I entered my first desert race last Saturday, which was unlike anything I’ve encountered in my 15+ years of racing. First, we were racing on a Saturday, my first in Utah, which is predominately a Mormon state, so just about everything is shut down on Sunday, including the race track, unlike Florida where we just about only race on Sunday, except for Bike Week or special night races like the Pumpkin Run fun runs. In Utah, races are Friday night and Saturday. It was tough waking up early to go racing Saturday after working all week and nice at the same time knowing I would have Sunday off for a change.
I signed up for the Women amateur class without a Women expert class option, and showed up to the starting area confused about everything from the location of my row, rules of the course, length and distance. I knew, from walking the track prior to the start that Endurocross obstacles awaited me right after one lap around the motocross track. Then, it looked like the trail went off into the cattails and whooped out around the freestyle ramps used in Nitro Circus at the Godfrey ranch, before snaking around the dragstrip and asphalt roundy-round to the chicane.
The landowner said it best, when asked how long was the course or how many laps he thought we would run. “I don’t know. I’m desert dumb.”
So, I waited for the green flag, holding my bike in front of the motocross gates on the last row of the amateur and expert afternoon race. I spotted another girl and assumed she was racing in the women’s class, too, but she said she signed up in the 250 amateur class with all the guys because she likes the competition.
Confidence built, I still just wanted to have fun and not crash. The riders meeting was called to the front of the first row, which made it impossible for me to attend because I had no one to hold my bike or a kickstand. Most everyone there had a kickstand, I noticed. About five others couldn’t attend or hear the riders meeting, either. After the others returned, I asked one of them: “They say anything important?”
He hesitated while getting set on his bike. “Hot engine start. You can go around the obstacles but you might get docked.”
I nodded thanks and focused my thoughts on staying smooth. After all the rows left, the women and all the leftovers started in a pack of about 20. I found midpack and tried to stay to the right as I warmed up around the first lap of the motocross track and into the obstacles where people laid out on the ground left and right, and bikes passed me coming bonzai into the rock section, airborne without a rider. I snuck around the obstacles and managed to stay upright for most of the first lap and only slid out once trying to get around this Honda rider.
That’s the worst thing about desert racing: the dust. Well, it’s actually more like a silt, and it’s slicker and pushes more than sand, so it took some getting used to. Add in trying to get around slower moving riders and the challenge becomes more like a hassle. So, I lasted about an hour of that before I pulled off with a hard dirt ring around my mouth and no more fun left out there for me. I finished 5 laps on a 6 mile course and was scored a DNF 😦…but my lap times would have put me in first in my class and also ahead of the other girl, but who’s counting? 😍