With my knee slowly coming back into running condition, I have been riding my bike quite a bit and over the past few weeks, I have added some mountain biking into the mix as well. When K told me (on Wednesday) about a local race on a Saturday (August 1st) that we were in town, I was interested in giving it a try. I looked into the course (the Falcon Trail at the Air Force Academy) and most reviewers reported that it was relatively non-technical so that was a plus. We got to the race a little bit late (after leaving the house a little bit late) to find a long line at registration (with 30 minutes to race time). Thankfully, they moved the start time back 30 minutes and I managed to get in a few minutes of a warmup- but not a extensive a warmup as I could have used. 10-minutes before the race start, they called us up to the line in groups starting with the pro men and leading down from there. After we were lined up in the appropriate order, we sat around loosing the effect of our (in my case) already inadequate warmups. Groups went off in 2-minute intervals starting with Pro men, cat(egory) 1 19-29, et cetera. I was back in cat 2 30-39 along with about 10 other riders starting with 6 or so cat 2 19-29 riders.
After we (finally) took off, the course traveled up a slight uphill over a lane wide enough for 3-4 riders before heading onto the singletrack. I did not get a very good start (my competitors were hammering to get a good position) but I was not too worried because I did not really know where I should have been in the field anyway. I settled in to a comfortable pace right behind some riders who were going slower than I would have been going if I would have had an open track. I passed a few riders and then got passed back on a short downhill portion of the course. We traveled down through some rocky stuff and a few stream crossings before heading up for the major climb of the ~12.5 mile lap. I climbed well reaching the front of the cat 2 field (finally) before I flatted near the top of the climb.
#$%@! My tire just went flat (after the race I had a look at the tire and it had just split- no puncture). Pretty much everyone passed me back while I stopped to change it and I got back on the trail with the caboose of my category plus the cat 2 40+ and cat 3 (both of whom started with an additional stagger behind me). I then realized that I was at the top of the major climb and tried my best on the smooth but really twisty singletrack descent. On the second and smaller climb, I caught a few of the riders that had passed me and I even held a few of them off on the final descent to the finish. I went through the first lap and ditched my inner tube and one of my water bottles and headed out for my second lap. For the first small climb, I got caught behind my cycling opposite, he was slow but steady on the climbs, flowed over the rough stuff like water, and descended like a fast guy on a bike. I, on the other hand, slam up the hills, manage through the rough stuff and point it downhill and liberally apply the breaks. I finally got around my opposite and headed up the major climb for second time. I had a good climb and passed a few riders on the way to the top and had a good initial descent holding off the riders that I had passed though the top of the second climb. I was still flustered from my flat on the first lap but I was feeling pretty good about my riding at this point. I gambled a bit with my speed and had a minor crash then had another minor crash on a downhill switchback. This second crash managed to alter the function of my front brakes and I quickly unhooked them and sped off.
It took about 25 meters to realize how bad an idea this was and I stopped and quickly adjusted the brakes as best I could managing to make them functional but much more sensitive than before. This became an issue a few minutes later when I was speeding down a hill and I looked ahead to see that the trail turned to go around a tree. I applied the brakes an appropriate distance from the tree; however, in my haste, I pulled on the front brake without taking into consideration the new sensitivity. I locked and buried my front wheel in the loose gravel, launched over the handlebars, and faceplanted in the dirt. Luckily, no one was right behind me so I had time to check myself for catastrophic injury. Sensing nothing was terribly wrong, I got up, re-attached my visor, and got back on my bike. At this point, my race was over, I had about a mile to go and I got passed by four riders without any fight. I could feel my lip was fat, I had (lots of) dirt in my nose and when I would spit, the stuff that came out was really dark (I was hoping that it was dirt and not blood). I kept my speed under control and rolled through the finish line 8th out of 10 in the cat 2 30-39. After the finish line, I rode around for a few minutes looking for K before stopping to fix my bike and get a drink. Upon removing my helmet, I found that several of the vents were full of dirt (later, I would discover that my inov-8 racing t-shirt had a nice rip in it as well.) I found K, and we took off for Manitou post-hast.
Even though I did not race very well (getting caught behind other riders, crashing, having two mechanicals, riding poorly downhill), I am glad that I did the race. This was a trail that I think that I would really enjoy training on (either cycling or running) but I am just not ready to race on it.