Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Idyllwild Spring Challenge 2011

I love riding in Idyllwild.  The trails, the rugged peaks, the varied landscapes from Manzanita and Chaparral to big Ponderosa Pine stands.  I don't think that there are as many good trails packed into a small area anywhere else in SoCal.  For these reasons it has vexed me that I have had such a challenge with racing the area's signature race the Idyllwild Spring Challenge.  Katie puts on the most amazing Stage Race.  Saturday is the XC of epic proportions, Sunday brings an early morning Dirt TT, then caps the weekend with a shred-tastic trip down Fire Road and Single Track known as SuperD.

2009 would have been the first year that I would have raced the full distance.  At the time I was in good shape and racing well.  I picked up a cold and raced through several races with it (Santa Ynez and Sea Otter) and it wound up as Bronchitis.  Doctor said "No racing" so I only did the SuperD.  2010 I had a bit more going on than a cough, and just doing feeds for Allison was a huge challenge!  2011 comes around and I am up to speed and doing well, if you know us then it makes sense that Allison and I have joked many times that my goal for the year was to just make it to ISC healthy!

A few weeks ago Allison gets a message from the event organizer (Katie rules!) and she actually offered to transfer my entry from 2009!  I told Allison to tell her to keep it, it is jinxed!  I then signed up for the full stage race on-line.  :)  New entry, no bad juju!

Friday I was feeling nervous.  Training has been way less than optimal, tons of life stress, and I didn't want to embarrass myself with a terrible finish plagued with cramps.  You see, I have the whole short-course XC racing thing pretty dialed in...  the longer races not so much!  At XC race pace, at my current fitness level, I start to cramp up around the 1:45 mark.  I know this as that was when the cramp monster reared it's nasty head at Sycamore (Kenda Cup West #4).  Considering that when we first started racing I would cramp 30 minutes into a race I have made progress, but the long course at ISC would be at least 2.5hrs!!!

Saturday morning was just like any other race day.  The slightly later start meant I got a few extra winks, but we still had to drive up to IDY.  I got in line for Registration and started chatting with my main AG competition, Eric Bostrom.  Dude has his own wiki page!!!!  Anyway he seems like a really nice guy and we spent some time joking and stuff.  Warm-up was uneventful.  I kept it simple and just did a couple spin ups. Long race.  Just enough to get the legs moving, nothing more, nothing less.  I headed over to the staging area and it was mayhem.  Lots of people stacked up.  I looked ahead and saw that I needed to be in the third wave so I pushed through the crowd and snagged a spot.  Mario told me to move up to the front row because I was a "fast guy".  I guess the label fits based on my results this year.  I looked around several times and never saw EB.  No idea what happened to him, but I was bummed to not have the competition.

Before I knew it we were off.  One of my Velosport team mates on a single speed sprinted off the line and led us through the parking lot chicane.  I just sat second wheel and figured it would make a good transition to race pace, and it always is funny watching the animated single speeder spin out and tuck techniques (I just don't get the SS thing!).  When we hit the bottom of the Keen Camp climb I went around and set my own pace.  Soon after that I was working my way through the back of the wave that left ahead of us.

Scott was one of the riders from the previous group.  He gave me some words of encouragement as I went by.

I don't think I make climbing look as graceful and effortless as the really good racers!

Definitely in the "zone" though.
I looked back several times on the way through the meadow and didn't see anyone behind me.  I had a pretty good head wind and would have been glad to have someone to share the work with!  There were two riders up ahead that were working together so I set about reeling them in.  I caught them right before the next climb and went by.  When I hit May Valley Rd. I heard someone shift behind me and looked back expecting it to be one of the guys I had just passed, but it was Mario.  He had to have been flying across the meadow!  Mario passed me but didn't know the course and almost made a wrong turn.  I gave him some brief instructions and we rode pretty much side by side all the way up to the next single track section.  Since I know the trails I figure I have a little bit of an advantage.  I had clear track ahead and just put the pedal to the metal.  I caught and passed a couple riders.  I was having myself a good game of "Seek and Destroy"!

The next climb, Lower Southridge, is a big one.  In essence if you look at the profile the combination of Lower Southridge, May Valley Rd, and then NF-5S11 is a net 1,750ft climb with one short piece of single track descent (Sunset Trail).  Since I didn't have any idea of the pace that Ty or Marco were doing, I simply tried to stay on the gas and make passes.  I passed the lead Pro female, Kathy Sherwin, and then caught Griffith Vertican.  We turned up May Valley Rd. and I passed and called to Griffith, "Stay on it Griff!".  Near the top I caught Eric Colton and we soon picked up a younger Pro men's competitor.  When we left Astro Camp and started up the brutal climb to "Cherry on the Top" I was in a small group of four.

This was the group, looking at the pictures you would think there was more traffic on course but the majority of the time it seemed like I was alone on course.

Allison is an amazing support/logistics person, but I hope she quits that job and goes back to racing!
Right after this feed I took a gel shot and wanted water from the bottle on my back.  I struggled removing it and putting it back.  It seems like the jersey pockets are higher up, and my inflexible shoulders just don't work well with them!  On the climb Griffith put in an effort.  He checked out up the road while I paced roughly even with Eric Colton.  Right before we topped out we caught Derek Hermon and Eric moved ahead.  I knew I wanted to have clean track on this descent so I moved past the group and told Eric "I won't hold you up."  I led onto Middle Southridge descent and started to let it rip but quickly found that I wasn't flowing very well and the trail was super loose.  I heard some ridiculously loud brakes close behind and called out "Is that Derek?".  As soon as he spoke I pulled over to let him go as I know he shreds gnar shit.  Not long after that I caught and passed Griffith who seemed to be struggling as he had planted himself into a shrubbery on the side of the trail.  I yelled out, "Be safe Griff!" and proceeded to try not to let Derek get too far ahead.

The track was clear for a long ways after that.  Just me and twisty fun single track.  I stayed on the gas and tried to stay sharp.  It can be hard to stay in race pace all alone on such fun trails though...
The track turned up again eventually and I quickly caught and passed Derek.  I yelled back to him that it was awesome to see him descend so fast.  Around this time (as if I needed to look, my Garmin said it was 1hr 50mins since the Start) my left hamstring started to ping, the precursor to cramping that I have become very tuned into, and I had to dial back my efforts for a while.  Full blown cramps would surely cost me position so I figured moving slower was better than pushing it.  Soon they went away and I was gratefully able to ramp back up without incident.  The rest of the course went without much in the way of excitement.  The single track was superb and I kept hoping to spy another rider ahead to reel in and pass.  That didn't happen but I stayed on the gas and left it all on course!

I was pretty worn out but still motoring toward the Demoralizer, glad I didn't lock up as I climbed it in the big ring!

No finish line shenanigans.  Just exhaustion.

I was glad EB stuck around for the podium, bummed we didn't get to race together though.  I tried to convince him to do the full Stage Race to no avail.

After awards it was getting late.  Allison wanted to ride her bike.  We decided that it would be a good idea for me to pre-ride the TT course with her and Eric joined us for some single track goodness.  I had never ridden the single track by ISOMATA but it was lots of fun!  Definitely a highlight of the weekend to be riding awesome trails with my wife.
Love this girl!

She isn't quite in her old climbing form...

But she tears up the trail otherwise.

The trails up here are RAD. 

A little time off the bike doesn't seem to hurt her shreddage!



Sunday morning we arrived at the TT bright and early.

Hot air balloons!
I rolled around and tried coax my legs into the idea of racing.  At first they didn't want anything to do with pedaling but they came around.  Much to my surprise the first Pro went off right on time and soon it was my turn.  There isn't much to tell of the story, it is a very short race (sub 18 mins for me).


Looking through the turn, not bad form...
I started out well enough, then had a few issues with focusing and holding my lines, then brought it back together.  Caught the racer that started ahead of me (1 minute intervals between riders I think), passed him and was going well.  Got too far to the inside of a left hand sweeper and skipped the front tire out and went down.  Lost a couple seconds but I fared well otherwise.

Almost at the finish!
 I powered through to the end and hoped I had enough left in the tank for SuperD!

As soon as I caught my breath, I yanked the lighter wheels and tires off my bike and threw on some fatter meats.  I wanted a bit of added stability and traction for the assault on the primarily downhill course.  Allison was kind enough to drop me off near the top and I pedaled up to the Start area.  Very few people were around but I talked Eric into warming up with me by riding down Sunset Trail and climbing back up.  I think this was a good idea because my bike handled a lot differently with the heavier, beefier setup.  I wanted to keep my muscles moving so I didn't sit and chat as the hordes of people jammed their cars into the cramped parking area by the Start, instead I rolled up and down the first few hundred meters of the fire road that was decidedly NOT down hill.  Soon it was time to line up.  Micheal McClure was kind enough to snap a shot of me as I motored off the start line.

Focused effort, go go go!
I hadn't ridden the course at any pace, let alone race pace, since 2009 but some parts of it were in the XC race.  I was a bit cautious in some areas and tried to use some muscle to make up for extra braking in places where I wasn't sure of safe corner speeds or line choice.  I caught my one minute man in the first single track section.  I felt a little bad, he was much more than accommodating in both races pulling to the side to let me go.  The trails were stellar and I was in a groove!

Allison set up on Exfoliator for pictures.

Not a bad line.

Near the bottom of the course I caught my 2 minute man.  I passed him on the last little climb and he cheered me on, "There you are!"  Unfortunately in my race-haze I didn't realize where the finish line was and stayed on the gas all the way out to the road!  When I got there I sat up and was like, "Are we done?"  It was pretty funny.

CAT1 Stage Race Podium.  Is it me or do my arms look HUGE?!
So I won all three events in the Stage race for CAT1.  I was third Amateur overall in XC behind Ty and Marco, approximately 4 minutes and 1 minute back respectively.  It was a great weekend!  To celebrate Allison and I  headed to Barley and Hops with DMac and were joined by Luke and the Turner family!  It was fabulous!

Now it is time to focus.  I have a couple races between now and Nationals.  I have never ridden in Idaho and I am looking forward to it!  I need to drop a few pounds and see if I can keep improving on all fronts despite the upheaval of my work/life.  Should be interesting!  See you on the trail or road!

Oakley Jawbone crew.


allison said...

The life/work front is also somewhere to improve perhaps. If the Giro, Tour of California, and Tour de France weren't right around the corner I'd suggest killing our TV :P

DMack said...

I'm chuckling because I was that guy who was a bit embarrassed to do horrible in XC due to cramping from what was apparently poor nutritional intake:) Great summary of the event, and what an amazing event it is. Looking forward to the tours also (and my first time riding & viewing a stage of the TOC!

Stephanie said...

Awesome race report! Definitely got in a few chuckles :) Well done out there! Idy is always a challenge and I was bummed it was on the same weekend as the Whiskey.