Last week I wrote a race recap for the Over the Hump race series being held at Irvine Lake from a spectators point of view. I figured it was only fair to do a follow-up from a racers perspective. So I entered this weeks race.
I used to mountain bike a lot and I raced in college, but I haven’t been on a mountain bike in about 5 years (since moving to California from Colorado). I tell you this because I debated, pretty heavily, what class to enter – Sport or Beginner. I ultimately went with the Beginner class, because I doubted that my fitness level could handle 3 laps as opposed to 2 (this turned out to be a very good choice).
I sold my only mountain bike recently (it wasn’t much of a race rig anyhow), so I reached out to the man behind the curtain, Matt at Over the Hump. He was kind enough to hit up the folks at Jax Bicycle Center and have them ear-mark a demo bike for me. To my delight, I showed up to find a Gary Fisher Superfly Al Elite waiting for me. What a sick bike. As I told the guy at the Jax tent – if I was going to get my soul stolen during the race, it wouldn’t be the bikes fault!
The mechanic quickly got me squared away, installing the pedals I brought and tweaking the seat height for me. I pocketed a couple sample packets of Gu Roctane and was off to complete registration.
Registration was a breeze, the people working were friendly and gave me the whole run down on pre-riding the course. There was also a pre-race chip check (to make sure the system was recording things right for the electronic timing). A great idea, although it removed “system error” from my list of excuses. One bonus was that The Path was handing out free water bottles at the chip check. Had to go with hot pink!
Last week, I said the course looked “fast, dusty and moderately technical. Definitely not epic single track”. Which I found to be true, but that is an over simplification and sells the race short by a pretty good margin. I had a lot of fun racing. The course had moderate climbing, some good single-ish track sections, quite a bit of off-camber riding with some loose rock and deep silty sections as well.
During pre-ride, I noted some sections (turns) that I thought would silt-out into a deep loose mess by the second lap, turns out it only took the start of the race to get there. It would be nice to do a bit of trail work and get these sections wetted down and turned to rock gardens instead of dust-pits. But it was only two parts of the course. No real complaints.
I was really impressed with the courses ability to use some natural and man-made features to keep things interesting on corners. One particular corner featured a tarmac curb-drop during a descent into a 90 degree turn (I think a few racers failed to notice the 6-inch drop, as I saw a few go down).
The middle of the course had a succession of climbs and descents which really got me to red-line (thought I was going to puke in my shoes a couple times!). Downed a couple of cherry-lime roctane to get sorted out – helped a ton.
The last third of the course really shined. It had some steep, fairly technical sections but still allowed for racing and passing with some fast descents into the finishing straight.
Again, I sold this course short last week. It was FUN!
Two laps was enough for me today, although it is worth mentioning that I was a little disappointed because the beginner race didn’t include some of the more technical sections that sport/expert/pro had (understandably). But as a technically proficient but out of shape mountain biker I found myself wishing for a “good bike handler but lazy” class or a “parents with kids under 10″ class, which would include the more technical sections, but only be two laps.
My race felt like this: Pain, More Pain, Going to Puke?
Then an amazing thing happened, I got to lap two and it felt like: Even More Pain, Going to Puke?, Not So Bad, Why Am I So Slow?, Almost Done!
I was also impressed with the turnout of local shops and sponsors. It was family night, which was great. It’s super fun to see a mountain bike community that knows and understands that families want to participate together. The kids races each week are also a nice touch.
Because it was family night, there were balloon animals, face painting, a bounce house and other diversions for the kiddos.
What was also cool is Oakley showed up tonight (their headquarters is in Foothills Ranch, just a quick jaunt down Santiago Canyon) and were offering free lens upgrades! Seriously. I got brand new Black Iridium lenses for my Radars for free.
There were a ton of other supporters/sponsors and exhibitors out too: Bahati Racing, Kenda Tires, Fizik, Troy Lee Designs, several Local Bike Shops t(o name a few), all demo-ing and selling gear and clothing. It was great.
Should you take the time and make the effort to race? Unequivocally, yes! It is a great race, lots of fun and a good way to get some suffering in without just pounding out another workout.
What’s in it for you if you come out? Grass-roots racing, developing a community, being a part of something that doesn’t happen everywhere. Having the opportunity to live a life that has a bit more excitement in it. Showing your friends and family how much fun an active outdoor lifestyle is.
And…some free swag. Seriously, when is the last time you got ANYTHING for free (or the low-low price of $25)?
Tonight, I got new lenses for my glasses, a free water bottle, to ride a sweet bike, have some fun, feel some pain, (yep, I’m still alive, thanks for the systems-check lungs, heart and burning quads), boosted my immune system (eating dirt does that, really), and provided my daughter with an example of healthy activity and had fun being outside.
What a good experience it was.
Have fun out there!