Thursday, August 30, 2012

8/25/12 - Bidwell Bump All Mountain - Rubber Side Up

Well this was a day of firsts, unfortunately more bad than good, and "first place" wasn't one of them either.

Lets start with the good.  This would be my first time attending this race, and first time seeing Chico in the daylight, and first time riding there.  I always love riding in new places and this course was suppose to be very rough and technical.  So I was looking forward to it and there would be some good competition with Chico locals Tim Olsen and Aaron Timmel as well as Mark Weir.  But that's kind of where the "good" firsts stop.  So now the full story...

I arrived nice and early and got checked in, suited up, and set off for my warm up.  I would be racing "Orange" (Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc) since this course was suppose to be very rough, and it was an "All Mountain" race after all with the Super D later in the day (thank you for having both races on the same day!!!).  I was really looking forward to racing this bike because it's just a ton of fun to ride.  I proceeded up the first part of the course to warm up, which is a gradual climb up the North Rim Trail.  This isn't so much a trail but more a wide swath of lava rock making for non-stop rough pedaling.  It's relentless, but the bike was feeling awesome and just eating it up.  I got just about to the top of the climb and it was about 20 minutes before the start so I decided to turn around and head back down.  I pedaled a little ways and then had to coast over some rough, and when I tried to spin again there was no resistance like the chain was off.  "Thats weird, I have a chain guide..."  I looked down... the chain guide was BROKEN!  "WHAT THE?!?! Uhhhh... OK..."  I stood there in awe for a little bit trying to figure out what had happened and how.  The bolt that attaches the top guide to the slider had pulled through the plastic backing... long story short it couldn't hold the chain on anymore.  I unscrewed the remainder of that piece, pocketed it, and set off down the hill again to hopefully get there in time to fix it or switch bikes to "Red" (Santa Cruz Tallboy c).  The only problem was that the trail was so rough that without a chain guide or derailleur, the chain kept coming off and getting lodged between the chain wheel and the chainguide plate.  And when I say lodged, I mean really stuck!  Where the cranks wouldn't turn anymore and I'd have to use a tool to pry enough of the chain out from in between the two pieces so that I could grab it and yank it out fully, hopefully not damaging the chain in the process!  This happened four or five times before I finally made it down.  By the time I got to the car I had only six minutes before the start of the race.  I decided there wasn't enough time to fix Orange so I would just switch bikes.  I only had one chain between the two bikes for reasons I don't want to get into, so that slowed me down.  But I got that done, and was transferring the race number and the GPS over to Red... and then I heard the race start.  Dang.  I put Orange on the rack and locked it up and took off to the other side of the park and rolled across the start line three minutes late.  The first time I've ever been late to a start.

So I was playing catch up.  At least the North Rim Trail was wide so passing the whole field wouldn't be too difficult.  As I motored up the climb I started to take inventory of what I had forgotten in the process of switching bikes.  I hadn't washed this bike since the Annadel race the week before, plus a 50 mile ride on it during the week.  The chain was dry, and I had no idea how much air was in the tires.  All I knew was there was not enough air for these rough trails.  Sure, it made the rough climb a bit smoother but once I got any speed up I was really having to be careful.  I was even getting rim strikes on some of the square edged rocks on the climb!  Hmmm... what else did I forget... Oh great! I forgot to take the spare tube off the frame of Orange and at least put it in my pocket... DOH!  I had a CO2 can but that was it.  So I had my super light XC set up which was already undesirable and now I was going to really have to work to protect the WTB Nano's with from the sharp rocks if I wanted to finish the race.  Great.  But it was all I had so I was giving it my best.  I past by a steady stream of riders suffering up the volcanic formation, each of them searching desperately for a smooth line and at least a brief reprieve from the jostling.  That made it easy for me to predict where they were going to go as I approached, but it also meant that I rarely got to take the smooth line.  Oh well, the Tallboy c still soaked it up well.  After about 20 minutes I had finally made it to the top and up to some of the faster Cat 1 riders, so that was a good sign that I was making up ground.

I turned down "B Trail" which is a hillside trail of pretty fun singletrack with switchbacks winding through bushes and trees down to the creek basin.  There are rocks here too, but the trail did manage to have some smooth spots and a bit of flow.  All of the corners were blind however as the foliage encroached on the trail and I had no idea what obstacles were coming up.  There were a few pucker moments as I slid my hips back behind the saddle or pin-balled off some rocks but I was still having fun with it and just trying to be smooth and relaxed.  I caught and passed one rider and was beginning to pull away when I entered an 'S' turn with a slight bit of banking.  I spring off the first right hand bend and went into the left, shooting for an inside out drift into the little berm but my front tire folded over and I slid out.  Instantly I was down on the left side... knee, hip, lower back, and shoulder impacts with a not so graceful reverse somersault in the bushes. "Alrighty then!  That was out of nowhere!" were my thoughts but down to a more condensed, trail-side version of "WTF?!?!"  I dusted myself off and pulled the bike out of the way, beat the brake lever back down where it belonged and began using my CO2 to fill up the tires so this didn't happen again.  And to hopefully give a bit more protection from the rocks.  After a couple minutes and four or five riders passed I set off again.

I was essentially done with B Trail and soon made the turn onto a rocky (are you surprised?) fire road.  This road had a slight descent to it so I kept the power down and passed a few riders back right away.  Then the road just... ended... at a big, deep creek.  It was maybe about 30 feet wide, I'm not sure.  There were some people sitting there, I guess course marshals, and I asked "Am I suppose to cross here??" "Yeah, just go straight across."  I couldn't even see a trail on the other side, but I shouldered the bike and waded in the crotch-high, COLD (refreshing?), water and climbed over the fallen tree on the other bank to discover the trail on the other side.  This next section was the second main climb of the course heading up a steep fire road for about a mile and a half.  I put it in "diesel mode" and powered on up without any issue and made a few more passes before turning down the next singletrack.  This next part of the course was pretty fun and had a lot of flow.  It was a traverse on rolling terrain and didn't have the constant smattering of rocks but clumps here and there to jump over or power through.  The fun eventually ended at a hike-a-bike up a really loose trail.  This was some serious hiking at times requiring a hand down on the rocks to actually climb, or crawl, up them with the bike on my back.  I'm not sure how long it lasted, but it was too long and I was happy when it was over!  Rolling back down the trail it was more of the gradual descent and fun singletrack which got more and more rocky as I went down.  I couldn't see anyone else ahead or behind so I was just trying to be smooth and make it to the end.  The last few features of the trail are some pretty fun rock walls to navigate, which I handled just fine and then the trail suddenly spat me out onto a road.  All I saw was a chalk arrow on the ground... so I went that way... which was the right choice and around the next corner was the finish.  1hr and 19min was my time, about 9 minutes back from the winner, Tim Olson.  Actually I'm pretty satisfied with that considering my late start, not knowing the trails, crash and trial-side maintenance.  That put me 4th in the Pro All Mountain standings... not bad!

I had a few hours before the Super D race which would wrap up the All Mountain stages so I grabbed some fruit, a Hammer Bar, and tanked a bunch of water... it was getting HOT!  I confirmed with the race organizer that I didn't need to run the same equipment for the Super D so I started trying to fix the chainguide on the Tallboy LTc.  After about a half hour and some strategically placed Gorilla Tape I had it working again!  Sweet!  I knew it was going to be faster, safer (can those terms go together?), and much more fun, to ride Orange on the Super D.  I rode it around for a half hour or so and confirmed that my hillbilly fix was good enough to get me down the hill once more.

The Super D start couldn't come soon enough... it was HOT!  And there was no wind and really no shade at the top staging area either.  We would start with 1 minute gaps... 10 seconds to go... 5... I tried to track stand and clip in, lost my balance, oops!  2... 1... GO!  Pedal Pedal Pedal!!! Left foot still not clipped in... cross the ditch... water bar jump!  Woohoo!  Ok now the left foot's finally clipped in!  A few more sweeping turns to drift and I was heading into the singletrack again.

More pedaling... all out!  I'm feeling good and REALLY happy to be riding Orange... it's just eating up the trail!  I come to an intersection that I recognize from the XC race where we turned right.  There are some guys standing there who are just looking at me and not signalling or doing anything.  I'm glad someone told me in advance that I'm suppose to go straight here, but I was still unsure.  I went by, and they weren't yelling at me that I was going the wrong way, so I charged ahead.  Still feeling fast but smooth, I came around a knoll and could see on the other side the next rider ahead that I was catching.  He was maybe 15 seconds ahead as I approached a "G-out" turn.  There were multiple lines going into the dip so I stayed left on the high line and dragged the brakes as I began to turn right, looking at the rock face on the other side of the dip which I would have to power up and I couldn't see a clean line.  But I had to release the brakes to keep momentum so I just was going to aim for the only line I saw.  Still turning I released the brakes and as I got to the bottom of the dip, my front wheel hit a rock that moved, or slipped over one, and then hit something solid.  SUPERMAN!!! I went head first into the rocks on the other side, but I kept my head up and my elbows and forearms took the main hit.  Followed by my left thigh and knee.  Lying prone on the ground, I hear a thud and look over to my right to watch my bike cartwheel out of sight down below.  "Wow... Ow...."  I pause for a second to allow any pain to materialize that would tell me I shouldn't move... nothing... good.  So I push myself up.  Everything works... check!  The left thigh and left arm are aching pretty good as I stagger off the trail to retrieve the bike.  After pulling it back up onto the trail, a quick look over and it survived without hardly a scratch!  Sweet!  Time to ride!

I come to two more of these "G-out" features but I approach a little slower and get through just fine.  There's some pretty gnarly stuff on this trail like the "toilet bowl" which is almost a rock wall on the left side that you have to hit with enough momentum to carry you around or you'll fall off.  I hadn't seen it before and I didn't have clear line of sight to it on the approach so I walked it.  After the crash I just decided that riding this trail at my race pace wasn't smart without knowing it.  My left arm was aching pretty badly but I could still shift and brake fine so I didn't think much of it.  I just cruised the rest of the course and had a good time on Orange.

I finished the Super D in 6th for the Pro All Mountain category but that was just 16th overall.  There's some fast Cat 1 locals which just proves trail knowledge is superior to everything!  I wound up 5th for the Pro All Mountain and considering everything that happened... I'm pretty happy with my times.

After I got to the bottom I rolled up to Mark Weir who didn't actually ask "How'd it go?" because he already knew the answer by looking at me all covered in dirt and blood.  I just replied to his silent expression with "Ow!"  He took one look at my elbow and said, "Yeah that's gonna need some work... you go ahead and ride down to the park and I'll check with the guys at the finish here to see about the race medic."  He seemed to be moving with a sense of urgency so I rolled down to the park where the main venue was set up and asked some staff there if they had any medical staff.  Everyone who looked at my elbow seemed to respond the same way, with a startled retraction of body language, scrunched up face and an "Ooooo!"  I couldn't really see it, just that there seemed to be a flap of skin.

I won't just post the picture here, but here's a link to the photo showing the fresh wound.  So if you get grossed out you don't have to look: Fresh Wound

So with everyone's responses and Mark asking me if I needed to sit down a few times, I decided it was a good idea to not do my usual "clean it up and put some super glue on it" fix and actually go to a doctor.  I headed down to the Immediate Care Clinic in downtown Chico and walked on up to the front counter.  The lady asked me a number of questions for a few minutes before finally asking me what I was there for and I said "Well... (looking at my elbow) I have this big gash on my elbow that probably needs some work... looks pretty deep."  She gave me a surprised look... "Are you bleeding?!"  "Yep."  "Oh... most people normally make a big deal out of that! We'll get you back here right away!"  About 30 seconds later my name was called and I was taken back where nurse Pat cleaned me up.

Clean up pic 1
Clean up pic 2
Clean up pic 3

Then Dr. David came in and went to work.  Starting off with the Novocain... nice.  I was laid out prone with my left arm out on a shelf, and he was sitting on a chair like he was working at a desk.  He started off with more cleaning... this time with a firm foam pad.... and then he moved onto a brush.  It still wasn't getting it all because it went so deep so he meticulously began cutting out pieces of rock, dirt, leaves, and twigs.  He was having to dig so far down in there and kept commenting about how I really shoved SO much debris into my arm!  At one point he came across a vein that was nipped and "leaking" a bit so he clamped it and pulled it out so he could tie it off.  I looked over and saw a the vein sticking out of my arm and about bent over backwards as I watched him tie it off.  That was cool!  Unfortunately my phone was on the other side of the room so I couldn't take any pictures or video.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this was my first time getting stitches... officially.

The Dr. kept digging and cutting until he went down to the elbow bone where he began to get concerned.  He could still see debris down there but he was worried that it might have gotten into the joint capsule which would mean Orthopedic surgery.  Basically he was saying it was more than he could do there and he told me to go to the hospital.  So they wrapped me up and off I went.  Though I didn't go to the Hospital just a few blocks away in Chico... I decided that if I was going to need Ortho surgery I wanted to be closer to home.  It wasn't hurting too badly so I figured I could withstand the 2hr drive back down to the Sacramento area.  About 15 minutes into the drive the Novocain wore off and I was regretting that decision.  I continued on with clinched teeth and such a tight grip on the wheel with my right hand that I was surprised I didn't leave finger imprints.  I finally ended up at the UC Davis Med Center ER, and I don't think I yelled at traffic or stop lights too much.

I walked in the ER door in a pain haze, trying to keep it together.  The security guard asked if I needed a doctor... I nodded... and he motioned me on through into the check in room.  I wasn't there long before being moved to one of the trauma rooms where I put on a hospital gown that actually had full coverage!  Not!  I was trying to keep a good attitude and joked with the nurses a bit as my way of coping.  But I think that downplayed to them the level of pain that I was in, so I waited....

Over the intercom... "Attention, we have a 911 pediatric arriving via air in 10 minutes."  Aww man.  I hate to hear that.  Kids don't belong in the hospital.  I knew that the ER resources might be diverted to that but I didn't mind.  All I had was just an elbow booboo.  But man this hurts like hell!  Jen had arrived not long after that and was keeping me in good company.  But after a while she could tell that it was all I could do to keep it together so she wrangled the nurse who procured some pain meds... nice!  Much better!  Wife of the year again!

After a while they took xrays and confirmed there were no breaks and no metal contaminants.  Then the Orthopedic surgeon came in and did the test to see if the joint capsule had been punctured.  This was the worst!  He injected 35ml of saline into my elbow joint... slowly... the pressure and pain just kept increasing as I went into some serious mind over matter deep breathing.  Jen about passed out.  When it was done I looked over and she was white as a ghost!  I offered her the crackers I had on my other side but she declined :-).  The good news was that the saline he injected didn't leak out anywhere so I didn't need any further joint surgery.  Awesome.

A plastic surgeon came down to check out my wound.  He was part of a team that was reattaching some guy's finger in the OR and had heard about the work I needed.  It was complicated and interesting to him so he wanted to work on me instead.  He took a bunch of pictures of it and went back up to consult with his team before coming back down to begin the lace-up.  He went to work, using some crazy cutting needles and different types of thread, first trying internal stitching and then moving to closing up the big cut.  He was impressed with his work, and Jen said it looked a lot better too.  I'll take it!

Stitched up pic

We finally made it home at 3am after being up for about 23 hours.  And we just about slept all day Sunday.  I ended up with quite the story after going to a race "just for fun" that didn't really matter.  But it keeps life interesting I guess!  I'm off any "moving" bike for a little while via Dr.'s orders so hopefully it doesn't set me back too much and I can still finish out the Sierra Cup Series and race Marathon Nationals.  But we'll see...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

8/18/2012 Annadel XC Race Report

The wind blew... all... night... ugh.  Gusting, tree limbs banging and creaking, gates clapping... I hate wind.  We cut the race commute down and were staying with our friends Peter and Allyson in Fairfield (a.k.a. the wind tunnel!) for the weekend.  Peter was also racing so we all packed into the car at 5:45am to head over to Santa Rosa.  And it rained on us for a bit of the drive too... in August!  What the heck?

It was nice to get there early, get our race packet (I got Jen's lucky #4!! Sweet!) and take our time putting all the timing chips on the bike and jersey, AND still have time to warm up for about 45 minutes and talk to friends on the start line.

It was cool to see two of my Santa Cruz Enduro/DH teammates, Ryan Condrashoff and Marshall Eames, out for an XC day of pain... I mean fun!  Billy Damon, fresh off his 5th place in the Downieville All Mountain rolled up as well as Michael Hosey, Brian Astell, and lots of fast locals from NorCal Bike Sport and other bay area teams.  I'd be racing on the Tallboy c (a.k.a. "Red") on WTB Nano's (a very popular choice looking around the start line).

9am finally came and we set off behind the Bike Monkey truck from downtown Santa Rosa.  650+ mountain bikers took to Sonoma Ave at 25+mph hoping to have a clear shot to the dirt at the end of the road 2 miles away.  The first few intersections were blocked off by the police... sweet.  We were in a tight pack circulating around behind the truck.  The truck gunned it a bit... and the few remaining single speeders fell to the back.  Then we came up on a shopping center and there were just too many parking lot exits and intersections for the police to block, and about 10 cars had pulled out from the parking lot into the left turn lane going in our direction.  I was on the left already hugging the yellow and I was heading straight for the back of them.  The lane was open to the right and that's where the truck went, and the peloton followed but I was squeezed off... it was open so I went left.  I could see the police in the intersection holding traffic but then that left turn arrow turned green and he was waving those cars on!  What are you doing!?!  I waved at him to hold the traffic but I guess he didn't see me and was still waving them on.  The timing was right so I ducked in after a car made the left turn and fell back into the peloton.  It all worked out, and nothing was really that close to being bad, but it definitely wasn't where I wanted to be!  As I pulled back into the group, the guys were all laughing and collectively saying "phew!" after getting through that.  A motorcycle cop rolled up along the left and said "You were suppose to go do the right!"  I don't remember what I said in response, something like "I had nowhere to go and you guys were suppose to hold traffic!"  Whatever... I just wanted to get to the dirt.  We finally came to the end of Sonoma Ave as the pace picked up to 29mph.  There was an officer on foot in the intersection holding traffic and he started walking to the left, which is where we needed to go.  We were all shooting for a 10ft wide gap in the fence at the other side of the road. He stopped walking and we split around him.  I wonder what he was thinking as we swarmed around him?

Soon we were climbing on the dirt double-track in Howarth Park.  I was sitting in about 20th and some of the guys were attacking it and pulling away a little.  I knew I don't have that gear, so I kept my pace and as the climbs got longer, I picked 'em off.  We wound around the water towers and down to the lake and then across the levy into Spring Lake park and across the Start/Finish line I was off the back of the lead group by about 50 yards and as they made the gradual left turn I could see each rider and counted 1, 2, 3, 4, aw, dang, crap, shoot, ugh, sigh, whatever... so if you counted, I'm in 12th.  But being just 15 minutes into the 2hr race I wasn't too worried and I knew there was a lot of trail ahead that suits me.

We climbed a bit more and I caught and passed up to 9th after entering Annadel State (actually now Sonoma County) Park and turned down Cobblestone trail which is full of proper rocks, roots and tight turns.  I caught right back up to the group and was riding behind my friend and Cat 1 road racer Keith Hillier.  There wasn't a good spot and we went around a left hand sweeper and into a good sized rock garden.  He pogo'd and stalled in a slow-mo endo which quickly got accelerated when my handlebar rammed his back tire and punted him over and off the trail.  At least he landed in the weeds and not the rocks.  "Keith, you OK??" "Yeah."  And he was getting up so I kept going to catch back up and finish off Cobblestone, passing by Jen playing with our new DSLR camera at the bottom.

8th and on the flat road of Channel Dr. about 40yds back of a 3 man group.  Once we got onto some traversing singletrack I caught right up to them and we were pushing a decent pace.  Since there was no place to pass I dropped back a bit to let the dust clear so I wouldn't hit anything in the wrong spot.  Just as I did that, one of the NorCal Bike Sport riders flipped over endo off to the left... phew I'm glad I backed off when I did!  Ok, no more dudes going OTB in my path please?!?!  We popped out of that singletrack and headed up the fire road climb which I know is a long slug... just my cup o' tea.  I set in at my diesel pace and caught up to Billy Damon and another NorCal rider.  We passed by Ben Portilla (Team Honey Stinger) whom I know from the Sierra Cup Series and our chase group of three see-sawed until we hit some more singletrack.  I took a little break and sat in behind Billy as we cruised down some flowy but rocky goodness.  I sat on his wheel and knew that he would pick a good line and then we broke out onto some more fire road and Billy and I dropped the NorCal rider.  When the slope turned upwards I jumped in front of Billy and we entered the Burma trail climb in the woods.  I set my sights on the next two, Michael Hosey and yet another NorCal rider but I could occasionally see one guy a bit off the front, maybe about 20 seconds ahead of them.

As I approached the two-some I could see that Hosey was sitting up a bit in second position seemingly biding time.  I figured if I were to pass by he'd jump right on my wheel.  Since I caught those two in a good spot on the climb, I just went right around on the left and kept my pace.  Sure enough, Hosey sucked right up to my wheel and the other guy stuck right to his.  I was feeling the burn for sure, but at least I could hear them breathing hard too!  I pulled them all the way up to the top of the Lawndale DH where Hosey sprinted around to get in front.  I'm not surprised since he's from the area and probably knows the trails very well.  Trail knowledge is so key... as he starts to pull away.  I kept the gap close though but the dust in the shadows was making the trail at that speed pretty treacherous.  So I was fine with hanging back a bit.  It wasn't long before we caught the leader and were being held up a bit.  Hosey was able to get by but there wasn't a spot for me so I sat in third as we eventually broke out of the woods and into the shrubs.  I came up on a blind right hander and saw that the 2nd place rider, Colin Daw, had slid off the trail.  Probably because he had gone into that corner as fast as I was... TOO FAST!  $#!^!!! BRAKE!!!  I two wheel drifted into the weeds and saved it... nice.  Colin was still mounting up and I tried to get on my pedals quickly to get by but he got going in time and stayed in front.  Oh well.  We didn't have much left on the DH anyway.  I took the last few squirts from my bottle before getting to the bottom in anticipation of the Camelbak bottle hand off.

Sweet!  They're handing off the nice Podium Chill bottles!  Damn... half full! :-(  I hadn't planned on that.  Now I had to ration but I REALLY wanted to chug!

Colin and I set off on the road traverse over to Schultz trail with Hosey about 20 seconds ahead.  I entered Schultz in the 2nd spot but couldn't see Hosey yet.  There was a bit of a traverse over to the real climbing still and Colin went by on the flowing singletrack.  But once we got to the rocky climbing of Schultz we caught Hosey who was getting bucked around on his hard tail and I was happily seated and keeping the power down on the Tallboy.  I caught up to Colin at the top and as we climbed the Pig Flat fire road he asked me if I had any water to spare.  I gave it some thought and wanted to be nice, but I really didn't.  I only had about two good squirts left in my bottle as well and was already feeling like I was swimming in the ocean when I would get tastes of all the saltiness that was pouring out of my skin.  "No, sorry, I'm about out too."  "Ok" He said, "I guess that'll make us want to finish faster."  Yep.  So I passed by at the top of the climb and we charged into, I think it's Marsh Trail, which is a sweet rolling singletrack trail with plenty of challenging obstacles and turns.  This trail reminds me a lot of the terrain I'm used to riding at home so I was feeling pretty good.  Unfortunately we were catching handfuls of short course riders that had merged back in with our course so it was really hard for me to break away.  Any time I'd get a little gap, I'd catch someone and have to wait for them to pull over and Colin was right back on me again.  Was this coming down to a sprint finish?

We came out of the singletrack and on to the final doubletrack and rocky road downhill to the finish which is about a mile and a half.  I was leading and I could hear Colin right there.  From watching him on the course, it seemed he had the better legs but maybe I had the technical edge.  So I decided to put that to the test and charged the downhill.  I was taking some risks for sure, charging around some off camber turns and drifting, jumping and hopping through the rocks.  I seemed to be pulling away just a bit so I kept charging.  After I exited one tricky 'S' turn I glanced back and saw some dust and Colin going slowly... he had just slid off the trail.  Now was my chance so I went for it.  With about a 10 second gap I fought the leg burn and did my best not to blow it by hitting some stupid rock wrong and flatting.  Thoughts of Georgia Gould's last two World Cup races where that happened flowed through my head.  I did not want that to happen so I checked up just a bit in a few spots.  But when the trail flattened out a bit more I looked back and could see Colin charging HARD!  Get low, aero... push it... it doesn't burn... be efficient... Would this course freaking END already!!?!?!?  AAAHHHH IT HURTS!!!!  He's catching up!!!!

I recognized the last couple turns though and knew I was close and as I came around the final turn I looked back and knew he wasn't close enough and I didn't have to sprint... thank God!  I sat up and gave it the good ol' fist pump as I crossed the line in 1st after 2hrs in 3min.  Yeah!!!

The race promoter, Bike Monkey, always has a great set up for post race and Annadel was no different.  We feasted on grub from "Awful Falafel" and of course Lagunitas brews.  I of course couldn't resist visiting the Samagse Massage tent for that same awesome post race treatment that I had received earlier this year after SoNoMas.  And I bought Jen a massage too :-).

So it wasn't long before I was hungry again so we made our way to downtown Santa Rosa with the "Fastest 29er" prize I had won last year, consisting of a bunch of gift cards/certificates to area pubs & restaurants.  The four of had a nice "progressive" dinner starting off with some more brews at "Toad in the Hole" pub.

Then we moved on to "El Coqui" which is a Puerto Rican restaurant.  I had never had Puerto Rican cuisine before, and to be honest I didn't expect much more than something similar to Mexican food (this would also qualify as Peter's "something new" food of the day which he has to do when they hang out with us).  This has worked out well so far (aside from the Lemon Pizza incident...) and even when they came with us to Thailand.  Wow was that good!  El Coqui didn't let any of us down and that's a big understatement.  We each had one of their Kenematini's (I think that's what they're called), which is a Puerto Rican martini of rum soaked fruit (like lychee) mixed with Guava juice (or Mango in Jen's version) and some other good stuff.  Delicious, and that was just the start!  Many of the menu items featured Plantains of different forms, and none of us had ever had Plantain.  We got a fried green plantain and garlic appetizer which was stuffed with Chicharron (fried pork, like bacon)... so good.  Peter and I each got Camarones (Garlic and olive oil sauteed prawns) which came with some sweet plantains, some fried green plantain slices, and Puerto Rican prepared red beans with potatos, pork and garlic.  SO GOOD!!!  The girls split a pork stuffed sweet plantain dish which was also very good (I of course ate what they didn't finish).  If you're ever in Santa Rosa I, we, highly recommend this place.

So a big thanks to Bike Monkey for not only always having well run events with great courses, but for securing great sponsors who contribute fantastic podium prizes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

2012 Downieville Classic All Mountain Report

This year I wanted to really kill it at Downieville.  Santa Cruz even came up with THE perfect bike for the race... the Tallboy LTc, which of course I had to have.  High demand for it made delivery pretty last minute and I got it only two weeks before the race, on a day I was going out of town.  Thankfully I have an awesome friend in Asa Salas who always seems to come to my rescue.  She turned what was a cardboard box in my living room into a beautiful new bike so that I could take it on this maiden Downieville voyage when I got home...
So as you can see, it pedals well... REALLY well.  I was truly amazed.  But what I was really looking for after feeling a little beat up in last year's race on my "regular" Tallboy, was improved downhill performance.  And OH MY did this bike have it!  It is an absolute monster truck on the downhills and eats everything!  I was having SO much fun!  And dropper seatposts are awesome!! (took me a while to remember I had one)

Sidenote: Yeah, the bikes being named the same thing is a little confusing, especially to Jen when trying to tell her why I was getting this bike.  "Why are you getting the SAME bike?" "No, they're not the same... this one says 'LT' so it's different."  So Santa Cruz if you're listening... it might increase sales and make it easier for guys to pitch it to their wives if you start to name bikes a little more uniquely :-).  For now... I just refer to the "regular" Tallboy as 'Red' (red graphics) and the LT as 'Orange' (orange graphics).  Now back to the show...

Two things I learned on my preride though was a) I still really don't like wearing hydration backpacks and b) the 36 tooth 1x10 setup that came with the bike wasn't fast enough and I was topping out the gears on the downhills.  The solution to the first problem involved some velcro, electrical tape, and robbing a bottle cage from my road bike to create a conveniently mounted bottle cage on the top tube... BRILLIANT!  Works like a charm!  And the solution to problem #2 involved cannibalizing 'Red' for it's double chainrings and shifter.  It made for a bit of a cluttered handlebar with the seatpost button, 2 shifters, 2 brake levers, and a garmin, but it was the ticket.

I was able to get up and ride the course a couple more times and was feeling pretty confident on my new steed in a short time.  I even felt comfortable on the infamous "waterfall" section of the downhill which I've never had the confidence to ride previously.  

Race morning... I was a big pack of nerves!  So it was really, really nice that Jen was able to get the day off from working the TBF Tri-4-Fun and come join me for her first D'ville Classic.  

The nice send-off before I warm up and she heads up to the top of the climb for a bottle handoff .
Since I was racing the two day "All Mountain" I would have to weigh the bike before each day's race to make sure I didn't switch any parts.  The XL framed, 5+ inch travel, 29 inch wheeled race steed came in to just 27lbs... nice!  My choice of tires for the race would be a WTB Bronson 29 2.2 Race up front and a WTB Wolverine 29 2.2 Race in the rear.  I went with this setup because of the high volume in both and the fact that they still grip really well when the psi is pumped way up (necessary for the Downieville rocks and speed).  
I warmed up for a while but my legs just felt a little flat.  I lined up on the front row next to many big names (Decker, Craig, Moeschler, Taberlay, Riffle, etc. etc...) hoping that my legs would get opened up quickly on the climb before all these guys would get away.  And with a silent 5 second countdown... GO!!!  We were off on the 8 mile, 3000ft climb to the top which never gets any easier.  Everyone stayed calm on the first section of pavement and there weren't any breakaways, but the pace certainly picked up just before we made the turn to the dirt.  I settled in farther back than I was hoping for, maybe about 20th.  But after a few minutes on the dirt I started to gain some ground back and pass a few guys.  I settled in the steady climb and was lucky enough to have two songs stuck in my head: "Whistle" by Flo Rida and, of course, "Call Me Maybe."  I guess they were on the radio during the drive up.  But there was no way I was able to whistle or sing along... I was pegged with my heart rate hovering about 175 and it would stay that way for the 37 minutes it would take me to get to "the turn" with 2400 feet of the climbing complete.  This is my usual spot to take on some Hammer Gel and recover for a couple pedal strokes, but my heart rate only would get down to 167 before getting back on it and to stay with Kenny Burt who had just passed me and to keep Jason Moeschler in sight.  One more steep climb and I'd pass Kenny back before we begin the traverse over to the top at Packer Saddle (still climbing, just gradual).  This is always where I hope to make up some ground and stay as hard on the pedals as I was when it was steep.  I kept on it and did make a few passes but it's hard to break away on your own and I ended up pulling three or four riders up to the last climb before the top where they passed... and I was hurting.  I could tell that I was getting pretty dehydrated and my bottle was empty.  But thankfully Jen was there at the top for the liquid replacement.  I crested the top in 13th place at about 54 minutes, which I was disappointed with... I know I could do closer to 50, but the legs just weren't there.

I entered Sunrise trail behind Moeschler and Duncan Riffle, and hoped I'd be able to stick with them.  But I was surprised that Riffle was actually holding me up... must be the bike... or he's just really gassed from the climb.  But Moeschler was getting away and I just couldn't find a good place to make a pass stick on Riffle.  So I sat in and recovered a bit, but Kenny Burt caught us right before the end of Sunrise and we all started the traverse over to the "Baby Heads" together.  My legs were burning and I was really wishing that I had grabbed an extra water bottle at the top because I had sucked down maybe 3/4 of the 2nd bottle by the time we made it to Baby Heads... oh well.  All downhill (sorta) from here!

I entered Baby Heads (named because of the big, smooth rocks that cover this trail) behind Burt and I was hoping to stay on his wheel.  I knew my good lines through here, but he's a great descender.  We made a couple passes before the trail got really rough and I was again surprised I was able to stick with him.  Even feeling like I could be going faster... must be the bike.  We passed Billy Damon who was having a great ride and then went splashing through Pauley Creek.  And to the cheers and encouragement from familiar faces Obie Miller and Chris Schulze spending the day on their moto's instead of pedaling... I powered up the loose climb after the creek that many have to hike.  I led Kenny around a Marin factory team rider and before getting into the techy stuff on Pauley Creek Trail Kenny wanted by so I let him go.  Again I set out to stay right on his wheel.  We were absolutely ripping it and it was awesome.  

Although it was SO dusty I couldn't see squat.  I was watching Kenny's movements closely and mimicking his actions to absorb and work the trail, but the trail was getting rougher and I was feeling the need to back off a bit in order to save my equipment.  Just as I was backing off, leaned over in a right hander, SMACK!!! PSSHHSHSHSHHH!!!! I had hit a root (I think) pretty hard but it just happened to have a sharp nub or something which punctured the front tire... "NOOOOO!!!! DAMMIT!!"  Stan's sealant was shooting everywhere and the tire was flat almost instantly.  It was a huge gash... two actually and a chunk of tread was torn off.  I busted out the CO2 in an attempt to get it to seal up tubeless again but that was a lost cause... the Stan's just went everywhere!  So I busted out my tube to throw in the tire but ran into two problems: 1) Since I'd never had a flat with the new ENVE carbon wheels, I didn't realize the standard valve stem didn't hardly stick through the deep dish rim which caused problem 2) the new CO2 head I'd just bought didn't fit on there enough to inflate the tube!!!  Aaahhhhh!!!!!  And I wasn't carrying an old fashioned pump.  My day was done so I set off carrying the bike down the trail and tried to stay out of the way.  After about 15 minutes of hiking I came across another rider who was pumping up his tire and just finishing up.  "Can I borrow your pump?" I humbly asked.  "Yeah... but you'll have to carry it down."  That was an easy choice, he handed me his pump just as I was getting my tube in and he set off.  Thank you!!!  Hopefully you got it back from the race announcer!  I pumped up the tire with the tube visible through the puncture holes and prayed it would hold up for the rest of the downhill.  

Once I finally got going again I was right in the mix with the middle or back of the expert field and maybe the front end of the sport riders.  Man was this frustrating.  I'd never experienced mid pack riding at Downieville before but that stinks!  These guys are working hard, so kudos for them pushing their limits, but can I just get by??  But after a while I just accepted it and figured I'd benefit from "saving" myself for the DH on Sunday.  On 1st Divide trail I was stuck behind a group of three and since it's on the side of a cliff, there was no getting by.  I started whistling and singing the two songs that were stuck in my head, and I even asked what songs those guys had stuck in their heads (happens to everyone right?) and offered to sing them.  I didn't get a response... they were probably thinking to themselves "Would this jerk shut up?!"  I finally got by before the lower, faster section of the trail...

I finally rolled across the line in 2hrs 36min... and extremely bummed.  
I kept telling myself that it's just the nature of racing here at Downieville and you HAVE to have good luck in order to do well.  Just regular luck means you break something or flat but you can still fix it and finish.  Bad luck is when you have to DNF.  So I tried to be thankful.  Turns out Kenny flatted a little ways down the trail too so I was bummed for him as well.  I think we were going to get up close to the top five.

So then I set out after some things that make me feel better...

And then we were headed back home to get ready for Sunday... the DH for me and TBF for Jen.  I patched up the tire and refilled with sealant and 'Orange' was ready to rip it again.

I would be the 10th rider to set off on the DH course so I wasn't going to have much traffic or dust.  But since I knew I was out of contention for the All Mountain I really just wanted to make sure I didn't hold up Moeschler and Craig who were starting behind me.  I knew based on previous years times that it was inevitable that they would pass.  

I had a clean and smooth run on Sunrise and the Butcher fire road and plunged into the upper Butcher singletrack.  But not long into it I hear "Clint!! Buddy!!" Jason had already caught me and thankfully there was a good place to pull over so I did right away and he blew by.  Amazing.  I got back on it hard to try to stay with him and learn but he passed me too fast.  I was able to keep him in sight for a while but he was gone by the waterfall.  I rode my line clean through it though and finished up Butcher trail with one of my cleanest runs ever.  But towards the bottom switchbacks I could feel my back tire getting squishy.  Not again... Was it just in my head?  Nope.  After I crossed the bridge and set off up the climb to 3rd divide I looked down and it was getting really soft.  I was able to make it to the top of the climb however but with the 40mph singletrack of 3rd divide ahead I needed to fill it up.  So out the CO2 came again and as I was hooking it up Adam Craig came powering by.  Well at least I didn't hold him up either.  I finally got it full and set off to tear down the hill some more.  Again I had one of my best runs on 3rd divide, hitting lines I'd never done before and really blazing it.  A couple times I had some "Oh $#!^" moments and almost flew off the trail but was able to save it and keep it smooth.  I had a smooth run on the upper section of 1st Divide trail and kept up a good pace on the flats.  But speaking of flats, the rear tire was going down again about half way down the lower, faster part of 1st Divide but there was no way I was stopping again!  I made it to the pavement without too many rim strikes and finished my DH run with my best time ever of 48:27... even with two stops.  Not too shabby and it was good enough for 19th fastest in the DH with a pretty stacked field.  But based on my prior day's poor XC result my All Mountain result was just 40th overall for the Pro men.  Oh well.  But at least I got to have a BLAST racing a sweet new bike... and just being at the Downieville Classic is always fun.  Next year...