|"Well, Phil, I was on the rivet the entire way."|
September 15, 2012
by Scott Martin
I ended my 2012 season with a bang (and a whimper) at the Mountain Bike Marathon National Championship in Bend, Oregon, on September 15.
Held a week after the Bend-based Masters Road Nationals attended by our own TT powerhouse Jim Langley, the Marathon Nationals served up 54 miles and 6,300 feet of climbing. The high-desert course featured tons of fun singletrack, many nasty lava-rock gardens and some tricky deep-sand sections.
Based on last year’s times, I expected to finish in about 4.5 hours. But then I ran into Santa Cruz local (and Giro founder) Jim Gentes at the packet pick-up. Gentes had done the Masters Road Championships and stayed in Bend to pre-ride the marathon course. He said the course had changed from last year and was brutal. Yikes.
On race day I lined up with 28 other guys in the 50-59 category, including teammate Chris Baker, Gentes, and a bunch of chiseled guys from mountain bike hotspots like Idaho, Colorado, Utah and of course Oregon. Among them was Bend local Paul Thomasberg, a Mountain Bike Hall of Famer and ex-pro. Double yikes. [Editor's note: Paul won the race.]
We started fast on dusty fire roads. As planned, I went out hard. Probably a little too hard in hindsight. I was still recovering when we hit the first technical sections. Here I quickly realized that a season of competing mostly on the relatively tame trails of the CCCX events at Fort Ord had not prepared me for hard-core mtb racing. I bobbled, I crashed, I got passed again and again.
By aid station #1 at mile 12, I was struggling to stay positive. But after chugging a bottle and inhaling some energy bar, I began feeling better. One woman who passed me was only slightly faster but way more skillful than me, so I latched on and enrolled in a clinic on technical riding.
By aid station #2 at mile 24, I began re-passing a few riders and feeling much sharper mentally and physically.
Aid station #3 at mile 33 came up sooner than expected – always a good sign – and when I hit the last aid station at mile 42, I figured I was practically home.
The last 12 miles were cruelly hilly and technical. My back was screaming. I could barely dismount for the many rocky sections. I fell over on one steep climb and was too exhausted to curse. My CamelBak finally went dry. When I hit the pavement with a half-mile to go, my neck was so tweaked I couldn’t turn to see if anyone was behind me.
Shattered, I crossed the finish line in 5:13 for 16th place. Clearly I have a lot to learn about this crazy event, but I have 12 months to begin figuring it out. Thanks for reading. And thanks to coach Mark Edwards for getting me in such good shape. Here are the full results.