Part 1 of my Big Bear & Rim Nordic recap left off under the brilliant stars of Big Bear from the vantage point of my tent on Saturday night on the eve of the Rim Nordic cross-country (XC) race.
I usually sleep quite soundly when camping but at around midnight I started to stir as I heard people talking excitedly in the campground next to us. More than the talking, as I gained my full senses, what really awoke me was that our tent would periodically illuminate and glow. OK – keep calm and just forget about it and sleep, I tell myself. I can’t. The light from flashlights continue to shine into and past our tent. After what seemed like 10 minutes, but was probably 5, I decide to get up since now that I’m awake I need to go to the bathroom.
I unzip the tent and again flashlights from our courteous neighbors shine onto me. I fumble for my shoes and shorts and as I walk to the bathroom I politely suggest to my neighbors that perhaps they should stop shining their flashlights into my tent. They apologize offering the excuse that they heard a bear and were scared and wanted to see it. Right. Group campgrounds . . . take the good with the bad!
So the next time I woke up was when I had expected to. At 6:30am I get up and am excited to again have crumb donuts and camp coffee. Yeah, so what if I have a race – I’m not going to give up camp coffee and crumb donuts. Some things are non-negotiable.
With the race scheduled for a 10am start, Samantha and I quietly (because we are courteous group campground neighbors) break down camp and head down the mountain at 8:30am. Rim Nordic is located 15 miles down from Big Bear on Highway 18, across from Snow Valley Ski Resort on USFS land and features cross-country skiing in the winter and XC mountain bike races in the summer. So in short, it’s a wonderful place!
The Rim Nordic XC course is a proper mountain bike race. 75% of the course is single-track which slaloms around oak and pine trees, hugging and flowing the natural contours of the landscape. In terms of profile, racers have to “pay to play” on the first half of the 8 mile loop where we climb 500 feet to the top. The second half is pure bliss as singletrack downhills usher you back to the start/finish line.
I had a great time racing, even if two dropped chains cost me first place. Actually in hindsight, the dropped chains made the race more rewarding because I was in chase mode for all of the second (and final) lap, trying to scramble back to the leader who passed me early in lap one after my first mechanical. My challenge became hunting down the rider because unlike other courses, Rim Nordic doesn’t offer good sight lines to riders in front because it’s so sinuous and densely forested. Not knowing where 1st place was, it became an elusive hunting game which made me think back to my childhood when hide and seek was perhaps the most thrilling game ever.
On the last short climb before the final singletrack I caught sight of the rider and could tell he was either tired or just riding slower perhaps thinking he had this race won. I put down a good effort on the climb and closed the gap but not so quick to alert him of my presence. Near the crest I made a surge and passed him, catching him off guard, 200 feet before the entrance to the downhill singletrack.
Naively, I eased up on the pedals perhaps thinking that since I just passed him his morale would drop and that the singletrack and victory was mine. However, credit to him, he stood up and surged past me just barely overtaking me as we hit the singletrack. Damn. Door open, door shut. On the final descent I was right on his rear wheel and thinking about the final chicane and how to setup for a pass into the finishing chute/sprint. The chicane appeared and he took a wide line so I took the inside line and the sprint was well and truly on to the finish. I had a great surge but so did he and he won by 1/2 a front wheel’s length! Despite 2nd, what a fun experience!
Here’s a short video from the race which highlights the final singletrack portion of the race. Unfortunately, it’s from lap 1 so it doesn’t feature the battle for 1st since my battery died. But it does show how awesome these trails are!
DOG ATTACK. Ok, that’s oversold, but in the previous post I mentioned how at the end of bombing down Pirates at Snow Summit I was greeted by two dogs. I was afraid. Yes, I’m a chicken when it comes to dogs of late. But then, I have been bit three times in the past couple of years. So, while I couldn’t edit my video, I did take some screen shots. I’ll let you judge if I had cause for concern.
So, what do you think of dogs being unleashed? Some dogs are fine I suppose, if they and their owners are accustom to it but it strikes me as being odd and irresponsible to have dogs unleashed in an area with a high amount of traffic (hikers, bikers, jeeps, etc.) if the dogs aren’t used to those they’ll encounter. I’m just glad the dog showed me mercy.