I competed in my first bike race recently. The Iceman Cometh Challenge is the worlds largest single-day mountain bike race. It's held every November in Traverse City, Michigan.
There are around 2000 competitors, and I raced in the beginner category.
With my only training being my daily (8 mile, flat) commute to work, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to finish the 27.5 mile race on hilly trails. My goal was to finish in under 3 hours.
A good friend built up a nice hard-tail bike for me to race on, and I ordered a bunch of Gu to keep me energized.
The weather for the race was perfect, and all was going smoothly until about 2/3 of the way through the race. Inexplicably, the bolts that hold my chainrings started coming loose. I made the mistake of not bringing any tools, so when I stopped there was not much I could do. As I was trying to tighten them as best I could with my fingers, another cyclist stopped to offer help. He asked what I needed and how long it would take; when I told him I just needed a wrench for a few seconds, he produced one and I was all fixed! The joy was short-lived however because the loose rings must have done something to my chain, which broke within a few minutes. So I started walking in the hopes that I would find an aid station and someone with a chain tool. Fortunately, after walking for about 20 minutes another racer stopped to offer a chain tool! Understandably, he didn't want to wait for me to make the repair, so he left his tool with me on the chance that we would see each other at the finish. I worked very hard to remember his name (I'm terrible with names), and though I didn't see him at the finish, I was able to find his hometown from the results board and look him up later in the phonebook so I could settle-up with him.
So I did finish, and even with the mechanical difficulties, I made my goal of under 3 hours!
It was a very positive experience, and I hope to do it again next year. Next time I will bring plenty of tools, and I will also be very willing to help other racers like I was helped.
Here's photographic proof that I crossed the finish line: