I entered the Lake Sonoma Ricochet race with high hopes of doing well. I felt great all week and knew my bike was in tip-top shape, but it just wasn't my day. I had a good starting position, coming into the first climb in the top ten. The first half of the course is a very technical and loose downhill. Not even a mile into the race I caught the edge of an off-camber section and went down. Hard. It happened so fast. All I remember was flying towards the ground, head first. I got up to shake it off, but my eyesight was really blurry. Shit. I had thrown my glasses off the trail from the impact. At this point I was passed by the entire expert class. It took me a minute or two to finally find 1/2 of my prescription glasses. My race was over.
I walked my bike back up the hill before jumping back on, and headed back to the start area. To my wife's surprise I hobbled back to the car and assessed the damage. I had cracked my helmet, luckily not my head. I had a nice big scrape along my forearm and some nasty road rash on my out thigh. We had the paramedic come by to check me out for fear of a concussion. I felt fine, but totally bummed out for having to quit the race, something I've never done before. You can't race if you can't see.
The rest of the afternoon was fun. It was a sweltering 100º by the time the race leaders came by on their first lap. We spent the remainder of the race cheering everyone one and handing out bottles. My friend Ryan, also had another string of bad luck, snapping off his saddle. He managed to piece it back together with an inner tube, but ultimately called it quits after the 3rd lap.
I made a rookie mistake of going too hard in the beginning, but this time it was due to my lack of bike handling skills rather than fitness. It's easy to get caught up in a race with adrenaline pumping through your system. The past few races I've managed to pace myself, but have crashed consistently towards the beginning. This tells me I need to back off a bit and ride within my means. Handling skills, like fitness, doesn't develop overnight. Having been off a mountain bike for quite some time I've lost a lot of skill. Each race has been a tremendous learning experience from fitness, equipment choice, nutrition and overall skill.