Last year I picked up my first significant win in mountain bike racing at the US Cup race in Fontana. Now I’m at the back of the pack. Emphasis on back. My back is simply not cooperating with me right now. I took 3 Advil a half hour before the race and after a good warmup I felt cautiously optimistic that I might be able to put forth a good effort at race pace without the back flaring up.
But before we go any further, I have to shame myself and entertain you with a look no racer should attempt. One’s self-confidence can take a beating when wearing this:
There were a couple badge-carrying fashion police inspectors out on course and several of them had some witty barbs for each of my four laps. While good for laughs, it’s not a look I wish to continue. Back to the back….
I felt great at the start of the race, tucking in mid-pack aware of those around me and the climb ahead. The Fontana course features a long steep pavement climb – a sort of pay to play entry fee to the backside of the course which features some great tight technical singletrack that rolls with the terrain. Perfect trail for my strengths as I can pick off less-skilled descenders and gap those behind me.
Not this week. My back seized up on me at the tail end of lap 1 and by the middle of lap 2 I had a serious internal conversation about quitting It was that bad. I was stopping on my favorite downhill sections and letting people pass me. I decided to see if I could get to end of lap 2 where it flattens out and re-assess. I saw a teammate and my wife, gave them a sideways glance and decided to tough it out. Like the Bonelli race, the new goal was to not finish last.
By lap 4 I had either gotten use to the pain or the Advil kicked in but I felt some power come back. I was able to finish 15th of 16 with eight DNF’s. A solemn victory. But at least I rocked the wrestler look! (Ok – I didn’t rock it.)
On Sunday I got to play team manager, mechanic, photographer, bottle exchange guy, and #1 fan for our team’s CAT 2&3 riders. All of our team’s CAT 2 riders found the podium so it was definitely a fun experience to watch them compete and reap their rewards. My wife and her friend and teammate, otherwise known as the Kasel Cycling Ladies, keep improving and it’s great to watch their camaraderie and supportive competitiveness drive each other. Here’s my favorite photo of them as they warmed up before the race:
So what have I learned? More Advil! I’ve also started doing better core exercises with the goal of strengthening the back. Perhaps I’ll take up voodoo. Any suggestions? I’m definitely in need of help considering my next effort this weekend may just kill me…. seriously. Vision quest.