I suppose that sounds selfish, but when I race, I do it knowing I won’t be able to do the experience justice afterward, no matter how detailed a story I tell.
Take this last weekend for example: I did the mountain bike portion of the Fourth Street Clinic Triathlon in Salt Lake City with my brother-in-law and his wife. Perhaps the funniest part of the story happened when Chard, my bro-in-law left to go to the poolside and his wife, we’ll call her Mrs. Chard, ran to the bathroom, leaving me with both of their children. When the kids looked around and realized I wasn’t their mom, the tears flowed freely. I’m sure I made for a pretty entertaining sight for Mrs. Chard—one exasperated brother standing in the transition area surrounded by bikes holding two bawling children trying to convince them their mother would come back for them sometime.
After she took the kids to go watch their dad swim, I got all prepped to take the timing chip into the bike course. Swimmers began emerging from the pool and running up the grassy hill to the transition area where I was waiting with a few other guys who were riding the bike split for their teams as well. Soon, Chard came up the hill, looking much like everyone else who’d just emerged from the pool—pooped.
Now, I don’t know about you, but racing for me isn’t about beating a time or whatever. I just see someone ahead and chase to get those people behind me before the finish line. So when I got on my bike, I passed three people before I left 200-foot parking lot by the transition area. Then I found one of the first obstacles on the course: a four-flight staircase leading to a bridge over a major road. Well, I’m pretty good at stairs, so I passed two or three more people by the time I reached the bridge. I caught a few more people before the doubletrack started, and then the real fun began.
The dirt sections immediately had a few semi-steep inclines, or that’s how it seemed. Some people were getting off their bikes and walking. As I passed one guy, though, I realized I was still in my big ring while he had obviously shifted to something smaller. I came up to a turnaround, and that’s when something unexpected happened: someone passed me. And that someone had a braided ponytail. I’d just whizzed by dozens of cyclists, men and women, and here some girl chicked me. So naturally, I took chase, but I got caught between some slower traffic on the brief downhill.
Someone told me the week before the race that there would be some pretty scenery on the bike course, but now that I look back, I don’t remember seeing any scenery at all. It’s probably because I was so focused on the person ahead of me. The girl who passed me was flying up the next climb. I was keeping her in my sights, but it was obvious that wouldn’t last long. As the climb pitched steeper, she quickly crested and disappeared from view while I picked off a few more stragglers on the hill behind her. By now, there were more people walking their bikes than riding.
Up around the crest, the course had even more goodies to offer. For good measure, they’d thrown in a few mud puddles, some decent-sized boulders and a few more power climbs. Again, I managed to keep it upright and keep the pedals moving (although I did hop off the saddle for one quick, rocky descent) and even keep passing a few people.
I’d been gearing up for the last part of the course for a while, knowing it would likely be a downhill with a surprise or two thrown in. I’d already resolved to keep my hands off the brakes as much as possible, since I’m typically a pansy on the descents. This time, however, I only passed more people on the downhill. Where the trail met the pavement (the way back to the transition area) one bowlegged kid actually caught me descending an even faster pace than my own, so I naturally decided to key off of him.
Together, we weaved through the tight corners and found our way back to the four-flight staircase. I kept close on him even as we bounced down the staircase on our hardtails. We turned the last corner and hit the straightaway to the transition area, where I got out of the saddle and re-passed him.
I passed on the ankle chip to our runner, and that was that.
Waiting around for her to come in at the finish, I spotted that amazing girl mountain biker who passed on the first loop. After she crossed, I tracked her down and asked a few questions:
“So are you a pro or something?”
“Yeah, well, a pro mountain biker.”
“No kidding? Do you race the Intermountain Cup or what?”
“No, just the NORBA National Series.”
So I’d been caught and passed by a real mountain bike pro. As it turns out, she was from Pocatello, so she actually knew a few local names I knew. To top it off, she won the female side of the triathlon.
It struck me as pretty entertaining that I keep meeting legitimate professional athletes at these races—Sam Jurekovic and Kit DesLauriers at the Teton Pass Climb back in the day, Wendy Wagner at the E100 12-hour, my cousin Brad at our family reunion, etc. etc. I think the Intermountain West has some pretty cool pro athletes, if you don’t mind my saying.
At the end of the day, our little triathlon team didn’t have such a bad day either. We managed a fourth-place finish out of the 25 or 30 triathlon teams at the race, and we had some relatively impressive results for our individual splits.