Having raced in the Ridgeline Rampage on Saturday, I can cross the first mountain bike race of the year off my list of things to do. When I arrived in Castle Rock for the race, the weather was somewhat cool and overcast. The weather forecasters had been predicting afternoon rain showers. I had packed a variety of clothing so that I would be prepared no matter what conditions I would be racing in. I had ridden this race last year, so I knew what to expect for the most part in terms of course terrain and elevation changes. However, this year, the course was going in the opposite direction. Somewhere in the back of mind I thought this might mean that there would be more climbing involved, but overall, it should be very similar in either direction.
I picked up my race number, t-shirt and goody bag at the registration table. All the while the sun seemed to be hinting that it might actually make an appearance and warm things up for the afternoon races. I was early enough that I had time to cruise around looking for team mates and visited the pit area just in time to see my team mate, Carol, pass through. After that I returned to my car, suited up, and began the process of riding up the nearby hills to warm up my legs. I had heard that this year’s field of racers was bigger than ever and wondered how that would play out during the first mile or so of the race. Last year, bikes had literally been tire to tire at the beginning, making for a frustrating and challenging traffic jam to navigate through.
As I pedaled around the neighborhood surrounding the race course, I came to see that the first half mile of so of the course went uphill through the neighborhood streets. I suspected the course had been routed in such a way to thin out the racers before we rolled onto single track. To some degree, it worked. But eventually, there came an inevitable traffic jam when too many riders come together in one place on an incline. This is my least favorite part of racing the Ridgeline Rampage. I can’t help but think that spacing out start times would alleviate this problem. As a few cyclists hopped off their bikes and began running them up the hill, I decided to do the same. This turned out to be a mistake because everyone I had just passed ~and then some~ eventually got rolling again and it was impossible for me to find a gap big enough to squeeze into to get rolling again. Lesson learned.
Once I was on the move again, I settled into a steady rhythm of climbing, calling out “on your left!” , and assertively passing other
racers as I cruised up the hills. Before I knew it, I was starting in on the food that I had packed with me. I was surprised that I was feeling the need for energy so soon into the race. This is when I concluded ~rightly or wrongly~ that more climbing was required to ride the course in this direction. The good news was that the course was designed with the pit in the center of a figure 8, meaning that I could grab a hand-up of food or liquid if necessary at the middle and end of each lap.
I did pass a lot of guys and a few gals, but I never was able to chase down the one or two women in my age group who passed me during the run-up fiasco at the very beginning of the race. As I was closing the second half of my last lap, my triceps were burning, my thighs were screaming at me, and I’m certain I let out more than one whimper as my body protested the continued pain of climbing. After reviewing the statistics later on Strava, I realized that each ten mile lap of the race had 1,000 feet of climbing… no wonder my body was protesting! The wind and rain moved into the area during the last few hundred feet of my race. I rolled across the finish line and went directly to the food tent. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches never tasted so good!