I never got around to posting about my race on 5/23. I went to the Whidbey Island Mudder. It was pretty dry, just as it was when I did it last year. When I was racing last year, my big project was just to try to finish races without bonking. I wasn't always successful, but I think I expanded my aerobic capacity a lot. By the end of the season, completing a two hour race was no longer a problem for me, so this year's project is to be a lot less conservative about pacing myself. At Wednesday Night Worlds earlier in May, I did a race in which I spent the whole time at a much higher effort level than what I've considered myself able to sustain for that long in the past, and that was a real breakthrough for me.
So I decided to do Whidbey the same way. I was going to place myself in the first or second row at the start, race at that level of effort, and not worry about whether or not I was going to blow up. I didn't end up giving myself a great start, but since the course starts with a fairly long stretch of wide singletrack with easy passing, I don't think that was really a problem. Then I rode my bike really really hard for two and a half laps. Even once I noticed that my rear wheel was getting a little squirrelly...
Turned out I got a puncture. The tip of a thorn poked a hole in my tube. In the past, I've operated under the theory that if I got a flat tire, my race would be over whether or not I brought spare tubes, etc. All that stuff adds some weight and I think I can feel a difference in the handling of my bike with the tubes strapped on, so I've typically left my tools in the car when I race.
It's been almost a month since that race, and since then I've done the mountain bike leg in the Ski to Sea and another Indie Series race. While I was very disappointed with my result at Whidbey - I like finishing things - I think I still made progress as a racer that day. When I raced at the Ski to Sea, I rode the way I rode at Whidbey, and I got a result that I'm very happy with.
There are a lot of things that I enjoy about mountain bike racing. One of my favorite aspects, though, is that I feel it gives me a challenge to rise to - in trying to be a better mountain biker than the guy in front of me or the guy sitting on my wheel, I'm trying to be a better mountain biker in general. If I get to the point that trying to be faster than the other guys in my class doesn't make me better, there are two more classes I can upgrade to. If I get to the point that trying to be the fastest guy in the Open class doesn't require me to improve... then I guess I'll have some things to say to Julien Absalon. I'm dissappointed that a race that I thought was going well got cut short when I flatted my tire, but I think I still got to be a better mountain biker.
And I've taken my tire changing stuff with me for the two races since then.