Horning’s Hustle MTB XC
Wow wow wow wow ouch.
Two years ago Dave, John and I innocently raced Horning’s Hustle on a warm spring day. I was a complete newbie in my first XC race ever, and the 2-lap 80-minute race absolutely kicked my ass. I was in disbelief that anyone could ride longer and farther on that course than I did on that day.
Fast forward two years, and I am now sitting on the line in the Men’s Cat 1 field ready to race. John, Ken, Christian, Isaac and Chris are all at the starting line looking saucy in their Green Sub kits ready to race in their categories as well. The race director announces at the last minute that they are going to incorporate a “starter lap” into the race, which will not count toward the total lap requirements (little did we know that the starter lap was actually almost ¾ of a full lap!). Because I am Cat 1, it means that not only is my race twice as long as the last time I did this race, but there will be an extra starter lap as well! Gulp. That basically equates to 5 laps. Again, gulp. Oh, and it was raining, of course. It rained the night before, and it continued to rain off and on throughout the day. By the time we started the race, the course was already sloppy.
Knowing that I was going to be out there for a while, I did my best to be a conservative racer. This is not easy for me, as I typically just go until I crack and then hold on for dear life. I knew that this course, the conditions, and the duration of the race would not work if I blew up early. So instead of flying up the first hill, I just cruised smoothly, then kept spinning and spinning, never grinding and burning out my legs. If felt strange to not immediately hunt anyone down who tried to pass me, but low and behold, the tortoise theory seemed to work. I continually watched people crack, and I kept cruising past them. As the race progressed, the course got muddier and muddier and the laps got slower and slower. I have never been in my tiny gears as much as I was on this course, and I was going fast relative to most people. Crazy. By the time I was on my 4th and 5th laps, the downhill sections were ridiculously muddy and rutted out from all the crashes and people choosing to walk their bikes. I got tossed sideways, slid over stumps, yanked out of my pedals, almost rolled down the side (not the trail) of the hill but instead bounced sideways like a kid jumping down a sand dune, and it wasn’t until I on the very last lap that I really ate it hard, flipping over my handlebars. I have no idea how or why I went down, but I popped up, put my fender back on and continued on my way with a droolie smile and my granny-gear spinning.
I crossed the finish line a little under 3 hours, and placed 4th in the Men’s Cat 1, 19-34 age group. I was very proud because not a lot of people finished the race, let alone 5 laps. My bike and I definitely paid the price, but after a beer, many oranges and bananas, and a good long bath for the both of us, we were mud-free and still functional. This race was fun because it was a true test of handling, strength, endurance, strategy, preparation and will-power. Every race is always the most difficult while you’re competing in it, but it is hard for me to think that many can be as strenuous as Horning’s Hustle 2011. Congrats to all who competed. I’ll let the other boys share their epic stories.