2007/05/06 – 2007 GHORBA Big Ring Challenge


Double Lake Recreation Area

What Is It?

  • Mountain Bike: 2 – 7 mile laps

Team Name: HFAR/OUCH

Team Mates

  • Steve Mertz (This is a solo race)


  • Beginner Male, Age 30-39


  • 32nd place (out of 45)

Official Results (Beginner 30-39)

GHORBA Bike Ring Challenge: Beginner Men 30-39
Place Name Team Time


Quentin Dyson Southern Elite



Matt Anstead  



David Call NRC/Pedalmasher



Felipe Alvarez Team BDR



Philip Teitel  



Lonn Hart NRC/Pedalmasher



Phil Horton Team Dirtheads



Nick Cameron  



Brandon Canada NRC/Pedalmasher



Dustin Payne NRC/Pedalmasher



Gabe Haarsma HFAR



Andy Puentes Bike Barn



Billy Beckes NRC Pedalmasher



Kenny Vernon Mad Duck



John Jameson NRC/Pedalmasher



Darryl Rosenfeld  



Gary Mishoe Bike Lane



Matthew Denton  



Mark Roberson  



James Thomas  



Sam Brown  



Scott Lagow  



Alejandro Zendejas Team Aguila



Jeremy Paquette BDR



Seth Montgomery OCS Corp



Chris Egan  



Henry Boryk Team WBC/Bicycles Outback



Joe Garcia Urban Bicycle Gallery



Jeromy Denton Tortise Racing



Brad Wendling  



Steve Mertz HFAR/OUCH



Oscar Perez  



Andrew Roach  



Nathan Delahoussaye  



Rudy Lobo  



Paul Squyers  



Drew Richman  



Carlos Robles Siete Mares



Jeff Kraft  



Don Geddes Mad Duck



Jonathan Braddick  



Eric Rohani Colonels Army



Brian Harpole Oh Hell



Sean Smith  



Peter Lotze  



This was my first normal mountain bike race. I kind of knew what to expect as I’ve seen them before, read about them, and heard about them from other racers. But I still figured I should experience it for myself. And so I did.

This race actually started yesterday (Saturday) for me. Pedal Mashers put on a beginner race clinic, which I decided to attend since I had no idea what I was getting myself into, other than a mad house. It was pretty good. A lot of the stuff I already knew about, like nutrition and race etiquette, etc. But since it’s a pure mountain bike race, they are a different kind of group, from adventure racers. They won’t necessarily stop to help you since they are in a rush to win since for a lot of them, that’s their job. Plus for the most part it’s against the rules to help them out. If they need a part or a tool, if you didn’t bring it with you, then you can’t use it legally.

After we went through the theory section of the race clinic, we lined up for a race start, and Jay, the Pedal Masher who coached the clinic, gave us some pointers on how best to get going at the whistle blow. Then how to get into the first corner to protect ourselves, this would be key for the race. He talked about starting in the big chain ring, and 3rd or 4th cog down to start with so it’s nice and easy, but still fast enough to sprint ahead without having to mash gears, making us faster to the corner into the single track. I decided I didn’t like that idea, so I stayed with my normal middle chain ring and 3rd from bottom cog in the back, and did well off the start in this practice section.

After that we hit the trails to pre-ride them at a nice slow pace. We would stop and regroup and continue. At one point we did practice passing and getting passed a bit and then finished off the 7 mile loop in just over an hour.

It was a great clinic to attend, and should I ever do this race again, I will probably do it again just to relearn some things or pick up on something I may have missed first time around.

This brings us to race day! I get there nice and early to make sure that I have plenty of time to find parking and get everything I need to do, done. Things like sign in, get my gear ready for racing, etc.

Once I have everything ready, I still have about 2 hours until my race is suppose to start. So I start watching the current people racing, looking to see how they are reacting over the sand pit that’s right after the feed zone, but before the finish. I was watching to see where people crossed on it so when it came to my turn, I would have a better idea of where to go myself.

After a bit, one of HoustonFitAR’s members showed up as he was racing too. We chatted a bit then he went off to deal with his stuff, and I went back to watching the racing. Some other HFAR members show up and we all stage together waiting for our turn to race. We are all racing beginner class so we have the same start time.

Finally our time arrives! They tell us to go line up and we will have the pre-race meeting. Which was wrong, since they had the pre-race meeting where we were already standing around waiting. So some people missed out since they were off being lined up instead of where they could hear the meeting.

We start lining up based on age groups. I’m in the second age group, so we go second. The first age group was small so they put some other people in there as well, not sure who they all were, but they were in there. The first group goes off, and my group moves up to the start line. I look around and notice there are a lot of people in my group that are going to start. I manage to get into the second row of people and start to think to myself that I might be too far back, but will have to wait and see. I also note that I am extremely calm considering the number of people around me and that I’m starting my very first mountain bike race.

We get the 15 seconds to start and I start my heart rate monitor. Then the whistle goes off and we are all off! I start sprinting, my right foot is clipped in from the start, but I have trouble with getting my left in the clip, and so I just pedal unclipped into the trails, I’m fairly high up, probably 10th in and as my tires hit the single track, I feel a buzz on my back tire and hear a crash as who ever buzzed my tire went down. And that was why I was worried about being too far back! But I wasn’t, so it’s all good.

We are all going fairly fast right off the bat. I start thinking, “This is too fast, I can’t go this fast for 14 miles.” But I continue on to see what happens. We are all kind of grouped together still, no spreading out happens for the first mile or so. Then things slowly spread out. And I miss a turn a bit, and watch as ten people go zooming past. “Crap.” I get back on the trail and start going. I ease off a bit as I don’t want to blow up too soon (well at all) and I have plenty of space behind me right now. I find a rhythm inside myself that I can contain, so I continue along and some people start to catch up to me and pass. Then I miss another turn and zoom. Another ten or so people pass me. “Crap.” I get going again and decide to try to catch up, and I start to red line. I look down and notice my heart rate is 201. I’ve never seen my heart rate over 192 on the bike! I’m killing myself out here!

I finally catch up to some people and pass them. Then find another guy up front that I get onto his wheel and I think I have nothing left in me to be able to pass him so I just stay there. I find that he’s a fast rider when nothing technical is around. So on the up hills where it’s smooth he loses me easily. But as soon as the trail gets technical I get right back on his back tire.

There is one section of the trail, where it’s covered in trail bricks up to a bridge. Then on the other side of the bridge is really deep mud. I was going fairly quickly through this and figured I could just leap over the beginning of the mud where it looked quite dug out from the hundreds of laps already done on the course today. But as I land I realize my mistake and my tires sink down and I come to a screeching halt. Luckily I didn’t land front heavy or I would have flipped over! I did slide off the side of the trail and almost into another bike during my landing though. But everything worked out alright and I got moving again and started back at a quick pace. I passed the guy I was following on a technical climb and started on the last little leg of the lap.

I come out on to the dam and put the chain in the big ring, it is the Big Ring Challenge after all, and drop to the smallest cog and just start hammering along there, and across the bridge. I blow past the feed zone just cranking, trying to build up as much speed as I can, as I knew the volley ball area was right there and it is just a big sand pit. So I need the speed to get across there with as much momentum as possible so I wouldn’t slow down too much and get caught and passed by the others.

One lap done. One to go. What did I get myself into? This is brutal!

Legs are hurting, lungs are burning, life is miserable as I enter into the single track again. I keep pedaling trying to keep going forward. I don’t remember much from this first bit of the second lap. I do remember thinking about where some of my buddies were up ahead, and only to see one stopped off the side. He had run out of water and was trying to struggle through. I pass him by and continue on. He then catches up to me and passes me by.

I start to feel… Better. Like I had just finally got warmed up correctly and am ready to race, I start pedaling faster and see the corners more clearly. I look for and find the apexes of each corner and start going through them quickly. I catch up with a bunch of people and pass them. This is great I am thinking. I’m 1.5 laps done of a 2 lap race and I’m finally able to race!

I then catch up to someone, and unfortunately settle into a rhythm behind him and don’t pass. He was going a bit slower than I wanted to, but I still didn’t want to pass. After about ten minutes of sitting on his tail, the trail opens up wide and I find a place where I can easily pass him and do so. Ten minutes wasted behind him. Oh well, I’m off and pedaling again, just hammering through the turns and various obstacles out there. It felt really good to be out there hammering away.

I hit the dam and put it into the big chain ring, and the smallest cog and just hammer through to the finish to finish up strong. Yay! Finished! I pull off and get off the bike and start sucking in air as my lungs are burning something fierce and my legs can barely hold me up!


No pictures from this race at this time.


Double Lake Trail Map

Double Lake Trail Map

Final Thoughts

I really need to work on my warm ups. If I had done a good warmup of at least 45 minutes I probably would have done much better in this race. I keep thinking that I can’t warmup as it will wear me out before I can do the race. I really need to break that mentality.

I also need to get more aggressive and pass people when I know I can be faster than them, and don’t just hang out taking it easy. It’s a race and I should be racing, not just out for a ride. Push myself to the limits and beyond. That’s what is better about adventure racing. If you race with people who are faster than you, then they push you and you get faster as a result over all. There is no breaks and taking it easy.

Days Later… (2007/05/08)

Legs are really heavy. I’m not very sore though, so I can tell I didn’t push it very hard out there. Definitely need to work on the aggressiveness of racing so I pass and go fast the entire time I am out there. I am a little disappointed in my racing because of this. I am contemplating doing it next year to just go out and seriously push myself to the limits and see what happens.

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