I made the drive out east Friday afternoon to the tiny farming community of Ephrata to race the Beezley Burn mountain bike race. It would be my last short-course race of the year and, since it was nearly 2.5 hours from home, I figured I'd get my money's worth and race in the Expert class. Besides, what's the worst that could happen... other than coming in last place? I struggled with the decision of which bike to bring as I had heard it was a pretty rough, rocky course, but one look at the rich, chocolatey mud that coated my full-suspension bike had me racking the 29er soft-tail afterall. After a quick photo stop at Wild Horses Monument near the Columbia River Gorge, I pulled into Lyon's Park in Ephrata right alongside a couple other racers in an RV.
overlooking the Columbia River.
The course was 7 miles long with 755 feet of elevation gain and Expert class would race 3 laps. Based on our pre-ride, I began to have doubts about my ability to finish all three laps before the next race started, some 2.5 hours after my race started. I struggled to sleep through the night for fear of embarrassing myself come morning. Do I belong in the Expert class? Am I going to come in last? Are the Pro/Open guys going to lap me? Actually, I think my fitful sleep was more due to the uncomfortable air mattress I slept on in my Element.
I rolled up to the starting line at 9:30 am under clear, dry skies and temps nearing 70 degrees. The Pro/Open class managed to get the ten entries needed to secure the full $1,000 in prize money (donated from the town managers of Ephrata to the race organizer as an incentive to lure out-of-towners... genius!) and started just a few minutes before us... just enough time for the dust to settle. Literally. There were 16 people racing in the Expert class, with 6 of us in my 30-39 age group. The race started and 7 or so racers immediately sprinted out ahead while I found myself leading the charge in the second pack that had formed. The first half-mile was on a gravel road, then we quickly dive-bombed down a rocky, sandy section of steep singletrack before working around to the main Beezley Hill area. The course was 90% singletrack and, for the most part, the course winded up and down the side of a massive sagebrush-covered hill. As a rule of thumb, an average of 100ft of climbing per mile is considered an overall "hilly" ride. This was hilly.
Catching my breath after a steep down-and-up.
Grinding my way up another climb.
(Loving the way those uniforms came out!)
The early section of singletrack was pretty flat and I was in the big ring pushing a pretty hard gear leading up to a steep climb. The guy behind me was so close to my rear wheel that I didn't want to alert him to the approaching hill by downshifting -- he'd hear the shift -- and I had a feeling that he was probably looking down and not aware of the steep, loose, climb coming up. Not sure if it would work, but I mashed my way up the hill without shifting in hopes of catching him by surprise on a hill he wasn't ready for. When I looked back a minute later, I had put about 50 yards on him. Coincidence? Strategy? I don't know, but I continue to pull away from him throughout the rest of the second lap. I finished my second lap in a time of 40:13, barely a minute slower than my first lap.
The third lap was uneventful. Although one guy passed me late in the second lap, nobody else passed me during the entire race and I reeled back in two people on the third and final lap. I was really pushing hard now, trying to make sure that I finished the race on a good note and, for posterity's sake, finish in under two hours. So much for worrying about not being able to finish before the Sport race began... I finished the third lap in a time of 39:58 for a total time of 1:59:23. 21 miles and 2330 feet of elevation gain and nearly all singletrack in under two hours. Mission accomplished!
I wound up placing 4th out of 6 racers in the Expert 30-39 category, although the two guys I beat both dropped out after the second lap so the official results look as if I came in last. Whatever. More importantly, I finished in the middle of the pack among all Expert racers. Not bad considering I'm not really training for short-course racing at all.
The race organizer, Jake Maedke, did a tremendous job staging this event and for securing a truck-load of free giveaways that were raffled off after the races. Everyone took home something ranging from a socks/lube/grips to a new set of Haye's hydraulic disc brakes or even a Park bike stand. As for me, I won a large tub of HammerGel, a DVD by the Collective, and a pair of socks -- my raffle prizes were worth more than I paid in entry fees! And the fun doesn't stop there! The New Belgium Brewing Company (Fat Tire Ale) sponsored the post-race BBQ. I didn't make it over to Jake's parents' house for the BBQ and beer, but I'm sure it was a good time. As for the Beezley Burn, it was one of the best organized and funnest events I've done. I'll be back next year, for certain!
Special thanks to my sponsors BradyGames and Re/Max on the Ridge for supporting me this racing season -- the uniforms look great! I also want to thank Justin Kooy for graciously sending me the photos he shot while out on the course. Thanks everyone!