I’m an endurance athlete through and through. I don’t know if it’s my bike touring background or just my mental state, but something keeps me in zone 3! I’ve tried recently to expand my racing, mostly through cyclocross, and this inevitably leads to shorter races in general, and the Idyllwild Spring Challenge this past Saturday, specifically.
Before this my only mountain bike races shorter than 100 miles were Vision Quest, which is ‘only’ 56 miles, but has something insane like 11,000 ft of climbing (there was snow in Orange County that year), 12 Hours of Temecula, where I rode 94 miles and the Boggs 8hr last year. Ha! I just love the long stuff…
I scheduled this race because Nicolas signed up, but then he couldn’t go. I emailed the race organizer and she was exceptionally cool about the registration stuff and before I knew it Marissa, Smokey the dog and I were in her car early Saturday morning heading to the mountain town of Idyllwild for my first ever cross-country mountain bike race.
Endurance racers get a lot of credit. ‘You rode how far?’ But racers like Steevo turn themselves inside out weekend after weekend and that’s something I can’t wrap my mind around. I was thinking ‘this is a short race’ but I went out like it was a 2.8 mile race and not 28 miles. At the top of the first climb I was seeing stars and gasping for air! Was it the heat? Am I that out of shape? Oh yeah, we’re at 5000 feet! That helped calm me down. As soon I caught my breath I went balls out. Again. I don’t know if it’s because of where I started in the Open Class pack, but I just didn’t see many people. That makes ‘racing’ harder. Where am I? Where are the other single speeders?
The course was superbly marked, there were volunteers at every potentially confusing turn and after the third big climb, about half-way through, the rest was rolling, mostly downhill technical single track. This is why I’m here! SO fun. Dustier and looser than I thought Idyllwild would be, but still super fun. I started to finally catch people and for a long-ish downhill doubletrack section I used the single-speed skill of tucking behind a geared bike that was tearing it up! She pulled me along until we hit a flatter section and I could pedal again. Suddenly we were passing people left and right. In my blurry-visioned, dehydrated state I was using my last bit of focus beyond trying to stay upright to see if anyone we passed was on single speed.
We finished by returning down the climb pictured above. When I crossed the line I had no idea where I had placed. I just knew that every muscle in my body was sore. I even had crashed in a soft section and the sting of scrapes and bruises was now apparent.
I hydrated, washed off in a sink and then we hung out for the raffle. I love raffles! Legalized gambling. When results were posted I was surprised to see that I got 3rd out of 4 people in the Open Single Speed Class…..and I’m pretty sure the guy I beat was on a fat bike! The results page hasn’t been updated yet to see where I placed against others in the Open Class. Overall though I’m stoked for the experience and Idyllwild Cycling put on a great race. They even had dog-sitting and proceeds went to the local Living Free Animal Sanctuary. Get out there if you get the chance!
We headed into town for eats, stopped at the health food store (somethings never change) and then got falafel at a super friendly Greek spot before heading out of the mountains and back toward the coast. My post-race fatigue is somehow different. More intense and less of a generalized tiredness? I guess that would make sense considering that is the difference between this race and what I usually do. So for all of you endurance racers, get out there to do a shorter race and turn yourself inside out!