What a bum I have been lately. Ever since the MS 150 this year (which was awesome, see Tree Squirrels post) I have been feeling pretty wiped out. Not because the MS 150 wiped me out but because a nasty stomach bug hit our house right afterwords. Since then I've only been on my bike to commute to work, went mountain biking once, and rode the road bike to the church on Wednesday night. I wanted to go yesterday but the freezing rain kept me indoors.
I found out about a mountain bike race this weekend and although there was very limited information and this weekend has turned out to be brutally cold for September, Chris convinced me to give it a try. The race was called Riverfest and was held at Riverfront Park. I entered in the Mountain Bike Sport Class which was a 7 mile loop around the park (originally supposed to be 2 loops before our Arctic blast rolled in). The girls both had soccer games so Sarah and I had to arm wrestle to see who got to race.
I rolled out the door just after 9am this morning covered head to toe to shield me from the 38 degree temperatures and wind, at least there wasn't rain like yesterday. I rode over to the park and to get a leg up, I rode some of the course knowing it was going to be the sloppiest part of the race. To my surprise, they cut a new trail to bypass the worst part of the mucky mess, something I'd struggled with all summer. Unfortunately this new trail wasn't much better since it was freshly cut, muddy and not compacted. But at least I knew what to expect.
We started the race in a Le Mans start, a short sprint to your bikes and off you go. Not my strongest start because I always have troubles clipping in with my dual sided pedals, the clips always seem to be down and I have to fumble with them to clip in. We started and I was the second to my bike but I quickly dropped to the back of the pack while trying to clip in. I could see the lead pack ahead of me and I huffed and puffed to keep up. I was feeling pretty good about being on the tail end of this lead pack although I could hear others not too far behind. I was huffing and puffing at this point and wondered how long these guys could keep it up. Before long the pack peeled away and I only caught glimpses of them through the trees.
As we crossed the bridge onto Norm's Island, I caught a glimpse of the pack again. They were spreading out. Before long I overtook two people. Everyone else was long gone. Soon I was riding by myself with no sign of anyone ahead or behind me. I eased back on my pace just a bit to something more comfortable but still aggressive. The going was tough with mud caked to my wheels with short respites on paved or graveled trails to fling the mud off. Before long I was in the home stretch with familiar trails, stuff I ride all the time. I knew then, if I had a chance to overtake someone, it was then. I took off into the canopy and approached the split in the trail that I'd seen this morning. I hit the turn hard and too fast! The back wheel slipped and I had to dip a foot. What's worse is that I lost all momentum and had to push myself up the mucky hill and then struggled to clip back in. I knew this mistake cost me but I still pushed it.
After I broke into a clearing, I looked back to see someone on my tail about a hundred yards back. I hit the gas and took off. This part was pavement and knowing that I'm not the strongest road rider, I pushed it hard so he wouldn't overtake me. Up ahead the course split from the pavement and onto the grass with the finish line in the visible distance. I peeked back and couldn't see the other rider. The grass was rough and I bounced so much that I had a hard time focusing on the finish line. I saw someone riding towards me which I thought was weird. As I approached the other rider, I realized we were riding the same direction. I stood up and tried hard to overtake him but didn't have enough distance to do it. I finished about 50 feet and just a few seconds behind him. Bummer, because he took 3rd place overall. I took 4th. (I won't mention how many riders there were overall but the showing was scant). Seeing that Chris took second and I was just seconds behind the third place rider, I feel pretty good about it. Chris took two golds and a silver medal at the Big Sky State Games. I feel pretty good anytime I can keep him in my sights even for a few miles.
See Billings Gazette article for more info including that awesome picture above!