Monday, March 19, 2012

My First Mountain Bike Race - by Gary Shaw

written by guest blogger Gary Shaw - Shaw 'nuf beyond

 Well, I made it through my first mountain bike race today (7-19-2004). It was the annual Fun Fest Bike Rally held at Bay's Mountain Park in Kingsport, TN. I wish I had knew beforehand a little more about what to expect and I would have trained harder.

Back when I first rode Bay's Mountain's trails, I  headed up the main hill first thing. Boy was it steep, and long. I topped the hill, after many stops on the way up to get my breath, and rode down the first trail back to the truck and headed home. It was only 4 miles, and I thought I was going to die that day. But I lived, and came back more times to push a little farther. I went all the way around later,which was about 8 miles,  stopping often to catch my breath.

I found out about the race, which is 12.6 miles, and I thought I would give it a try as I wasn't getting any younger at 46 years old. I started riding the race route and made it in about 2 hours, then later 1:50. Well, 3 days before the race, I rode it like I was in a race and made it in 1:35! Boy, I thought I was really getting it now. I found out later that the top 50 to 60 year old men were riding it in less than an hour! Like they say, ignorance is bliss.

The day of the race, I had to work 6 hrs. that morning, which didn't help matters any. I got there early- too early, and had to try to keep the butterflies from getting the best of me for an hour. I lined up about 2/3 of the way back in the pack, knowing I wasn't going to be competing for the top places. Also, I didn't want to get ran over when I had to stop and rest on the big hill.
The race started and we were off! The pace was a little faster than I expected, but I was keeping up fairly well. The faster ones were out of sight, and the crowd started to thin out a little now. A few were passing me, and I even passed some. Well, I couldn't just let everyone pass me, so I pushed myself to go into another zone I had never been before. It may have been that 16 year old girl passing me that made me push myself a little harder. Well, I passed her back on some of the faster sections, and she would pass me back on the hills when I had to push my bike.  After about 4 miles, we came to the big hill. I already was huffing and puffing before I got to it, now I sounded like a vacuum cleaner turning on and off. My heart was really pumping now. I finally had to get off and rest, and so did a few others. But they didn't stop, they kept going, pushing their bikes along. Hey guys, don't you know we're supposed to stop and rest? I finally started to pull ahead of that girl, but ever time I slowed on the hills and had to catch my breath, she would show up. Back in the saddle again, we finally made it through all the major hills. Nothing but rocky downhills and gravel roads now. I was giving it everything I had, because we we only had about 2 miles to go. I passed 3 or 4 people on this last section, then finally crossed the finish line! People were standing around cheering everyone on as they made it in, which was pretty cool. I saw the clock and my time was 1:20. Wow, that was way beyond what I had hoped for. That time wasn't near good enough for a trophy, but I was ecstatic about the whole thing. About 3 minutes later, the young girl I was dicing with finished, and I found out later she won her age group.

Sitting there alone, I had no one to tell me "you did good", but I felt pretty good inside about doing something extreme, and going beyond what I thought I could do. It wasn't as exciting as dirt bike racing from my earlier years, but it was the next best thing. I raced again the next year, and only made it in 1:21, and blamed it on getting older. I skipped the next year, and at 49 years young, I did it again, and turned a time of a little under 1:19, my best time. I haven't done it anymore, just mainly for the fact the 50-60 year old men are quite a bit faster than that, and I have to work much more now, and at 53 years of age, I find it much harder to push myself to train that hard now. But, going beyond in whatever you find yourself in is so satisfying and worth all the effort it takes.

Thanks to my friend Johanna, who allowed me to post this to her blog, and encouraged me to start my own, and who inspires many of us to go beyond...

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