15 miles (too many) and a DNF (more on this in a bit)
This was the third race in the Bike the Wilds race series. The race was to be about 12 miles long - but not the way I race.
I pulled in to the lot and talked to a couple of guys that had raced the course before. They said lots of climbing, and they were absolutely right. Lined up in the town of Rural Valley, and off we went right on time.
The race starts off on the road and quickly heads uphill. Unfortunately, the temperature was hovering at about 91 degrees. We probably did over a mile of pavement before hitting some double track, still heading up hill. Quick downhill, then into the woods, more uphill. That was the theme for the day.
Through the initial uphill I had made my way to the front third of the group. I was overheating quickly though. I had half my water bottle gone with in the first three miles. I was not going to have enough water. My other bottle was being used to dump on my head and down my back in an attempt to keep me cool. I felt like I was an iron furnace, just radiating huge amounts of heat. I'm pretty sure I have no ancestry from any hot weather locales. I am not made for hot summer riding - at all.
I was still mostly heading uphill, sometimes in cut fiels out in full view of the sun. Lots of riders walking their bikes up hills. I passed quite a few people on these hills, but also found myself pushing up some hills. I think I could've ridden them, but I'm sure I would have bonked hard.
After about eight miles, I felt like we were finally, slowly, heading back down hill. A couple of riders passed me, and they looked to be in my division. It was hard to tell as this division had a big age range. I chased them for a mile until I passed one of the riders. He made no attempt to stay with me. That left one other rider ahead of me. This was unfortunately my downfall.
We dumped out on to some gravel roads, passed some guy sitting on the side of the road all bloody. Emergency personnel with him, it looked like maybe he got hit by a quad? Not sure.
The rider in front of me was now not far away. I saw him start to turn left where the arrow pointed, but then he came back out on to the gravel road and continued on. I came to the same spot and saw the arrow pointed left, but then I also saw an arrow that pointed straight. No one else was around, and the rider I had been chasing for thirty minutes was riding away on the gravel road. I decided to follow him. This was where my mistake was. It seems someone turned that one arrow to follow the gravel road, not sure if it was kids or what. The worst part was as I continued on the gravel road there were all kinds of race markers pointing up on.
I shortly passed the rider and tried to to put some distance on him. As I was riding though, the trail seemed vaguely familiar. Then after a while I was absolutely sure we were on the same trail as earlier in the day. I came out at a paved road and stopped to wait for the rider behind me. As he came out he said what I had been thinking, that we had taken a wrong turn.
By this point we had put in 13 miles and the race was only to be 12 miles. So we called it a day and headed down the paved road to the finish. In the end I got in 15 miles in 90 degree weather. A great training day, a horrible race day. I really felt like I was going to have a decent finishing time. And the worst part of it all? The rider I chased down, he wasn't even in my class. Ah well, that's racing.
Two more races in the series to go, and we get to drop one race. I guess I know which race I'll be dropping.