So - February passes, then March!, next thing you know - here comes April! I'm busy as ever at my desk, checking out stuff of interest on the net and find "EFTA" - That's "Eastern Fat Tire Association". (Just so you know, they won't hack on you if you run skinny-tires). I had been thinking about racing mountain bikes since.. Ohh, round maybe 1988? ish? Never had the nerve though. See, I don't like failure. I mean how harmful can putting off something you've really wanted to do for over 20 years be? Here was my "sign": We had just moved to Glocester, RI in Aug of 08' - Guess where the first race of the EFTA series takes place? Yup!! I am going to be the local favorite!! Not to mention I am too old to give a damn if I lose (maybe).
I present the idea of racing to my wife - who has listened to me blather on bout' my mad mountain bike skillz endlessly through the years. You see, while I might have been fat - all through the years I'd get out here and there and lay waste to co-workers and random people I'd meet on the trails (cept' for the Subaru guy in Douglas State Forest - where are you now dude!?). Her immediate reaction: "you need to get your ass kicked". Nice honey, real nice. There you have it. - Simple enough goal: get my ass kicked.
First race of 09' - THE GLOCESTER GRIND
The day was kind of drizzly and cool. Temps were right around 50º (alt 167) F. Kind of miserable in some ways, but also kind of refreshing. If any of you first timers feel intimidated by lots of men in flashy spandex - come see me and I'll warm you right up with a nice hug. Really though, seeing all of these rad dudes gave me a severe case of the Queen Alexandria Birdwings.
Having read up on racing and stuff I knew a pre-ride was a good idea. Off I went- tra, la, la.. how nostalgic. My first ever pre-ride! I start riding around the course which starts in a smallish field - it then ducks into a little pine forest and then, then.. Holy Crap! A mud-hole infested with rocks (this is the best overall description of the Gloceseter Grind FYI). Being a technical hero in my mind, I figure I can clean it. "It" in turn dirty's and bruises me. *fall number one* Thankfully no-one sees this, so I continue on pre-riding. As I keep riding, I continue to chance upon more of these rock gardens - and continue to think I can find the best line right from the get-go. Not so. *fall number two, three and four* It now occurs to me that this course is just as, if not tougher than the tough stuff I ride in Douglas State Forest - even worse - I really don't have the time to figure out all the best lines. Not good.
So I continue on and catch up with some slinky dudes in really nice looking spandex. They see me coming and for sure -it is plainly printed on my entire outfit "Novice idiot racer". Being perfectly non-competitive gentlemen, they up the pace a little. Being a non competitive gentleman myself, I in turn up my pace a little. Lo & behold - they go a little faster! This trend continues and I am starting to feel it. The speed increases to the point where one of the riders declares to the to other "umm, this is a little bit fast for a pre-ride". Now, I'm totally smug-ified with me. Hah! These dudes are all fancy looking and I have induced a verbal truce! Hah! hah! Ho! SH#%!! *fall number six* I am left for dead. I decide maybe it's not so smart to continue at this pace before the race and ease my way back having completed the whole loop. I get back to the car and things are bad - real bad. All of the crashing has torqued the hell out of my back. Having alot of experience, I know when a bad back session is coming - it's here, I'm there and I want no part of riding around that thing again. Decision time.
I spend about 15 minutes at the car deliberating the situation. One part of me knows it is a bad idea to go through with this, the other part wants no part of limping home a failure (see paragraph one). So I decide. Luckily I have a little baby jar with various meds - and it has some Ibuprofen of some sort. I pop a couple of those, do a few stretches - and limp back across the road to the start area. It's on.
Because there aren't so many of us they group our age category (35 to 41) with the older guys (42 to 50). I swing around to get in the lineup and... *fall number seven* Yep. Not quite used to the clicky pedals - get stuck in one and fall over in front of the opposition. The announcer on the bull horn makes the most of this (thanks so much Maz) and declares to all: "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE OUR FIRST CRASH !!!" I mutter something about clipless pedals to the guys near me and they chuckle very nicely. Speaking of opposition, there is some serious hardware in the group - it makes me even more nervous. Before I know it, - Maz yells "GO!!"
I charge from the start - holding 2nd or 3rd until... the first left hand corner in the lovely pine woods section. I catch a wet root and the ground catches me soon after *crash number eight*. Four or five guys blow past - and I get back on the bike and crank with everything I have. I am so pissed at this point - that it takes only a few seconds to catch back up with the group. We flounder through the mud and this time... this time, I am smart at the first rock garden. I ride as much as I can safely and then quickly hop off to hike-a-bike the rest of the way. Learning - idn't it grand? After the first rock garden there is a stream crossing with a well-established cut on either side. Some guy on a $4000 bike hops off and proceeds to walk through right in front of me. I yell to him: "coming through" and he yells back "your riding through that!?" - (all of this takes place within milliseconds). With no time for nice, nice - I yell back "YES!!!!" He is clearly in the way and I choose the only alternative: over the 2' vertical bank into the stream. With massive exertion - I hop back up the other side (an equally impressive embankment). Take that super nice bike guy! (the bike - not you)
The rest of the middle of the race is kind of a blur - except one really stellar crash. There was section where you could either ride through a deep puddle with a bank and log on the other side or ride the alternate route - a very wet and slippery plank. Having already tested the board side ( maybe crash number four or five?) I opted to go for the mud puddle / log. It became quickly apparent that this option wasn't any better than the board. I caught the log at the worst possible moment with the front tire and the bike simply disappeared *crash number nine* sending me flying super-man style where I landed me a solid 10' beyond the log. While us novice idiots where sloshing and crashing around - the real superheros were getting in their warmup run. Just as this crash occured, one such superhero was behind me. In the most valley-boy california accent he piped up - dooood!!! That was epic! RU like OK?? -I replied "Fine thank you!" - his reply, "Ok man, don't worry about me - I'm not racing ha..ha.. ha.." Towards the end of the race I noticed I was gaining on someone I recognized - it was one of the guys I started with. This spurred me on a bit - and I put my all into finishing as strongly as possible. Holy cows - I did it! Finished the race - and I can still kind of walk!
End result: 1st place (in my age group) OK... - so there was like only 3 or 4 guys in my age group - but this was something special for me. Here I am, almost close enough in weight to race the clydesdale class (200 # - A half gallon of pre-race water would have done it) and I manage a decent time (for a novice). Maybe I'll have to check out the next race. Further end result - my back seems to have benefitted from all the action. I thought for sure I'd be laid up for a week. Instead - some pain, but nothing debilitating. Yay!
Go get my ass kicked - Hah! Take that my lovely- your man is coming home a bona-fide MTB winner.