MBAA 3 Reluctance
10 February 2017 – MBAA Havasu Havoc
I’m not sure why I’m here.
I registered for this mountain bike race a week or so ago, when I saw there were only 11 riders registered. There were 22 this morning when I checked before I left Tempe for the 200 mile drive to the race venue, Sara Park, a few miles from Lake Havasu City. I never really felt much excitement about this race.
Well, that’s not true. When I installed a new set of Reynolds Carbon “BlackLabel” wheels, an XTR cassette, and a new, quiet, sweet-shifting Shimano chain, I was pretty happy. I’m a bit of a tech geek and love light, high-end components. Moreover, I sincerely enjoy working on things mechanical, especially when my work presages improvements. I had somewhat regretted not getting the Giant Anthem Team bike when I bought my 2014, 650b ride; the difference in price between the “Team” bike and mine was small, when one considers the cost to switch to carbon wheels like those on the “Team” bike. But at the time I was being “practical” trying to adhere to the budget constraints of a full-time high school English teacher in Arizona (50th in teacher pay, nationwide), so I bought the Anthem Advanced, a notch below the Team machine.
But even after a shakedown ride and the transient joy of fitting these upgrades, I found little to get excited about, as I packed, drove and ruminated about this race. Still, I soldiered on.
That lack of thrill was multiplied after only a few thousand yards of recon-riding of the poorly marked, hyper-rocky “junior loop.” Our race, destined to start at 10:39am the next morning, consisted of this 3 mile lap and a 10 mile “long loop.” The shorter of the two is nearly all singletrack, once it leaves the rodeo grounds parking area, so as a long-time mountain biker, I should have loved this course. I didn’t.
While I have not loved getting beaten on a bike, like I have in the last three road races, I think I’m beginning to drift away from the “joys” of getting beaten (up) by the bike, as is so much a part of the rocky rides in Arizona.
They aren’t called the Rocky Mountains for nothin’.
I finished the 3 mile loop and though I rode slowly, I felt my legs – heard my legs suggest “let’s not do the whole ten mile second loop recon.” Coupled with the frustrations of the as yet poorly marked course, my legs easily won the argument – my “know-better-than-not-to pre-ride-the-course” mind put up no fight. There was no body-mind split – my mind and body were one – unanimous. I had spoken with three other riders on recon and none of them were sure where the blue (junior) loop and the black (long) loop merged and I just didn’t look forward to pre-riding one of the many trails that branched off, only to find out that the one I checked out, would not be part of the race course. I rode about a mile of the long loop and when the trail happened to veer close to the paved road entrance to the rodeo grounds, I turned back to my car.
If this race was closer to home, I might have loaded my bike and returned then and there to the solace of home sweet home. But I had paid for the race, the hotel, the gas, the carbon wheelset, the XTR cassette and I decided to stay. If only to get my money’s worth.
Typing up this handwritten reconstruction of my recon ride several days after the time of those misgivings, I’m still not entirely sure what informs my reticence to ride, my reluctance to race. I’m still not sure why the event did not have the usual impact on me, did not thrill or excite me, did not provide those telltale intoxicating feelings of anticipation and anxiety that are so much a part of racing.