, let the front wheel go where it wants to, scoot forward on the seat…

I make it through the first tricky turn onto the hill proper: cool.  I maintain constant pressure on the pedals to keep my rear wheel from spinning out and find myself about 15% of the way up the hill: great.  I keep pedaling as my front wheel decides to take me over to the left of the trail, right over some big rocks: neat-o.  Now the bike has decided to track back to the right where it is a bit smoother: sweet.  I’m a bit disconnected and seem to observe all of this rather than experience it.  As I get higher and higher on the climb my low expectations have me convinced that I’m about to join those who are walking up this hill…

I’m now over half-way up the hill, and my excitement is starting to build.  Up ahead I see I am catching a group of riders who are off their bikes and huffing and puffing their way up…wait…isn’t that a women rider?...isn’t that a woman in my age group?!  I begin a new mantra: “Stay on the bike, keep the mechanical advantage, stay on the bike, keep the mechanical advantage…”

My bike, laying down in proper supplication before Stairway to Heaven
As I pass her (slowly, but pedaling) she looks at me and says, “Nice pass.”  I manage a whispered “Thanks” and start to count the gap I am now creating in feet.  With some shock I realize I have moved from sun back into shade – I’m 90% up the hill and back into the tree cover, just where the hill ticks up a notch and throws down some 8-10 inch rocks.  I’m exhausted, I’m farther up the hill than I’ve ever been, and I know when to celebrate even a partial victory. 

As my front wheel stalls out against a rock I am too tired to unweight for, I swing my leg over my bike and scramble up the last bit of the climb.  I have about a 15 foot gap at the top, but since I am able to get on my bike quicker (and also because I didn’t work quite as hard to get up the hill as she did, thank you mechanical advantage!) I wind up with about 50 feet on her when we hit the next turn in the meadow.  The gap grows a bit in the last section, and I finish about a minute ahead of her.  It is my worst overall finish in the series, but I did eek out a first in my age category with this one climb.

So it is a day later and I am starting to gain some perspective on this race.  I like the Joe Friel quote because it reminds you that a bad race isn’t all bad - it provides you an opportunity to learn, if you will accept it.  My thoughts are beginning to coalesce on what I can learn (in all honesty, I started thinking about what I could learn from the race while it was going bad), and in the next day or two I hope to get something written down.  Perhaps we need a bad race every now and then to shake ourselves out of complacency, identify bad habits we have slipped into, and put together a plan for change…

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