Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sea Otter Classic Wrap Up

Before we had our son Logan, Jen made a little list of things she'd like to do soon after he was born.  It starts off small and simple, with things like "go for a walk" with no real criteria so that if a long recovery was needed after delivery it could still be something easily checked off so she could feel like she was accomplishing something.  The list also had "go to Sea Otter" on it.  Before he was born, we were trying to keep expectations low but we were really hoping we'd be able to integrate him into our racing and events life early, but Sea Otter still seemed daunting.  Thankfully Jen and Logan recovered well and even though he was only a little over three weeks old by the time the 'Otter rolled around, it would be his fourth MTB race.  So he was ready... was I?  Training for me has been a little "off" with the new addition to the team so I'd be relying more on my base and the two Prairie City Race Series "tune up" races leading up to SOC.  I won both of the PCRS races which felt good but a 5th at the Napa Valley Dirt Classic the week before didn't leave me feeling so great about my fitness.

When we rolled down to Monterey Thursday night, we met up with Marshall who had brought down the rush order kits that Capo got to us in time for the weekend.  After seeing them and trying them on, I wasn't sure how well they were going to go over, but we were sure going to stand out!

Short track was Friday morning and I got a nice long warm up in.  The course was similar to last years but a little longer with a few more features.  The infield section had a tunnel and flyover and then went out onto the track with a few more turns in the sand.  It was actually kind of fun!  Except for that nasty gravel section of course.

I got a decent starting spot on the line, about four rows back and on the inside of the first turn which I thought would be good.  It was not.  I got pinched off there and was very quickly shuffled back.  Then in the next corner, last years big "choke point," I was on the outside and the same thing happened again.  The guys in the middle shot through first before I had room from the outside.  Essentially I was caught in an eddy.  Who knew you had to study up on fluid dynamics before racing short track!?  Anyways, my main goal was to stay out of trouble which I managed to do in the next few corners and I was able to pedal through the gravel pit, sweet (remember, we're into checking easy stuff off the list!).  The infield section had some sharp corners and big dirt mounds to go over and on each one there was a bottleneck as you can see in the aerial video (start at 3:45 for the men's start):

At least I'm easy to spot in the new colors!  I settled into the field after the first lap sorted out and began my moving up.  With the field so strung out I knew I wouldn't get far but I managed to pick off a few and had some fun in between the pain.

I finished 41st out of about 65 guys and set off for my XC course pre-ride.  When I got back to the expo, I found Marshall (he was SO hard to spot!) and found out he'd finished 10th in the Enduro! Sweet!!

The XC start got moved up from 1:30pm to 11am which was nice and meant we might not have as much wind to battle out on the ridge tops.  Sporting our "flo-yellow" I lined up with Ryan and nearly 100 other guys for the start of our 35 mile race.  We started out on the track as normal but I was surprised to find that we pulled off earlier than normal and went out to a road outside the track before finally climbing up to the dirt.  The pace was intense but my legs felt more fatigued than they should have been by that point.  So my strategy early on would be to maximize my passing opportunities on the downhills and techy sections while trying not to blow up on the climbs.  Then just hope my legs would come around later in the race.  I passed a load of guys on the first few big descents and managed to hold my position on the few climbs along the ridge.  We got to the bottom where we normally turn into fun singletrack but instead made a sharper turn down a short double track with a couple off camber rollers.  I had scouted this out in my prelap and my assumption was correct that everyone would be in the clearer high line but the lower line was the place to be and I motored by some more.  Until one guy forgot how to corner and drifted out into me, his inside leg sticking straight out for counter balance, and he almost pushed us both off the edge.  Thankfully I was able to brake and let him cross in front of me and recover before we made it down to the road.  Yes... road, quite a lot of it in the first part of this course.  I topped out my 39 tooth gear and found a drafting partner before it leveled out and we entered the first singletrack climb.  Here we had to stop, literally.  It's the inevitable pro conga line at Sea Otter that always happens and this year I just didn't have the stuff to get in front of it in time.  Oh well.  We moseyed up the climb at a fairly moderate pace but it still seemed tough for my legs.  "When are they going to come around?!" I thought.  When we got towards the top it opened up and I made my way around the few holding us up, but my legs still felt flat.  As Ryan passed me cresting the ridge I felt something in my helmet, then "AAHHHH!!! Something's stinging me!!!"  I didn't know what it was but I hoped it wasn't going to give me a reaction, which I'd had before during a hard ride that left me slightly incapacitated for a bit.  The stinging finally stopped and thankfully I didn't feel any shock coming on so I pressed on, remembering how my brother had joked about our new kits attracting insects.  Ryan had a little gap on me as we rode down the next road (yep) downhill and he was able to pedal away with his bigger 42 tooth gearing.  But a little drafting help came and I caught back up by the time we started climbing again.

I ate, I drank, but the legs were still not coming around and Ryan slowly began to pull away from me.  With our new colors so bright, I always knew where he was even though he was across a canyon.  I came through the start/finish a little over an hour and a significantly slower pace than I'd hoped for.

I was loosing my optimism that the legs would come around in the second lap as it seemed no matter what I did helped.  I just felt like I was running on 'E'.  My heart rate was dropping and so was my positioning.  By the half way point of the lap I was in "just finish" mode and pretty frustrated.  There didn't seem to be anything I could do.  I was even passed on the ridge road by a guy hauling some camera gear back.  Pretty demoralizing!  I got a little boost of energy in the last mile or so, like a horse sprinting back to the barn, and made a couple passes to end up finishing 66th.

Man was I happy to be done.  It'll be one of those races I'll just clear from my mind and move on.  I think I needed more calories the day before and/or before the race because I powered down lunch like it was nothing.  Oh well, at least we looked good!

Then it was back to work, heading out again on course to help out one of my local high school racers with her pre-ride and give her some tips before her first Sea Otter XC.

Riding with Sam and coaching her made me feel better, but nothing beat holding my little guy after a long day.