With the excitement of my new bike still lingering, and the hopes of becoming some kick ass mountain bike racing chick looming in the future, I entered my first Kincaid park race last night. Before last night I had only competed in two mountain bike races. A St. Patty's day winter race on the snow and ice at West Chester Lagoon, and the 24 Hours of Light in Whitehorse. Neither of which were very serious and more about the party before, afterwards and in between than the actual riding.
I have to tell you about my background with pedals. Since I started riding a bike again 3 years ago, I have always had the same old flat pedals that I used as a kid. I never got the toe clips, and I certainly did not have "clipless" pedals that physically attach your feet to the bike. Not with my luck when it comes to trying new things (The phrase "break a leg" is taken literally by me). But everyone I have ever ridden with would say, "You need to get clipless pedals." With the general rebellious attitude that I take on with most issues dealing with gear or anything else for that matter, I was convinced that I did not need them. But lately my lack of control when climbing hills and the reoccurring incident where my feet slip off the front of the pedal and scrape up my calves has convinced my to try them.
I was doing well. I have been riding for a week to and from work, clipped in to my pedals without incident. I love the clipless pedals. I have so much more power because I can use the force of both of my legs at the same time. One leg is pushing while the other is pulling. But I had only been riding on paved trails and sidewalks, with some short jaunts through the woods on roughly flat dirt, with a few roots. I wasn't too worried about the Kincaid race because I looked at the proposed course and there were very few sections of singletrack (which I hadn't practiced on at all).
So when Brian and I arrived at the race start, and the race director announced that the course had been completely redirected and that it now involved a ton of knarley new singletrack, you can imagine my enthusiasm. He also mentioned that if you intend to jam through the singletrack, get out in front so that you don't have to wait for the slow people. I promptly positioned myself at the back of the pack and took a deep breath. "5, 4, 3, 2, 1..go!" We raced about 50 yards down a wide doubletrack section and turned left into the most difficult singletrack of my life. I immediately found myself alone in last place and barelling through the winding track of roots, rocks, and devils club, still not clipped in with my shiny new mountain bike shoes chattering on the pedals. I rode like that for the first mile, falling over and frantically trying to get clipped in. I even got passed by a runner on the trail who I was struggling to keep up with. At that time I had the moment that I have at least once in every race when I think, "What the hell am I doing here?"
And then it happened. I came flying out onto a wider section of trail, pushed down with my shoes and heard the "click" of my right shoe, and then the "click" of my left shoe and suddenly I was in control and flying down a hill passing the runner and one other girl in the race. I prepared myself for the next singletrack section and sharply turned right and rolled down into the track. Now that I was clipped in, I was "jamming" down the course, powering over the roots, bouncing over the rocks, determined to keep the girl that I had passed behind me so that I didn't finish in last place.
I managed to keep her behind me for the rest of the race, and came in second to last in the beginners race (and overall)! Woohoo! More impressively I came in 4th in the beginners race, because there were only 5 people racing that division. I have to say that this was the fastest way to learn how to ride with clipless pedals and highly recommend this method. I love clipless pedals.