After not racing mountain bikes for over 15 years, I decided the best way to get back into the sport was a 3-hour race–the Bone Bender, A 3/6 Hour Mountain Bike Odyssey in Paradise. Makes sense; pedaling a bike is just that: pedaling. Actually, I can’t believe how different racing a mountain bike is compared to a road bike. My hands hurt, I found new leg muscles, and my lower back is so sore I can barely move. And to think, last weekend I was in the saddle (road bike) for over 5 hours, with nary a pain other than being a little tired at the end.
I haven’t seen results yet, so I’m not sure how I finished, er, um, placed. What I do know is that I rode 3 laps (36.16 miles) in 3:30–my computer shows on-bike time of 3:14. And, therein is the rest of this story.
The start was interesting. 300-ish racers lined up for a running race. The dash for the bikes was almost laughable, with everyone pushing and dancing for position. Thankfully, I placed my bike pretty far down the path. The folks that left theirs near the start were hassled with riding through a sea of runners. Best I can tell, I was 25-50 (big range I know, but there were a TON of people) getting on the bike and onto the single track. Even then, though, it wasn’t really racing but more cruising thanks to bottlenecks at every corner. I eventually picked my way through, found open road and was off and racing. And it even felt like racing. I wasn’t “thinking” but “doing” as we twisted through the corners and technical sections. I settle into a group of 5 or 6, with each of us seeming similar in ability. Our average speed was plenty fast without putting me into the red zone. Perfect!
We stayed together through most of the first lap. A few guys fell off but for the most part we were a pack. Then I flatted. I pulled over and watched racer after racer stream by while I changed the rear tube. I kept telling myself it would be OK; this was a 3-hour race, after all. Then I stood up. I was off the bike long enough that my legs loaded up and were dead when I started pedaling again. GRRRR! I poke around for a few miles and then got back up to race speed. First lap time was just under 1 hour, even with the short stop to change the tire.
Then lap 2. Suck. I went from doing to thinking. It seemed that every corner, rock, or root was an impossible hurdle. I couldn’t find a line to save me. Thankfully, a few guys passed me and I caught a wheel. That helped me get back up a little closer to race speed. I cruised around with them, and through the check point, this time with a lap time around 1:05. I stopped for a quick fill of water and a mouthful of pretzels and was off again.
I felt great…for about 1/4 of a lap. Then my right hamstring cramped into a tight ball of madness. I pulled off, stretched it out and jumped back on. One turn of the pedals and it cinched up again. Fortunately, a racer who was a massage therapist happened to cruise by and offered to help me stretch it. I ended up face-down in the grass while she rolled my hamstring with a water bottle. Nothing like trail-side service! I’m sure it was a site to see, and plenty of racers coursed by while I laid there…yeah, race completely over by this point.
I jumped back on the bike and cruised around at a casual pace. I finished the lap, rolled to the car and drove home. Not exactly the return to MTB racing that I had in mind, but hey, racing is racing and it was great to be on the line. Next time I’ll be a little more prepared–more time in the woods before lining up, better gloves, and maybe a race that’s a little shorter than 3 hours.
Big shout out to Chris, Cow Town, and everyone–even the man in a skirt!–that worked to make this race happen.