I signed up in the Clydesdale division because it might be the only way my weight would ever be an advantage for me. At two hundred pounds curb weight I was just heavy enough.
Unfortunately for me at two hundred pounds I’m in about my worst shape. That’s thirty pounds more than my “ideal” weight. I’ve not been riding a lot or running much at all. In short, I’m out of shape.
Eleven guys signed up as Clydesdales for the Kentucky Point Series/Bluegrass State Games mountain bike race at Capitol View in Frankfort on Sunday. Troy Hearn warned me that there were sandbaggers in the mix. And at the start someone pointed out that a Cat 1 racer could sign up as a Clydesdale. Oh well, I hadn’t expected to win really.
It was freakin’ hot. Face of the sun. If it hadn’t been race day I would have found a better activity. Like monitoring the outflow of my AC at home. You see why I’m fat.
I’ve become lazy this year. I need to get off my butt more and sweat. I need to race more. Scrap it out with faster people. I need to fall down and get back up. I’ve started back into a lifestyle of being active. My wife and I did the Wildcat Mountain Challenge recently. I raced in the singlespeed category at the Cave Run Kentucky Point Series race. I’ve now got my sights set on the 12 Hours of Capitol View and the final race in the KPS: the six hour race at Laurel Lake on August 28th.
Even though I’m not a Cat 1 racer I still enjoy mountain bike racing. I like riding my bike fast through the woods, but I’m only Cat 3 fast. Or Clydesdale fast. Duking it out with strangers to see who can get out of the woods first adds to the experience. Except if you do it enough they stop being strangers. And I’m not even Clydesdale fast.
Now when I show up at these things I see old friends and new and add to the list of people I can count as friends outside of social media. It’s fun to linger and laugh and commiserate about experiences out on the course. That’s what I truly loved about the dysfunctional climbing community I was part of for so many years—meeting up with friends and sharing adventures.
But the social aspects aside—because let’s face it, I could just go hang out at a bar if I wanted to make friends out of strangers—why do I put myself through the suffering of a mountain bike race at my age/weight?
The short answer is that I love to ride my mountain bike, and the reasons I love to ride in general also compel me to race my mountain bike. That’s sort of the reason, but then there is something about the added urgency and pressure of holding off that guy/girl behind you and desperately trying to hang on the wheel of the rider in front of you that enhances the experience of mountain biking beyond a simple fun ride on the trails.
The race compels strategy and tactical thinking. It’s more than having a good time. It’s about focus and determination and endurance. Racing changes you. It fuels your passion and drive. It can inspire you or shame you to greater things.
Nothing feels as good as finding that pace that you can sustain for miles and spinning the pedals as you fly through the dappled forest floor surfing up and down with the undulations of the trail. Those are the moments I strive for, when I have reached a state of flow and time ceases to exist, heat cease to exist, resistance ceases to exist. That is life. That is my motivation to ride my mountain bike.
When I started out trying to race my bike I aimed for hundred mile sufferfests. But I’m finding I kinda like the shorter races almost as much. I gotta admit the two KPS races I’ve done have been a blast. After the CVP race this past Sunday I’ve even decided it might be fun to do the upcoming 12 hour race there as part of a team.
Gasp! I know! That, coming from the guy whose personal motto is: There is no 'team' in 'I.'