Thursday, August 18, 2011
Sky Tavern Mountain Bike Race: Aug. 14, 2011
This was fun race with a nice mix of everything. I raced as a Cat 2 (old days we called it "sport") for the first time since, um, 1996? Of course back then I wasn't racing in old man age bracket but, hey.
My alarm went off at 2:30 AM and somehow I dragged my butt out of bed, showered and was in the car by 3. Fast forward many hours and I was ready to race. I met up with (soon to be teammate) Ray and he talked me through the course as we warmed up on the opening climb.
After a racer talk-to from the promoter we all headed to the start and were sent off in waves. Our wave was the Cat. 2 50+ and 40+. And a wopping six of us took the start. One guy was asking everyone what their age was and I found it slightly annoying but didn't think to ask him his age and figure out what age group he was racing. The promoter did ask a show of hands for the age groups but I wasn't really paying attention so I assumed Ray was the only 50 plusser.
Off we go!
We somewhat slowly took off across the paved parking lot, up a short road and then turned onto a two-track dirt climb that was fairly steep and went for about a mile and a half. About halfway up I was liking what my legs and heart rate were telling me and moved up to the front and set the pace. At the top there was a steep section with some loose dirt/gravel that made traction difficult and could force a hike-a-bike. I was happy to clear it and hadn't looked back yet.
After the climb the dual track continued for another three quarters of a mile with some more altitude gain before heading into the single track. I did look on one curve and was very happy to see only two guys maybe half a minute back.
But then I got clumsy! Unfortunately, the lack of mtb racing and a steady diet of relatively untechnical riding at Del Valle caught up with me and I was struggling to clear easy stuff in the woods. Simple ditch crossings, one or two log hops and very minor rock challenges seemed to cause me to stumble left and right (literally!) and overshoot turns. Pretty shortly a guy in a blue and yellow jersey asked for trail and I gave it to him. I paused to let Ray by but he wasn't there so I jumped and vainly tried to keep up with blue/yellow-dude.
On a rocky dropoff I finally turned from clumsy to crashing and went down pretty gently (though it was enough to pop the bottom of my jersey zipper giving me a distracting wardrobe malfunction that I couldn't correct in the heat of battle). Ray very quickly appeared and I was glad to have him by me so I didn't have to worry about holding him up. The rest of the lap went about the same with lots of clumsy dismounting as I stalled out in mud and sandy sections. I was pretty frustrated and only started to feel like I wasn't a roadie pretender on a very steep decline section over some rocks. "That's more like it" I thought as I cleared it.
The descent back to the finish was a mix of single track and rough fire road and I was doing better.
Past the finish line onto the paved parking lot with a tailwind and a nice smooth time trial back to the start of the climb for laps two and three! Lap two I was feeling more comfortable but never saw a single rider to catch or to have catch me. And lap three was pretty much the same. That last lap was when I finally rode most of the stuff that had been tripping me up earlier. That said, with about five minutes to go I passed a lapped rider just before going from a dirt road to single track section and stacked it pretty good coming down heavily onto a rock and a bush that gave me a couple nice puncture wounds in the leg. On the third lap I was starting to fade and lose motivation. In my head it was just alot of work for second place.
As I finally crossed the finish line, muddy and bloody, shorts torn, and jersey zipper failing Ray (looking altogether too fresh) said, "Hey! I think you won!" Turns out blue/yellow, the guy asking the annoying age questions, was a 50 plus rider. So, yeah, I guess I won since everyone who beat me was in a different age group. I shouldn't qualify a win that way but if that's how it feels, that's how it feels.
The important thing is it was a very fun race, an absolutely GORGEOUS day in the Sierras, a great hangout with friends and mountain bikers and I got to bring home a cute little medal and some shwag. Nice.