Words by Michelle Lachmann
When mapping out my races this season, I was looking forward to the kick-off race: the Dirty Duo – a trail running / mountain biking event on the North Shore trails. The 30km mountain bike race takes place every March on my favorite “backyard” trails. Unfortunately, an old injury resurfaced a week before the race and forced me to enter a DNS.
So, instead of lining up on the start line in the pouring rain, I found myself at home, without the kids, in a quiet house enjoying a latte in front of the fire. How civilized and refined! A question crossed my mind…….“Why do I race again?”
The snuggled bliss lasted until the coffee mug was empty. I couldn’t help but wonder how my friends were doing out on the course.
Our house is close to the trails, so I pulled on my rain pants, rain jacket and put on my hiking boots and headed into the forest. I hiked up Highschool Loop to see the racers cut across Bridal Path. It was perfect timing to see a good friend on the course. GO GO GO! Lots of trail runners and a handful of mtn bikers passed by next. GO GO GO! I decided to make my way to Neds to catch the downhill sections. Getting caught up in the spirit of the race, I ended up cheering for every runner and biker that passed by and got enthusiastic thanks in return, plus a few smiles and jokes. This “sidelining” stuff wasn’t half bad! Some racers must have thought I was volunteering for the race, since no one else was out in the forest in the pouring rain (and I might have looked somewhat “official” in my red jacket and hat).
Once at Neds, I arrived just in time to see the top men race by. They made it look so easy and fun, even on their XC bikes. I hiked around a bit and again offered cheers from the forest – I think I surprised a few racers, but tried to not distract them too much from their line choice. On my way back home, I met a young woman who was working on a photo-journalism assignment and it turns out we had a mutual friend in the race. We hung out together cheering the racers as they came down – lots of fun banter with the runners and bikers. The runners were encouraged by commenting on their “quads of steel” and the bikers were just having a ton of fun on the DH section of the course.
I left the course with a hoarse throat and was looking forward to re-establishing my place in front of the fire at home. But before I got there, I ran into another friend who was on his way to meet a fellow racer. We had a great chat about our common injury, which gave me a lot of hope and left me on a much more positive note then when first I headed into the forest.
As I curled up with my second latte of the morning, I couldn’t help but think that maybe this DNS was exactly what I needed out of my first race this year. Plus it gave me a new found interest in “guerilla cheering/volunteering!”
See you on the trails….either on a bike or from the sidelines. ‘Till next time, Michelle