Massasoit Lung Opener MTB Race
April 29th, 2012
My lungs certainly were challenged at the Massasoit Lung Challenge. At race’s end it was the most I could do not to collapse on the ground in a sweaty, panting heap. And as, I would have been a relatively contented heap, but a heap nonetheless.
So this was my first mountain bike race. Since I’ve been riding on the trails frequently by myself and with my team, I felt confident going with Mike’s recommendation to race the Cat 2 (Sport) race instead of in the Beginner category. I have a couple years of road fitness and racing experience, and as of this December, a ‘cross season under my belt; This would just be like a long ‘cross race, right? That said, I couldn’t help but feel nervous as I toed the start line with fifteen or twenty other senior (19-29) racers, most of whom looked like they’d done this more than one or two times. At least I had a bunch of fitness and some CX experience on my side.
The whistle blew and I sprinted to the start of the singletrack, second guy to hit the dirt. I held that second position for the next few minutes until I was passed by a guy on one of the turns where there was a big, wide, visible outside line and then an inside, tight one. Of course, I went wide and a guy went on the inside and got by me. Still, I stuck in for third and we were flying. Flying, perhaps, a bit too fast for my poor lungs and legs. Halfway through lap one, the last couple of miles hit me like a brick and I was moving backwards through the loose group of five that I’d been riding with, guys itching to pass. I was riding solo for a minute or two, then the leaders of the 30-39 race passed me, followed by a couple who had fallen off of that lead group of three. Still struggling and coming to the realization that I had to recover or I’d dig myself further into this hole, I did what any racer in an anaerobic haze would do and pushed further into the pain cave.
Coming through for the second lap, after two wicked painful run-ups that brought you into the finishing straight, I got my second bottle and caught somewhat of a second wind. I picked up one or two of the 30-39 guys who had passed me earlier, and I started to find a rhythm. I felt comfortable with the pain and fount some mental clarity and flow as I rolled over endless roots. In stark contrast to a few miles earlier where I could have crawled into a ditch, died, and felt happy about it, I was now having a blast racing my bike. After going off a drop mid-way through the second lap, I actually woo-hooed as I landed. Imagine that! A roadie, woo-hooing!
Almost coming into the two killer run-ups near the end of the last lap, I simultaneously passed someone and was passed by another rider in a yellow kit. On one hand, yes! On the other, yellow guy was going too fast for me to hold his wheel. I could give no more. I rolled through the finish line exhausted. So it was my first MTB race. I went out WAY too hard, hit a wall, recovered (barely), caught a second wind, had a blast, and ended up with a mid-pack finish in the Cat 2 race. I’m happy with that. I can go into next race with more of a plan, even if that plan goes out the window the second the whistle blows.
The few days leading up to Sunday were pretty busy with work at Cycle Loft, and family, so I didn’t get a chance to get on the bike wednesday, thursday, friday or saturday. Pretty frustrating and I was expecting to have sluggish legs comes sunday for the race.
Morning was pretty uneventful, got to the race, and really liked the vibe. Everyone was friendly and relaxed. I learned 2 things today about MTB races. 1. There is no recovery, and 2. You don’t have to wear a helmet when riding around before and after the race. [Editor’s note, you do need to wear a helmet once registered for any USAC event due to liability, some officials in MTB do not enforce the rule. WE WEAR HELMETS!]. Pretty different culture then road. Got to the registration booth and felt like a total n00b because I couldn’t find any pins, then I found out that they go on the front of the bike. Got changed and found Brandon and we began to ride the course. We must have done about 2 miles, and neither of us had the time so we turned back because we didn’t want to miss the start. Out of the 4 Cat 3 fields, the 12-18 Juniors was staged last. We rolled up to the line, and when the start hit, I gunned it. Emil and I were even on the pavement, and I told him to grab my wheel and hold it so that he could get good positioning and I knew that he hadn’t seen any of the course yet so he would be able to follow my lines. I got the holeshot (do they call it that in XC?) [Editor’s note, holeshot is a moto term for first one through the first turn. In XC MTB, the first into the singletrack.] and powered through the first rooty section. I was riding rather conservatively just because I didn’t want to mess up and take a spill and loose the great opportunity I had. I made it across the sketchy bridges and after I had gotten across them, Emil, Brandon and I had a gap because some other kid had fallen off or put his foot down and that allowed us to get a gap on everyone. Still at the front, I pushed the pace a bit so that the gap could grow, and I believe Emil had popped off a bit, and Brandon was right there plugging along. About 2-3 minutes later, I hear a “Ah no!! I got a flat!” Brandon flatted, and I knew that with MTB races, they are completely self sufficient so I yelled for him to fix it, and I kept going. After a few more minutes of solo riding, I began hitting the back of the previous field. Everyone knew that I was leading the field behind them so they all let me pass with ease and cheered me on. I kept the pace really high so that I could be sure I wouldn’t get caught. Everything went pretty smoothly, and I would look back every so often just to see that I didn’t have anyone bridging back up. A couple sketchy sandy climbs, lost be a bit of time because all the riders from other fields were walking and I had to navigate around them.
I could tell the finish was coming up because there were people standing on the sides of the singletrack. This only meant that the big unridable climbs were coming up. The first one I made up riding, but I probably would have been faster walking, and then I hear Emil yell “Aidan Go! There is another junior on my wheel!” I wasn’t about to let all that work I put in for the last 35 minutes go to waste and I put the gas on. Emil ended up dropping his chain so it was just me and that other junior. The final climb which I “walked” up, I almost passed out because I was pushing so hard so that he wouldn’t be able to pass me. I ended up getting a good gap on him on the last stretch and had a solo victory. First MTB race. First Win. Also going to be my first and last cat 3 race.
I really enjoyed the race and cannot wait to do another MTB race! Something about it made it much more fun then road racing. It was a good time.
Off to Blue Hills Classic next weekend where I hope, and believe if this win has turned my bad luck around, I will be off to a good result!
Sunday morning, I woke up ready to try out my first mountain bike race! I was pumped. When I got there, my dad noticed that I was missing a bolt from my rear suspension. This was not good at all. I asked Mike what to do, and then he told me to go find a new bolt. I couldn’t do that so he just told me to race it the way it was.
Aidan and I ended up getting the holeshot, and followed each other for the first part of the race. HE then quickly gotaway from me. Me and another junior rider were battling to get up to Aidan, and by the last 1 mile, we caught him. Right after I caught him, my chain falls off, and shortly after that I fall over on my bike going downhill. I ended up in third and thought it was a fun race. I am definitely open to do mountain biking again. GREAT EXPERIENCE! GREAT FUN!
Massasoit Lung Challenge was my first MTB race so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Because of a concussion I suffered at Canton cross, I have only been able to ride offroad two times since then. Additionally, I have only ridden one set of trails so I did not know how they would compare to the trail I would ride at the race. I arrived in plenty of time to register and get prepared. I think the best surprise of the day was that I didn’t have to pin a number on! I was way too excited about that. I rode a bit of the course with Aidan before the race but we had to turn around a couple miles in because we weren’t sure if there was an easy way back or if we were going to have to finish the lap. We got back to the start in plenty of time, though, and met up with the two Ethans and Emil.
I had a good start and clipped right in, but I wasn’t able to shift into my big ring so I wasn’t quite able to keep up with some others. Still, I entered the trail third, behind Aidan and Emil respectively. Racing on the trails was a bit weird at first but I quickly got used to the tense nature of the riding. Maybe a mile into the race, I passed Emil and was riding with Aidan about 5 seconds ahead of Emil and another rider. We kept up this order for a little while longer and I was really starting to settle in but then my luck turned bad. I got a front flat which essentially ended my contention instantly. To make matters worse, when I was changing the tube, the tire came completely off the wheel so I had to put it back on while a put the new tube in. This whole process probably took me 10 minutes. After I got back on, I started to catch and pass some women and 40-49 men who passed me while I was dealing with my mechanical. I was pushing pretty hard to see if I could catch anyone in my field but I think that caused me to get a little sloppy. I hit the ground a couple times, but nothing major at all. Towards the end of the race I caught and passed some of the younger juniors which was nice because I was able to improve my position in my category.
Overall I felt pretty good with my performance in the race. I felt good technically and was able to ride features faster and with more confidence than I had in the past. Hopefully with more practice I will continue to improve my ability and my results. I am really looking forward to my next MTB race, whenever that may be.
I arrived at the race at about 8:30 and was surprised at how many people were there. This was my first actual mountain bike race and I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I was excited. I registered, got my number and met up with some team mates. I got my new team helmet and my jacket that I had left at a race a few weeks ago from Mike and Cathy. I got changed and fitted my helmet only to realize that I was very overdressed for the weather and took off my arm arm-warmers and base layer. We lined up in the staging area behind the other age categories in the beginners race. The sprint start was very fast but I got a pretty good position near the front, maybe 6 from the leader. The beginning of the race wet well, until we hit the first steep hill. I dropped my chain while shifting into the small ring and lost about 5 places. A few minutes later I saw another team mate with a flat tire off the trail, he was all set so I kept riding. I caught up to one of the riders who had passed me and was still chasing the rest, no one else passed me for the rest of the race. I passed a few riders from the the other age groups on some of the wider rocky hills. I continued to pass them for a while and settled into my pace. One of the long double track descents that ended in deep sand, I almost wiped out on while trying to turn into the sharp left turn near the lake. I felt pretty good until the last very steep hill that required running up. By the time I made it to the top, I was not feeling too good but one of the spectators said it was only a quarter of a mile to the finish, so I jumped back on my bike and pushed through. I feel that I gave it all I had and had a lot of fun in the process. I will definitely do more mountain bike racing this year!
I got to Massasoit state park at 8:30 for my first MTB race and this was also a team race. My race was the Cat 3 12-18 at 9:30. Since this was my first MTB race I thought that the numbers would just go on your jersey like any other race but when they handed me some wire ties and how everyone else had their numbers on the front of their handlebars i realized that it didn’t go on our jerseys. After I got reged, Aidan, Brandon, and I went on the course for a little bit to check it out. After that we found Emil and Ethan Pearl we went to the starting line. We were the last group to go for the cat 3 so we had to wait a little bit before it was our time to line up.
Once we started I tried to sprint up but I wasn’t in the right gear at the start so I was about 6 back from the leader. At the first little downhill someone crashed around the turn but luckily he got out of the way just in time before I hit him. A little after that we came to a bridge where I saw Ethan P. walking across so I hopped off my bike and walked over the bridge and ran up the little hill afterwards. About 2 miles into the race i was on a pretty smooth descent so I took a drink and when I put it back in I thought that it was falling out so I was fixing it but there was a turn and i guess i hit some branches or something so I crashed. I was fine so I got back up and kept going. After some more smooth descents there was a foot drop with a tight left turn but someone decided that it would be a good idea to put a big tree stump on the right side right after you turn. I didn’t take the turn tight enough and my front wheel hit it and I flipped over it and my bike landed on top of me. I still felt OK and after some people nearly ran me over I got up and pedaled onward.
About 6 miles into the race I come to what seems like a small hill but it was to steep for me to ride up so I hopped off and decided to run up it cyclocross style. Then I look up and it’s this super long a steep hill so I just said “screw it” and walked up it. On the last decent my sunglasses kept sliding down my nose so every chance i got I would try to fix it. Then I took the second to last turn to fast and hit some branches (again) and crashed. Somehow I ended up being under my bike and also manage to dodge another rider. So I just got back up and sprinted until the finish. Despite my misfortunes, It was super fun and I can’t wait to do another MTB race.