Narrative Essay On Cross Country Race

I can say it has been over a year since I did my last amateur cross country race, between moving, family/work responsibilities and a self admitted laziness in actually getting my ass to a race early Sunday mornings when I could be sleeping in, I do, in fact miss this part of my cycling experience, therefore I am hoping to join in on the weekend racing festivities next spring when the local mountain bike series starts up again. Even though I have not done much racing lately, I have been doing plenty of riding and having a blast exploring all the sweet trails in my small part of the world.

While writing this article on racing I was reminded of all the excitement, nervousness and unplanned chaos that comes hand in hand with weekend racing and I suddenly remembered why I began racing in the first place: because I love the chaos, I love the feeling of butterflies in my stomach as I stand at the start line, waiting for the race director to yell, GO, and I love getting beat up on a technically and strenuously demanding race course and then crawling across the finish line, half dead. I started thinking about the events and adventures I have had in the past while racing, some amazing and some I would like forget, but one thing I can tell you, being an amateur racer is never dull!

Race recall

We arrive at the race site and I have two hours until the start so we head to registration to pick up our race numbers and return to the car to change into our bike kits. I start my warm up and after a half hour of trying to shake off the early morning sleepiness they finally start calling everyone to the starting area. I line up with the women in my category right behind the men and wait nervously for my category to proceed to the start line. When our category is called forward I line up in the front row on the right side and start sizing up the other girls and notice there are about 8 women in my group and some that look really fast.

Appointment time!

Boom! With a bang the whole group takes off like a rocket into outer space and the hustling and bustling starts right away. There is a half mile climb at the beginning to help thin out the group in time for the singletrack and the whole course is a 5 mile loop with a nice mix of fire roads and choice singletrack. Two girls, both in yellow and black outfits immediately go for hole shot at the top of the climb so I grab the wheel of the rider in front of me and we take off down the first twisty singletrack.

It’s not actually very steep just a swooping tight singletrack with many sandy corners. The yellow clad women are still in front of me as we get dumped out into a wide fire road that leads us to furthest point on the loop, so I settle into a steady pace and make my way up the 2 mile fire road. My plan is to stay back until we get to the end of the fire road, so I stay behind the two racers, trying to save my energy.

About a half mile left till the singletrack cutoff so glance back to see if anyone is gaining on us and sure enough there comes another girl pounding her way up the fire road. I move to left side of the trail and try to pick up my pace as much as my tired legs will let me. I’m hoping our group will speed up so the girl barreling up behind us doesn’t bridge the gap. I manage to beat the yellow clad racers to the singletrack and take the first sharp turn which leads down a narrow trail full of switchbacks.

I swoop down the singletrack like a hawk looking for a snake. Down around the turns, man I’m nailing these switchbacks, however coming through the second to last turn I came in too fast and my back end proceeds to slide out in a sand pit. This causes me to pop my left foot out of my pedal and catch myself in a weird flailing kind of way to keep from completely flying off my bike. I made a big mistake navigating those corners so fast! So guess who passes right by me during my awkward bobbing and convulsing? The two yellow clad racer girls and here’s the real kicker- the girl flying up the fire road. Crap!

We all descend down the fire road back to the start finish area and the next two laps are a matter of me trying to stay within sight of the leaders and not lose anymore places. No matter how hard I push my self I can not gain back my 3rd place finish and I am starting to tire so I back off to keep from blowing up. Toward the middle of the last lap I start to catch up to the fire road girl but never quite make the connection so I stay at my pace for the rest of the race and ended up finishing fourth. After the race, Rick and I had a few brews and just relaxed in the summer sun. Not a bad way to spend the weekend!

Crazy times while racing

Some of the nutty things that have happened to me over the years:

-we were stopped for speeding on way down to the Sea Otter Classic one year. The start times for this race are dementedly early, we were running behind and since I was driving a shiny red car, with hardly any other cars on the freeway, I was a sitting duck! I informed him we were headed to the Sea Otter, so he let us off with a warning. I was stoked! Another year at the Sea Otter some of us girl racers ended up getting lost while on the course because the course volunteer left his post, so we took a right turn instead of a left. Needless to say we lost a lot of time!

– let it be stated for the record that I have history of barfing on the way to a race or right before a race, often times in the race venue parking lot. Mainly because I don’t do well with early morning activities, plus I tend to get car sick easily. This has become known to my friends and teammates as the “pre-race vomit”

– one particular race that we planned to do was put on by a local radio station. We packed up everything in the car and headed off to the race site. Pulled the bikes off the car, changed into our kits, only to find that I had left my bike shoes at home. We were to far from home to retrieve them and no one had an extra pair shoes I could borrow so I was forced to watch from the sidelines.

-we have participated in race called Boggs several times and one of the years we attended there was problems galore! There is a well known population of rednecks in this part of California, furthermore it is a small town and visitors aren’t generally welcome but there had never been any problems until this particular race. During the night some of the locals tore through the campsite with big noisy trucks and changed all the race course markings and signs, so the next day when the race started a bunch of racers, including Rick and I ended up becoming lost.

– one year we drove out to race Mammoth and planned to set up a small two man tent when we arrived at the camp ground. What we weren’t expecting was all the rain and in the process of setting up our tent, a tent pole broke. We piled into our truck like drowned rats trying figure out where to go to get a replacement part. We succeeded in finding what we needed at a local hardware store, had some dinner and by the time we arrived back at the campsite, the rain had let up.

At this point Rick decided he wanted to build up his new frame, so he proceeded to begin transferring parts off of his old frame and strapping them on to the new frame, but of course there were additional parts needed so went spent the rest of the evening looking for bike parts and finishing the new bike. That night was noisy as well because a bear kept coming through the campsite, opening and closing the dumpsters, slamming them down each time. I hardly got any sleep and was not very coherent for the race the next morning.

-one race we did was in a town called Briones, in Northern California, a few hours from our home. We arrived at the venue site with no complications and had just finished setting up our campsite when a couple of cop cars arrived and over loud speakers announced everyone needed to evacuate the campsite due to a grass fire headed in our direction. We had literally just arrived after driving three hours and were forced to pack everything up and vacate! Later on we were allowed back in and we were able to do the race the next morning.

-we decided to fly out to Scottsdale, Arizona for the last Cactus Cup race. We flew out Friday afternoon with our bikes in tow but unfortunately when we landed at the airport none of the taxi’s would pick us up because they could not haul our bikes to the hotel, so we stood around for over hour waiting for a van shuttle to pick us up. When we finally arrived at the hotel, the desk clerk informed us they were over booked and gave away our room, so we were bumped to another hotel for one night and then back to our original hotel for the following night. Saturday evening, the night before the race we went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

I had a half of burrito left over so I brought back to the hotel and stored it in the fridge. When we awoke Sunday morning we realized that we had no food for breakfast, so we were forced to eat cold left over burritos at 5 in the morning! Talk about a barf session, it was so nasty having to eat this before the start of an anaerobic fun fest! I could barely choke it down and it should be noted that left over cold burritos do not make good pre-race fuel!! Yuck!

I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences that I have had while traversing up and down California and Arizona in the quest to be an amateur racer. I don’t get paid, I don’t earn living at racing but I do it because it is challenging, scary, physically demanding, and fun all at the same time. I’ve had a few sponsors over the years, a local frame builder, a couple of bike company grassroots teams, who offered discounts on frames, bike kits and parts. Not a full ride but just enough support to make amateur racing a little easier on the bank account. Racing on the weekends for crappy little plastic trophies and cheap plastic medals is awesome and I can’t wait to do it again!