Trying new things

Posted: October 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

As many of you know, I climb hills about as well as a super model attacks an all you can eat buffet. This fact has helped reinforce my belief that the only problem with mountain biking is the first word. So why, would I endeavor to drive 6 hours round trip and haul my (fat) ass up and down a mountain that I’ve never seen before, when a nice flat road ride or even a cross race would more than satisfy my need to thrash the living shit out of myself? I guess the crux of why I did it could be summed up in a quote attributed to Albert Einstein: “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. “ Recently, I’ve been doing a fair amount of offroad riding and my CX race last week helped improve my confidence in my bike handling.

So there I found myself setting on the start line at 6000ft about to begin the Sawtooth Ridge Challenge, the seventh and final race of the Sierra Cup Series. I think a more apt title for the race would be: “The Sharp Pointy Rocks of Death Challenge.” During the warmup, I sat on the wheel of my new teammate a former National Champ as we took in the first half of the climb. I found that my preparation was adequate for the technical nature of the climb. On our descent back to the start line, I was a bit slower than my teammate, but I gained confidence in my handling, as the descent wasn’t too technical.

Once the whistle blew, our group took off up the hill. I was dropped early on, as expected, so I settled into my rhythm and just churned away. As we were climbing, I was continually passing people from earlier waves. Towards the top, I passed a couple of guys from my wave, though I wasn’t sure if they were in my category or not. I just assumed that they were a kept motoring. As the climb leveled out and the speed picked up, I came to a stream crossing. I was not pleased. First of all, I was wearing my white jersey as I had loaned my black jersey to a teammate who actually had a shot at winning his race. Second, no one said anything about mud, WTF, I’m a roadie! I don’t do mud! I picked a line and plowed through, without getting too messy.

Once the descent started, I learned all too well that I am not a mountain bike racer. I was not prepared for the technical nature of the descent, especially the Upper Woods Trail. I was able to ride the whole first lap (slowly) without significant incidents and returned to my now favorite part of mountain biking, the climb :).

The second time through the mud, I was off line and performed a spectacular, slow motion, over the handlebars, crash with a magnificent splat. Though no replay exists, I gave my form of flight a solid “Joey” and my landing a perfect “Pig fell in the mud.”* I really wish I had a video of the crash, because it was indeed comical. I’d love to know what the guy who was leading the pro men’s field thought as he lapped me while I was fishing myself out of the mud.

The second time down the Upper Woods Trail, wasn’t uneventful either. Just as I was entering the trail, I peaked over my shoulder and saw a lapping rider approaching. As I left the trail to allow him to pass, I lost my footing and toppled ass over teacup. Strike 2. Strike 3 came further down the trail where there was a ~3 foot drop which led into a right handed switchback. I picked my line, felt confident, and when my front wheel hit something hard (one of those sharp, pointy rocks of death), I thought for sure that my collarbone was toast, or worse. At this point, I ask if a crappy mountain biker screams in the woods while he crashes and no one hears him, did it really happen? I can assure you it did, and though I came though bruised but not broken, I won’t soon forget the flight. The third time was indeed the charm as the rest of the race was at nearly walking pace, which I think was more dangerous than if I had went faster, but fear will do weird things to a person.

All in all, I recorded my best finish of the year, in any discipline, or category 4th. Unfortunately for me, it was out of only 5 racers. Failing at DFLing yet again (I can’t even do that right!).

At the end of the day and as a physicist, I don’t really believe in mistakes, they are just learning opportunities. As a brogger and crappy bike racer, perhaps the purpose of my life is to serve as a warning to others. As far as the day goes, I was overmatched and underprepared. I have no one to blame but myself. To that end, I don’t think that I’m a mountain bike racer. Does that mean that I’ll never enter another mountain bike race? No, I probably will. Does it mean that I will be competing for a state title, like both of my teammates won yesterday? I think not. But, as it turns out, if you need to get mud out of your white kit, I’m your man!

*How someone crashes into a mud pit in a white helmet, and doesn’t get a spot on it, I’ll never know.

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