I started a write up of a 4 hour mountain bike race I entered last month, a few days later, but never finished it. Here's what I wrote:
On Sunday 19th June (yesterday) I entered the Gorrick Summer Monkey cross country mountain bike endurance race, the four hour race, in veterans category (age 40-49). It was my 8th race of the year having made the decision at the beginning of the year to enter one race every month rather than just occassionally once a year or less.
Yesterday's race was an interesting one, earlier in the year I was often quite excited about races thinking about them the whole week leading up to race day, but this one hadn't been on my mind so much. My training, with longer rides to find bigger hills and more demanding trails while trying to sustain 100+ miles a week on the mountain bike (including daily commutes) had provided me with some confidence, but on race day itself, I wasn't feeling overly confident nor excited about it.
On Saturday my preparations involved buying a bottle cage & bottle for which I planned to hold an electrolite and magnesium sports drink* as I only use the camelback for plain water. I made bite sized fritatas in the evening loosely following a recipe from the Portable Feed Zone book. These went into a small top-tube/stem bag I also purchased in the morning.
*A spot prize from the first Betteshanger Summer 2016 MTB race.
On race day I made it in good time without rushing around but was annoyed to have forgotten my GPS & HR monitor. Eventually it dawned on me to use the Strava app on my phone, but pacing myself via HR was no longer possible, and with the phone in my bag it wouldn't be ideal for finding out how much time remained - but atleast there would be a record of my ride - the ride wouldn't be 'lost', it would exist and count.
Once on the start line we didn't have to wait long, the race was announced to be starting in 15 seconds! This was the four hour race so the pace started off a bit less frantic compared with shorter format races. I managed to pace myself for all of five minutes before deciding to start overtaking people. After the fire roads, the single track came as a bit of a shock. Lots of roots on tight twisty singletrack. Riders I had overtaken were putting on the pressure and at the next fireroad I dropped my pace and let them pass knowing I wouldn't last much longer otherwise. More people overtook me and then during more tight twisty singletrack another after clipping my bars on a tree.
Three quarters of the way round the first lap I realized I'd lost my new water bottle, so I worried about not having enough water in my camelback to last four hours. I also worried about mineral replacement, so attempted to eat a fritata. Difficult to say the least :D
I really didn't enjoy lap 1, it left me feeling a bit out of my depth, I had to keep forcing myself to remember to ease pace unlike the hour long races at Betteshanger. Inclines on fireroads into headwinds slowly wore me out. Passing the start line I tried to not look too miserable as the handful of spectators & support teams looked on.
Half way round the 2nd lap, I thought I spotted my water bottle, but it wasn't mine. I was pleased to see it later 3/4 of the way round instead - along with two other fallen bottles a few feet up from the bottom of a rough dip. I stopped and picked it up and took a few good glugs from it to lessen it's weight and the likelyhood of it falling out of the bottle cage again.
I tried to remember the sections of singletrack that had caught me out - a fast dip with a corner at the top, a downhill section with a loose off camber corner at the bottom, the two jumps which threatened to kick me off if I took them too fast without lowering my saddle (via a dropper post) in time. That extremely slippery tree root freshly stripped of bark on loose forest soil on a tight corner that caught me out on the first lap. Still got caught out by these things and still struggling.
Over the last half of the second lap I didn't really see any other riders, and on the third it was getting a bit lonely, but I had found my pace and was starting to ease into the course and enjoy myself.