Monday, March 29, 2010

Big Sandy Race, where have you been all my life?

Last year at Lemurian, both former Sheila Moon team rider John Blackwell and former Sheila Moon employee Barb Howe raved about a little race called the Big Sandy. These are two very different people, so when it came time to put together our Team Sheila Moon schedule, we highlighted this race.

So worth it.

It was kinda pretty,
big sandy pre-ride

and the riding was top-notch. There was a 15-mile short course and a 23-mile long course. The latter was advertised as 5300 feet of climbing, which turned out to be wildly overstated, but still brutal.

And we're not talking junk miles here. There was probably 200 meters of paved road, and maybe that much fire road. The rest was pure grade A singletrack.

We started out Saturday afternoon with a preride of the climby (and descendy!) stuff, which started and ended on a bridge over the Joaquin river.

big sandy pre-ride

This was the loop that started the long course: 2+ miles of technical ascent, followed by 5ish miles of fast, intermittently-technical descent back down to the river. The downhill was fun. Hard enough that you had to keep your mind on the job at hand, but not so hard that you wanted to stop to take a mental break.

In the race, the first loop was followed by the entire short course, which we did not preride, but which was 15 miles of rolling territory along the river. This second part was pitched as "easy", but was definitely a struggle on top of the first loop.

We had a good crowd of Moonies there.


Sport men

Emily and me

My race went pretty well. I miscalculated my nutrition slightly, and had problems with drinking from my bottle, which had my electrolytes in it. So I fought off bonking and cramps to finish 6th of about 20 in my category.

Spot the CX racer in the MTB race...

Other people had better races,

mark wheeler - 1st place!
Like Mark Wheeler,

uri and isaias
Uri (and his sidekick Isaias)

and Carrie.

This was a great event. My only regret is that I did not take the time to take pictures!

millerton lake
All photos by May Woo

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Grasshopper #3: Super Sweetwater

Summary: was riding well, came apart like a piñata 30 minutes before the finish.

As the neutral start rolled through Graton, I was greeted by my own family cheering/heckling squad. Mom lives there, and was out blowing a conch shell for the riders, while Stephanie was yelling and doing her best to embarrass me.

Nothing exciting happened until we hit the steep section of Sweetwater, when Shane, Roger and Mysterious Roadie Guy (hereafter referred to as Mysterio) started turning the screws on us. It hurt bad but a group of 5 of us crested the climb together, with Mysterio up the road. Shane led the ripping descent, and once on the flats we rotated a little, but apparently didn't keep a strong pace, because a large group chased on when we hit River Road.

Once the Old Caz climb was underway, the predicable happened: Mysterio went up the road, the chasers went backwards, and Shane & Roger put the hurt on what was left. The Butterfly and Frog feed station was great to see, even through my fog of pain. I had taken Miguel's comment about the self-supported ideal of the Grasshoppers to heart and started the ride with four full bottles, so didn't go for a hand-up.

There was still a group of us together near the top, but then Shane and Roger attacked. I wasn't able to ride their wheel through the rollers along the top, but kept them in sight and pulled away from all the others.

Just after the gate I blew past Mysterio, who had been waiting and wondering where to go. This was the first and pretty much the only time I was happy to be riding a mountain bike. Shane and Roger were a little ways ahead and bombing the descent, but I put the CXR to work and was with them by the creek. When we reached the town of Cazadero we still had a good gap on everyone else. This was the highpoint of my race, and the time when things started to unravel.

What was it? Was my lackadaisical "training plan" of short rides two or three times a week catching up with me? Should I have eased up on the climbs, taking the gamble that I could get in a group that would chase back on? Had I not been eating enough ice cream and beer? (I don't think so; I'd been sure to have a Boont and à la mode the night before).

My legs felt leaden whenever I would pull, and hurt even while riding Shane's wheel as he dieseled us toward the coast. I was disappointed not to be able to contribute much to our group of three. The first chase finally caught us at Highway One: Mysterio, Carl, and Miguel, who had been riding strong on his road bike all day.

When we got to Willow Creek I knew I was in trouble. Mysterio attacked before we reached the dirt, taking Roger and Shane with him (not surprisingly he went on to win). I couldn't respond at all. That left Miguel, Carl and myself riding much more slowly up the climb. I can't remember the last time my legs felt this bad. It was as like being stuck in a slow-motion dream, except it wasn't a dream and I really was going in slow motion. Carl had some pep left and pulled away quickly, while Miguel and I began an epic battle, trading places repeatedly, keeping a pace worthy of two obese, drunken asthmatics. I passed him on the steep bit when he had to walk his road bike, but he motored past just before the finish. That put me in 6th place among those who did the official route, with two riders who came up Freezout ahead of me.

Riding the Grasshoppers is always humbling. Shane was hurting all of us on the climbs and pulled like a diesel truck on the flats. Roger is always an inspiration: nothing like being soundly trounced by a 50-year-old. Brian Astell wins a hardman award for riding full-size knobbies on his MTB over all those long miles of pavement. Miguel put in a great performance, validating his decision to ride a road bike.

And Mysterio? It's good to be reminded that there are people who can easily accomplish the things we struggle for, just so we don't take it all too seriously.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Enduro II: Krishna's report

Summary: paced myself terribly, navigated poorly, had a good time.

Part I. Sprint, Get Lost, Repeat

Twice around the statue, grab the first map, jump on the wheel of some locals: sweet! Uh, oh: red light, major intersection. The front of the pack goes through, I don't. Interminable wait. The leaders disappear into the distance.

Go! Burn some matches! The Marin CXR really didn't help with pacing at this point: with ultralight semi-slick tires and the fork locked it feels almost like a road bike. "Stomp those pedals!" it screams. So stomp I did.

That was pretty much how it went all the way to Mt Tam: push way too hard trying to bridge up, loose more time getting off-route, and go hard again, passing the same people I had passed a few minutes earlier.

I had a small hope of getting the KOM, but Chas took that down in style. We milled around in the East Peak parking lot wondering where the checkpoint workers were, so the first 15 or so people to arrive all left together.

Part II. Rocks and Golf Courses

Eldridge was just as rocky as I remembered. I should have played it safe, but was having too much fun on the new bike, so of course I got caught by an unexpected section of knife-blade flakes and flatted. Passing the lakes was new terrain for me, and since I was mostly riding solo I was looking around and appreciating the scenery. Most of the leaders were still at the start of the Pine mountain climb, so I had company while grinding slowly up the rocks. Only DFL Brad was up the road, several minutes ahead.

Part III. The Dirt Kaiser Express

The next few hours were a wild ride on the coattails of Matthias, a.k.a. Dirt Kaiser. We quickly dropped our companions descending Pine Mountain. Tiny semi-slick tires are not the weapon of choice for fast descents on gravelly fire roads, but the new bike was loving it and I was able to hang on.

Rip the Pine Mountain descent, pass Brad fixing a flat, get passed by Brad, pass him fixing another flat. Look out for that guy this year! More beautiful, dry, rocky terrain. In Tamarancho the semi-slicks had nice traction on the tacky hardpack, and good thing, since Matthias was really killing it. On the final stretch of B-17 the rocks caught up with my little tires again, so I sat down and pulled out my second tube. As I was leaving Tamarancho the guy with the aero bars on his road bike was dropping in. That made me smile.

Sasha guided me down to the water drop under the bridge, where I picked up some much-needed liquids. To my surprise I saw Matthias again-- he had hung around at the water stop for a while. So there was a big group of us chatting and pushing our bikes slowly up Gunshot. This is when I realized something was wrong with my right cleat. One of the bolts had sheared off, leaving the cleat to pivot on the remaining bolt, making it very hard to unclip. Not good!

After some discussion, no one from our group went for the Big Rock time bonus. I could provide my long list of reasons, but they can all be summarized as general wimpiness and lack of fortitude. So we turned our backs on Big Rock, and once again Matthias was ripping the descent, leading me away from the others.

Matthias had been an amazing guide ever since Pine Mountain, so once we were back on the pavement I tried to repay this a little with some hard pulls. They felt hard anyway... I'm afraid they were probably feeble.

Now that I was finally hydrated with the water from under the bridge, I realized I hadn't peed since leaving my house in the morning, and this was rapidly becoming a problem. It was past the uncomfortable point and starting to affect my outlook on life, so I finally said goodbye to Matthias where the bike path crosses under 101 and took an extended piss. Ah! I feel human again! So much happier and faster on the bike.

Part IV. Mr. Twiggy the Impaler

My spirits were good and I was motoring along with a faint hope of catching Matthias, but the bike path had other plans: my front wheel nudged a 4-inch stick, flipping it perfectly on end, whereupon it impaled my rear tire. Instant flat. Ah well, good thing I brought patches.

I lost more time with an inefficient route through the Presidio, but finally made it back to Murphy & Emily's place, barely ahead of DFL Brad, which turned out to be third place overall.

Part V.

As expected, Murphy and Emily put on an awesome after-party, and the prizes were really impressive. A huge "thank you" to all the volunteers and sponsors!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

East Bay Alleycross: Hell. Yeah.

For the second year in a row, Evan put on a rippin' alleycat-style mixed terrain ride through the hills of Oakland. Last year, I wrote an interminable post about the ride. This year, I'll try to be a little more concise.

Here we are on the BART. Hmm, why is my cassette all wobbly? This is not good.
I haven't lived in Oakland in almost 20 years, but I seem to remember a bike shop near the BART. iPhone confirms it.
Hank and Frank's comes through with a quick tightening! And does not even charge me. Class act.
Roll up to the start, Wow, lotta Moonies here.

Mark Wheeler and me, with Moonie and race co-organizer Jason.

Mike and Liza

Le Mans start: Go!

Climb Climb Climb. Holy crap this Tunnel road stuff is steep.
Here's the turnoff for the spur at the top, and there're the leaders. Only a minute back!

Marko's right close at the top. Wait for him. Now jump on Dirty Mike's wheel. He lives here.

Sleighride! Watch that guy push past me and Mike only to wipe out directly in front of us. Don't run over him. Bye!

Wait, where's Mark? Oh, look, now Mike's letting me by. OK, I'm sure you'll catch me.

Through the gate, now for the steeeep, slow grind up to Sibley. Glad I have gears. Although it turns out they don't work so well when covered in mud.

Hmm, now I've collected Surly Jon and Kathleen Hannon. We hit the next checkpoint, then grab on to Kelly's wheel. She lives here too.

Looks like I'm with the leaders! Unfortunately, it's the leaders of the women's field.

Down the scary slippery part of Pinehurst. Dude, you're in an SUV. Can we just take your manhood as assured and get you the hell out of the way? Ooh, stop sign. Done.
Paceline! Hey, I'm feeling pretty good, This drafting stuff really does work.
Hmm, there's some guy on a singlespeed cross bike. Guess he's in the race? If not, he's jumping on the train anyway.

Road goes back uphill, paceline does not survive. Singlespeed guy and I get to the top first. East Ridge!

Singlespeed guy might have only one speed, but it's faster than any of my nine.
I really wish my waterbottle cage would stop rattling. Maybe I oughtta stop and tighten it. No! Cannot stop!

Up. Down. Up, Up, down, down. Hi doggie. Nice Doggie. Up, Up, down, down, mud! Splash! Up, Down, Up, Up, Down. Ooh, I think we're getting near the end. And who's that back there? Kelly, Jon, and Kathleen!

Finally, the checkpoint.

Shawno and Jenny and Uni!

Oh, and look, a ranger bitching someone out. Perhaps lollygagging around here would be the wrong move. And here's my crew again, rolling straight through. Grab Kelly's wheel. She knows where we're going. She's muttering something about Cinderella. I dunno, I'm just chasing!

Look, there's Mike blowing by us! Oh, shit, did you just call me out? Fine. I'm on it. We're not going down Cinderella? But I thought that was the fast way? Fine, you're the local.

Down into the trees. Hmm, some of this stuff is sketchy at speed! Wait, there goes someone else. Mike: "is that the way?" Dude, you're supposed to be knowing where we're going!

Last checkpoint. What's Evan doing here? GO! Back to Lake!

Oh, yeah, traffic. Ooh, please do not pull out without looking! At last! Back to the park. Not quite tacky enough to try to sprint it out with Mike, who's been leading me around.

Hey, crap, how'd Kathleen, Kelly and Jon get here? Damn. We musta took the long way. and veggie chili. 25th, it turns out.

Matthias was first singlespeed, new team mate Carol got 1st Klunker.
Kathleen and Kelly rochambeau'd for first -

Awards done. Wait, where's Scotty?
(insert half an hour of worrying)
There he is! Two flats and an extra 10 miles of getting lost later.

It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it.

Yet again, this race was great. Huge props to Evan for putting together an other great event. It's especially great that it's an event I have no problem recommending to people just trying out racing. Can't wait til the next one. I'm taking Cinderella next year.