I decided (for fun) to participate in the Mesa Lost Valley Luau Mountain Bike race as a Cat 3 (beginner level). The challenge was to do one lap in Lost Valley within 60 minutes, the first one across the line after the loop wins the race. Below is a description of what Lost Valley is and a little about the trail, I'd probably rate it as a intermediate level course.
The name comes from the bootleggers who once made use of the area, getting lost among the numerous hollows. It was also near the site of an ammunition works and uranium processing plant which necessitated the cleanup that lies under the large mound on Hwy. 94. Now, the trail is a 10.5 mile loop with a mixture of double and singletrack punctuated with old homesteads, rock formations, natural springs, and a waterfall crossing. The gravel/doubletrack sections are fairly flat, with the exception of 2 big climbs. The singletrack sections are super flowy and will reward you with great views and better riding. Trail surface varies from dirt to rock throughout the trail, and drains very well, except in the flats of the lower creek bottom.
As we lined up, I thought about what I planned on doing sure, this was going to be a fun race for me, but I'm also realistic and know I can be pretty competitive when put in a race type situation. I decided to take some advice from a mountain bike friend, Mike and just try and be one of the first guys on the single track portion of the race. This would depend on my ability to out power the other racers down and back up the double track portion of the race before the single track begins. Once the whistle blew, I ended up starting around the middle front of the group. I didnt really like this position so I jumped up to the front and started hammering down to the first turn down the hill. Unfortunately this little jump, cost me a lot of energy and I ended up suffering when I had to climb back up the hill. Even so, I managed to be the 3rd person turning into the single track only allowing 2 people to pass me on the climb. Once in the single track portion of the race, I will be honest, I really dont have a lot of saddle time on my mountain bike, so I lack some basic single track skills. That being said, I do have an entire Cyclocross season under my belt so I'm not "brand" new to this sort of riding.
Once I was on the single track, I started recovering from the climb, some of the single track was downhill, so this helped! I also recently put some disc brakes on my 26'er so I could actually stop again another plus, however I still managed to let two riders pass me. Both of these guys had single speed bikes and I could hear them closing in on my tail. After I let them pass I settled in on their wheel until I wrecked on a switchback turn. It had rained a few days prior so the trail was fairly wet and muddy in some areas still, not to mention all the slick rocks on the course. After the wreck I never saw those two guys again, but I could hear some riders behind me gaining on me. This is when I decided no more braking, I'm going all out and whatever happens, happens! That being said - I actually wrecked one more time on a creek crossing, again slick rocks, come to think of it - I wreck here almost all the time so this isnt anything new. Half of that is mental, the other half is probably a bit lack of some skill on the mountain bike and being in the right gear. After hammering through the last part of the first single track area, I created a huge gap on my tail chasers and continued to hammer down the double track passing a few marathon racers who started before us. I finally entered into the last single track loop before the finish and began to relax a little and even caught some air on few little bumps. I think this part of the is probably the most fun, it has some really tight turns, its mostly downhill and has a nice "get wet" creek crossing near the end followed by one final hop up and over a tree trunk.
I ended up finishing 5th overall in the mens Cat 3 and 1st in my age group (30-39). All in all, a great day, met some new people and will definitely do it again!