Saturday, January 23, 2010

Race Report: Early Bird Road Race out of Patterson, January 23, 2010

Hello race fans! Welcome to this dork's 2010 road racing season opener (and extremely long report - but I can't help myself).

First a word from our sponsor, Exogen Bone Healing Systems! Seriously, that little gizmo has brought my left hand right up with my right hand and has made a noticeable difference. Also helping things out is that I have not been on the road for two weeks. It felt really good to feel the road under my wheels after two weeks of making sweat puddles in the garage. Of course, the doctor clearly told me to keep my riding safe and free of crash-risk but I'm a dumb bike-racer, not a china doll.

The reason I couldn't resist this race is that it is a home race for me on a road that I ride pretty often. On top of that advantage I'm fairly certain I am the ONLY guy who drives Del Puerto canyon to get to Patterson (it's only about an hour from my house). Driving down I got a good feel for the giant puddles, gravel, mud and wetness left in the road after seven straight days of rain.

Once I got to Patterson and was getting registered I looked to the West and saw... big heavy looking rain clouds. Hmm, what happened to the forecast for no rain today??? There were so many 35+ cat 4/5's that they opened up a second field. As a result, my start time of 8:30 got moved to 9:00. As we were finding this out a light, but steady, rain began to fall. Guys did laps around the parking lot waiting but I said, "screw that!" and got back into the car until 5 minutes to go. I switched to full-on waterproof rain booties and that was the best decision I made all day since my feet were the only thing dry by the end.

At the line, the rain let up but I was starting to get a case of the shivers as I said a hello to Tim, who was officiating. As much as we may feel some sense of drama or whatever for getting wet and muddy in a bike race, I think standing in the rain helping put on the race is much more noble. Once we were rolling, I warmed up just right and was fine the rest of the day.

The race itself was a wet and muddy roostertail-fest. My bike afterwards had a coating of grit on every possible surface. As far as the action. It was manageable to the bottom of the climb, just like last year. I did my best to climb without blowing up and was 17th wheel at the turnaround. The descent was fast but I took it pretty conservative. The rest of the race back to the finish line was a hard hammerfest on the rivet picking up and dropping riders as we rolled through the wet and muddy road.

By the time we hit the rollers coming into the finish we had regrown to a little pack of about ten riders and my headcount had us racing for about 10th place. I misjudged the finish and worked way too hard with about a mile and a half to go. When the 1km sign came up I was on the front and working too hard. I backed off, tried to recover and only gave a half-hearted sprint to finish 4th or 5th in our group.

Final result was 13th of 34. I'm really quite pleased with that. Beyond the fun (seriously, not being facetious here) of racing in the crappy conditions, I was quite happy with that. After two months off the bike then another two months after that of not riding on the road I'm very happy with that, in fact. I think I've re-learned the benefit of trainer and roller riding as a 100% substitute for getting on the road and it certainly helps to be another ten pounds lighter than this same time a year ago.

So now no racing for awhile. There aren't really any compelling races (to me) in February so I'll just get back on the no-risk riding plan which means lots more rollers and trainer riding and getting on the road on the weekends.

I'm kind of torn on doing race reports this year. Some races inspire some really fun writing (like the sonora road race last year) and in others I just bore myself to death or feel like I'm glorifying my own mediocre rides (can you say, Roy's updating his brog again?). But I guess all writing is practice. It's kind of like mountain climbing. Sometimes you reach the peak and sometimes, you don't even get to see the top. But if you don't climb at all, you'll never get anywhere. And as Kris just said to me when describing my trepidations, "A life lived in fear is a life half lived."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Down into the cold then up out of it...

The ride yesterday was as great as I anticipated. I left home about 11:45 bumping out over the dirt road for the first 2.5 miles. By the time I hit pavement, I was already removing my windbreaker and ready to enjoy what seemed like an unexpected warm day.

Almost immediately I looked back and saw three other cyclists behind. I freewheeled a bit and they caught up. It was three guys from a Livermore team that mainly do mountain bike and cross racing. We had a good chat all the way down into Livermore, exchanged contact info and now I have some new Mt. bike folks with whom to ride in the future (when these damn wrists finally heal up).

Meanwhile, as we descended into town the temperature got chillier and colder and finally, once in town and on my own again, I realized I was going to have trouble with my feet if I was going to be spending time up on Mt. Diablo later. So I detoured through town and stopped at the bike shop where I quickly purchased a set of foot covers and some warmer socks. Back on the road, I was quickly happy with this purchase as my feet stayed nice a toasty over North Livermore and Highland cycling through the cold foggy misty hills around me.

I hit Tassajara and then turned up Blackhawk road. This stretch was longer than I remembered (it has been 14 years since I've gone that way) and I began to doubt my navigational skills. But I stuck with my instincts and soon enough, about 2 hours and 45 minutes from when I left home, I finally hit my favorite stretch of road, Mt. Diablo.

I love climbing Mt. Diablo. I don't know what it is but it just suits me. I'm certainly not fast up it but I never seem to find the 60 to 75 minute climb a chore. As I climbed I snaked up out of the fog layer and was treated to warmer temperatures, a glimpse of blue sky and fantastic views of the surrounding valleys with their little hills poking up out of the ocean of creamy fog. What a gift the altitude brought!

I don't think I've ever spent more than enough time at the top to slip on a wind breaker, maybe put on something to keep my head warm, open up a clif bar and then get on back down. But yesterday I took an extra minute to look around and pose my bike for a picture.

Partner in Crime for the day: My Soma Smoothie ES.
Ain't fast. Ain't clean. Ain't light. Ain't a problem.

The descent was not as cold as I expected and the roads were pretty dry so I made quick work of it. Good thing, too since I rolled up to my in-law's house to meet up with Kris and Jasper with only about 15 minutes of daylight to spare.

WHAT A GREAT DAY!!! I've been grappling with what to say to encapsulate a day like yesterday. It's a religious experience. It's good clean fun. It's a small adventure. It's something that makes you feel like you're living your life instead of sitting on the sofa watching someone else's.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Over the river and through the woods and over the mountain and smiling away...

If this old saddle could talk...

"Epic" point-to-point ride planned today! Down a mountain, across a valley, up a mountain, down the mountain and over to the In-Law's. Training rides are all fine and good but starting in one place and riding to another gives a bigger satisfaction. I think I'm a touring rider at heart...

Then tomorrow back up the mountain to get back home. It's a good life...

Jasper's playing with a stay-over friend in the other room. He pulled out a tape measure and they're preparing to build a fort. The first thing he did was pull the tape out, make some random measure and say, "DANGIT. Shoot!" Hmmm, I wonder where he learned that from?