Saturday was the first of what may possibly become a monthly series of impromptu, grassroots time trial mountain bike races. The course was 4.1 miles in length and utilized many of the outer trails at Tolt-MacDonald park in Carnation, Washington. The trails were in good shape. Mostly dry with only a few patches of mud, and although there were a few slick roots and logs, it could have been much worse.
Before starting everyone loosely seeded themselves in order from fastest to slowest. Some wanted me to be the first to go, but I instead opted to go 5th. I said it was my lucky number, but really I just wanted to avoid the possibility of encountering other riders and also not feel "chased".
Despite helping flag the course the previous day, I still had to pause and look around for the flags a couple of times due to the complexity of the trail system, but fortunately I didn't get lost. I also avoided any major crashes or mechanical problems for the most part. I slipped and fell once or twice and definitely bumped into a couple more trees than I'd care to admit, but it went well.
Out of the 18 or so riders that participated in the time trial, I surprised myself in beating all but 1 of them. A couple guys who I expected to beat me finished several minutes back and, perhaps more importanly, I didn't beat myself. I have a tendency to not take events like this very seriously and usually just go through the motions and laugh my way through it, but I felt good and pushed myself pretty hard. I was out of the seat for much of the race and was definitely not holding much back.
A couple of us joked around about the "Bode Miller Effect" before and after the race. The "it's only for fun" mentality and the "I care more about my race tomorrow" type of comments. And, there were more than a few "I didn't know the course" complaints and blaming one's bike for their time. The thing about mountain biking though is that these excuses can be said by anyone at anytime. There's always something slightly out-of-whack on most bikes; everyone crashes; everyone gets turned around on the course and struggles to find their bearings; and everyone is out there just for fun. Nobody is really taking it very seriously. That's what's so cool about mountain biking -- it's an imperfect science. Victory doesn't always go to the swiftest, but who manages to quiet their "inner whine" and just shut up and put up.
I can whine with the best of them, but fortunately on Saturday, I avoided the gears on my bike that don't shift well, I stood when I couldn't sit because my seat slid out of the clamps again, and I tried my best to not get lost and not panic if I didn't see a yellow flag. And this all worked for me and I surprised myself (and more than a few others I think) by posting one of only two sub-thirty minute times. But as happy as I was with my performance, I was really glad to just see how psyched about the event everyone was. I enjoy little races like this amongst friends and it's great to see others feel the same way.
And now I'm told that I get to enjoy some bragging rights for the next few weeks. Many of us meet back out there on Tuesday nights so it will be fun playing "king of the hill" this week (the guy who won rides with a different group of people). Of course, next time it will probably be my inner whine that refuses to be quieted and I'm sure I'll be on the receiving end of some friendly smack talk next month. Either way, I'm sure it will be fun and nobody will mind come the following morning.
PS: In no way am I saying that those who did suffer an actual injury from a crash or serious mechanical failure didn't have valid complaints. Eric & Bernie, I'm looking in your direction. But the rest of you... consider yourself served! Oh snap...