STORM Hill Country Challenge

A race on my local course? Yes, please!

Though I have to say, knowing what’s coming up and when to lay on the power is very important, the actual ability to lay on the power is probably more important. And also not hitting rocks, but that’ll come later.

The local course means that, for a race weekend I spend a lot of time on the couch watching Netflix. And sleeping in my own bed. And showering. I’m not complaining.

Saturday there was conference in town that I wanted to go to that started at 10 am. I knew I wasn’t going to make it in time, but I still wanted to get as much of it as I could, but needed to get a pre ride in of the course and all my grocery shopping too. I pretty much felt like crap. I felt like a zombie as I did my shopping at 7 am. The only saving grace of that was that the stores were empty, well stocked, and I didn’t have to wait in line for a cashier. After unloading my car and then loading it up with my bike stuff, I really just didn’t want to go. It was cold, I slept horribly the night before, and I still felt like crap from before grocery shopping. But I pressed on and went anyway.

The cold went away, the single track was amazing, and the caffeine kicked in. And I rode really well. With a couple of stops to reride some parts and to chat with people, I still managed to do the 12 mile course in 1:05. Not bad, considering when I raced this course last year, I did it in 1:11.

So I got home, took a shower and discovered that I really didn’t want to be around people. So I stayed home and cooked and watched Netflix. My legs were pretty thrashed.

And this morning, I woke up, my legs felt fine, but all through out the night they were hurting. That got me a little worried, but I press on (I said that before…). Got to the course, which was an ungodly distance of 20 minutes away, and registered, changed, and started to warm up. I was actually surprised at how many of my Houston friends made it this far out here. Most of the time I’m the one that drives for hours to get to races and they don’t. I’m glad that I got to share with them the wonderful Flat Rock Ranch that I get to ride on when ever I want. It’s got some really good downhill sections that a lot of Texan single track is missing.

Anyway, I got all warmed up, taken roll call, and got lined up for the start. Normally the official gives us a 2 minute, 1 minute, 30 seconds, and a 15 seconds, and any time after the 15, they can start us. This time, she gave us a ten and that was just waaaaay different. So she blows the whistle and we are off, climbing the jeep road that makes up the first 3/4ths of a mile of the course. I surprisingly hung up with the fast guys for quite a while. I was in fifth place before my legs just kinda said “meh” and people started passing me. I did manage to secure 10th place when we hit the single track, which means that I’d have a better chance of keeping track of which place I thought I was in.

I did manage to keep 10th place for a while, then someone got a flat and I moved up to 9th. Then we hit some ledges and all sorts of people were passing and being passed as only about half of us could actually ride up them. I wasn’t in the half that could. After that, I had no clue what place I was in for the rest of the race. It then became a race of See-a-person-catch-a-person, the best that I could. That’s not saying much.

This race I felt like I was doing really well, I didn’t get too tired on any of the climbs, still could pound out on the flats, and didn’t have any issues on the descents. I’m not sure I could have gone much faster, and there were people still faster than me, I’m just overall happy with my performance today.

I did stop for my water bottle. It’s my favorite, almost lucky, water bottle. This is the water bottle that I forgot in the hotel before a race, went back and had them let me in so I could get it. I mean look at it, it’s just so pretty.

METAL Water bottles

Just look at it, it just screams awesomeness. And yes, I did steal the image from the company’s website. Mine haven’t been this clean, ever.

But yeah, I dropped it at the top of a giant climb, and I was really thirsty, so I yelled frustratedly and went back the 10 feet to get it. I probably had like 5 people pass me there. But I’m going to say that they were all in other age groups.

I followed this one guy for a good part of the race. I called him Mr. Squeaky Brakes in my head, but I kinda felt bad and decided that I should ask his name. It was Rich. I ended up passing him to get some good downhill and I don’t think he could keep up with me. He was a pretty cool guy. On that downhill section, I ended up behind Jose and this other guy. Other guy let me pass him, but Jose didn’t quite. It wasn’t that he was blocking me or anything, it just was that there never was a good place to pass where he wasn’t able to speed up and go as fast as I wanted to go. But I ended up passing him at after a good portion of the climbing for the course was done.

It was a relatively flat part of the course, so I just went hard. Jose said that I spurred him on and he got faster, but I still managed to pull away. Those flat sections are what I really love going fast on.

Towards the end of the course, there’s this challenging little section with three down steps marked with 3 down arrows. The three arrows aren’t for the three steps, it’s just a common trail marking meaning “This is tricky and dangerous, be careful”. What did I do? I hit it at almost full speed. Now, I’m not stupid, I’ve hit it going fast before, and it’s actually really fun to hit fast. But today, today was a little different. I was picking my line when I noticed that there was this rock off to the side. A rock off to the side and I was hitting it. Hitting it at almost full speed, sending my body flying through the air.

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I think my front tire stopped, and my body, in an upright, standing position, went over my handlebars. I ran down the first step and almost off the second before I came to a stop. I was just standing there while my bike was 15 feet behind me, blocking the trail. I ran up and pulled it off to the side and hopped back on, but my handbars were twisted and pointing in a direction that my wheel wasn’t.

Jose and Other Guy ride right by.

I pull out my tool and loosed, straightened, and tightened my handlebars, managed to get back in the flow of things and pedaled as hard as I could to catch up with Jose and Other Guy. I think there was only a mile or so left, so I didn’t have much time. I didn’t make it. I ended up crossing the line at 1:04:01, a whole 39 seconds after Jose did. Jose got 10th, I ended up in 12th.

But hey, I did manage to win a pair of socks in the raffle, so there’s that.

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