Turns out mountain bike races are super hard, hence the closed eyes and strained expression in that photo.

I just started doing this whole mountain biking thing this spring, after being coerced by some coworkers. Basically, back in December two of my SLAC friends told me that they wanted to enter an 8-hour mountain biking relay race in June called Wente, but they needed a female teammate in order to enter the co-ed division (apparently the men’s division is too competitive). So, having gone mountain biking a total of two times previously on super chill courses and not really knowing what I was getting myself into, I agreed.

Two teammates plus another coworker that volunteered during the event (photo taken during a warmup ride the day before the race)

Turns out that also included agreeing to enter a second (individual) race in May (the Old Cabin Classic in Santa Cruz) prior to the Wente race, mostly because my teammates didn’t want me to suck when it came to the actual relay race. Which is understandable, considering my propensity to crash during training rides.

I learned to wear long sleeves and tall socks after this training ride.

Ironically, it almost backfired because I did not enjoy myself during that first race, mostly because biking on a single-track trail with a million other people is mildly terrifying. Two falls in the first two miles of the 23-mile race, mostly due to getting squeezed out by other riders, was pretty demoralizing. That’s where the title comes in — none of my (so-called) friends had explained to me proper passing procedure during races, so I was struggling to figure out the best places to stop on skinny single-track trails (ideally without falling over) and how to pass other people respectfully (which happened much less often than getting passed).

Understandably, I was feeling some trepidation before the Wente race that I had somehow gotten myself into (did I mention it’s EIGHT HOURS LONG?!), but convinced myself that the beautiful location and fun summer-camp vibe of the weekend would be super worth it. It’s an all-day Saturday race, but racers arrive Friday and camp through until Sunday.

The race is located at Wente Scout Reservation in Willits, CA (a few hours north of San Francisco)

The short story is, it was AWESOME. I ended up doing a total of three laps of the hour-long course, and only had two crashes: one minor slide out on some gravel and one major-ish crash into a creek along the side of the trail, in which I didn’t get hurt but I definitely spooked the riders behind me (and needed help getting back out of). Much better than my (admittedly low) expectations, so I’ll call that a win. But if I’m being honest, I mostly enjoyed hanging out in the lake, camping with hot showers available, playing my my coworker’s 8-year-old kid, and roasting marshmallows. I literally spent an hour paddle boarding and swimming between my second and third laps of the course, and it was glorious.

The start of the race! I was second on our relay team, so luckily I didn’t have to deal with the hordes of riders right at the beginning
Part of the gorgeous course
On the Wente racecourse, looking … surprised?
Team SLAC Chain Gang celebrating victory. And by victory, I mean finishing the race with no significant injuries

To be honest, I’m pretty sure mountain biking isn’t going to be one of my things — climbing is too much fun, and they both take up valuable weekend time. But maybe this race is worth coming out of mountain bike retirement for, once a year. To be determined at a later time.

I painted a picture to commemorate the experience