Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Big Bear Shootout #1

OR...

"Do you feel lucky, punk?"

This past weekend we took off into the hills to escape "living in the shit"...



We live down there in that brown/grey crap. Certainly not a healthy proposition!

Making our escape...



The flowers were really pretty and everything is still so green! :)

Met up with and briefly rode with Luke, Steph, and Dan, and saw a few other familiar faces. I did some hard efforts and then didn't feel much like riding at all!



Training has been hard lately, I have pushed to the limit and feel like I am teetering. I didn't want to do too much on Saturday because I knew Sunday would be rough!

After the brief ride we got our plates for the race (which required driving up to Big Bear) and then came back down to head to camp. Getting to camp turned out more interesting than planned and left us 2 people short of a full group. I was bummed. Some tasty grub helped me feel a bit better...





And then I was frantically trying to get the bikes squared away before I ran out of daylight.



I was looking forward to the race, partially because Gary wasn't pre-registered. I get bummed knowing that short of taking illegal substances I simply will never even be in the same race as the guy, so needless to say I was disappointed when he pulled up to the line.

Eleven of us toed the line and then took off up the hill. The pace was fast as always and the usual suspect went off the front early only to blow up and go backwards. Not sure if they plan that tactic, but it really has no effect on the race. I stayed with the lead group for a while and then they hit another gear and I dropped off the back. I was pretty sure that there were 5 guys up the road, but it is hard to tell as we were already working through traffic. The rolling hills as we traversed the mountain favor my power and I was passing quite a lot of people. Passed Allison (in second place) and Joy (in first just ahead).

Somewhere around this time was my first encounter with the Dirty Harry aspect to racing in these chucklehead events. I was flying down the road pushing the limits of traction and sanity when a car comes cruising up the road the other way. WTF?!?! We are racing and now we have to play Frogger with oncoming fucking traffic?! So I avoid getting splattered and continue racing.

I got stuck behind a bunch of traffic on the first single track despite my best big ring efforts to get by everyone in sight. They weren't going slow, but they weren't going my speed either. I just sat in and tried to be smooth and save energy. The next fire road section was fast and several people jumped onto my wheel as I was passing. Sucks to know I was working in the big ring and towing possible competitors, so I put in a few efforts and there were maybe two that hung on.

I knew there would be more single track ahead and put in an effort on the next climbs in an effort to get clean track. I succeeded but found quickly that I was off my game. I was still going fast but the unfamiliar trail almost got me a few times! I was really bummed to see Adam Hart flat right in front of me going through a stream crossing. He was racing Single Speed so he wasn't competing with me, but we often race each other and it sucks to see someone mechanical.

The next section, a grinder of a single track climb with some good techie bits, was interesting. I passed a couple riders at the bottom of it and then was just sort of in no-mann's-land. I was suffering and after analyzing my HR information I wasn't working as hard as I should have (Z4 with no Z5 work). I think due to the lack of nearby competitors I felt like I was out of the race. I figured the lead pack probably still had 4 guys in it and that I was sort of relagated to 5th or worse. I did celebrate the fact that I tackled all the little tech spots without dabbing despite my hypoxic state. :) I also passed one Pro rider with a mechanical (sucked to see Derek Hermon with a busted seatpost) and a second Pro rider that looked like he wasn't having a good day.

On the next section the fire road is steep. I was working through LOTS of traffic. The racers that were running shorter courses were in front of me and it was interesting passing these racers. Some of them recognized me and cheered, I would have given more words of encouragement but I was on my limit!

After the climb there is a section of really fast fire road descent (the top part of the starting climb) then a technical single track descent. I wound up getting pretty jammed up in the single track behind riders that were doing their best to negotiate the course. Once again I did my best to be patient and pollite, but man it is hard when the speed differential is that high! It seems that staggering the start a bit differently would alleviate the problem...

After the single track we pop back out and descend the bottom of the initial climb. I was spun out in my 42-11 gear and was chasing down a rider in front of me when he came around a corner and came within inches of a head-on collision with a moto blasting up the road. This image plays over in my mind still and it really messes with me to think that Allison could get mowed down because an organizer can't get control over some fire roads for a few hours.

On the next single track section I tried to make clean/polite passes and work through traffic as fast as possible, all the while knowing that despite my position I wanted to put down my best time on the day.

Turns out my position wasn't as bad as I thought!!!



Still it is rough to come in 9 minutes back. Sure some of it can be attributed to traffic, but if I was faster on the climbs there wouldn't be a gap for people to slot in! In XC racing I can't make up for my lack of fitness with descending speed, it just doesn't work out.

Awards were great with tacos and beverages with lots of racers hanging out! Good times!!!

I have my work cut out for me. We are headed to Colorado for the final race of the Kenda Cup West and then we have a couple weeks before we take off for Downieville and Nationals. Busy busy busy! Wish me luck!

(Oh and Hippo Birdie to me on the 8th!)

6 comments:

perrygeo said...

Nice race Justin! Coming in 9 minutes behind Gary is still a huge success in my mind - he should have about a 10 minute handicap :-)

You coming up to Santa Barbara next weekend? We got a spare bedroom available if you and Allison need a place to stay.

Luke said...

very well done bro! podium in one of the toughest classes...very impressive!

Slater Fletcher said...

awesome performance bro! I only saw your rear wheel for the fist 5min and then you were GONE! ha!

It was inspiring to see the Mann show live! You guys rocked it!

The car action was pretty scary and I dont know what in the world people NEED to drive back there for anyways...2hrs is plenty of time to keep the roads closed and keep riders alive!

Stephanie said...

Ya know, we've seen a rider get hit by a jeep up there (pre-riding the course for a super D a few years back). It's not the first time. That really adds a level of stress that's unnecessary.

In any case, congrats on the finish...Big Bear is a tough course, and despite the competition it sounds like you hung on pretty well. We're always proud of our Mannimals. :)

We were bummed to miss out on the camping...we'll just have to wait until D'ville :)

Racerdad said...

Being 9 min behind Douville is quite respectable. The guys got a big enough engine to win the TOC amature TT with a time that would have been mid pack against the likes of Levi and Cancellara. He's also a former Semi-pro downhiller, so there's no weakeness in his game. You had a great time for a first yr Cat 1.

Justin said...

matt:
thanks dude! we won't be going. we are doing a mini training camp in Big Bear to get us some more altitude exposure. for sure the offer goes both ways if you and Jos ever come down this way!

luke:
thanks! i have to give credit where it is due, you have helped me lots with training stuff.

slater:
i had hoped to work with you more! it was great seeing you guys out there!!!!

steph:
D-ville will be fun times for sure!!!!!!!!!

racerdad:
Gary is an impressive athlete. thanks for the compliments.