My first mountain bike race, and first stage race, was August 31 of 1997. It is easy for me to remember the exact date because I recall lying on the floor of a hotel room wishing my legs felt better. I was having another slice of humble pie, when the television broadcast was interrupted to let us know that Princess Diana had been in a horrible accident. The race was the King of the Rockies stage race in Winter Park, Colorado.
I remember I wanted to do a multi-day race and when I looked through the available races, the Winter Park event was the one that fit best. I had raced several triathlons that season and had solid tri fitness. I was riding a hard tail mountain bike with cantilever brakes. I had prepared for the race by riding local trails near my house. On home turf, I could average about 13 miles per hour when I was pushing pretty hard. I figured the Tipperary Creek point-to-point stage, stage one, would take me a couple of hours to complete.
I remember starting on a two-track road with a good amount of climbing right at the start of the race. Racing with beginner women, I was picking off rabbits and feeling pretty full of it. It seemed that my threshold training from triathlon was serving me well.
Once at the top of the climb, I remember a long descent through what seemed like a river of loose shale. Looking down the hill was a garage sale load of pumps, bottles, jackets, arm warmers and other miscellaneous items that the riders before me lost. While I was busy death-gripping my handlebars and trying to keep my teeth from chattering out of my mouth, all the people I passed on the climb were flying by me with ease. Dang.
After that descent, I remember a lot of really sweet singletrack. I decided not to worry about where I was in the field (I was pretty sure I was close to last, if not last) and just focus on keeping the rubber side down.
I didnt have a cyclometer on that bike, but I was watching the ride time on my watch. I was just under two hours and figured I had around 15 or 20 minutes to go before crossing the finish line (averaging that magical 13 mph). I checked my water bottle and it was close to empty. Not to worry, I'm almost finished.
Rounding the corner I saw a woman at what appeared to be an aid station. I was riding fast though there when I shouted, How much further to the finish?
Oh honey, youre only half way.
Wooooaaaaaaaah as I grabbed a lot of brake. Guess I should fill that water bottle or hydration pack, eh? And, Ill take a slice of that humble pie.
I immediately released any notion of finishing around two hours. Good thing, because I finally finished in 3:30. When I crossed the finish line, my husband was there and the first thing he said was, Are you alright? Where have you been?
I knew that translated to, You told me youd be here an hour-and-a-half ago and you look wrecked, what happened?
After I got cleaned up, we went to dinner. I tried to eat, but could barely get anything down. My legs were beginning to seize up. We went back to the hotel room and I tried to do some self-massage to get my legs to recover more quickly, but I really couldnt touch them they were so sore. Ill have more humble pie, thanks.
I remember lying in bed thinking that I couldnt have anything, including a sheet, touch my legs because they hurt so bad.
After not sleeping the entire night, I told Del that I might not be able to race stage two; mostly because I wasnt sure I could get on the bike. Secondly, I wasnt sure I could pedal. Seriously, my legs hurt that bad.
I decided to just ride a bit of the race and if I felt bad after 20 or 30 minutes, Id just turn around and descend when the course was clear. By this time, Im packing several slices of humble pie with me. They were heavy.
Once I started riding, I felt okay. Not great, but okay. The longer I rode, the better I felt. Wow, thats weird. I never did feel great, but I felt good enough to finish the stage. I felt better at the end of the stage than I did at the beginning. Interesting
That race was the beginning of my addiction for mountain bike riding.
It has been 12 years since that event and I have kept the Tipperary Creek race on my radar all this time, hoping one day to go back. The route is no longer part of a weekend stage race, but it remains the last race of their summer series.
In the past, one thing or another kept me from racing again. This year, after some encouragement from Bill Frielingsdorf, a pre-ride with Scott Ellis and an available calendar, I decided to do that event again.
The only expectation I have this time is to enjoy the course, the mountain bike fitness, and skills Ive accumulated since 1997. A bit of that humble pie remains in my pocket, likely never to be fully removed.
That's a good thing.