Sunday, July 24, 2011

Painful Weekend - Yet Fun?

Plenty of mountain bike action this weekend - dare I say - maybe a tad too much. Nah, that's almost impossible...

Saturday, Ian and I headed out with two of his schoolmates, Kellen and Austin. Nice kids, nice families. We've never ridden together, but we've talked about it a few times, now it was a go. Kellen's dad, Tate, also joined in for the ride. Austin had his mom drop him off for the festivities. His dad was interested as well, but had other commitments.

Added to the gang was old mountain bike pal Tony. Been years since we've ridden together, Tony now with a new Kona and a renewed interest in hitting the trails.

Our neighborhood trails of St Ed/Big Finn Hill the place to cruise, we all left from my driveway, just a mile buzz on pavement before singletrack awaits. Kellen and Austin have a little singletrack experience, but don't hit trails often. Ian plays ride leader with Kellen right behind him. Austin ahead of me - he's doing fine - I yell out the occasional advice and encouragement. Tate is rocking the 700c hybrid bike without a problem, and Tony gets a few more miles on the new Kona.

All is rolling swimmingly, as they say at the country club, when Austin grabs too much front brake on a short downhill. I watch helplessly as he endos hard into ground right in front of me. I'm off my bike and by his side in a seconds. He's not getting up too quick...

After sitting him up and catching his breath, we check for damage. Slight cut on his mouth, no big deal there - however - said his wrist hurt. A lot. Gut tells me broken wrist, though hoped I was wrong. Said he can't ride with the hurt wrist. Time for Plan B.

Cell phone call to his mom to pick him up nearby. Short walk out of the woods, me pushing both bikes. Understanding mom loads him into SUV for doctor visit. Phone call later confirmed fractured wrist. Ouch. Four to six weeks in a cast. Perfect summer accessory.

Ride was very tame and suited to the slowest rider. I'm always super cautious riding with kids, especially newer riders. Still, I felt bad about the situation. First time I've had someone hurt riding with Ian and I, as a group. We're still talking about riding a bicycle on trails, so there is some element of risk. Stuff is eventually going to happen. Feel bad it occurred on my call.

I saw both parents later that night to return Austin's cell phone. No guilt required. Austin mentioned having a good time up until the crash. He was busy showing off his cast to the neighborhood, as 12 year old boys are apt to do. Once healed, I'd like to ride with him again - assuming he'd want to. Austin's dad is Ian's basketball coach, so I'll see him again once school starts. As mentioned, very nice family. First time I take their kid out, send him home with a broken wrist. Yikes.

Kellen rolls one of the jumps at Big Finn Hill. He and his dad appeared to have a fun afternoon. After the ride - and getting Austin off to the doctor after the, uh, mishap - we rode our bikes over to the local pizza place on the way home. A shared pizza was a great way to end the ride.

Austin in action, prior to the wrist tweaking endo. I really enjoy getting people out there, especially kids. I hope to ride with Austin again.

Ian plays ride leader. For 12 years old, already has a lot of riding and racing experience. When we take out "regular" kids, gives him some leadership experience, as well as shining a bit skill wise. All good life experiences.

After the Saturday morning ride, Ian wound up playing and riding around with friends all afternoon. By the end of the day, clocked 20+ miles on his speedo. In addition, didn't hit the sack until midnight. I finally went to bed around 1:00 AM. Not exactly the proper set up for the following day planned activity - mountain bike race at Lake Padden in Bellingham. Wife and daughter Amy even planned to trek up there with us. I preloaded the car, including rearranging the roof rack to fit four bikes.

Alarm goes off way too early on Sunday morning, snooze button being my best friend. Soon, human alarm named Ian is standing bedside, asking if we're going. Huh, yawn - yeah, let's roll. Female half of the clan elect to skip the race at the last minute, giving me the opportunity to unload/reload the roof rack of bikes once again. Much joy and fun.

Finally, Ian and I are off. Event being about a 90 minute drive up north. The Padden Mountain Pedal is a Northwest classic, running close to 20 years now. Held at the Lake Padden Recreation Area, right outside Bellingham, Washington. Nice race site with lake, grassy areas, playground - and more importantly - killer singletrack. Course has short steep climbs, along with fairly sketchy root filled descents. All covered with slippery dust. It's a real XC course - no doubt.

While signing Ian up for the Boys Beginner 11-14 class, I decide to sign on for Beginner Men 45+ class. Both classes scheduled for three laps on the short course. When I race (rarely now), I usually get my ass kicked in the Sport class, so no real shame racing the Beginner class for a change. As I've joked before, I have the racer mentality, but not the ability - so little chance of me grabbing a winning slot anyway.

Since the Beginner classes run together, thought it would be fun to see Ian out on the course at the same time. Plus, no waiting around for me later in the day racing Sport. That was the plan anyway. With race numbers pinned on, we hit the course for a pre-ride lap to remind ourselves where the sketchy downhill sections were located. Ian has raced here twice before, though we skipped last year. I raced this event once a few years ago, complete with nice crash that left me off the bike for three weeks. That story for another time.

Our pre-ride of the course takes longer then planned, with me missing my start by a few minutes. Very dumb mistake, first time ever for that. Ian just makes his race start by seconds, while I take off after the 45+ class - now long gone. I yell a quick "Good luck" to Ian as I pedal away.

I settle into the pain that is racing, my slow pace reminding me why I suck at this - yet it's still a gas. None of my "training" really is race oriented. Lots of riding, but no intervals, and I tend to ride not hard enough, or easy enough at times to recover. On top of that, I have no natural ability for this. If ever tested, my aerobic threshold probably would fall somewhere between a potted plant and a shivering Chihuahua. I can picture white coated lab dude telling me, "Frankly, we're amazed you can even propel a bicycle..."

Me, looking pro and going slow. Well, more like sorta pro and going really slow.

The course has no long climbs, but the few steep sections add up - two of 'em require pushing - at least for me. Tight, twisty, uphill singletrack, complete with rocks 'n' roots. I'm also riding the downhills like a total squid, carrying my bike and running (more like sliding) down the tricky sections. On the last lap, I finally ride everything, minus one section - a small, but lame victory. On a play ride, I could easily clean these sections. Bombing 'em at race speeds, heart rate cranked, changes the picture entirely.

Three laps completed, I cross the finish line. Only five racers in Beginner 45+, with me coming 5th, and a long way back to boot. My few minute late start really didn't effect anything. An all around lame race for me, when you look at the results. Even so, I still feel a sense of satisfaction after finishing. Only racing will force you to push yourself to that pain level. The encouragement from fellow racers, along with the smattering of spectators is always super cool.

From my completely crappy result - in the Beginner class for crying out loud - I should hang my head in shame and maybe take up knitting. Instead, I vow to race again and return to my usual back of the pack Sport class finish. Yes, I guess I'm sick. I also look at this way - how many 50 year old guys are racing mountain bikes? Compared to the general population, can't be many. For just plain having fun, pushing yourself, health benefits, being part of the scene, and getting outside - can't be beat - no matter what place you come in. That's my take on it anyway.

Shortly after my finish, Ian rolls across the line to much clapping. Kids always score some extra encouragement, and rightfully so. Ian also experienced a tough day, said he was really tired, but glad he raced. I'm sure the busy previous week didn't help him. He's been riding so strong lately, didn't think it would matter much - not the case. Out of five kids in his class, finished in 5th place, way off the back. Like father, like son - for today - his racing future is much brighter then mine.

This is also not one of Ian's favorite courses, even though he once grabbed a third place at this event. Still, a solid ride. Three laps around this course for a 12 year old is still pretty commendable. Plus add in the pre-race lap, some of it fast to catch the start time. I'm proud of him.

Since I raced myself, not many pictures today. Here's one of the Sport classes heading towards their bikes in the LeMans style start. Old mountain bike pal, Art, grabbed 3rd place in the Sport 45+ class, despite not racing for years. He also did it in SPD sandals. The dude has a ton of natural talent. The bastard...

Ian looking a little toasted at the finish. Tough ride, despite the listed results. Not shabby at all for 12 years old, mountain bike racing ain't easy, no matter what the age.

Looking a little better after a few tacos courtesy of onsite food truck. I scored a killer Torta sandwich to refuel myself (burp). Also shared the meal with a few other racers we met - plan to meet for a future ride together. Very cool.

This now concludes the weekend report. Tune in next time for more race, ride, and general tales of suffering and related fun on two wheels. Tacos included.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention. While loading the bikes on the roof rack for the drive home - pegged myself in the forehead with a SPD pedal - resulting with a bloody goose egg. Flat out awesome. Man, racing rocks...

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