Let’s get these three important data points out of the way:
- I finished 35 of 90 (!) despite staging in the back third
- I staged right next to Thom but he beat me by five places
- I know they’re “all winners” or whatever but Orion dominated the under-five kiddie race (which was held on the Motocross course!)
This week I rode my ’cross rig on the course. It made for a subtly different race, not any more physical effort certainly but more mental effort. I couldn’t rely on MTB technology (ultra low gearing, suspension, disc brakes) to power across bad sections. I’m already a big fan of skinny tires on bad terrain, so the jolting (due to lack of suspension) didn’t hurt any worse than many of my weekend rides. But without the ultra low gearing, I had to grind up the berms and climbs — which put me way way waaaay into the red zone on Lap 2 or thereabouts. Like: gut-splitting core pain. I also hadn’t realized to what extent I relied on the old motocross trick of powered braking through turns. I lost the most ground in the Garden of Switchbacks through the trees in the infield.
But if you leave aside the whoop-de-whoops on the motocross track, Short Track MTB is about like cyclocross, minus the barriers, so it’s not surprising that a ’cross bike does well on the course. And for all the time I lost in the Garden of Switchbacks, I more than made up for it crossing the infield meadow, or along the twotrack by the slough.
As I noted above, I staged with Thom in the back third — beginning to realize this is my lot in life, I just don’t have it together enough to elbow up before the start.
Plus, this week I really wanted to cheer on Orion in the infield! He was mucho inspiring, took the drops off the berms so fast Jenny couldn’t keep up, and even on my bike it was a small effort. There was one really gnarley drop he totally would’ve taken (with gusto) but the kiddie marshalls kind of talked the kids out of it (“oh, there’s an easier line over here — you can walk your bike down too”). He kind of skid/braked down it so it was still impressive but he would have completely cleared the field otherwise. As it was, he may have “won,” at least he was the first kid on a scoot bike across the line AFAICS.
Anyway, I held pretty close to Thom but it was a crowded field full of n00bs, and I got onto the wrong side of a little pileup on the first lap. I closed some distance on him by Lap 4 or so but by the last lap it was apparent I just wasn’t going to catch him.
Having done three of these things now, I realize that every race has followed this pattern:
- Stage: back third
- Lap 1: a leisurely clusterfunk trying to pick through the n00bs, usually with a little pileup that puts me back a dozen places
- Lap 2: super-hard effort way past the redline, picking off the n00bs
- Lap 3: a festival of pain wherein my diaphragm tries to squeeze my intestines out the back of my throat. Lapping the other fields (women, juniors) that started just behind the 19+ men.
- Lap 4: a magical second wind wherein I pick off a dozen or so actual competitors. The fields have really run together now and it gets a little dangerous. Corners and berms frequently contain secondary hazards like shaky 14-year-olds.
- Lap 5: no matter how hard I dig, I can only pick off another four or five places, but I finish in a puddle nonetheless.
Having Jenny, Karl, and the kids on hand this week pushed me extra hard. I could hear Orion cheering for me almost every lap. Jenny brought sandwiches, so I could put a little gas in the tank right after the race, instead of burning fat all bonky-like until 7:30pm.
Super big conclusion
Short Track MTB might just be the funnest thing I’ve ever done with all my clothes on. A close tie with Cyclocross at any rate. Strictly speaking, the actual bike-riding parts of Cyclocross might be funner, but those events are usually in cruddy weather (which, yes I know, makes for part of the fun) and they take all day (on a weekend no less). Everyone should ride Short Track MTB.