Today’s race was forty one miles chocked full of long strenuous climbs, flowing single track and streams galore. I had a bit of a rough day, but held in there finishing with a smile. For any individual who has not experienced mountain bike racing, especially a stage race, this blog is for you.
My alarm sounds at 6:20 a.m., but I’ve been up for at least thirty minutes. Each morning, hunger and the inevitable fast metabolism brought on by repeated strenuous activity, act as an internal alarm clock. I eat a large breakfast, mostly carbohydrates, consisting of Bob’s Red Mill gluten free oatmeal, almond butter, Chex cereal and coffee. After feeding and walking my dogs, I put my riding clothes on and head out.
I’ve found that it’s best if I spin for around thirty minutes before the race starts. The start line at a large event like the Breck Epic is a buzz of energy. Riders are found littering the streets as they warm up. Music is blaring from speakers near by, spectators are meandering around, photographers are snapping pictures, and the local police join in looking very official and content.
About five hundred riders are corralled together, shivering from nerves and chilly temperatures. At 8:30, we’re off! The pace is always fast in the beginning, and riding so close together can really wake you up. It’s best to always stay aware of riders in front, on the side and behind you. It could be very easy to clip someone else’s handle bar, and if one person crashes, they can take down several others with them.
In the pack, I listen to the sounds of wheels and hubs working around me. We sound like a pack of bees moving together towards the hive. I listen to the heavy breathing, and know that I’m not the only one who is feeling taxed by the pace. I pass other riders and even more pass me.
The pack quickly turns onto the first steep climb of the day. I race by a few people and notice the race director and one of the police officers cheering us on. Smiling, I begin up the climb. Even though the route is taking us up a narrow dirt road, or what we call in the cycling world, double track, there is still only one good line to ride on. The remainder of the road is littered with big rocks, not ideal for spinning up such a steep gradient.
Looking up, I see a line of other cyclists. I hold my position, put my head down and keep spinning. At this point, there isn’t much talking going on in the pack; we’re all too busy trying to breathe. As soon as I reach the top of the first climb, I’m off! I pass a few people on the descent, while keeping an eye out for any obstacles.
Before I know it, I’m alone and I’m climbing again. I catch a few folks and together we attack the next arduous climb. This is the rhythm of every day. We climb, then we descend. Sometimes I converse with my fellow racers, sometimes not. I listen to the sounds of nature. I listen to my own breathing. I enjoy the little moments out there, each pedal stroke at a time.
The hours pass, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but each day’s race eventually comes to an end. There is always a sense of accomplishment as I ride through the finish line. Every race is filled with a mix of suffering and joy.
My legs feel tired as I settle back into my camper, my sweet dogs snuggling beside me. We go on little walks throughout the afternoon to stretch the dogs’ and my legs. I eat, I eat more, and then I work on this blog.