I had two goals for my first Semi-Pro Race at Deer Valley Nationals last Saturday. First, to not finish last, and second, to finish in front of Kyle A., the guy from San Francisco who passed me on some narrow single track while I was taking a drink and riding one handed in the first lap of the NOVA Nationals Race in Phoenix earlier this year.
I owe Joel a big shout out for loaning me his Superfly for this race. I think the weight savings helped me in the climbing. Oh yeah, I also owe him a new rear derailleur.
The race started out with a fast pace, but we got bogged down in traffic as soon as we hit the single track. I rode in the bushes to get around a few guys to ensure I’d meet my first goal. Then the course hit the Little Stick Road—a long steep dirt road. My anger at the race officials for starting our race at eight in the morning—meaning I had to finish breakfast by five—subsided on Little Stick when I realized that it would be in the shade for all three of my laps. I passed Kyle A. on the first time up and never saw him again.
I settled in and tried to get comfortable, but before I finished a lap I noticed some slop in my left pedal. I thought about stopping to tighten my cleats but the problem never got any worse, so I gambled that it would last for the duration of the race. I got lucky.
As I started the second lap I was visited again by my regular race companion this year: stomach cramps. I don’t know what it is; I’ve never had this problem before this year, but I can’t seem to get my digestive system under control during a race. It might be what I’m eating for breakfast: cold rice with milk and honey, or my homemade energy gel, a blend of honey, molasses and sea salt. Whatever it is, it makes it hard to push myself in the second half of a race.
By the third lap I was just holding on, trying not to get passed, but a few people caught me. One of them was a local kid, racing in the expert class, who wanted to come around me on the downhill. I pulled to the outside of a switchback to let him by, and he thanked me by running into my rear derailleur. It bent it enough to cause the gears to shift unpredictably for the rest of the race, but not so much that I had to stop to fix it. It did make for one more reason I couldn’t really push myself on the final climb up Snow Top.
I think I was eight minutes behind the winner, but they haven’t posted official results yet. I finished a respectable 19th out of 43 finishers in spite of my problems with cleats, cramps and crazy-fast kids, but at least I didn’t have to worry about bears.