End of another season

Mountain bike racing season, that is.  Last night I competed in the Farmall Hill Challenge once again.  I must say I was a little (ok, a LOT) nervous about racing.  This course is probably one of the toughest in the area.  All ups and downs with steep hills and almost no time to recover (catch your breath or rest your legs).  I raced it twice last year and once previously this year.  I was unsure about the race after my performance in the first one a few weeks ago.  I raced very poorly and was just exhausted physically from the minute I started.

So of course, I was wondering if the problem was me, if the course was too challenging for me, or what.  Perhaps I'm more of a roadie than a mountain biker.  However, what sealed the deal was when I got an email from Ellen saying her niece and niece's husband would be there.  He was first in his class after 2 races.  So, I figured, if THEY were going, I couldn't keep from racing.  At a minimum it would give Ellen a chance to hang with her niece.  So I went racing for my wife (I'll go with that).

One of the biggest problems I had with that course was climbing.  Hills are pretty tough and the last race I really struggled getting up them.  There's at least 3 BIG climbs and several smaller ones.  Some are right after a downhill so if you're going fast enough your momentum will carry you up the next small one.  But some you just need to power up.  So before leaving work I decided to Google for some tips on hill climbing.  Turns out I was doing it wrong.

On a road bike, you can get up out of the saddle (the seat, that is) and use your leg power to get up a hill.  That's because your tires have grip ALL THE TIME on a road surface.  On trails, you're struggling with grip the entire time since the surface is slick.  And, as it turns out, if you stand up to try and power up a hill, you'll spin your back tire, lose all your grip and momentum, and end up walking up the hill.  The solution?  When climbing a hill, SIT BACK in the saddle, lower your body down towards the handle bars, and power up the hill.  This puts MORE weight on the back tire, keeping your grip.  And you know what?  IT WORKS!  I tried that out last night and got up all but the steepest hills.  As a result, my time yesterday was about 7 to 8 minutes faster than last time.

What I really need to do now is start training for this race next year.  What killed me the most last night was stamina.  By lap 3 (of 3 laps) I was toast.  Every muscle in my body was screaming at me.  And the only way to train for a race like this is get on the trails and spend an hour or so riding up and down hills.  I think I've finally conquered my fear of that course.  I know it well now and was actually strategizing as I was riding as to what line I needed and where to rest a little to get ready for the next climb.  Even the BIG downhill didn't terrify me like the first time I road it.  The only other thing I'll need for next year is new pedals.  I have "clipless" pedals that lock into the bottom of your riding shoes.  The pedals I have now have the clips to lock in on one side only so I can also ride without the riding shoes.  However, several times I had to get off the bike and was struggling to get the pedal lined up correctly to lock in again.  While going up and down hills.  Not too fun.  So for next year I'm going to get the same pedals I have on my road bike that lock in on either site.  This will let me clip back in MUCH quicker.

I think next mountain bike racing season will be MUCH better.  I'll be done with my degree and actually have a LITTLE spare time.  And the upgrades I've did to my bike last winter have turned it into a major racing machine.  Now all I have to do is get in the right shape to take advantage of it.


Jude said…
Wow, the "saddle" tip working so well for you was awesome! Hopefully the new pedal clips will help next season too.
sydwynd said…
Jude: You keep at it and try to get better. Considering the two guys in the 50 to 50 age group kicked my ass, I have some work to do.
Jammie J. said…
I guess I climb hills wrong when riding a bike, too. I get up out of my saddle, get off and walk. ha
sydwynd said…
Jammie: I did some of that too. Hurt almost as much as staying ON the bike.
Kate said…
This is very inspiring to me! You once offered to tell me about your struggles with weight and I assume your riding has a lot to do with it! I would love to hear any wisdom you want to share as this is on-going struggle in my life!
sydwynd said…
Kate: I'll email you about it!

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