Race Report by Brooke McFerren, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team.
Summer is officially here! In my opinion, the beginning of the Over The Hump weekly Tuesday night MTB race series heralds the arrival of the summer season. For most, OTH is a casual, fun, family event where one can kick back, knock off some of that work or school week stress, and even imbibe in some post-race brews and Wahoo’s tacos. For others, it’s a terrific mid-week training ride, a great way to measure the effects of hard miles of interval or endurance training against other worthy competitors. For me it’s a little of both. This year I don’t have any specific races or a race season I’m training for as I have in years past. This year is more about finding fun challenges in my everyday riding, trying to become a better rider, and using racing to keep motivated to stay fit and sharp as a rider. So this year I have had a blast at the first 2 OTH races trying out the Elite women’s class of competition, having fun but also pushing myself to the limit!
This year OTH series has moved to a new location at Oak Canyon Park (behind Irvine Lake) and a new course set-up. Each week the organizers have listened to feedback and tweaked the course here and there, resulting in a fun and fast race course. My first impression of the course at week 1 was that it’s very well suited to the large amount of racers of all levels on the course at the same time. There is not much bottlenecking and plenty of places to pass. Week 1 was amazing, with a huge main start venue with what seemed like twice as many vendors and shop tents set up compared to last year. As always the organizers had everything running smooth with parking, registration, check in, and timing of the races. There were tons of volunteers helping to keep things going, which was so appreciated.
The Week One race started out with an immediate paved climb followed by an energy-sapping gravel straightaway followed by a dirt climb. It was great way to get that threshold heart rate pumping! I charged out of the start hard, used to having to sprint all-out to get a good position before entering single track, but in this case there wasn’t really a need since the course remained wide, and I found I had over-done it a bit. I paid for my over-exertion by my second lap, which had me gasping for air and fighting stomach and calf cramps. However, I was also exhilarated by the fast fun course and hoped I could recover in time for the third lap. I also had some great back-and-forths with other riders in my class which kept me motivated and my legs spinning hard. And as always the spectators were amazing, with megaphones and cowbells galore! By lap #3 I had recovered a bit but had lost the racer in front of me. I did have some competition right behind me however which kept me at full tilt until the very end. It was so fun and I learned some valuable lessons for the next race.
Week Two was a special one since it was The Path Bike Shop's sponsored night. The theme was the 80s, and there were some spectacular 80s attire on display, shoulder-pads and all. Megan, Greg, Amy, Thomas and the rest of the Path race crew went all out. This race I decided to take a little more conservatively off the start line, and after the long climbing sections I found myself right behind Laura and Leslie, two racers I admire greatly and have never come close to catching. I decided to see how long I could keep up, expecting at any minute for my legs to blow up. As laps went by we found ourselves in a terrific three-way duel, with barely a few seconds between the three of us. Every surge one of us made the other two matched in intensity. I found myself so close yet unable to pass Leslie, who also races for the Path and is an amazing rider. I was hoping she didn’t think I was just sucking on her wheel, as I found myself at my limit just keeping up! The spectators caught on that we were having a battle and cheered loudly as we went by. By the last lap I found myself finally able to make a move and pass, however my exhaustion caught up with me and I made a costly mistake in the rock garden exit, fell and dropped my chain. Thankfully Leslie was able to get by me cleanly and was able to finish in a close battle with Laura. I had lost too much time putting my chain back on to make a chase, but I finished with my spirits high since it had been such a great battle and I had bested my previous race time by over a minute.
I so look forward to what this OTH summer will bring, both in having fun, improving my skills, and in more great friendly competition with some amazing and talented ladies.