It was about time, time for another mountain bike race, time for some more mud, and time for Gatorade and Gu. This week’s episode took place in Black Diamond, Washington, a town I had never heard of, even after living in the Pacific Northwest for 26 years. It was the second race of Singletrack Cycles West Side Mountain Bike series presented by BUDU racing and once again the weather had mercy and gave us a mixture of sunshine and high overcast.
All the usual suspects were in attendance, clad in a myriad of brightly colored, flesh clinging, racing attire. The smell of rotting synthetic fabrics hung thick in the air. The starting line was located down a long straightaway of moss covered asphalt, a perfect recipe for slipping and sliding. The start was split into age categories, 40+, 30-39, 19-29, U-18, and Singlespeed. My brother and I were so fortunate as to compete in the 19-29 group.
Having walked a section of the course prior to the race, I knew that there would be limited opportunities for passing and prepared myself for trying to be as close to the front of the pack as possible off the start. On “Go” I sprinted down the straightaway, around a sharp corner, and onto the course for a total of 4 laps on a 2.5 mile course. Immediately I was in the thick of a rocky, twisting trail. I quickly overtook stragglers from the earlier starting groups and patiently waited for the perfect time to pass. It quickly came on a short but steep uphill. Rather than wait my turn to attempt the hill, I jumped off my bike and charged up the hill around the racers struggling with the muddy rocks. I repeated this technique several times in the first few minutes of the race, passing as many people as I could while everyone was still bunched up from the start. Nearing the half way point of the lap, the trail became nothing but a boulder field. Rocks everywhere. As I jarringly bounced over the rocks, I tried to keep up as quick a pace as possible, I knew it would be slow going for most people in this section, and it was a perfect place to make up ground.
The trail wound around, and eventually came to another short and steep uphill through rocks, mud, and roots. Once again a cluster of riders stacked up on this stretch, and we all ended up off our bikes and scrambling to the top. I tried to run around some riders at this point, but there just wasn’t enough room to get by, and I ended up jumping back on the saddle. Towards the end of the first lap were several staightaways which I made use of by cranking away in the big chain ring. The course wound past a small pondish/lake body of water and I imagined taking a corner with too much speed and pitching into the water. As luck would have it, this never happened. Before I knew it, I was into my second lap, and sucking down a meal of Gatorade and Gu. The field had spread out by this point and I was able to keep up a decent pace. I settled into a rhythm and rattled over rocks and around turns. On every lap, the steep hill in the back section of the course gave me fits. There seemed to be a cluster of people continually trying to scale its lofty peak, and I had to get off my bike and hike it every single time.
Miraculously I had no mechanical issues or flat tires during the race. On several occasions I thought for sure I had bent a rim, punctured a tire, or ruptured my spleen, but I managed to escape Black Diamond with no damage to my bike, and only a large bruise on my shoulder when I ran into a tree. I crossed the finish line to scattered applause; I was glad the race was over; the last thing I wanted was another lap through the rock field. My brother also finished his first race of the 2010 season, and managed to avoid a record breaking 3rd DNF in less than a year. Good job Ben.