Monday, September 13, 2010

Landmine Classic Race Report

I spend a decent amount of time taking good-natured jabs at myself as a way of keeping my enormous ego in check reminding myself I can always do better. Sometimes I even get feedback that maybe I'm too self-effacing. But today, there's something that needs to be said.

I am awesome.

That's right, I said it. I mean I know everyone's been thinking it for a while now, and a some of you have said it, but I guess it's time that I said it too. So what brought about this sudden pronouncement? It wasn't really any one thing, but sort of the combination of several things, with yesterdays Landmine Classic race as the straw that broke the camels back.

It probably shouldn't have taken Timberman for me to realize that it isn't who finishes first, but who finishes, and even those who had the courage to start. I hate it when people compare sports to war, but I'm going to make this one exception. Wars aren't just won by the soldiers that survived, but the soldiers who gave their all and didn't make it to the end as well. In sports, the goal isn't nearly so dramatic or important, which is why I usually dislike those kind of analogies. But it is a battle against yourself, one that sometimes no matter what you do, you can't win, which I learned at the MA State Triathlon,

But yesterday, in my first mountain bike race, I won that battle. I didn't win the race, in fact I wasn't even close. In fact, I was last. But I finished, and it was awesome. And thanks to some really nice people who hung out to watch, I have the following picture to show you:

I'm not very good at applying blackface

That's me riding my new mountain bike, but what's that on my clothes and legs.. and face? Well, my friends, that's dirt. And how you might ask, did that get there? That would come from something like this:

Ok, so it was like that except it was a root or a rock, on a dirt trail in the middle of the woods instead of a traffic cone in the middle of someones back yard. I distinctly remember hurtling towards the ground before the impact and the hard landing before the bike hitting me. And it hurt. 

At first, I was entirely sure I'd broken everything, including perhaps the ground I landed on and the bike that landed on top of me. It was the kind of fall that happens suddenly, and you don't have a chance to tense up, which I guess worked in my favor. My arms wound up mostly under me, and I landed somewhat on the right side, including my face. I had the wind knocked out of me, I scrapped up my knee, and I was a little dazed for a minute, but I was otherwise unharmed. 

I was down for a minute and as soon as I could catch my breath, I wanted to get up and get myself and my bike out of the way because there were other riders on the course. I figured as much as crashing hurt, getting run over had to hurt worse. I've crashed once before, last summer at the end of my first ever long ride (28 miles), and that time I scrapped up my knee and bent the bike a little. This is the first time I've crashed mid-race. I wasn't down more than a couple minutes, but it felt like a quite a while. 

The fall came just a half mile after I flatted going over a sharp rock, which seemed insignificant in comparison. I'd forgotten how easy it is to change a mountain bike flat, with only 4 minutes between flatting and being back up and rolling. Between the fall and the crash, Id probably lost 6 minutes, but to be honest, I was pretty sore. While I was mid-pack when I flatted, and was near the back before the crash, I decided that it was better just to make it through at as hard a pace I could manage regardless of where I finished. Especially with the most technical portions of the course yet ahead of me, I took my time with the difficult parts of the course.

In the end I wound up riding a 1:27 time for the 7.2 mile course. I was last by about 20 minutes, but I had a terrific time. I learned how hard mountain bike racing is, and how sore your rear end is after a hard day of bouncing around on it. Today, my face hurts, my rear end feels like It's been target practice for a place kicker, and I'm going to have a couple new scars on top of my old scars. But getting to the end made the whole thing worth while.

This is your body. This is your body on mountain bike.
And that was just the beginning. Because I missed the 2:30 train back into Boston, and with the commuter rail not until 4:30, I rode to the closest red line stop to catch a train back into town. Of course, that meant a 9 mile ride up to Braintree, and almost missing another train before I finally got to relax on the way home. In the end I rode around 20 miles on the bike, crashed, flatted, and finished a mountain bike race. 

I'll leave you with a few more pictures of the race.

It's like any other race, except in the woods...

and the bikes look like this...

and the starting line looks like this...

and the 15 minute wait for the first timers to go after everyone else.
(Yes, those kids beat me.)


  1. Epic ride was Epic!

  2. We spoke for a minute after the race & you were the most positive person out there & it was awesome to see. I was dragging ass & looking for a burger.. Hope to see you out there again sometime! SM

  3. awsome race good job on finishing and keep the rubber side down Its all about detication and hard work to achive your goals congrads.I was there and saw you there wasn't an easy course. just finishing it was tough for all of us..

  4. You are truly inspirational! We spoke briefly, as you walked by I said 'you got your money's worth today', and you had a very positive, confident response, 'yes I did'. You sounded completely sincere and pleased with that.

    You need to hook a book deal to tell your journey. Anyone that has ever pushed themselves outside of their comfort zone should walk away with the view of themselves that you do over adn over again.

  5. Well done. You realize you picked about the hardest mountain bike course out there? That was brutal. Think of it this way: any mtb race you do from now on will seem a breeze in comparison.

  6. Congratulations! Job well done!

  7. Congrats on the race! Sounds like you had a great time even with the crash.

  8. Congrats!! Takes a lot of courage to pull off what you did on this course. I've ridden/raced Wompatuck for many years and your story provides a fresh perspective on this wonderful sport
    Good Luck!!

  9. Very proud of you, Ben. You are an inspiration!

  10. i raced on Sunday and saw you there, congrats on finishing. great blog.

  11. Smiles all around! Having fun and keeping it in perspective is the way to be. Super job on finishing, it looks like a great race. And yeah, I'm jealous. Not of the wipeout (been there, done that) but of doing a mountain bike race! Kudos to you for having the courage to try something new. And having fun while doing it!

  12. Wow, so many wonderful responses! There are a lot of anonymous folks so, Im just going to refer to post order in order to respond, unless you logged in.

    1. That ride was epic. Thanks! I think the pictures are really representative of that.

    Scrappy - Oh I was positive, but I was dragging ass too. The way I look at it is that it's easy to stay positive, because I can see how much farther i can improve. Thanks for the kind words, and those burgers we're really good. Yay for the boy scouts!

    3. Thanks! I was excited to see so many finishers and people working so hard. I did see guys in slings and with casts, so I'm hopeful all are doing well.

    4. I liked your way of looking at it. I hadn't thought about getting my moneys worth, and I did. Usually to me, I pay to enter, and getting to start and finish is getting my moneys worth. So I think I got more than my moneys worth by experiencing the worst that can happen (crashing AND a flat) without serious injury to me or the bike, and got to finish. Thanks for the kind words!

    5. Until I started hearing comments I had no idea this was such a hard course in comparison, because the only thing I had to compare it to was the Esplanade.

    CB2 - Thanks! I really do appreciate it.

    Barb - I always try to have a good time. Have you ever thought about getting into race photography? I would think your background in sports photography plus being a participant in some kinds of races would lead you to be excellent at it.

    Fabian - Thanks!

    9. Thanks so much. I love hearing the perspective of more experienced racers. It really learn a lot from people who've done more than me.

    Bonnie Berry - Thanks Mom! I was afraid you'd read this and I'd get a call yelling at me about doing something too dangerous.

    Len - Thanks! I'm sorta hard to miss. I wish i could put faces with all the great people who've read the blog!

    12. You could totally do this. I mean, sure it takes being awesome to do this kind of stuff. But WE ARE ALL AWESOME. We can all do things that only confidence, fear, and occasionally large sums of money get in the way of.

  13. I have thought about race photography but I would have to be part of a team of photographers. Not sure just one person could cover a race and get all the participants. Thanks for the idea.

  14. Barb - Some races would work with a single photographer, or at most a second. Any sprint triathlon where the bike and run transitions are in the same place do fine with just one camera.