I signed up for Sugar Hill, a local mtb race at Patapsco with firm goals of "training through" it. When going for training and not racing, why not get the most bang for your buck and do the longest race of the day?
Conclusion: a lot of reasons. One being common sense.
I was prodded into the expert race by a friend and my ambitions to race 3 laps instead of 2. And oh my did I get my moneys worth. I'm no mtbr. I try, and have gotten better so that I crash usually only once in a ride, but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. And my muscles sure don't get it.
Road riding is great. Put the power down, drop your friends on a climb, simple. In mtbing you are constantly hitting full gas only to brake to a halt to round a hairpin before flooring it again. Constant sprinting. My body made it clear today, its not a fan.
I went out to Patapsco knowing I would be WAY out of contention for a win, but I was excited to try my hand at a big mtb race. My first two races on the dirt were small and the fields were not competitive so this would be different and new.
We sprinted off the line and had about 500m to ride until we hit a fire trail that quickly turned to a single track and climbed for a third of a mile (fairly significant around here). The group quickly stretched to a congo line and I was somewhere in the top 15 after my back line start in the group of 35ish riders. The pace up the climb was fast, but not unbearable and by the top I grew a bit antsy. I jumped hard when I could to solidify my spot in the top 10. My last minute acceleration opened a huge gap and I was over 10 seconds up on the next rider quickly.
Loving life and the race I was absolutely flying, not recognizing that I would be out there for 2+ hours I began reeling a strong rider in as the first half of the loop was mostly up hill. Making the catch I felt on top of the world. "Maybe I'm better than I thought I was" I pondered. The course turned downhill and my dreams of speed evaporated instantly as we hit many technical sections that had me unclipping and running at times through mini boulder fields.
Soon, there were 6 plus guys sitting on my wheel because my lack of "finesse" through such sections was costing me minutes. And just like that, I was out of the top 10. The lap ended and I realized I had gone far too hard and settled into a more reasonable pace. But, the damage was done. With each lap taking about 40 minutes, my legs were already screaming.
One good thing to live by in life is to never ever doubt what you concluded while in a fully calm state of mind if you are NOT in that state of mind at present. I made a terrible decision to not bring any gels with me. Biologically, your body has about 90 minutes of glycogen on hand to work with. Once you burn through that, you need something or your muscles begin to make sarcastic remarks such as "why are you under the impression we can do that?"
With my heart rate plummeting as my legs got heavier, I soldiered on through the second lap and lost more places on the back half of the lap again. The beginning of the third lap was a relief and agony as I realized I still had 40+ minutes of racing to go. I struggled through the climbs as my lack of nutrition sunk in. With about 20 minutes to go I was in full on survival mode as I was deep into a bonk. People passed and I couldn't have cared any less. There was simply nothing I could do.
Around that time when all you need is the finish line, I had the pleasant surprise of my rear shifter falling off my bars. After stopping and selecting a gear I thought to be good for the rest of the course, I wrapped it around the bar and got back to it. Of course, this happened right before the longest climb on the course, so more pain to be had in my noodles of legs.
I finished about 10 minutes slower than I had hoped, but happy. I raced my butt off, made some rookie mistakes, but got a phenominal training day in. I can't recall ever laying on the couch after a ride, not moving, but still feeling pain in my legs. But today, that is my new reality. Mtbing won the battle today, but I sure did enjoy duking it out!
I think I finished 23rd, but many behind me dnf'd so I was among the last 5 to come in! Humbling, but I've never been more proud of doing so terribly!