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Harvey Bear Race - August 2, 2009

Distance: 10.25 miles Ascent: 1328 feet Moving time: 0:59 hours

I finally entered my first mountain bike race. After a couple of practice rides at Harvey Bear, I entered a race sponsored by the South Valley Bike and Run Club (may no longer exist). A few friends said I should enter now since I am in better mountain biking shape than I have ever been and I have gotten faster. I had to agree with this line of reasoning. Based on my pre-rides, the course was definitely achievable in a reasonable time. Since this was my first race, I entered in the Beginner category. I wanted to keep this fun and, not knowing what to expect, decided that I would really be racing against myself and that my benchmark would be my times from the pre-rides.

Check-in was pretty simple. They gave me a number, wrote my age on my left calf, and handed me a small bag of swag (nothing exciting). To kill time, I did a warm-up lap on the large flat loop. After the rider meeting and a lap on the small loop, the race started with the experts, followed two minutes later by a large sport class, and finally the large beginners group started another two minutes later. It was a big group of beginners that was riding six or seven people across. I thought this was likely to result in a slowdown at best or a pile-up at worst, so I tried to ride out of the center of this mass. I moved toward the front as we started climbing Willow Ridge, but it was a bit discouraging to see how far out in front some people already were. I decided to ignore them and ride my own race, so I kept plugging away. I slowly caught and passed a few people as we climbed up Town Springs and people were beginning to spread out by the end of this trail. All of the cattle gates were open, so there was no loss of speed there but the momentary breathers at the gates were also eliminated. I kept up my speed on the climb to the ridge on Harvey Bear and then flew down the backside. I made good time on Calaveras where I passed one or two people who must have used too much energy on the initial climb.

I had heard that races are won on the climbs, so I really pressed on the small hill on Coyote Ridge and passed another guy on the steep part. I slowed down on the tight downhill switchbacks on San Ysidro and a guy passed me, but I passed him back at the bottom of the switchbacks since he was going too fast and I was able the take the corner more tightly and accelerate out of it. I carried some speed through a gully and passed two more riders on the next slight uphill section. Everyone held their position on the flat and downhill sections of Savannah, but I was able to catch and pass two guys on the climb out from the bridge at the bottom. I closed the gap with a couple of other riders on the rest of Savannah, but could not catch them. I went fast down Willow Ridge to the finish line, but so did everyone else so there were no position changes.

I finished with a time of 59:29, which I was very pleased with. This was much faster than my pre-ride. I was pretty pleased with my ability to push up the climbs and it was nice to be able to catch and pass a few people while I huffed and puffed up the hills. All in all, not too bad for an old guy. I ended up getting third in my category, which was a nice surprise for me. My fried Don also entered, getting fifth in his category. I saw some other friends there who also did well, including a first place in one of the categories.

I don't know that I need to be a regular racer, but it was kind of fun. I rode pretty well against my own expectations...perhaps it was a combination of being in a race, being in better shape, a course without too many long sustained climbs and/or moderate temperatures. I was only racing against my own expectations and I beat them, so I guess I won!

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