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Confessions of a 1st time racer
« on: June 17, 2012, 08:31:11 PM »
So... yesterday at French Lick was my first race on a mountain bike ever. The thought of racing had never even crossed my mind until last Tuesday (4 days prior) where I read the DINO race was to be in French Lick on Saturday. I live fairly close to French Lick, and have been on the shorter trail multiple times before but never the "blue trail" extension. I've always been an outdoor sports enthusiast and besides the occasional recreational mountain biking, my weekends usually consist of caving, kayaking, Ultimate Frisbee, caving, geocaching, hiking, caving, etc...  Entering a mountain bike race seemed like a new challenge and something I would enjoy.

Week before:

On Wednesday I checked out DINO's site with race info, and decided I was up for the challenge. Now to decide what category to enter.....

I realized class 1 and 2 were those who took racing very seriously and were way out of my league. My two realistic options were the "Intro" class which raced a shortened lap, or class 3 which I mistakenly assumed were other weekend warriors such as myself. I assumed cat 3 riders were those like me who were local and perhaps didn't have the best equipment or gear, but looking to challenge themselves and be competitive. I knew that if I raced in the Intro category, I would have wondered how I would have done in the "real" race. My competitive and "Aaww hell, If they can do it- I can do it too" mentality kicked in, and I opted to skip past the intro division and enter as cat 3.

Training... On Wednesday evening after work, I loaded up my bike and headed for French Lick. I wanted to make sure I could physically complete the 9 miles. I rode and completed the course and took mental notes of where the swtichbacks, hills, and downhills were. Since I didn't know about the race until 4 days prior, this 9 miles was my only "training" for the event. I would consider myself to be athletic, but not necessarily in the best shape of my life. Years of working in sales and marketing haven't exactly been conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Hind site is 20/20, and I think I was a bit naive to think at age 30, I could do this on just a few days notice. 

Raceday... Being completely new to the mountain bike racing scene, I arrived early to get a feel of what was going on. It was pretty apparent from the get-go that I was in over my head and this was going to be a long day. I unloaded my second-hand bike (purchased from a police stolen-property online auction) from my homemade bike carrier. I filled up my K-Mart bought water bladder and put it in my not-so-compact backpack. I made sure my shoelaces were nice and tight, and tucked them into my running shoes. When I arrived at the start/finish line I felt like a fish out of water. I briefly talked to a really nice guy named Sam (Cat 2 I believe) from the Adventures Recreation team, who gave me a few pointers and wished me luck.

The Race... About one mile into the race it was apparent that everybody else was much quicker than me, and I tried to be as accommodating as possible with other cyclists. At this point I realized cat 3 is not the best option for beginners. I felt like an Indycar with a Lotus engine, I just couldn't keep up. If I caused a bit of a log jam towards the beginning, please allow me to apologize for being "that guy" at this race. I continued on, stopping just long enough to recover from a couple dizzy bouts, and nausea. Did I mentioned I entered the race on a whim and essentially did not train?

During the race I noticed my water nozzle was leaking. I hoped it wasn't a big deal and I would have enough to finish. I was wrong. I ran out of water near the waterfall on the blue trail. I asked another racer if they had water stationed at any points along the race. He said these races were completely rider sufficient and there would be no water. During our brief discussion I mentioned it was my first race, and the rider literally turned his head around and told me this course is a terrible option for a first time racer.  :-\

Out of water, out of shape, and overheating, I continued. When I popped out by the golf course, I knew it was basically all downhill from there and received my 2nd wind. As I crossed the finish line, my wife, baby boy, and good buddy were there cheering me on. I was thrilled to have finished, and at a 1hr 19 minutes I didn't finish last either!

Post-Race Thoughts... I have a whole new respect and appreciation for competitive mountain bike racing. I fully plan to continue mountain biking recreationally, but I now realize the work and dedication you must put in to be competitive, even in cat 3. I can now mark it off the bucket list, and it's on to life's next adventure.


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Re: Confessions of a 1st time racer
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2012, 10:39:03 PM »
Great story!  Sounds a lot like my first race. 

gt ss

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Re: Confessions of a 1st time racer
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2012, 04:51:26 PM »
You started it so here's my first time.

It was 1995 in Kokomo @ Wildcat  Creek. Our men's group at church had volunteered to help DINO that day and I brought my Trek 800 mountain track (SWEET) along just because. It turned out if you worked, you could race for free! I figured for free I couldn't go wrong so I raced. The race was uneventful I think. I hit my head hard :o on a overhanging log and at one point I stopped atop a hill, got off my bike, took a long drink and then returned to "racing".

I was hooked for the next five years, hit the podium once @ Crane Naval and stopped only because of being a Scoutmaster for the next 5 years. My return to racing has only included 12/24hr MTB, CX and adventure racing.


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Re: Confessions of a 1st time racer
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2012, 11:02:15 AM »
Your story sounds a lot like mine. I had planned to go up and watch, take some photo's and basically just check the DINO series out. I saw the Intro class, and the first race free blurb and thought, well I'll take my bike...

I decided to do the intro class a day or two before and had the bike ready. I ride road bikes quite a bit clipped and thought, well it can't be too bad on the MTB, so I left them on. Bad choice #1!! I forgot my gloves, bad choice #2.

I crashed pretty hard barely into the woods. I say barely hard, but I was bleeding from a couple scrapes, but was more embarrassed than anything. I had a helluva time with the pedals, and found out later that basically all the bearings were gone in one of them. It was quite hot that day and with no gloves, it was a pain holding on to the grips.

I finished 30 or more minutes behind the 7th place guy in front of me, so I say 8th...instead of last!

I had a good time, and really enjoyed my first DINO experience and I'm looking forward to more events next year, with some well thought out upgrades, starting with flats and gloves!!!
"You can't put a price on a good time"


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Re: Confessions of a 1st time racer
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2012, 10:36:12 AM »
Great post I enjoyed it.
I can say I was fully prepared for my first race but I come from a racing background on ATV's offroad in a national series.
Next year I think I will compete in a few DINO races as I have yet to race in Indiana only in KY.
Doin the possum trot


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Re: Confessions of a 1st time racer
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2012, 06:57:53 PM »
That was me you talked to out on the trail.
Just found your post. Felt bad that day because I was going to take extra water
with me but forgot. I was out of water by the end.
I didn't even make it to the start line for my first races.
Warsaw 2003 was supposed to be my first race, but I crashed at TRTP and couldn't race.
Then the next race at Portage got postponed. Ok, more time to heal.
Next up was Valley Branch. Got there early to warmup on a preride.
Just thought I would have an 45 min. lap like at TRTP and then race.
Over an hour and a half later I came dragging in as the Experts started.
My wife was thinking I was dead in the woods somewhere.
I skipped the race and she had to drive us home.
Finally made the startline at Portage when it was rescheduled.
But the race was shortened because of mud and high water.
Had to ride through about six inches of water at one point.
Went into the woods last and somehow managed to finish second.


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