Ah, the Camp Eagle Classic. A three-day long party to celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of fall mountain bike racing in Texas. There’s food, water slides, zip lines, games, and a trail that will pop you in its mouth, chew you, and spit what ever is left of you and your bike out in the hot sun to die.
And for some reason, it’s one of my better courses.
Since it Camp Eagle is close (with air quotes around the word close) to my house, I thought I’d leave early on Saturday, ride the course to scope things out before it gets to hot, then hang out for the rest of the day. I dunno, maybe go swimming, paddle around in a kayak, chat with my friends who I haven’t seen in a few months. But then my former roommate got a hold of me, wanting to pick up the stuff he left in my house which I kindly packed in boxes for him. He was going to be in town this weekend and Saturday morning at almost noon was the only time that worked in our schedules. So that pushed my departure time back a bit.
I had finally got all packed, stopped by the bank, filled up my gas tank and headed out of town, when I noticed my check engine light was on. This left me with a dilemma. My car was running fine but I was heading away from civilization. Like far from civilization. The nearest town with any decent services was the one I was leaving and the last thing I wanted was to be stranded an hour and half in the middle of nowhere.
So I turned around and drove to the nearest AutoZone and had them pull the computer code: Knock Sensor.
What the heck is that?
So I put a quart if oil in my car (it was getting low) and the light went away.
About two thirty or so I managed to get to Camp Eagle and right as I pulled into the tent camping area and I found Ian. I set up my tent in what looked like a good spot and both of us went out to check out the course. He climbed much better than I did, but he also fell down the hill two or three times. He spent the rest of the day limping and wincing every time he put his foot down wrong. Don’t worry though, he ended up in third place in the race the next day.
I managed to survive the ride with my body and bike intact, and spent the rest of the hot afternoon catching up with what all my friend did I’ve the summer, with emphasis on how much riding they did – hoping that it was slim to none.
When it was time for dinner, I headed back to my tent and discovered that I set up camp on a super colony of black ants. It wasn’t that bad, they stated out of my tent and only occasionally crawled on my feet while I was in my camp chair. When I set up my tent it was apparently too got for them to be out. The strange thing was that they stayed out all night and didn’t go away till it got hot again.
After dinner I simply crawled into bed with a book and read until I went to bed. Super exciting…
I did wake up feeling rested and in a good mood. I got ready and warmed up. I really just felt good. I felt good when we lined up, I felt good when we took off, and I even felt pretty good climbing the stupidly steep hill right off the line.
Off the line I was in about fifth place, and surprisingly it wasn’t a super mad dash like most races are. The leaders took off fast, but I wasn’t planning on really kicking it up into high gear until after the big climb(s). We just seemed to all be moving at a decent, yet slow race pace. I stayed in fifth place until we hit the base of the aforementioned stupidly steep hill. I ended up dropping back into tenth, mostly cause I knew this hill sucked and dropped my gears to the easiest I had and just started spinning. And like I hoped, the people in front of me started to hop off their bikes and push while I just crawled on by. I ended up in seventh at the top of the hill, and passed someone shortly after that. The course then took us another way down the hill we just climbed and into some BMX style jumps, which no one jumped cause jumping your bike 5 minutes into a race isn’t that smart of a thing. I ended up getting passed by three people there, and we started to climb up another steep hill. I passed a person here and started chasing the other ones down.
Camp Eagle has one of the more technical and challenging courses in the series. Pace Bend is got a similar style, but Camp Eagle has this section of creek bed that just beats you up for a good two miles. Mellow Johnny’s is pretty close, but it’s much shorter.
I ended up passing two people in some switchbacks and kept peddling. It is very useful for me to have someone that I’m chasing while I’m riding and after I passed Joe, the leader of the group behind me passed and I chased him as long and as hard as I could. And I felt pretty good. He ended up losing me after 15 minutes or so, but by then I passed poor Raul with his flat tire (he ended up flatting two more times and still came in 12th) and I was in fifth place. After a while, the second place rider in the group behind me caught up and I chased him through the creek bed.
The creek bed is, well, horrible. I’d even say it was infamous to those who know it. You’re riding down stream (thank God) of a dried out creek bed and there’s all these holes and rocks sticking up that you have to avoid. There are tight gaps that you have to drop through and the worst is probably the “flat” areas. The flat areas aren’t flat, as so much filled with holes and little steps up and down and by the end of it all, your back is killing you and you have no more strength in your hands to hold on to your handle bars. Then you cross a wooden suspension bridge that sways and is scary as all get out, only to find more of the “flat” area on the other side, only this time your climbing it.
I lost the second place guy about here, and places three and four passed me as well. I also started to cramp in my legs, which I have never done in a cross country race before. It was quite interesting and painful, but I kept going. I’m glad I did too. I finished fifth and sixth place was only a minute behind me. If the cramping got worse or if I stopped to help it out, I would have lost a place.
But yeah, I finished fifth! That is three places higher than my previous highest finish. I even got to stand on the podium since it had five places.
After awards, I went swimming and zip lined into the water and just really enjoyed the cool water on the hot day.
If you can go swimming at Camp Eagle with their toys, I recommend it.
Now I have to train for the race in Tyler.