Near the end of last year Allison and I were figuring out that we wanted to try out the whole XC race thing. We had completed the Warrior’s Society Counting Coup in the spring but that event was decidedly un-race like. In the fall we raced at Bonelli and Mt. SAC. These races were extremely hard for us and marked yet another transition in our lives.
I had dropped a bunch of weight (approximately 30-40lbs) in the two years prior to these first XC races. I felt like I had really turned my health around. I could go out and ride my bike 30 miles in the mountains and be pretty comfortable, but I wasn’t fast. Although DH racing is maybe something that fits my physique better, XC racing is where Allison feels she can excel at so our rides turned from slow group rides to long training rides. This year we raced lots. We spent lots of time on our road bikes. There were very few group rides. We got faster, leaner, and more fit than ever before. Personally the best way I have to quantify this change is a further 20lbs weight reduction.
Sunday marked the first day that I had the opportunity to race for a second time at an annual race/venue. Bonelli would have been the first, but you can read about that here. My first attempt at Mt. SAC was a good experience, but was very painful. On the third and final lap my legs cramped up horribly. The steep HAB really hurt, with tears flowing from my eyes, groaning and writhing in pain, I somehow held on to a podium spot.
This time around was much different.
It was raining in the morning during warm up. My tires caked up horribly with mud and my bike was rolling like the brakes were on. I wore my glasses in the hopes that they would help keep stuff out of my eyes, but it was very hard to see out of them with the rain drops and mud on them. This was going to be fun!
I was still warming up when most of the people lined up at the start so I worked my way through the crowd to the second row. At the start I pedaled fast and moved toward the front. On the first climb there were three of us at the front, I passed everyone and was first down the first descent. My plan worked out well and going onto the first single track I was first in my AG, and in second for Sport Men. The rain and muddy conditions made things slick, and I wound up sliding out on a painted section of concrete. The guy in the lead started pulling away and would be out of sight before the end of the first lap. I ditched my glasses on a climb and regretted it horribly on the next descent when some cow crap got kicked up into my eye!
I am pretty sure the rain stopped some time during the first or early on the second lap. From that point on the course got gradually better and better for traction and rolling resistance.
On the second lap I picked up some weeds in my RD/cassette that forced me to stop and extract them. It was very disheartening to have to stop and fix my bike, seeing the lead I worked hard for destroyed as people were passing me. Once rolling again I put my head down and tried hard to resume the pace I was on before. I wound up riding much of the rest of race with a fast racer one AG above mine. I was very accustomed to him passing me in XC races at Fontana like I was standing still, and was shocked that we were so evenly matched at this race. We chatted a little during the race and it was great to have someone to work with out there.
On the third and final lap I once again had to stop and pull a weed out of my RD/cassette, and in nearly the same location. I have to figure out why my bike is such a weed magnet! This time it was not as bad though and I didn’t lose as much time. I did have some twinges of cramps in my calves during the last lap but was able to work through it.
I placed first in my AG! I was bummed about the primitive timing methods and do not have any idea where my overall time was compared to other racers. All they had was finishing order for each AG. I had a great time after the race cheering for some people that I know racing beginner! Next race, Fontana!