What motivates a 57-year-old woman to compete in the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race Series? On the same token, what motivates anyone to ride as hard as you can for an hour, get covered in dust and risk a fall during the process?
Those are questions you might ask of any of the more than 200 people who show up faithfully to the local mountain bike race series events each summer.
I had taken a break from racing for a few years but decided to show up again for this season’s first race last week. I wanted to see what I could do against the clock and to again feel the butterflies in my stomach at the starting line. I wanted to push my limits and test my ability. Earlier that day, I almost backed out (there are always a million excuses not to participate), but I stuck to it and made my appearance. I was glad I did.
There were many new faces I did not know, but I was surprised to see several of my old friends from years ago still out there slugging their way around the course. The camaraderie you experience as a participant in Town Challenge races is part of the reason we all love to race. We’re all working hard, whether we come in first or last, and everyone appreciates the effort it takes to be part of the group.
I got a chance to watch some of the children’s races while warming up for my start. The determination on their faces as their little legs spun around as fast as they could, helmets askew, with parents cheering from the sidelines, made me remember why the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race Series is so special. Everyone is a winner just by showing up. At the finish line, Popsicles are passed around, putting a smile on dusty faces of all ages.
As the countdown started for my race group (women’s sport), I was surprised at how large the field was. I remember when there were only four or five of us at the starting line. Last Wednesday, I counted more than 15. Once we got going, the field spread out and everyone settled in to their personal best on that given day. I felt pretty good and enjoyed pushing myself, landing somewhere in the middle of the pack. I was able to work with a younger competitor as we helped pace each other for the climb. We felt pretty good about passing a few of the men who had started ahead of us while at the same time allowed others to pass us from behind. Considering it is a race, it is really amazing how friendly the spirit of competition is among the participants.
My downhill race was on the edge, as I had not ridden my mountain bike that fast in a long time. One younger lady allowed me to pass on the twisting Lupine trail and stayed with me through the fast lower section of the final leg. At the last turn for the sprint to the finish, even though I was pushing as hard as I could, she passed me at the line. Boy, it was fun!
So whether young or old, fast or slow, new to racing or a seasoned veteran, the Town Challenge mountain bike races have something for everyone. I highly recommend participating on whatever level you choose. And if you don’t want to race, you can always volunteer. The post-race parties are always a good time and everyone gets their name in the hat for cool prize drawings. I plan to be there for next Wednesday’s race at Marabou. How about you?