From the time Chuck first offered to pre-ride Broemmelsiek Park with me before Sunday's Broemmelsiek Challenge, I had this song in my head. Well, the title, anyway...it's all I could remember. But just changing the "f" to a "p" makes it perfect for our afternoon yesterday. :)
This is going to be my first mountain bike race, and I can't tell you I'm not nervous about it (and you wouldn't believe me if I did). Luckily, I had a couple of friends going to pre-ride the course and I got to tag along (unfortunately, Robin ended up not being able to go).
I'd never been to Broemmelsiek Park before and the drive took longer than I had anticipated, so Chuck had to wait for me for about 20 minutes (sorry!).I was all prepared with food and water, but I had forgotten that my mountain bike only has one water bottle and was in such a hurry after running late that I left my food in the car. This is why I really need to be early for group rides or runs.
The race was actually scheduled for about 3 weeks ago, but it was rained out at the last minute. Chuck had been out to preride before the cancellation, though, so he remembered pretty much where the ribbons that marked the course were. It was definitely helpful to have someone to tell me basically what to expect.
Like I said, I've never ridden at Broemmelsiek before, and I really liked the trails. They're not very technical, mostly dirt in the woods with a few rocks and roots thrown in. There are several little creek crossings. The wooded portion of the trail reminds me a lot of the mountain bike trails here in town, except they weren't quite as twisty and turny as ours. That's a good thing for me.
Loop 1 was going great. I didn't downshift enough going up a longish hill and ended up having to walk it, but there was only one section that I had a hard time with--a couple large rocks followed quickly by a big v-shaped root, leading into a rocky downhill curve. I clipped a pedal, bumped around, and ended up walking that section. The trail then leads out into a field for a moment before turning back into the woods with a small creek crossing.
Now, I'm finally at a point where riding my bike across a creek isn't a noteworthy thing for me. This had a fairly shallow downhill to the creek, then back uphill a little. I wasn't even nervous riding into it. I felt confident...right until my bike was flying out from under me as it rolled downhill and I was struggling (and failing) to keep it upright. I slammed into my top tube and then crashed off of it on the other side.
Once we started riding again I felt ok. Lap 1 took us 37 minutes.
I felt better on lap 2, and though I took a deep breath going into "that" creek crossing, I made it through without incident. I stopped and looked back at it, and I think that my pedal clipped a big root on the way down the hill. Just bad luck, but you can be sure I'll be staying towards the left when I come down it on race day. Lap 2 took us 32 minutes.
We took a little break after the second lap and talked over the course while Chuck had a Clif bar. That's about when I realized, "Oops...I left my food at the car," but he was nice enough to share. He said that he felt like he'd found some pretty good lines, and I said that I felt really comfortable with the course other than that one tricky section I mentioned above. He reminded me to keep looking for the best lines: "Smooth is fast. And smooth is safe." "You had me at safe," I laughed. We finished Chuck's snack and then headed out again.
I felt great on that third lap. I always talk about my overreliance on my brakes and what a chicken I am (and I am, no question), but I spent a lot less time braking and just more time feeling comfortable. I noticed how much less scary the curves are when my feet are even on the pedals (instead of one up and one down). I felt great...and then all the sudden I didn't.
I started struggling to keep up and was thinking that even with all the riding I've been doing I'm still not in that good of shape. I told Chuck that I was thinking the two lap beginner race sounded just right. He asked if I was getting tired or something like that and I said I was. And then--what a revelation!!--he says, "You need to eat something."
Ahhhh....it's not that I was out of shape...it's that I was out of fuel. Not only does that explanation sound better to me, it was actually right. Poor Chuck probably felt like he was out with one of his kids, having to keep feeding his unprepared friend, but this time he handed me some Sport Beans. Oh, my gosh...they were so good. And they worked! Almost as soon as we started riding again I felt so much better. That was a really valuable lesson for me. Being tired doesn't necessarily mean you're tired...it might just be your body telling you to eat.
When we got to that tricky spot we talked over a few potential lines and tried a few different ways to pass there, none of which really worked well for me. I think I'll probably be getting out of other racers' way and then walking over that part. Even with spending some time working on that section, the third lap only took us 33 minutes, so we definitely improved our speed on the course.
I'm so glad that I got a chance to ride on the course so I'd know what to expect and what to watch out for (treacherous roots). I'm pretty excited for Saturday's race, but I still can't say I'm not nervous about it. I'm used to being slower than other people, so that's no big deal, but I'm worried about being passed on the trails. It's no big deal in road rides to pass, and in foot races you might have to wait for a little bit on singletrack til an OK spot, but it seems like it'll be different on bikes. Yikes. Wish me luck...and fast healing.
Shawn and Caroline, you get the opportunity to ask me anything you'd like, and I promise to answer. Granted, I'm not that interesting, but I've definitely seen some interesting questions going around. Now, Chris K (who stole this from Colleen and turned it into the worldwide sensation it is) got over 50 comments on his initial Q&A post. Please don't leave me out here with no questions asked or I'll have to make up my own.