on saturday i competed in my first mountain bike race, and while it went ok, i don't think it's the sport for me.
the race is put on anually as part of the fairfax fat tire festival at a boy scout camp in the hills above fairfax in marin, and it's a pretty low-key affair.
it was blazing hot (someone told me that it was 112*F), and the race started at noon which seemed a little cruel. i was initially going to race in the beginner category, but switched to sport (intermediate), after thay announced they were shortening the course because of the heat, so i was looking at two laps of the course (about 10 miles).
the pro/expert class started a couple minutes before we did, blasting down the fire road and out of sight in a cloud of dust, and then it was our turn.
it was flat-out from the get go; hurtling down a frighteningly loose and slippery fire road, screaming around off-camber corners and desperately keeping an eye out for holes, ruts, and wash-outs.
i made it to the bottom of the hill without crashing, and the course made a hard left onto a long uphill section of singletrack, with a bunch of switchbacks in it. there was a pile-up at the first switchback, everyone off their bikes and running to get clear of the mess, and then we got back to climbing.
still going flat out, but i was starting to feel better, getting my legs and breath back. the problem was, it was singletrack so i couldn't pass anybody, so i sat back and just waited.
the singletrack ended with another hard left down a very steep and gravelly fire road, the kind of stuff that scares the crap out of me, so while i picked my way down it a bunch of lunatics bombed it at full speed, leaving me choking in the dust.
the fire road climbed again, which let me pass a bunch of people, and then more singletrack; very rocky, twisty, technical (at least for someone with my lack of skills) and down hill. i hated it, but survived.
then it was fire road back to the start, and time for another lap.
the pack was spread out by this time, but i still got stuck behind a couple of people who promptly went howling by me as soon as we got to the downhill fire road.
i negotiated the tricky downhill section again, slogged across the fields in the sun, and sprinted to the finish, just missing catching the guy ahead of me, and finishing firmly in the middle of the pack.
my time was about 1:15, which is not enough time for me to get warmed up, find my pace, and really start cranking, but whatever, now i know.