Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CCCX #1 Still More about Sasha! (or lessons for teh nOObs)

So this is more a post for those of you who like me are new to the cult, but yes, let’s begin with a few words of praise for Sasha Magee. Silver Medal in single speed Bs? Nicely done. Driving there and back and not bitching when I totally fell asleep three times? Most gentlemanly. Loan of team kit jersey? Classy. Willingness to accept my direction when having his photo taken? Greater than expected. Patience with processing my endless stream of questions? Legendary.

I have often remarked that it is indeed a bitter irony that the best bicycling in the Bay Area requires that you drive to it and so it was with CCCX#1. Manzanita park is just south west of Gilroy which is indeed a bit of a hike requiring a pretty early departure. Personally I would not recommend my pre-race day preparation which involved a not insignificant amount of drinking at the Dolores Park movie night and a couple (one is too few and two is too many - sigh) of the ubiquitous truffle man’s truffles. At two in the morning my brain was still on fire and I tried to put it to sleep by watching the Big Lebowski but it was to no avail.

Lesson 1 - don’t party too hard or stay up too late the night before the race (this should be obvious but... you know... ).

Fortunately I had remembered to pack all my crap (clothes, snacks, tools, photo gear etc.) before we went out that night so at 6:30am, all I had to do was remember how to pour cereal and make coffee.

Lesson 2 - pack the night before the race and don’t forget to eat breakfast.

As we waited in line to register, I overheard some dudes say that the course was slow and technical. This immediately made me happy since my cardio abilities are still a work in progress and I know that time can be made up in the technical bits. As Sasha and I did a quick lap of the course I looked for the obvious good lines and danger spots but I also tried riding through some of the less ideal spots. If I had to pass or was forced out of the good line what was the next best option? This proved handy when some dude didn’t hear me repeatedly yelling “on your right“ and I had to pass him on the very edge of a downhill. Also after the long downhill the course pulled a hard right turn. Lots of people coasted through that turn but there was a soft-looking but actually pretty solid berm that you could use to pedal through the whole turn. I knew that because I had tested it out on the warmup lap before the race pressure was on.

Lesson 3 - get to the race in time to ride the course, and really study it. Look for the good, the bad and the ugly (but bearable).

I was racing in men’s 35+ Bs which had the awesome benefit of starting at 10am. Of late I’ve become a little less thrilled with birthdays, but the practical side of me loves the fact that the 35+ crowd gets to start later. There were 30ish dudes in my group and we started just after the open Bs and single speed Bs. The down side to this was that the start was a giant cluster fuck that only further dissolved into an even greater cluster fuck as we ran into the backside of the open Bs. Like Sasha I too was unexpectedly forced off my bike at the twin set of short, sharp hills.

Lesson 4 (Sasha’s first lap maxim) - be prepared to run up stuff that’s totally rideable on the first lap to avoid getting held up.

At the start I was kind of surprised by how slow most of my group was off the line. I’m not a fast rider yet by an means and it was my first sanctioned  race so I had taken up a position near the back. But the start was at the bottom of short hill which is the one kind of climb I'm good at. I hit it as hard as I could and I actually had to veer off the course to pass people in my way.

Lesson 5 - hammer the start like your life depends on it and don’t shortchange yourself by choosing a poor start position - line up early. 

There was only one relatively short run-up with a barrier and I was rather surprised by how early many racers got off their bikes. This was by no means a super tough slope and indeed I later saw one of the As hop the barrier and ride the whole thing. 

Lesson 6 - don’t run more than you have to.

I‘m a slow runner and on my first two laps I pushed my bike up the slope. Later I remembered to shoulder my bike and was shocked at how much faster I was able to go and indeed I actually passed people doing so.

Lesson 7 - shoulder your bike when you run - pushing is slow.

Scattered throughout the course over all the different kinds of terrain (pavement, dirt, grass and gravel) were at least five sections of chicanes. No one seemed to have any idea of how to do these fast - I gained valuable seconds in almost every one as people really slowed down to navigate these.

Lesson 8 - chicanes... umm... we should totally figure out the best technique for those and practice them at the next clinic.

Having learned a painful lesson at the first DFL, I was real careful setting my bike down before remounts. At one point I even heard some spectators yelling at a guy that he had dropped his chain - he ignored them and then lost all kinds of time as he came to a rapid halt. But even though I had improved that one part, I know that I was tossing away precious seconds on every one of my slow and sloppy remounts.

Lesson 9 - smooth and fast remounts will save you seconds.

As Sasha mentioned, the slope that was his ticket to a free helicopter ride last year was changed into a downhill. At the bottom of the hill the course pulled a hard 180 before throwing a barrier at you. Most people I saw coasted through this section and started braking early. I kept pedaling as long as I could and then braked hard before bailing off the bike. I was able to makeup time and catch up with faster riders many times this way. Of course they would then just smoke me on the climb that followed but you have to take what you can get.

Lesson 10 - keep pedaling going downhill

Lesson 11 - brake late, brake hard, brake before the turn

Of course all this speed would get me all juiced up and excited so there were a couple times where I forgot to downshift far enough before the barrier. Oops.  Your remount is going to be even slower if you’re not in a low enough gear. Don’t forget to downshift before turns and dismounts. Don’t forget to downshift before turns and dismounts. Don’t forget to downshift before turns and dismounts. See? Now I've said it thrice! This should be your mantra - getting caught in high gear is three kinds of stoopid.

Lesson 12 - downshift before the barrier or turn.

I‘ve been taking spin classes for the past month or so and while I can definitively say that I wouldn’t have made it through the race without them, I’ve still got a ways to go in building cardio strength. As I burned through the laps I could feel myself slowing down and getting sloppier. But then I hit the bell lap and I realized that I wasn’t totally fried. I still had some gas in the tank and I pressed hard to catch a rider I had been dueling with and just whisked by him by sprinting up the last hill to the finish line.

Lesson 13 - the last lap is not the hardest - you can always push yourself a little bit harder.

After our race we hung out so that we could watch Caitlin’s race and snag a few pix. While we waited we surreptitiously drank our booze (Sasha hid his beer in a bike bottle, I put my whiskey in my gingerale can) and this reminded me of the second rule of Butter Lap since I was drinking JD (which may actually be the worst whiskey ever made).

Lesson 14 - bring good booze.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Lesson 15: If you don't cross the finish line holding back the contents of your stomach and you don't feel like you're not being stabbed in one or both lungs, you didn't give it your all.