It’s been almost 4 months since my last race. Too long. Way. Ahhh, 24 Hours of Moab – good times. It’s been over two months since I’ve thrown a leg over my SS Niner. Thanksgiving to be exact. After visiting family in Arizona, and getting a chance to touch some of the amazing Black Canyon Trail, (not related to the Black Mountain Open Space in San Diego that this post refers to) I returned home to the fluffy white winter wonderland that is Mammoth. My Niner has been dangling in the garage gathering dust since then. I have not looked at it, touched it. Never even washed it. It’s just been lounging in frigid temps – with a front wheel that is wobbly beyond repair and has been relegated to wearing a tube (it hurts just saying it).
I’ve been getting on the fat bike as much as I can, but the terrain I can ride here in Mammoth has been severely limited. That’s a whole nuther bloggage parade though… So yeah, I’ve been getting on the trainer and Sufferfesting here and there, as well as working out regularly on my Panama Canal cruise in early January. I’ve been jonsin’ to race though – if only for an excuse to pull my racer bike off the moth balls and push my ass though threshold and touch some dirt. Last weekend I had the perfect excuse. I was traveling to San Diego for some Drop In work stuff, and found a race online. Perfect!! I was driving to San Diego on Friday after finishing up teaching snowboarding to Wounded Warriors all week, could work and pre-ride Saturday (and shakedown the bike I haven’t been on in 2 months), race on Super Bowl Sunday, and drive home to kiss Lucy before bed on Sunday night. No biggie, right? WTF was I smokin’??
My legs felt pretty stale from standing on a snowboard all week and driving 7 hours down to SD on Friday. I got to my homie Jeremy’s house, where I was crashing on the blow-up doll, I mean mattress, and was just beat, plain and simple. I had looked at the course profile online, and decided to go with a 34:17 gearing. I’ve never used anything that steep for a race before… especially one that has 1,330′ of climbing per 10 mile lap. Not sure what I was thinking. Oh yeah, now I remember. I thought to myself, “I’ve been riding my 29lb. fatbike at 7psi with 32:21 gearing for the last month. When I jump on that 18lb. race bike, it’s gonna be feather-light and I’ll turn that gear no problem.” Again, WTF was I smokin’?
Now, I have been in the gym, doing more weight training these days. I’m starting to see muscles in my legs I’ve never seen before. Before I put the Niner on ice, I was training with 34:15 gearing, and really working on power. So with all that swirling around my cranium, the 34:17 gear didn’t seem so far-fetched… the mind really is a powerful tool…
So, after being on my feet all Saturday shooting interviews for Drop In, I finally got back to Jeremy’s around 9pm. Never got around to pre-riding the course, or getting on my bicycle at all on Saturday. Oh well, I’ll get up at 6am, eat a Noosa and a banana and go slay that shit. That’s what my brain said. Apparently my legs were on my other shoulder drinking IPA’s and smoking the peace pipe all night… cuz come 6 o’clock they were zombies. And so it was.
I got to the race at 6:45a (for an 8am start). Went to packet pickup. I was posed a dilemma. The singlespeed class was only offered in the “Sport” category – which was 2 laps. I didn’t come all this way for a measly 20 mile ride. Especially since my anaerobic/sprinty power is pretty poopy right now, and these SoCal dudes are all tan, mashing in the 70 degree temps all Winter. I have to do the longest race possible to have any chance… I am an endurance/ultra endurance racer after all. “Can I race 3 laps, please??” – They told me if I wanted to race 3 laps (which is the “Pro/Expert” class), I have to be in the Expert 30-39 field. Fine. Sounds good. I’d rather race 30 miles against geared guys than do the shorter race. It was the same price, and I wanted my money’s worth!! I realized later that the top 3 SS riders were clearly sandbagging in my opinion. After seeing their times for the 2 lap race, they were definitely “Class 1/Expert” riders. Although, after seeing my splits for my first two laps compared to theirs, knowing I was pacing for 3 laps, and just getting used to the course and my bike… it sure would’ve been interesting if I raced “Sport” and had some SS mojo out there on the course to chase. As it was, I was the only SS in the “Expert” field, and I treated the race as more of a tempo training ride, which is what my body and lungs needed most.
The venue was really cool. Black Mountain Open Space. There’s a really nice park where the venue was staged, and it opened to the Lusardi Loop Trail, which was what the race primarily stayed on, going counter-clock. The promoter, Racers and Chasers (who get credit for all these photos), did a great job logistically. Course was marked well, everything was super smooth. They do all the timing on iPad’s live – you can track it on smartphone app or on their website. Pretty pimp.
So yeah, I jumped on my bike and warmed up a bit. The legs were not stoked. The gear felt hard off the get go. Too late to change my gearing. I put a new Maxxis Ikon tire on the back. Glenn at Footloose built me a new rear wheel at the last minute on Thursday night, but didn’t have spokes for the front. So the wobbly wheel kept a Specialized Captain on the front, wrapped around a tube. I noticed most of the serious dudes rockin furious fred’s or maxxlite’s… So I knew this course had to be fast and not too techy. At least I went with the carbon fork, right? I choked down a couple Endurolytes, shoved a couple Shot Bloks and Gu Gels in the jersey, found a rock to stage my “bottle handups”, smiled because I was back on the horse, and headed to the start. I love racing. It’s been a while. Ahh. Soak it in. Then it started.
First race I’ve been in that starts right off with a long descent. My garmin clocked me at almost 40 mph, and I was being conservative; re-aquainting myself with the bike and all… in fact, the first half of the course feels like it’s all downhill with a few punchy climbs in between. Fast doubletrack mostly, tacky and buff. The second half of the course is where it slows down obviously, gradually making your way back up – some fireroad climbs, some fun singletrack, some more double track a couple tough climbs that wound up being hike-a-bike on the last lap (wish I chose a smarter gear). Nothing technical at all though – so I understand why people were using the skinniest, lightest tires they could find… I saw at least one dude on a cross bike.
Anyhoo, I came in at 2hrs 37min. 30 miles, 4,000′ climbing. Not bad for 34:17 cramping the quads. Had I entered the SS, I probably podiumed- instead I got hammered on. But it was way more worth it to get the extra 10 miles in, even if there were no SS’ers to bring out my competitive juices. Overall, happy with where I’m at – a lot of work to do to get in shape for some of the bigger races coming up… but that’s the fun part!! Hoot!! – If you are down in San Diego, I definitely recommend enjoying the Lusardi Loop at Black Mountain Open Space.