Well the BT Epic has came and went. I had a great time camping at the Bass River Resort, it is a wonderful campground. Crystal and Ethan came along for the weekend since the weather was forecast to be mild temperatures, although there was rain forecasted. We headed down on Friday and set up the pop-up camper that Kelly from work was so gracious to lend us for the weekend. Camp was already set up by the time that Chris arrived, so we settled in to enjoy the evening. We ordered a pizza from the camp store and enjoyed a couple beers before last minute prep. and turned in for the night.
Race day came and we got up and around at 7 a.m. In hindsight, a little earlier wake up time would have been better because I felt a little rushed to get everything ready and make it to the start line. There was a pre-race meeting@ 0815 and the race would start @ 0830. With over 200 racers I knew the mass start would be a little hectic. The fast guys were lined up in the front and then everyone else behind them. Chris and I lined up pretty well at the back with only a few people behind us. We were told that we would need to listed closely for the little firecracker that would start the race, not exactly the case. The race started with a big bang that sounded about like a stick of dynamite going off, I think this probably caught everyone off guard and spiked the heart rate a little. Once the fast guys took off everyone gradually took off slowly behind them and it seemed like things were great. But only about 150 yards from the start I had my first crash of the day. One of the female racers had dropped her chain and was off to the side of the road and apparently the guy in front and to the opposite side of me knew her so he cut directly in front of me and stopped, catching me off guard. I ran into his rear wheel, didn't get unclipped and went forward smacking my ribs on the handle bars and falling over. Not exactly the start I had envisioned. I quickly uprighted and took back off, but by this point pretty much everyone had passed me. I started pedaling pretty hard so that I could try to catch back up with Chris before he got to far away. I thought I could see him up ahead, but as we started up the long climb out of Bass River I just couldn't seem to catch up. I figured maybe I would catch him later and just settled in to spin my way up the hills. This was the second thing of the day not going according to plan. My goal was no matter what to keep Chris in my sight if he was in front of me, and his plan was to do the same if I took the lead. Even though neither one of us had really said it, this ride was going to be a race between the two of us and we knew it. By the time I reached the single track I had passed several people, but still had not seen chris. I figured he was gone for the day. Once on the singletrack people behind me gradually began to catch me and pass me. I knew that I had very limited experience on the trails and did not want to hold anyone else back. After 4 or 5 miles I was pretty sure I was in dead last place and was starting to feel down on myself. Soon I heard another biker coming up behind me so I pulled over to let them pass and it was Chris, I still have no idea how he ended up behind me, but there he was. This made me feel a little better and we pedaled on. By the time I made it to the first checkpoint Chris had taken off and left me behind, he is more experienced than me and went a little faster on the downhills. I rolled through the checkpoint and kept on pedaling. We had to ride up onto the road for a little while to get back on the trail and as I hit the road I saw Chris leaving the road onto the trail. I quickly caught up with him and we decided to stop for a minute and eat something. By this point in the day we had both came to several realizations, most importantly that we were not even close to being ready to do this race. Chris was already talking about if we made it to the next checkpoint he was going to get a ride back with Crystal. I wasn't feeling very peppy and I had already thought the same thing. It didn't take long for the gremlins to creep into my head and soon I was ready to call it a day. By the time we made it to the second checkpoint we were both feeling pretty spent, it was about 1245 and the guys that were picking up the arrows and sweeping the course had caught up to us. We just weren't feeling it and knew that there was a cutoff of 3 p.m. for coming back through the Berryman Campground. Crystal was there waiting on us to take some pictures and we decided to call it a day and catch a ride back with her.
We got back to the camp and several riders were coming in past our campsite to the finish the line. We kicked back enjoyed some chips and cheese dip and a beer. Chris headed out shortly after that, he had a halloween party to attend later in the evening so he needed to get home. Crystal, Ethan, and I loaded up our chairs and cooler and headed up to the finish line to watch racers come in. I sat for a little while and then took a shower to clean up before coming back to watch more people finish. We settled into our chairs out by the road so we could see riders as they came in, and eventually began to direct riders to the finish, I guess it was difficult to decipher where they needed to go. It was a lot of fun and gave me a chance to cheer them on to the finish line. Jim Davis eventually came along from his camp he had some problems and had also dropped at the second checkpoint. I visited with him for a while, he said his wife was still going strong and should be coming through around the 7 hr mark. I stood my post until after I saw Wendy come through so I could snap a picture and then we headed off to find the food. The rest of the evening was filled with lots of food, fun visiting with the racers, free beer, a band, awards and giveaways. I didn't win anything, which is nothing out of the ordinary for me. My luck with giveaways is always terrible. Chris' name was drawn but he was not there so no prize for him.
Now that I have given you the details of the race, I will elude to a few of the lessons I learned. This was my first mountain bike race, I have done adventure races, but never bike races. In hindsight this may not have been the best one to start with, but maybe it was because short of doing a 100 miler or something this has to be one of the tougher ones around, or at least I hope so. I went into this race thinking... I love to ride my bike, how hard can it be. I have ridden 40+ miles, no big deal. I thought I was in decent shape, I have always had strong legs and assumed that I could just pedal my way through it. I now know that racing a mountain bike on singletrack trails is something totally different than I envisioned. Doing a race like this uses a lot more muscles than just your legs. Riding singletrack is technical and is not something you can do a time or two and just fly through. There is no substitute for learning to ride trails other than riding trails. An 8 mph pace is more difficult than what a person would think. I have done adventure races and not been in tip-top shape, you can meddle your way through it and eventually you are at a transition and it is time to do something else. This does not work when riding a bike race, cause at each checkpoint there is just more riding. There is a certain amount of confidence required to ride these trails and if you don't ride trails regularly you are not going to have it. It is always easier to quit than continue on, but that doesn't mean you won't regret it later. I am sure there are a few more, but I will call it good for now.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organizers of the race it was a very well put on race at a great place on great trails. A special thanks to Wendy Davis for helping me out and giving me some pedals for my bike since the ones I had were giving such a hard time. The pedals worked great and I am very grateful. Thank you Bob Jenkins for offering to loan me pedals to help me. These two are great people whom I had only met once prior to their offers. I once heard someone say that adventure racers are some of the nicest people you will meet, I have to agree but add that so are mtn. bikers. Another person of notable mention... Mitch Johnson.... I had the pleasure of meeting this guy after then race while Crystal, Ethan and I were enjoying our second round of bbq. He had stopped to see Ethan and I recognized him, having read about some of his conquests on his and other blogs. He had a lot of pointers/ advice for me to consider and help me in my future mtn. biking endeavors. What a nice guy and an athlete, he rode the course in 5 hrs 21 minutes or something close to this time with two broken ribs! That is some devotion.
Even though I ended up with a DNF at this race I still had a great weekend. Everyone has a DNF at some time of another, some have more than others. The important part about it is what you take away from it and what you do to make it different next time. I have a lot better of idea of what it is all about now, and vow that my next time will be different. I am going to be doing a lot more riding and not just on roads. On that note anyone planning any rides, races, or that just wants to get together and maybe give me few pointers on trail riding just hit me up.