Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sacramento Cyclocross - The Other Side Of The Tape

In my last post I mentioned that even though I was off racing my last Enduro MTB race of the season, cyclocross was where my head was at.  But really, the Sacramento Cyclocross Series has been on my mind all year.  Not to train for or race it (only if I'm lucky), but from the other side of the tape.  So here's a different kind of race report, as the event promoter and race director.

You might be thinking... "Planning all year? It's just a few bike races! String up a course and people show up right?" Not quite.  I've been around the business for a while, but never tackled the whole thing.  Without getting into all the details, here's a glimpse of what ended up taking much more of our time and energy than we expected.

  • How many races? And where? 
  • How do we fit our race schedule in with all the other CX races in NorCal.
  • How many categories? What's the best race day schedule?
  • USAC or no?
  • What are the insurance requirements of each venue?
  • Which venues require porta-potties? Where do we get porta-potties?!
  • Who's handling EMT duties?
  • This venue permit is 72 pages long...
  • Why do they make it so hard to have food and alcohol at an event?!!?
  • What's the jersey design for this year?
    • Hmmm... two good ideas... make one a shirt!
  • What timing chips are we using?
  • How do we build a new website?
  • How is registration going to work?
  • What are we doing for marketing? Where do we get posters printed? Who's distributing them?
  • Social media...
  • What course material do we need? Do we have enough? (No... you never have enough!)
  • This is a lot of stuff... we need to buy a trailer.
  • How will we compensate core staff? Where are we getting volunteers? 
  • It's June and the venue manager wants a course map...
  • Trying to get Old Sac as a venue= meetings and more meetings.
  • Searching out and formulating agreements with sponsors... so many emails!
  • How to I make a good CX course? Details...
    • Random park goer: "Why is that guy riding his bike around (seemingly) aimlessly in the grass and going half way up hills and turning around?"
  • How do I make barriers?  Can they be lighter?
    • No... barriers made of vinyl fencing don't hold up.
  • How do I make a podium backdrop?
  • Who's watching Logan while we're running the event?

There are a lot of things that were left off that list (and a LOT of prep that Jen did too), but you get the idea.  So after all the planning... the season was finally here.  With Jen handling all the timing and registration, the equipment, course, and the race functions would be my responsibility.  No matter what else we did with the series, website, sponsorship, marketing, etc... it still comes down to the fact that the course has to be good and foster good racing.  Without that, to me, there wouldn't really be any growth in the series and people wouldn't come back.  This means that every course becomes my baby... in addition to this one...

The first race at Orangevale Park was a returning venue with a course that was well received last year, but after riding around the venue and making sure I was using any unique feature it had to offer I saw some changes to be made.  Some of which involved a couple hours of raking...

With a good route mapped out I was ready to go.  And on the day before the race, with an awesome crew from Folsom Bike we eventually got it all set up.  But it took way too long and all the volunteers weren't effectively utilized.  Something I'd make sure to do on future setup days.  Huge thanks to Ron Shevock for helping me out until after dark.  And I also learned that I need to set up my start finish chute first if I want it to look nice.  We ran out of material before we got to it, and had to go back and thin out some sections.

After getting home and loading up the rest of the race day equipment, everything was full again and I was seriously concerned that we wouldn't be able to get everything home after the race!

Race day... lesson #1: Expect that at least some of your course will be destroyed overnight.  Either by humans, overly powerful sprinklers, or wind.  For this race, it was humans.  Many stakes were used as javelins, ending up in random places, and some were never found.  Great.  Some foul words were uttered as I rode around the course at 5:30am.

But with daylight came life and as the registration area and start/finish chute took shape the racers started to roll in.  There had been a lot of excitement leading up to this and I was still a little worried that people wouldn't show up.  But people kept coming and the buzz was awesome.  The first wave of the day (Men's C's) was huge!!  George asks me if I want to say something before they go off... yeah, I do, or rather I feel like I should.  But I don't know what to say so after rattling off a few logistical details, I just express my appreciation that they've come out and that I hope they love it.  And they're off!  It felt great to finally have racers on course.  And wave after wave people were stoked and loving it.  I don't think I ever stopped moving all day... repairing broken course, preparing awards and handing out podium prizes, repairing more course, making a kids course route, taking feedback from racers, resolving results disputes, thanking the sponsors that came out, oh and repairing more course :-).  I was so wrapped up in doing everything, that when I saw my mother-in-law in the reg area (she'd been taking care of Logan at our house), and then saw a stroller, with a baby in it, I had to stop and think for a second.  Wait... if she's here, and... oh that baby's mine!  I felt so bad that I had been so mentally wrapped up in everything that I hadn't even thought about our little guy at all.  But so thankful that he was being taken care of so that I didn't have to and could be in my new version of "race mode." I was excited to see him though and I walked around with him for a while and, you guessed it, repaired some course :-).

After all the racing was done, I couldn't believe how well the event had gone.  And was so stoked that everything we'd been working on finally took shape, and made a lot of people happy (336 racers!).

And I even managed to fit all of the course and venue equipment in the cars and trailer!  Good thing I played a lot of Tetris as a kid!

Monday... time to focus on race number two at Maidu Park the next weekend. New venue, new course.  I took some time during the week and just went out to the park and just walked around.  Reading the contours and visualizing the course and what lines would be taken at race speed.  I had a good course plan and I went around ahead of time marking where each stake would go.  With another great setup crew, this time from Roseville Cyclery, we knocked out the course before dark.  Except we ran out of course material, again.  And some thinning was required to put together the start/finish area, which we couldn't access until the soccer games were over.  I HATED the fact I had to skimp on course material! Oh well, not much I could do now.  After all the volunteers left I walked the course making minor adjustments, moving stakes just a few feet, etc.  I ended up redesigning a series of turns in the grass until they felt right and the few guys out preriding gave me good feedback on the course.  

Race morning... I'm out at 5:30am again riding the course and it's all still there! Stoked! It's gonna be a good day.

I started setting up the course that ran through the parking lot and quickly found out that I needed to block off areas due to the softball tournament and those people wanting to park in our venue.  I scrambled for some cones and also blocked off a space for the food truck which would come later.  People ended up moving some cones to park there anyway.  Ahh!  

As I'm finishing the setup of the parking lot section of the course, a park maintenance guy drives up and says he needs to get into the maintenance yard that is on the other side of my course.  Seriously? So I take the course down for him to go through.   Unfortunately he'd need to do this a few more times throughout the day, during races.  That was quite the headache to deal with and make sure he got across two way race traffic with his truck safely.  This venue certainly had some flow issues, with people having to cross the course not only to get to registration but to get to the bathrooms.  Something I had never considered.  So not only do I need to have a good course, I need to figure out where the foot traffic is coming from and where it will want to go for future races.

But the day ended up being awesome again and the racers were stoked.

And yes I did a quite a bit of course repair...

It was another day where I seemed to never stop moving and was always going a different direction.  We had one somewhat major hiccup in the timing system caused by too much draw on the batteries.  But we learned how to (hopefully) prevent it in the future and thanks to a great scribe crew (backup scoring) we had a manual record of finish order at least for the Master B's categories.  

At the end of the day... 346 racers got out on course to hammer and had a great time.  I couldn't believe how well the series was going.  And how rewarding it's been despite an incredible amount of work.  Honestly... just showing up to an event with a bike and racing seems easy in comparison!  

Two weeks later, at our third race at Lembi Park in Folsom, I would get the opportunity to do both!  This race went EXTREMELY well despite a tough course, which equals even more course repairs.  But I had bought about 175 more stakes since the beginning of the season and had a few extra on hand (I learned not to use them ALL on setup for this reason).  People were really digging the techy course I had put together (thanks to all the help from Team Revs on setup!) and there were spectators/hecklers everywhere and the vibe was awesome.  With ten minutes to go before the final race of the day (Men's A/SS A's), I found myself in the timing area having checked over, made repairs and all of the course was ready to go.  I told Jen I was thinking of jumping in the race but I didn't have my timing chip or anything set up yet.  She says, "I know someone who can make that happen you know..." So ten minutes later, after a towel change in the parking lot I roll up to the back of the Single Speed group... "So I hear there's a bike race eh?"  Lots of familiar faces welcome me back to this side of the tape.  It felt really good to get out there and actually enjoy some of the fruits of everything we've been doing.  

And yes... it was a really fun course!  But really hard too!!!  I was essentially course sweep, but I was having fun.  I even scored a dollar hand-up.  Thanks to everyone who I saw repairing the damaged course while I was out there racing.  And sorry to the guy whose foot I ran over at the top of the run-up!  

After the dust settled at Lembi and Team Revs picked up the course in record time, I got to go walk the course with Jen and show her everything she never gets to see (always stuck in the timing/reg tent).  So that was pretty cool.  And the other amazing thing... the count was 392 racers... wow.  So excited to see where this is going.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

CA Enduro Series Finale - Santa Cruz Super Enduro

It's October... that strange time in California where there are still some really good MTB races around.  However... we've been racing since February and the mind and body are tired... which forces some decisions and temptations are hard to fight.  Temptations like the trails which aren't race courses or on the normal training route... they are calling because they've been neglected all year.  Or the temptation of the couch, football, beer, and spending time with family and friends.  Or there's Cyclocross... which is where my head's been at.  No, not training for it or racing but from the other side of the tape.  Jen and I are running the Sacramento Cyclocross Series this year and we've been working hard all year planning and gearing up for it... and it's finally here.  I'll write more about what it's like promoting the series in other posts, but it fits in here because the CES finals (Saturday, in Santa Cruz) were intertwined with our first CX series race (Sunday, in Orangevale).  Of course I'd try to do it all, which maybe wasn't the smartest thing but the support of family and friends made it possible.

It was a chilly Saturday morning down in the Soquel Demo Forest and racers slowly rolled in to get ready for the four stage enduro.  I was ready to go early, except I discovered my DOSS dropper post wasn't returning all the way back to the top.  I talked it over with a bike shop friend (Steven Lewis) and we figured it was just low on air.  It was, but then he put WAY too much air in which I discovered as I tried it out for the first time and it almost broke my wrist it came up so fast.  I'm glad I wasn't sitting on it!!  So we figured it'd be a good idea to take some air out and remove the eject effect.  After a quick riders meeting it was 9am and we were given the ok to start pedaling up the hill towards stage one.  This is usually where Scott Chapin and I "race" each other up the hill... which we did... but at a casually brisk pace so we could chat about our other agendas.  That being the odd mix of cross and enduro this time of year.  He was thinking that it would be possible for him to get down to Salinas and race the CCCX cross race if he finished the enduro quick enough (which he didn't, because he snagged a podium spot at the enduro).  And my goal was to "XC the enduro" and finish everything as quickly as possible so I could drive the three hours back to Sacramento and set up our cyclocross course for our race.

We made it to the top in good time and the timing crew were all set up and ready for us to start whenever.  Sweet.  So off came the arm and knee warmers and on went the goggles for the fun to begin.  Stage one was the same as last year but I still felt like I was riding blind.  I generally remembered the contours but not the details of what was around each bend.

I felt pretty smooth though but didn't take any risks.  After crossing the line I just motored on through and up the transfer climb to stage two.  Unfortunately I lost my water bottle somewhere on stage one.  Oh well.

When I got back up to the top, that timing crew was ready to rock as well (awesome!).  So I took a swig of water from one of the guys and was off hammering down the ridge trail before turning down Braille Trail.  This stage is really fun and flowy with tons of spots to jump off obstacles and pick up a bunch of speed quickly before several g-out gulleys and short climbs.

Again, I felt smooth except for one close call when a rock kicked my back end the wrong way and I shouldered a tree to stay upright.  I didn't really feel fast though as I didn't really remember every line over the many blind knolls and corners.  But I rolled through the finish and continued on and climbed up to stage three.

I got to the top at 10:30 and was on good pace to finish everything and be on the road again by noon.  And the timing crew was all in place and looked ready to go here too.  But then they told me they couldn't start anyone before 11.  "What?! It's 10:30! Damn." It didn't make any sense to me since there was no traffic on the trail from prior stages.  But thankfully one of the guys started checking the radio and he got the ok to start me at about 10:40.  Awesome! And I was off!  Stage three is one of the more technical stages and also the longest of the day.  With plenty of rooted and rocky steep sections up top, tight in the trees.  I was making my way through pretty well until I came out of a tight left and saw there was a cut off tree stump really close to the trail on exit.  I carried the lean out of the corner a little longer and cleared the stump with my front wheel, but brought the bike back up too quickly which caught my right shoe on the stump.  BOOM!!! Like I'd hit a land mine I was ejected up and over, landing about 15ft down the trail... on my back... on some roots.  Still sliding I rolled over just before the bike tumbled over me.  I was totally stunned and couldn't breathe.  I'd landed on a root right about where my left kidney is and also where my multi tool and pump were in my jersey which didn't help.  After moaning a bit and getting up slowly, I made sure all the bits were still where they should be and were operational.  My right hand took a crunch and was hurting a bit and my lower back was really in pain.  I had a headache too.  But the bike didn't have a scratch on it and I knew I needed to get moving to stay loose, so I got back on my horse and continued on.  I certainly couldn't push it and was just trying to get through the rest of the race.  I couldn't dive into the corners at all because holding myself up against the g-forces really hurt my back.  Especially on the last stage which was the new flow trail.  It was fun, and I finished, but I could hardly hold on.

A lot of people were climbing up to stage three as I finished up the final stage and I was still making good time.  The climb out of the canyon back to the car seemed endless and hurt... man did it hurt.  I packed up and was on the road before noon.  Awesome!  I got back and was able to help set up the course for our cross race which turned out to be really successful.  I'm really glad I had the support system to make getting down to Santa Cruz and racing the enduro possible.  I really wanted to finish out the series like I'd planned to at the beginning of the year.  With the crash in Santa Cruz and my course mix-up at Mammoth a few weeks prior, my results weren't were I'd hoped they'd be but I still managed to place 10th overall for the series.  I'm even more stoked for my teammate Ryan who captured the overall win for the series! The Tallboy LTc rocks!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

CES #4 - Kamikaze Bike Games - Mammoth

It's been about eight years since I last rode at Mammoth.  Things were a little different then... here's a photo from one of the last trips there of Jen and I at the top of Kamikaze...
Of course, Jen crashed pretty hard on the Kamikaze DH right after that photo was taken which knocked her back out and she couldn't walk for three days.  And that's probably one of the reasons it'd taken me so long to come back.  But I was looking forward to the great trails that I remembered being a part of the next round of the California Enduro Series.

We've been working pretty hard promoting and preparing for the Sacramento Cyclocross Series so my training and ride time has taken a back seat lately.  But the XC race scheduled for Saturday as part of the Kamikaze Bike Games was tempting.  So next to my Tallboy LTc enduro machine, I threw on the Tallboy C just in case I could get there in time and felt like jumping in the race where the uphills count for time too.  I left the house super early Saturday morning, railed some high mountain roads in the Mazda3, and made it to Mammoth with plenty of time to relax and get a prelap in.  After riding the course, I knew signing up for the race would be a good choice.  It was really fun!  It had everything! Buffed flow trail, loose berms, jumps, ladders, and a pretty rocky and technical descent at the end of a lap.  

With the lack of training and since I haven't raced XC in a while, I dropped back to about 10th spot in the first climb on fire road to single track.  No sprinting from this guy!  It was nice to hear some cheers from friends though as I reached the turn into the first climbing trail.  Once we settled into a nice seated climbing pace I was able to make a few passes and get up to about 6th and I could see the 5th just ahead.  I looked back and there was already a big gap behind as well.  We climbed up to the main lodge and then UP a portion of the Kamikaze DH before heading into some flowy singletrack.  

That's where I caught Evan Christenson, a Jr rider who cat'd up to pro/open for this race to push himself.  Props to him and he was doing great.  But my Tallboy wanted to open it up for some DH fun so I went by and ripped the descent back to the bottom.

The final descent of the lap on Shotgun trail was pretty rowdy at speed and a blast to ride.  At one point I came out of a berm and launched off a rock and landed in roots which kicked me sideways and my back wheel bounced off the tree.  I whooped with delight like a little kid after the save.  

But alas... it was back to the climbing for lap two and Evan caught me after a little while.  Neither of us heard from anyone at the venue telling us our time gap to the riders ahead.  We couldn't see them no matter how hard we pushed and there was still no challenge from behind.  Until we reached the Kamikaze climb again and I looked back and saw a rider coming.  At that same time I reached for a couple Clif shot bloks I'd stuck to my top tube, and I totally fumbled!  Here I was riding up Kamikaze, juggling two shot bloks in the air with my left hand!  I caught one and while the other was still in the air, I popped it in my mouth and tried to catch the other but failed.  Shot blok down! We have a shot blok down!!  Dang... oh well, I had a few more lick 'n sticks to top me off.  After getting into the singletrack again, that rider I saw finally caught me.  He was charging hard and I figured I'd let him pass, and stay on his wheel and pace for a bit.  But once the trail turned down, he was slowing me up so I went on by and quickly caught Evan again after some more descending.  He pulled a little gap on a steep climb after passing the lodge again, but I was able to pull him right back once the trail turned down.
As we were about to turn in to one of the last traversing trails, he inadvertently gave me a sign of his fatigue.  He shook his hands, trying to loosen up some arm pump.  He was riding at his limit on the downhills and that's where I'd hit it hard.  I went by and even though there was a little more climbing left I knew there was enough descending trail to hammer I could secure the 5th spot.   

It was a blast racing this course and fun to have a race long see-saw battle with Evan.  Great job to him and thanks for taking the podium pic ;-).

After the race, I was checking out the new Shimano XTR M9000 series electronic shifting at the venue.  Joe Lawwill even let me ride his Blur LTc equipped with this system.  It is VERY cool.  Instant, precise shifting (and the little servo noise is trippy) even with the front derailleur under load.  And the "Syncro" mode allows complete shifting with the front and rear using only the right lever.  Something that seems really valuable in race situations.  Once you get to a certain point after a few shifts with just the rear, the system beeps at you indicating the next shift will be with the front based on the gear ratio.  That point can also be programmed.  Very cool!

I met up with Ryan after his enduro preriding and we kicked back at our campsite.

Sunday morning I was out on course at 7:30 to get at least a little practice time in on two of the four stages.  It was good to see them, except for the hail and rain storm that started when I had a couple minutes left on my last lift ride up!  By the end of that run I was soaked and freezing.  And my Capo "flo-yellow" wasn't quite as bright.

We moved the racer meeting into the lodge to warm up, and because of the unpredictable weather (hail, snow, lightning, high winds) they cancelled the small section of Kamikaze DH we were suppose to ride from the top for Stage 2.  And changed the order so after stage 1 we'd hit stage 4 before riding up to the main lodge for stage 3.

Thankfully by the time we began racing, the skies cleared... but I was still wet and cold.  I rode around at the top of stage 1 to keep from shivering but I could barely feel my hands in the cold, wet gloves.  Oh well... it was enduro time and stage 1 was on!  After a couple small drops in a sandy chute the trail traversed back and forth across the mountain.  I was just trying to pedal everywhere I could and keep from missing the sharp stuff!

Unfortunately about half way down I missed a turn and didn't realize it until I felt like I was pedaling a little too much, and figured out I'd ended up on the XC course.  Looking back, I know exactly where I went wrong: After some steep ladders and berms there was a trail intersection with a cluster of course tape.  The correct route went off to the left and down, in a way that you can't see the trail.  And the route I took was the trail that could be seen, and since it wasn't blocked off and I was in a racing blur, I took the wrong trail.  I saw a course marshall after a bit and he was standing next to the DH course which was still marked, telling me that trail was what I was supposed to be on, and that I was only the second rider he'd seen.  I didn't think that was the right trail either, talked with him about it and figured my run was shot and I'd just go down the DH run since I knew it connected with the enduro stage after a little bit.  

After getting back on course, I finished up and was pretty frustrated with myself and that the course wasn't marked clearly enough at intersections.  I lost about two minutes because of that and that blew my chance at even a somewhat decent result on the day.

So the remaining stages were just about having fun and going fast.  I climbed up the transfer (maybe the only enduro rider to ride all of it?) to stage four which would be our second timed run of the day, and was the first male rider to tackle the stage.  There was quite a bit of pedaling for the first half of what would be a ten minute stage.  Then it was time to drop into "Follow Me" trail for some double black fun.  With the Fox suspension opened up in Descend mode, the Tallboy LTc ate up the drops and rocks with ease and I got to the bottom with a big smile on my face.  Mission accomplished!

For the next transfer, we'd ride from Canyon Lodge to the main gondola, about four miles using some of the XC course trails.  Then onto the gondola to the half way point, and a nice steep climb to the Stage 3 start.

Everone there walked but I rode it... because I wanted to feel good about myself... still frustrated with my stage 1 mistake.  

Ryan would be the first guy to go off after the ladies, then I'd try to chase him down.  But after a few fumbles on a trail I hadn't seen yet, I was caught.  I let him pass and then tried to stay with him, which I was doing and then he crashed coming out of a corner with his bike upside down and sideways blocking the trail.  He got up quickly though and I let him stay ahead since he was having a better run.  We got separated after I almost washed in a sandy corner and he pulled away.  The rest of the stage was pretty straightforward, fast and fun until we got onto a jump trail with wood jump faces sending into blind landings. 

My eyes bugged out, and I turned back into a penguin.  Maybe if I was in contention I'd hit that stuff blind, but not today.  I'd finish in 30th place in the pro men's field for the day, due to my stage 1 mistake.  And that result dropped me to 7th overall for the series with one more race remaining in Santa Cruz.  Hopefully I can put down some good times there in a few weeks.  Despite the results, coming back to Mammoth was a blast and I wish I could have spent more time there riding all the other great trails on the mountain.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

California Enduro Series #3 - Northstar

A couple months after round two at China Peak, it was time to get back to California Enduro-ing at Northstar for the third stop in the series.  With my new green accent Tallboy LTc built up and ready to rip I was looking forward to it.  

There would just be three timed stages in the race and the first one was on Livewire; a completely man-made jump run.  Certainly not my cup-o-tea!  But I've been working on being a little less of a penguin lately and setting up the suspension correctly for the take-offs, so at least I knew I could do it.  But since I don't know how to fully "scrub" at speed I knew I wouldn't be competitive on this stage.  We started a little ways down on the trail on top of the flyover, and I was certainly nervous.  I knew I'd just have to attack it and that would keep me safe... no limp arms here!  I hit the first lip, pulled up and did a back wheel tap bmx style and that felt good.  And after doing the same on the next jump I was ready just to let 'er fly.  
 I was feeling really comfortable and smooth.  Having fun until my chain came off as I dove into a right hand berm after some braking bumps.  I thought it had fallen off to the outside, so I shifted the derailleur down but it wasn't catching.  Up and over another jump, through another berm and still nothing until I had a second to look down and see that it was off to the inside.  So I shifted accordingly, through another berm and up over a roller before it finally caught and I was back on the gas.  Frustrated but after a few more jumps... having fun again.
After a little debrief it was on the lift with Ryan which would take us about half way up.  
Then we were pedaling the rest of the way to the top.  Ryan wasn't obeying the California "hands-free" law...
Thou shalt not text and enduro!  Though I think he was checking the live results.  It still seems funny to me that you can ride on a chairlift and cruise while checking your phone while we're technically racing.  Enduro!

Stage two should have been right up my alley... a sixteen or so minute pedal stage with an uphill finish.  Yeah that's still a short sprint in my book but long for the CA enduro scene.  I set off from the gate and gave it what I could on the short climbs right off the bat.  The tree bark and needles on the loose trail made a sound like I had a flat tire, and the loose conditions sapped power in the same manner.  But all was still inflated and after navigating a few deep and loose rutted corners I was onto a flat rolling trail for some more hammering.  I guess I went a little too hard, trying to pedal through everything because I caught my left pedal on a stump or something as my suspension compressed into a trough.  That kicked my back end up to the right and sent me off the trail into a dead tree.  I stayed up, but this was right at the base of a short climb which I now had to run up, losing more time.  For some reason that took me out of it mentally and I couldn't focus on the trail and be fast after that.  Until I got passed... then it was on again!
This young kid was rippin' so I stayed right on him and when it came time for pedal power at the end of the stage I passed him back and pushed to the finish.  A finish which was after about a three hundred yard road climb.  I was totally gassed after that climb and the area after the finish looked like a war zone with guys collapsing after the line gasping for air.  Once they got air... some were cursing the organizers because they had to actually put some power down while pedaling their bikes.  C'mon guys... not everything is pointed down.  Yes, I too was surprised these trails were used in the race, considering that Northstar has many really gnarly and fun downhill trails.  But Enduro isn't just a bunch of DH runs linked together.  You're going to have to pedal your bike.  Good job giving your all.  Why don't you just feel good about your effort and move on?  Maybe recognize that power and fitness is an aspect of your cycling that is in need of improvement?  The type of racer that comes to these Enduro's usually is from a background of either more DH oriented racing or XC oriented racing.  And I don't usually hear the XC guys complaining about the technical DH or jumps they have to navigate.  They just keep working to get better at them trying to find that line between pinning it and making sure to get back home in one piece.  Why can't this go the other way around?  Ok... rant over... 

After another pedal about half way up the mountain I set off on the final stage of the day.  A really fun DH trail starting off with high speed berms and low flying jumps before heading into "Pho Dog" trail which is a go-to if you ever ride Northstar.  I cleared all the jumps and felt quick in and out of the turns, then got pitched a little sideways in the last rock garden before the trail opened back up to more high speed jumps.  A handful more big banked corners (Daytona Berms) sent me into two more jumps where the LTc got to fly before calling it a day.
I finished up 19th overall but aside from a few hiccups, was happy with the day and had a great time racing out of my comfort zone.  Plus, Northstar is close to home and I was back by 2pm to this little guy... :-)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Annadel XC Race

The Annadel XC race was coming up and the Tallboy is far and away the best bike in my stable for that course.  And I was hoping to have a little help from "new bike speed" after just building up the new version the weekend prior.  "Blue" sure is purdy!
We arrived in Santa Rosa on Saturday morning a bit later than we'd planned, such is life with a 5mo old!  So as usual, not much of a warm up for me.  My legs were feeling a bit heavy but there just wasn't time to work it out.

The race starts as a mass roll out from downtown on Sonoma St.  It's a big knobby tire peloton with a bunch of guys who normally don't ride that closely together.  But at the front it's been pretty tidy for the most part.  I was hoping for a composed trip down the pavement which would give my legs a chance to work out their issues before having to pin it.  I even brought my cell phone because I was going to snap a selfie in the pack!  But some young guys decided to try and break away thirty seconds into it and screwed up that plan.  Dang.  The pace was up immediately and we strung out.  My chain skipped and I lost contact with the front group, nobody came around me to pull and a small gap formed.  I didn't panic and just reeled them back in slowly until I was back in the draft.

We dove into Howarth Park and the climbing started.  The legs weren't there yet and I was hanging on.  I had no power on the climbs and the front group of five or six quickly went out of sight.  I was pretty bummed but I just hoped it wouldn't take too long for the legs to come around and maybe hope to sneak in on the back end of the podium.  My trip down Cobblestone trail felt good.  I passed a couple guys and the new Tallboy was loving the descent.  I'd be praying for the downhills hoping to make some time up all day long.
We dropped down onto pavement and I had one guy in tow.  I had my head down a little too much and missed a turn into the singletrack.  Doh!  I usually don't make bonehead moves like that.  This was just not my day!  I hit the first long climb and just pressed on and got through it about a minute slower than my best time.  Ugh.  I had eaten a couple Chocolate Cherry Clif Shot Bloks (caffeine!!) though and the legs were starting to feel better by the time I turned into North Burma.  I had some spunk back and could rip on the flowy trail and descent, just one second off my best time.

I was starting to reel a few people in, but after a short climb and railing another descent, I was fading again on the next big climb up South Berma.  Looking back at Strava, I was again a minute off my best time, but I wasn't really loosing ground to the riders around me.  In my head, it was a race to the Lawndale DH with the riders I could see.  And I managed to catch the two guys in view before the singletrack started and then my race was on.  I caught Justin Harrell in a switchback and he pulled over to let me through (thanks!).  My glasses were sweat covered and I couldn't see any detail on the heavily shaded trail.  But that's probably the reason why I was so fast and PR'd that section.  The fun didn't last long enough though and I was climbing the pavement traverse over to Schultz trail for some more rough climbing.  Jen and Logan were there cheering for me though!

The Schultz climb is rough and where the Tallboy normally shines.  And for that matter normally I do too since it's such a power section.  But just not today.  It was yet another "get through it" section and I didn't think about it and just gave 'er what I had.

The beginner course merged back in just after Schultz and I had a little more traffic to deal with on the undulating Ridge trail.  Everyone was very courteous and moved over where they could and I kept chuggin'.  I could see that I was catching Brian Astell which was motivating.  When the trail turned down again I opened it up and let the Tallboy float over the rocks.  After a few corners I overtook Brian and charged to the finish.
 I would cross the line just off the pro podium in 6th place.  So close!  But not really... I was a minute back from 5th.  Considering my legs felt like water balloons for the first hour, I'm happy I did that well.  Weirdly this race didn't seem to take as long as it has felt in previous years, despite it being my slowest time.  It was good to be out there though, and I had a great time ripping the fun trails of Annadel (the one's not pointed up!).  Congrats to Michael Hosey who's been working hard coming back from injury and took the win over Levi Leipheimer.  And congrats to my teammate Ryan who pushed hard for 4th place.