Bunny Hopbrook Dam Race, Root 66 MTB Series, race 1
This race should be called: Mud in your eye, …and nose, and mouth, and ears, and places you did not even think mud could a find a way in! This race is known by those who have done it in the past, as a cold, wet, mud fest. Sadly this year, they got the weather forecast right. As I drove down to pick up Jeff, it started to rain, and then it just poured the whole 2 ½ hour drive there. As we pulled into the venue, we could see the cat 1 racers on the course and they were covered in mud from head to toe. Getting ready just sucked! It was cold and wet and so raw. Pre race warm up was not great either and when we lined up at the start, every one was jumping around trying to stay warm. Surprisingly, the start field was really big for this kind of weather. In my age group, 33 people lined up, and the count for the day was well over 300 total racers…who says mtb racing is dead? The course started on a grassy area, where racers lined up almost 10 wide, but narrowed to an opening of 2 ½ racers wide w/in 20 feet. Of course the grass was soaked and that small opening was of course muddy and slippery. Everyone went for the hole shot and a nice pile up ensued. I had stayed back a little bit and made it through unharmed. The next cluster f**** occurred w/ in the next 200 yards when the course once again narrowed to a steep short climb into the woods and into a narrow single track. One racer ahead did not make it up the muddy slope and when he came to full stop right at the top and dismounted, the domino effect happened: everyone off the bike and trying to run up the slope to pass those who are not fully dismounted yet, banging elbows and bikes. Back on the single track I remounted my bike and tried in vain to pedal the slight slope. The mud was like peanut butter and I could feel my tire start to slip side ways. I dismounted again and ran this section (during which I immediately was reminded why it would be a good idea to include some running in my training!), which actually allowed me to pass several riders who themselves were trying hard to find some traction but were just spinning out. I remounted as the trails leveled. Even on level ground, traction was hard to come by and the first little downhill section was pretty treacherous. I was trying to only use my rear brake, which was making my rear tire skid all over the trail, but this worked well enough to keep front most of the time going in the direction I wanted it to.After this single tract section, the course went back to a short section of road , where everyone would gain enough speed to have their front tire spin off all the mud it had collected (on the second lap, I made sure I kept my mouth closed!) The road dumped you into a wet long grass power robbing field, and back into single track. The rest of course, though it included a couple of steep climbs that were un-rideable and, one also almost un-walkable, was challenging but was, as long as you did not try to either push too heavy of gear, or picked the right line, manageable and fun. Still very muddy but w/ traction. The key was to just pick the right lines…As mentioned, I started slow and ended up after the slick section, about 2/3 back. I settled into my pace and became more confident w/ the course about 2/3 in. I then started to pick riders off. I could always see the next racer ahead, and would catch up to them, ride their wheel to push them (and recover just a tad), and once I felt they were starting to slowdown, I would pass them and try to catch the next rider. I did this for the remainder of the race. I wiped out once trying to cut a corner after a fast downhill section to pass a rider I having trouble passing. My rear tired slipped, and suddenly found myself doing a 180 and riding back wards. A little like MTB ballet… In the end I managed to claw my way back to 8th place. Jeff did great and finished in 3rd for his age group. One of my struggles w/ racing is that it takes me so long warm up. I think my placement would greatly improve if I could start fast and stay fast. When I try to start fast, I get winded way too quickly and blow up. Any recommendations on how to improve this would be most welcome. I already try to do fast start intervals but this does not seem to be enough….