Sunday in the Woods: The Lewis Morris Challenge MTB Race
When I sign up for a race, I never look at the who is registered or what the terrain looks like. It might sound dumb, I really don’t like psyching myself up beforehand. After all, it’s just a local race. That said, maybe I should have looked at the course before the fifth race of the H2H series at Lewis Morris County Park in Morristown NJ last Sunday.
The race started with a short straight into a right turn over the bridge and the trail right away pointed uphill that lasted for around 4 minutes. I did not get a chance to pre-ride the whole course, but I was at least smart enough to warm up on this hill just before the race. I initially thought “I can hang with the front group for four minutes. It won’t be that bad.” This was before I realized this was the first four minute climb of many to come.
I led the race for the first twenty minutes before a group of four caught me. I was sure that this was the end of my race as I was dropped. Couple of minutes later as another group of five came by and I was super happy to see some friends: Mark, Kevin, and Dan. As they passed by they gave me encouragement to push through the pain. All race long I would get dropped and then as the terrain flattened out towards the top of the climbs I would start closing the gap and catch them on the downhills. We just kept repeating this game for the next 45 minutes.
One of the most unforgettable moments of the race was bridging up to Kevin to see him staring at a bear. I had never come across a bear in nature before, but I knew enough to stay away from the cubs. We just kept riding, but within 50 feet we came across the mama bear that was literally the width of the whole trail, but at least we were loud enough to scare her. For the next five minutes all three of us (joined by Dan) rode downhill as fast as possible while shouting “Bear, bear, bear!”
Last 20 minutes. Dan, Kevin, and I kept yo-yoing and attacking each other. Eventually, I took some chances downhill and created enough gap to finish the race fifth place.
We are very lucky to have a mountain bike series that is so close to home. Even if you missed all the races so far, you still have two more chances to race. Race #6 Bulldog Rump on July 15th at Kittatinny Valley State Park, Andover , NJ and Race #7 Point Peter Rounder August 12th at Skyline Dr., Port Jervis, NY. So, go ahead rent a bike, borrow a bike, do whatever you can, but give mountain biking a try this summer.