Last Thursday (which happened to be my 10th wedding anniversary – Thanks for letting me ride, baby – I love you!), Bob and I headed to Castlewood State Park for the Apline Shop Short Track Dirt Crit #2. It’s a little over 2 hours to Castlewood from Jeff City. If I was going to drive that far then I wanted to do the B race since it’s longer than the C race. I probably have no business being in the B race since I’ve never done a Dirt Crit, but I didn’t want to drive that far for just 20 minutes of racing.
Well, mother nature along with some horrible traffic had different plans for me. About halfway there, we ran into some serious rain which slowed us down. Then we came to a screaching halt on I-70. It was slow-going for 20 minutes or so. It seemed like it was taking FOREVER to get there, and as the minutes ticked by I knew I wasn’t going to make the B race. In fact, it was a long shot to make it in time for the C race at this point. With all the rain, I doubted that the race was even still going to happen. But we had traveled this far, and we weren’t about to turn around without at least making it to Castlewood.
As we entered the park and the rain let up, we saw a ton of cars, bikes, and people. I couldn’t believe the race was still on, let alone how many people were actually there. Sweet! Now, I just had to make sure I registered in time for the C race. After taking a quick potty break (and barging in on a hot, young blonde… hey, she should’ve locked the door), I hustled over to the registration table and got checked in.
Whew! I made it. Bob decided not to race since he had been paddling and hiking all day long, and his bike was all jacked up. We ran into several friends from Team Seagal… Lawman, Sasha, Gino, and Casey F. Ryback:
Bob finally got his CXmas spoke card back after a loooong separation. Then we got to talking to Ryback as the B race was finishing up. This man can tell a story, and he has a way with words. We were swept away as he spun yarn after yarn and dropped several knowledge bombs on us. It was like James Earl Jones was reading the Declaration of Independence in a beautiful amphitheater. We were mesmerized. So much so that I didn’t realize that my race had started until I heard a bunch of cheering as Bob casually said, “Hey Luke, isn’t that your race starting over there?” Uh… Yeah… I’m an idiot. Check out Team Seagal’s report to see a pic of me trying to catch up to the back of the pack (That post also has a video clip at the end worth watching).
So, I hauled ass as fast as I could, and I actually caught one guy before we headed into the woods. I passed a couple more people right away, and then it was slow-going for a little while as the trail was pretty congested. I made it around another rider or two when I got behind a kid that was probably 10 years old or so. He was moving pretty good when we popped out of the woods for the creek crossing. It looked the the little man was going to fly across the water, and I thought, “Hell yeah! Way to go, man!” Then he locked his breaks up, and I almost ran right over him. I juuust missed him, and I barely made it through the creek.
I managed to pass another rider or two on that first lap. As I came out of the woods and worked my way through the grassy turns, I could hear Bob screaming his head off. He was still kind of laughing at me for missing the start of the race which I fully deserved, but I still had a message for him:
Most of the racers were fairly spread out by the start of lap #2. I passed a few more people this lap, and I saw one dude walking with his bike (I assume he broke a chain or had a flat or something). I passed a lady shortly before crossing the creek. She soon passed me again, though, as the guy in front of me almost went down, and I came to a complete stop so I would not t-bone him. A little while later, I passed both of them as they almost took a wrong turn. I passed another rider or two before finishing the second lap only to hear Bob yelling even louder.
You see, free beer was being supplied by O’Fallon Brewery, and Bob just couldn’t get enough Wheach (wheat beer with a touch of peach which was deliciously refreshing at the end of the race). With every lap I completed, Bob finished off at least one more Wheach. He became really good friends with this guy:
The third lap went much like the second lap. I passed a few people and pedaled hard. I found out that I suck at the sharp turns in the grass… Something I definitely need to work on.
The bell rang, meaning we only had one more lap to go, so I tried to pick up the pace a little. I passed a couple of people right away, and I noticed a few people seemed to be hurting pretty badly and struggling. I was feeling good, and I caught and passed as many as I could. As the last lap was coming to an end, I saw one more rider up ahead. I made it my mission to pass him, because let’s face it… beating one last guy in the middle of the pack separates the boys from the men.
I caught him before the single track ran out, but I couldn’t get around him. We popped out on the grassy turns, and I could hear some lunatic screaming at the top of his lungs. I tried to take the inside line on the first turn to pass this guy, but he swooped right in front of me. I hit the brakes so we wouldn’t collide. Then I realized that the screaming lunatic was actually Bob, and he was screaming at me, “QUIT BEING NICE!!! QUIT BEING NICE!!! QUIT BEING NICE!!!” Over and over and over, at the top of his lungs. Did he want me to run over this guy?
I kept trying to take him on the inside with no luck, and Bob kept yelling at me. As we approached the second to last turn, Bob was standing right there… Still screaming, “QUIT BEING NICE!!!” I think he scared the guy in front of me, because he took the turn too sharply and slid out on the wet grass. I avoided running over him and then passed him as the guy scrambled to get up and catch me. Bob was now screaming, “GO, GO, GO, GO, GO, GOOOOO!!!”
I crossed the line in front of that poor guy, and Gino from Team Seagal yelled, “Only two more laps, Luke!” For a second, I thought he was serious. I was both pumped to get to ride more and devastated because I was spent. Then I realized that he was kidding. Thanks, jerk.
The race only lasted 20 minutes or so, but it might be the most fun I’ve ever had at a mountain bike race. To get a feel for what the race looks like, check out this video from the A race (just remember, they are a LOT faster than I am). It was soooo much fun… Being shoulder to shoulder with other riders on a flat, fast course… Trying to figure out when to hit it hard to pass, and when to save a little for the right opportunity to pass… Trying not to slide out in the wet grass… Almost running over a kid at the creek… Trying to figure out how to “quit being nice” without crashing into someone… It was all simply amazing. Seriously, it was a blast. Just look at the face on this kid, and tell me it doesn’t look like he’s having the time of his life:
I ended up taking 25th out of 49 riders in the C race. I guess that’s not too bad considering I completely missed the start of the race. I wish I would have started near the front to see if I am indeed a C racer or if I need to move up to B. I’ll probably move up to B just so I can ride longer. Not sure yet, though… We’ll have to wait and see.
There was some delicious food after the race – pulled pork sandwiches, quinoa salad (someone called it couscous, but I’m pretty sure it was quinoa), some sort of scrumptious desert bars, and more – all provided by the Lone Wolf Coffee Company. And of course there was the Wheach Beer to wash it all down.
The rain started to come down as we finished eating the great grub, so we said our goodbyes and headed out on our LONG voyage home. I somehow stayed on Hwy 61 instead of getting on I-70, and we ended up way North of Mexico, MO – again, I’m an idiot – and yes, I’m the team navigator. So, I ended up driving over 6 hours round-trip for a 20 minute race on my 10th wedding anniversary. Sounds like a waste of time, right? Nope. I can’t tell you how much fun it was. Seriously… You NEED to do one of these races. I will definitely be back, but I hope to do the B race next time. And you’d better be there. Yes, you!