Racing bikes is fun. It has been about a year and a half since I last took on the challenge of racing mountain bikes. I forgot how incredible it really is to compete.
I went into the Battle of Payne Creek 6 Hour Race semi-prepared and yet it was different this time around. The biggest difference was that I was relaxed and put no expectations on myself. In the past, I have stressed over results and fitness and a myriad of other details. This time I went into it with the attitude of having fun and seeing what I could do. I have been training more consistently this year with about two to three rides a week, but I was worried that I had not put in many long rides. Before the race I rode 20 miles numerous times, 30 miles one time, and I put in a 40 miler only one week before the race. I had wanted to get in a 50 mile ride, but you know, life happens. Even though I had not put in so many miles, I knew I could do the distances that would be required to finish, because the course only had about 700 feet of climbing per 8.5 mile lap. Just the week before I put in 40 Pisgah miles with 4500 feet of climbing, so mentally and physically I knew I would be fine. But the biggest factor really was my head. I was relaxed, cool, calm and collected. I really only had one goal, finish 6 laps and keep the pedals turning at a reasonable pace. I got in 6 laps and stayed consistent the entire day with times of 50 minutes, 53, 53, 56, 58, and 54 respectively. I managed an 8th place finish out of 12 in masters men, and pulled out 31st overall out of 53 finishers. In past 6 hour races, I have had inconsistent times, but this race I just got into a rhythm and kept at it all day. It was a very surreal experience just keeping the pedals turning at a steady pace. My mind stayed super clear the entire day and I got into the moment with intense clarity. I felt like I was floating and never really felt too tired all day.
I kept the nutrition rolling all day in small bits and pieces, and had a rule to do something every 15 minutes or so, whether it was drinking water or Infinite, eating a Shot Block, gel shot or Ally’s Bar. I ate a bagel with peanut butter later in the race and downed a few Endurolyte supplements to help with cramping. Next time I plan to try a breakfast burrito with potatoes, avocado and eggs, because the bagel was a bit dry.
Another huge factor was having the support of my wife Shannon at each lap. She was there all day, serving up bottles of Infinite and giving me a positive boost each lap. In past races I did not have a crew and I have to say it really makes a difference to have someone for moral and emotional support during a race. We discussed what laps I would stop for resupply and Shannon had it dialed in. I stopped to pee twice during the race and she switched out my bottles and lubed up my chain during those times. That alone helped me to shave at least 5 minutes and over the course of an entire race, it really adds up. Thanks Shannon for everything!!
Another factor as well was I knew a few people at the race this time around. Seeing a familiar face out on course really helps keep the motivation high and it is really nice to talk with someone during a long race. On lap 4, I rode with a super stand up guy by the name of James Hoffmeister. This guy first of all is 72 years old and rides like a man half his age. He has the spirit of a 20 year old and he can hammer by the way. Age is truly in your mind and James embodies that philosophy. He came up to me during the lap at a time when I was starting to feel fatigued and I had started to slow up a bit. He said pick it up Chris in a firm and supportive way. He knew I could do it, so he said it and I obliged. I kicked in to reserve mode and started to crank out the miles. I paced him for the entire lap and felt really good. We chatted a bit, but mostly we just hammered it out at a good pace, content to be in the zone. He later dropped me, but thanked me for pacing him. I thought I would never see him again and eased up a bit at the end of the lap. I have to admit, it was really cool to catch him in the last half mile. He was all encouragement and true class in that moment and congratulated me on the strong finish. It was an honor coming from such a legend. Thanks Jim!! I also saw James’ wife Beth out on course and she was all smiles. She kept her fast pace up all day and won her division by a long margin. It was fun to talk about our cats after the race, as she is a very passionate cat lover. Both she and James are some of the most friendly, humble and truly bad ass riders out there. They both have been local heros for me for a long time and it was really inspiring to race with them. Another local Asheville rider Nick Bragg was racing too. I saw Nick for a brief time on lap 5 as he was lapping me. Nick is a really cool, young local from Asheville that is super talented and very humble as well. He is a true hammer-head and it was really cool to ride with him for a minute or two. He chatted for awhile and gave me strong words of encouragement and went on to finish 3rd place in Expert Men. Nice job Nick!! It is really humbling to talk with and race with these kinds of people. All of them embody what real sport is about and it is really fun to be a part of their positive energy.
So basically, the camaraderie seemed to help me tremendously during this race. Racing is an individual sport against your own goals and expectations, but it is also a social sport. As I have gotten older, I am realizing the social aspect of riding is a really important factor in the enjoyment part of the sport. When you can go out with a group of friends that push you and support you, the entire moment is enhanced and we remember that biking truly is a social sport meant to be shared with others. When I lived in Colorado, I always trained and rode by myself and I lost the drive after a while. In North Carolina, I have ridden more with others and I think that is what has kept me more motivated and psyched to share the experience with others. This kind of experience is also a big factor in why I started Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures. After all a shared experience is something that can bond people around a common thread and it is strengthened and made more complete and meaningful as a result. So my take out of this race was to keep it fun, share the experience with others and to relax and let it happen. Letting go and going with the moment and enjoying the entire process from start to finish. After all, riding bikes is fun and I don’t think I ever felt worse after a bike ride than I did before. I might be more tired, but I am always more fulfilled and happier than when I started. Biking and racing is an easy way to experience bliss and find out what you are really capable of doing with the proper attitude and motivation. I can’t wait for the next race.