On September 12, I had my first race, a race at Castlewood State Park. The course was a 5.5 mile loop on the Stinging Nettle and Cedar Bluff Trails. The race was part of the Midwest Fat Tire Series. They race in a format where beginners have to race around the course as many times as they can in an hour. There is a mass start for the Beginners 19 and under. There were about seven people in my class. I was the youngest. The trail started out as a wide gravel path before quickly narrowing down to twisty, bottom land single track. About half a mile after the start, the trail made a steep, rooty plunge into the lower bottom lands. The course made a hard left onto the Cedar Bluff Trail and dipped in and out a a dry creek bed. The course went under the railroad track in a dark, wet, narrow tunnel from 1927. After emerging on the other side of the tracks, the trail climbed slightly before making a steep dip into a gully. The trail swooped downwards, but soon climbed into an old farm field. The trail made a steep switchback climbing to the left. The trail rolled gently on the side of a hill before climb up a very steep, rocky switchback up to the right. Just before the switchback, I passed Auggie, another Mesa Junior Racer. When I was riding up this switchback, I passed another racer who was in my class.
The next quarter mile was a long, but gradual ascent. The climb ended at a bench constructed as an Eagle Project. A short descent on a ridge led to another bench. Right after this bench, the biggest descent on the trail started. It was a steep, rocky downhill with some big roots to ride over. After the steep part ended, the trail wound through some ruts and re-entered the farm field. The trail made a beautiful, fast descent thorough the field before dipping into the creek again. The next quater mile was a slow ascent though some ruts with tight trees and large roots in some spots. The trail climbed up though two switchbacks and began its final descent. The last half mile of Cedar Bluff was a fast, rocky downhill on a wide trail. Right before the railroad tunnel, there was a mandatory dismount for some large rocks. We went through a another tunnel and followed the Stinging Nettle half a mile to the area with the big dips. The race course went across one of the dips and followed close to the Meramec River. The trail meandered away from the river for a mile before come back near the river. About two miles from the dips, the course turned away from the Stinging Nettle and followed the Rockaway Connector back to the starting area.
I went around on my first lap in about 36 minutes. I went out for a second lap and did that one in about 37 minutes. In the end, I finished fifth out of my age group. I was pleased with the race and I really liked mountain bike racing.
Today, was the fourth annual Greensfelder Challenge. This is a mountain bike race on the Dogwood Trail at Greensfelder. The course laps would be about 4 miles this time. Since it had rained the night before, the trail was muddy in spots and the roots and rocks were slippery. Because this race course was all single track, we started about a quarter mile from the registration area. The race started on the gravel road to the Roundhouse. After about 200 yds. on the road, the trail dove into the woods and passed the registration area. Right after the Muckerman Shelter, the trail went back into the woods and went down a narrow rocky connector to the Dogwood. The race course went counter clockwise on the Dogwood Trail. The Dogwood Trail is my favorite trail at Greensfelder. The first two miles of the Dogwood are rocky, and flowy. The trail is gradually descending. There are three gradual switchbacks on the Dogwood. The first is about a mile in between where we first got on to the Dogwood. The first mile is a rocky, flowy trail with one small tree to ride over. There are several fun little plunges into small drainage's. The first switchback is a long, smooth, dirt turn that was really fun. On this downhill, some of the faster marathoners passed me. The trail is still the same but has some challenging rocky sections before making another switchback. This switchback was challenging because of the mud on it. After the switchback the trail crosses a challenging drainage. This drainage has a large, white rock placed on the climb out. With all the mud today, the rock was pretty slippery. The trail dropped off a small ledge and made its final switchback down to the left. The trail made a lot of steep dips into drainages and climbed out steeply on the other side. During this section, I passed several riders who had passed me on the downhills earlier. After dropping off a small root and crossing a small creek, the trail made its one long climb out of the valley. The hill was steep at first, but leveled off soon. After climbing thorough a tight switchback, the course rejoined the gravel road and returned to the Muckerman Shelter. I did the four mile laps in about 25 minutes. Today, I got to do three laps. I finished the race about an 1 hour and ten minutes after I started.
I placed fifth again with about seven people in my age group again. Greensfelder was a much harder course than Castlewood. Castlewood had two miles of more technical riding, the rest was easy bottom land single track. Greensfelder was a rocky technical trail the whole way. The mud and slippery trail only made it a little more difficult. Though the races were different, I like mountain bike racing.