I did my first mountain bike race in 2004 and didn't race mountain bikes again until last year. I did one short track race and a biathlon at Soldier Hollow, and that's the extent of my mountain bike racing experience.
But since Monday was the annual Stan Crane Memorial Intermountain Cup race that pretty much takes place in my backyard, I basically had no excuse not to race, as long as it actually happened. It rained much of Sunday and into the night, which threatened to cancel the entire event.
A one hour delay to the start time turned into two and almost three. The course was completely changed, but eventually we were off. I was actually happy about the course change, as it put us on fire road for the big climb, which wasn't as steep as Clark's, and I thought the pitch and duration would be right in my wheelhouse. It also meant I wouldn't have to go out as hard and would still have opportunities to pass.
While still on the singletrack, though, I tried to make a pass while adjacent to some barriers. As I tried to go around, I clipped my handlebar on the barrier and crashed hard. I smashed my right quadriceps right above the knee and wasn't sure I could even pedal. I thought I'd already lost too much time and thought about withdrawing altogether but didn't. When I got back on, grass was jammed in my cassette and every pedal stroke hurt. I had to stop again to clean the grass out. I got back on again and figured the bruised muscle would loosen up if I kept pedaling.
There was a fast descent on a fire road right before the big climb, so I put it in the big ring and went for all I was worth. As I rounded the corner onto the climb, I could see the race leaders ahead and kept after it.
Once at the top, I lost more time on the descent, as I was stuck behind a slower rider and couldn't find a way around. When I did finally get a chance to go around, I found that the rough trail had knocked my chain off. I had to stop to put it back on and was once again discouraged about my chances.
On the fire road descent of the second lap, I was able to make up a lot of time. My legs were feeling strong, so I pushed hard on the climb. This time I descended in the big ring to keep my chain tight enough not to come off in the rough sections.
Back at the start/finish area, Rachel didn't realize with the course changed and shortened that we were doing three laps instead of two, so she wasn't there with a fresh bottle. I still had some water, but was feeling like I needed Carbo Rocket.
As we started the final lap, I could tell my competitors had used a lot of energy, so I kept it in the big ring and pushed hard up the singletrack. By the time we got to the doubletrack climb, I still felt strong, so I kept pounding and then tried to descend fast but clean so I didn't crash out.
I made the final climb, crossed the finish line, and found Rachel. "How'd you do?" She asked. With all the start waves, she couldn't tell where I stood.
And it felt awesome. In fact, it still does.