|Don't ride muddy trails... unless you're racing and have the trail leader's approval! Photo credit: Angelina Peace|
So, I knew it was going to be very difficult to get on the podium like I did last year. I figured that it was still a possibility though, since anything can happen in a race. And, indeed, things happened that moved me up in the placings. It turned out that both Rafal and Jakob quit after four and five laps, respectively.
|My nephew, Logan, and I made our own podiums! Photo credit: Rachel Loewens|
The race got under way pretty well for me. I was able to get to my bike (it was, again, a Le Mans style start) and get to the first climb towards the front of the field. They included a section of single track on the climb this year, that created a bit of a bottle neck earlier on than usual, but I was able to get there without having to slow down too much. As we emptied back onto the double track climb, I was able to make up a few more places before hitting the main trail. I set into the singletrack feeling pretty good and I was moving very well for me. Things were gelling and I was flowing through the turns carrying good speed. I was happy with that and no one was catching me from behind yet. That's unsusual since I'm still racing my CX bike on these trails, so when things get turny and a bit rough, I'm usually at quite the disadvantage.
About maybe a third of the way into the first lap, on the kind of bermed S-curves just before the new section, my front wheel washed out and I hit the ground pretty hard, rolling on my right shoulder. That hurt! I got riding again right away (after gathering the food that had fallen out of my pocket, thanks Tyler!), and though my shoulder and side were a bit sore, it was nothing I couldn't handle. It took me a good lap or so to get my bike handling back under control, but eventually I was able to get past the mental block that can come with a crash and got to riding more smoothly again.
|Getting back into the flow after crashing. Photo credit: Kyle Hansen|
By the time I made it back to the pits, the pain had subsided to more of an ache than a sharp pain so I decided to press on. At that pain level, I knew I could finish the race, but it was slowing me down. I was much more ginger over every trail feature and stayed seated on more climbs than normal. Going through the rock garden was the worst cause carrying my bike (no way in hell I'm riding those rocks on my CX bike!) really aggravated whatever it was that was tweaked in my back.
On my next time through the pits I told Cameron, who was pitting for me (and doing a killer job at it!) and my wife that I was going to need ibuprofen on the next lap. I was able to keep riding, but it was pretty awful. I hoped that the ibuprofen would take the edge off the pain enough to kinda enjoy the rest of the race. They got me the meds on the next lap heading into lap six and about two-thrids of the way through the lap I started feeling better and by the time I started my last lap (eight was definitely out of the question at that point) I was in really good spirits again. My last lap was my third fastest lap!
|Cameron was on point in the pits for me. AND he finished third overall in the men's cat 3 race... He's 13 years old. Photo credit: Rachel Loewens|
So, I didn't hit my goal of eight laps and I didn't end up on the podium. I honestly was bummed about not hitting the podium, but knowing how stiff the competition was and the fact that I was able to push through some real dark moments in the race means that I don't feel bad about my performance even if I was disappointed with the final result.
I learned, yet again (and more poignantly) that marathon MTB races always have difficult times in them that make you want to quit. But those feelings are generally only temporary. If you keep moving, you can usually get past them.
Now, I'd just like to get past the healing process of whatever I did to myself in that crash. It would be nice to be able to reach for something on the top shelf of a cabinet without grimacing! Ha!