OK, so again I entered the fray and tried my second mountain bike race of the year. My first attempt at mountain bike racing did not go very well at all as I wrote about in this post : http://mikemac356.blogspot.com/2010/04/decorah-time-trials-aka-suck-fest-2010.html
Normally I run, I am not much of a mountain biker although I do enjoy it, I was pretty apprehensive about this race but having said I would do it by God I was going to do it. The Sugar Bottom Scramble was billed as the Iowa State Mountain Bike Championships and the race was held 23 miles south of where I currently live so it was definitely convenient. The course would be run on the mountain bike trails in the Sugar Bottom recreation area around the Coralville Reservoir.
Things didn't start out the best as I was on call at the ambulance service the night prior to the race and as luck would have it we got a couple calls that were spaced out so I really didn't get much rest. I also could not find my bike tools, extra tube or chain lube in my newly cleaned garage. I did try to hydrate though and I definitely succeeded as I had to use the porto potty several times before the race started. Myself and Jessie arrived about 0900 for the 1000 start of the Cat 3(beginner) category. We had to walk about 400 meters to the sign in point where I filled out the necessary waivers, then Jessie stayed there while I went back to the car to get my bike and equipment. The first thing I noticed about this race as compared to the time trials earlier in the year was everyone didn't look like Lance Armstrong. There actually looked like there was a few guys I could beat and everyone was not wearing spandex. The atmosphere was much friendlier and less cliquish.
At 1000 we all lined up on the gravel round headed east for the mass start, there was 27 of us Cat 3 riders as well as 3 Collegiate Division guys that had decided to race with us. I stayed to the back of the pack not really knowing what to expect with the mass start. After a few words of encouragement the race organizer blew a whistle and I hit the start button on my GPS and away I went. I was at the back of the pack as we pedaled down the road and up a steep hill, as we climbed the hill the first rider fell out as he was having chain issues. I passed him and took a right into the woods.
The first thing I noticed was that the trails were not as difficult as the ones at Decorah as well as being dry. Decorah had been brutal as well as muddy. The course went generally downhill for the first two miles and I was keeping one of the collegiate riders in my field of vision as I shifted gears into the second chain ring and concentrated on keeping my pedals spinning over the roots and around the turns. Somewhere in the first two miles the rider with the chain problem passed me on a turn and I was dead last. No problem I thought I just need to finish. The chain guy had issues two more times and we passed each other twice in the next two miles until he must have resolved the problem and he pulled away and I never saw him for the rest of the race.
Approximately mile 4 I passed the collegiate rider who had been slowing down since we entered the uphill section, at mile 4.6 I passed two more riders on a hairpin turn, they were stopped and looked like they had some medical issues. I resolved to keep a steady pace. 5 miles into the race we popped back out onto the gravel road this time heading west, I knew that we were about half way but I also knew the most technical part of the course was to come. My legs were starting to fell the burn from all the climbing in the first 5 miles. As we entered the woods again we paralleled the lake for about .5 miles and the cool breeze and the boats on the water made me glad I had entered this race. As we crossed the road again I saw a long uphill section of single track and slipped down into the easiest gears.
I was alone, I could see no one ahead nor hear anyone behind. I kept pedaling telling myself no matter how slow I went I needed to keep pedaling and not to coast. We were hitting intermediate and expert level trails at this point and there were several places were I had to push the bike uphill when I lost momentum on an obstacle. We crossed and recrossed a little creek on wooden plank bridges that were usually followed by steep rocky uphill climbs. It was at mile 6.8 as I was going down hill on a particular steep and rooted section of the course that I got too far over my handle bars and went ass over teakettle. Bike going one way and me the other. Unlike Decorah this was my only crash and I recovered quickly jumping back on the bike and heading down the trail. I heard voices ahead and saw an incredibly steep hill with people standing at the top. From pre race recon I knew this must be the double black diamond "Cyclocross Hill." Discretion being the better part of valor at this point, I just hopped off my bike and ran and pushed my bike up the hill. I waved to the spectators as I hammered it ( for me anyway) towards the finish line, which I knew was less than a mile ahead. I rode passed the finish line as Jessie clapped for me. This race was much better than my previous experience. For one thing I didn't finish dead last and I actually enjoyed myself. I will definitely be doing this race again next year.
Addendum: GO Mikey GO!!http://www.flickr.com/photos/13292076@N08/4944210486/in/set-72157624721249001/lightbox/