Monday, April 23, 2012

Sea Otter 2012: The Umbrella Boy's Perspective

Thursday AM we got up super early and headed up to Monterey to race and enjoy the spectacle that is Sea Otter Classic.  We arrived at Laguna Seca Raceway around 1:30pm and immediately kitted up and rode a lap of the 20.5 mile race course, despite the fact that it wasn't necessarily the best preparation for the Umbrella Boy race on Friday.

First impressions: HATED IT!!!  Too much gravel road riding, not enough fun stuff.  Too long of a lap (and I had to do 2 of them).  No spectator areas.  Feed zone over 3.5 miles away from venue.

On the bright side there were a couple short sections that made me smile and BRAAAAP...

After the pre-ride we did a loop through the show to chat with a few people before checking into our motel room.  Umbrella Boy doubles as Team Mechanic so both of the S-Works Stumpjumper 29er's were the focus of the evening.  Race prepping the bikes went smoothly and I installed Allison's sweet new Ergon saddle for her!

Friday's schedule for the Umbrella Boy was to support Allison Mann (Pro Women's Short Track Race) and then kit up and "race" for over 40 miles in the heat of the day (equates to nearly 3 hrs).  I use quotes because I don't so much race that kind of time/distance as after the 1.5hr mark I am only surviving.  More on that later...

Allison had a pretty decent short track race.  I attribute that mostly to my umbrella holding skills at the start line.  Observations from the race, Allison seemed to have an acceptable start given her back row positioning.  At one point she was right with Kelly and Pua but either she faded or they accelerated, not sure which one as I don't have lap times (Umbrella Boy needs to step up with his stopwatch work!).  It was awesome to see her race again and really cool to see that she is racing around the same girls she was in 2010, this bodes well as she is still progressing in her training for this year!

Umbrella Boy then kitted up and headed out to warm up.  It was hot but I made the game time call to stick with the skin suit.  I just like racing in it!  Chatted some with my racing buddies as we rolled around and checked out the rutted exit from the race car track to figure out line selection just in case things were dicey.

Unfortunately I rolled over to staging really late.  It made me nervous but I was third row on the start.  In contrast to years past, the start was very docile.  Heck, it was down right friendly!  This was great as it afforded me enough time to squeeze through to the front.  The exception to this was interesting.  Marco and some other dude with a hydration pack attacked from the gun and were at least 30 seconds ahead when we touched dirt.  My strategy was to finish this race without locking up in cramps on the second lap so I knew not to chase.

I am leading the pack in the background, Marco is sitting on the wheel of Camelbak dude.

I positioned myself as best as I could knowing full well who the real contenders were.  Unfortunately there was a stupid steep section right before the first single track and when I reached that point Ty and Eric had a slight gap.  When I got close to the top someone gave me a push but when I crested the hill I heard complaints from the guys behind.  Dumb Justin then proceeded to sit up and try to nullify the effects of the push which gave Ty and Eric a gap that would never be closed again.  I don't think a bit of a push makes a difference in a 3 hour race but I can guarantee you that losing their draft did!  I just don't want someone to say I was cheating or something as it wasn't planned or requested...  though it was pretty darn sweet!

The rest of the race was pretty uneventful.  I didn't get passed, did lots of passing, tried to stay focused and go fast.  First lap went well.  I stayed fairly close to Ty and Eric despite the fact that they had the advantage of two riders drafting.  Second lap things went south almost immediately as my quads started to show signs of cramps.  I conserved and never locked up, but it was not so good a few times.  I slowed to a snails pace more than once, and came to a complete track stand twice.  Picture me, track standing on the single track climb, praying to the cycling gods to not make my legs cramp...  not pretty.

I made it out okay though and finished fourth, 13 minutes back from Marco's unbelievable performance.

After XC racing it was time to go back into Umbrella Boy mode.  Back at the motel I had some work to do prepping Allison's bike to ensure perfect operation in her XC race the next day.  I have a tradition of having a one-on-one chat with her bikes where I explain my expectations for it's performance and how high the penalty for failure is.  I also went into a bit of a tailspin regarding my own performance.  I was quite disappointed in my inability to keep up.  My cyclist melt down included consuming an ice cream sandwich, then I spiraled out of control eating a slice of pizza and a pint of ice cream, all after eating a dinner of leftovers.  

Allison was just shaking her head in disgust at my gluttony.

Allison's race went well from all angles.  I was stoked to see her do so well against a decent sized and international field!

I even let someone else hold the umbrella (I do a good job so no fear of being replaced).

Sunday we rode a lot of the XC course and I got pretty disgusted by all the trash we as racers left behind.  I spent most of the 2hr ride filling empty water bottles with gel and food wrappers and dumping them off in trash cans.  By no means did I pick up everything but I did my part to help clean up some.

On the way home I was again stoked to have my little TDI.   Not so much a BRAAAAP as a quiet clickety-clack like a sewing machine!!

Next stop is Prescott, Arizona and the Whiskey 50!  Life isn't so easy for the financial support/umbrella boy/mechanic/soigneur/driver/chef/etc...  but I wouldn't trade it for anything!  BRAAAAAP!!!!


allison said...

Wow. I don't even know what to say. I guess keep up the good work.

Zippy said...

If you're gonna stick with this "Umbrella Boy" thing, you need to wear a thong. I'm just saying...

scfreak said...

Great report.

Was my first Cat 2 race and learned a lot! 16 out of 38 but 14min out of 1st! Think it's about the start and getting clean lanes!

Good luck in AZ!