It was an important day, yet an unimportant day. There was a lot riding on it, yet nothing was riding on it. I was under a lot of pressure, yet no pressure at all. Confused? Good. Last Saturday was the inaugural Bike for Bender Ride the Hills – 6 Hour Challenge. Bike for Bender is an organization that was founded to remember the deceased Robert Bender. It is a great organization that is doing a lot of work on developing both trail systems and the young athletes that will be riding them to the top of our sport in the near future. You can read much more about the organization on their website.
All that I knew going into this race was the the course was on private trails that we could not pre-ride, Allan Laframboise designed the course, and it looked something like what is in the video below.
After viewing the video, I made a last minute decision to pre-ride the course, only to find that it was much more difficult that I had anticipated! It was pretty rocky and rough. It really made my wish that I had a full suspension bike in my quiver. The lap times were also longer than I was expecting. I was expecting 35 minute laps for the solo guys, which would enable us to get in 9 laps. That, however, was not going to be happening.
On race day, I showed up early, like always. Only, it was not early enough this time. I was told that the parking in the meadow had filled up and that I needed to park up at the Camp Tahquitz entrance. From there, I had to carry everything down a hill. A walk that was probably .3 miles long. Between talking with people I knew and setting up my pit area, I found myself short on time and was only able to get a 5 minute warm-up. After my short abridged warm-up, I took a spot near the front of the pack and was ready for the “neutral” roll out.
I knew that I’d have to stay placed well at the beginning of the race due to the large amount of single track. I placed myself well and didn’t have any traffic for the first few laps. The only problem was that I was riding above my threshold for a bit too long. 4 laps in and I wasn’t able to recover. The muscles that took the worst beating were my shoulders, triceps, and forearms.
My forearms were the first to cramp. It was the worst arm-pump I’d experienced in years. Next was my triceps. I felt unable to support the weight of my upper body on my handle bars. Then, my shoulders. Maneuvering the bike was a burden. After 4 laps, I started taking breaks in between. I saw some posted results and knew I was in the lead. I ended up putting in another 2 laps, giving me a total of 6 laps in 5:02. In my category, it was enough for first place.
So what about all of that importance? the pressure? That was something I placed upon myself. I have been training since may and this was the first race back where I felt in good shape. My performance would either motivate me to keep training, or crush my hopes and dreams and lead me to believe that it has all been a waste. Although I wish I would have held up and performed a bit better, I’d consider the race a success. I learned that my upper body is currently my limiter right now and am focusing on rebuilding some lost muscle and endurance for the next race. I didn’t crash and wasn’t worried about crashing. I descended strongly, not showing any signs of fear from my crash. I’m ready to get back into mountain bike racing full swing.