I don’t consider myself much of a mountain bike racer anymore. I no longer worry about planning a season, sponsorship proposals, race nutrition or how many hours I’m getting in on the bike. I’m also finding that where I once gravitated towards races of six to twenty-four hours in length, I am now drawn towards shorter marathon races (in the 50 mile range) and cross-country racing.
There is a variety of reasons for this: some burnout, some “been there, done that” attitude (seriously, there is no need for me to EVER do another 24 hour race in this lifetime), increased parental responsibilities and demands, and of course my recent history of DVTs and being on blood thinning medication. If I am going to crash and potentially have a bleeding issue, I would rather do it on a 10 mile loop with easy access to help, rather than in the middle of nowhere during a 100 mile race.
Still, no matter the length, I enjoy racing and continue to do it just as unsuccessfully as I did five years ago, This time making sure that I don’t take it too seriously.
With that lengthy, un-needed introduction out of the way, I now move on to yet another un-needed race recap that truly did not need to be written, this time from Saturday’s MMCC Rust Shaker XC race in Harrison, Michigan.
As mentioned before, the MMCC trails are just 25 minutes north of my home, and while there is a trail system closer to my house, there isn’t a close one as lengthy as the MMCC trails. The trails–maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers–are a rolling mishmash of buff singletrack, short power climbs, embedded rocks and roots and a little bit of sand. They are 99.9% singletrack and can be ridden in loops from 10 to 16 miles in length. A chance to race on them and help support their continued care and development is always a welcomed opportunity.
For Saturday’s race, I was in the two lap, 26 mile Open Vet division with 15 other racers, including a nice group of friends and locals that I ride with. My race goals were simple: have fun, don’t crash and bleed out, but push hard and try not to be last.
So with those goals in mind, I stood on the start line gritting my teeth in a cold breeze as the race official commenced the final countdown to the start.
We were soon off down a short stretch of pavement before turning left across a vacant parking lot, onto some rolling grass and into the singletrack. I’ve never been a fast starter and these days I have no interest in mixing it up and crashing on the pavement just .25 miles into a 26 mile race, so I waited until we hit the grass, pulled away from a few riders and settled into the singletrack.
Once in the singletrack it was all about patience, passing when I could and not making any risky passes off the trail and risk ripping a derailleur off. I know the trail well and I knew when and where would be a good place to pass for someone with my not-so-lofty mid-pack goals.
About six miles in, I made what I think was my last pass of the day. I was now alone and would remain so for the rest of the race. Anyone that races knows that this can be hard. Being caught in no man’s land between packs is the worst. The pack in front was too far ahead to realistically be caught and the pack behind was too far back to urge up to me. Other than a lone expert woman who dangled about a half-minute behind me there was no one. It was now going to be a 20 mile time trial to the end in the cold and blustery spring morning.
Sadly, there really isn’t much more to say. My bike was awesome, the trails were perfect and I felt just fine. Despite riding alone for much of the race, there is something about actually BEING in a race that pushes one to ride harder than a normal weekend. It felt good to do that and I crossed the line in 9th place out of 17 starters in my class.
After I caught my breath, dealt with some post race lung butter and hiccups (I seem to always get hiccups after a hard effort) and changed, it was off to the awards, where like any racer who is part of the isolati, I helped myself to my share of post-race pizza. Priorities.
Next up… who knows, spring is busy with B-Man’s soccer and lots other family commitments, so I will ride often and race when I can or want.