Thursday, July 29, 2010

Soil Saloon

July's traditionally a slow month in Norcal mountain bike racing. Other than Downieville, there are very few official races. Fortunately, for the last couple years a local band of miscreants has organized some unofficial races in parks around the city.

These races, which have a cowboy vs dinosaur theme, are called Soil Saloon. We've talked about them before, I think, but this July's series was quite excellent.
Copyright Pamela Palma © 2010
Three races in Golden Gate Park, followed by a finale in McLaren meant a great chance to flex our competitive muscles and drink some beer.

Congratulations to Krishna, who won two of the races, and to Moonies including Murphy, Mark, Marko, Xton, Derrick, Ted, May, and probably others I'm forgetting for participating.

Derrick won an award for breaking his derailleur (which I compounded by smacking right into him as he tried to fix it), and Marko's photo contest entry won an honorable mention.

Pamela Palma managed to catch a few pics of various Moonies in the series. Her sets from the series can be seen here and here.
Copyright Pamela Palma © 2010

All in all, a damn fun series, even if I continued my 2+ year streak of never even winning a consolation award.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Downieville: Classic for some

Early July sees one of the highlights of the summer: the Downieville Classic mountain bike race.

There are two parts, Saturday's cross country race and the downhill on Sunday. Mosty of us just do the cross country course, but a select few put together both days to challenge for the All Mountain title.

I did not have a classic Downieville. I managed to get sick in the days before the race, and went to bed Friday night convinced I was not going to race. On Saturday morning, however I woke up feeling somewhat less terrible, and figured. "to hell with it. I'm racing!" Racing might have been an overly dignified way to put what I ended up doing, but so it goes.

I started the big climb taking it easy. I was lined up pretty far back to start, so even at a very moderate pace I was passing quite a few people on the first segment. Any time I crossed the 85% effort threshold, though, I could feel my sickness lurking. So I continued to moderate my effort as I ground on up.

Maybe it was that I was not pushing it, or maybe it was the slightly cooler weather, or maybe I'm just in much better shape than last year, but the climb didn't seem as brutal this time as it has before. I got to the top in pretty good shape, having ridden every bit of the climb except when I was blocked by people walking.

Murphy and crew put together a pretty spectacular aid station at the top. I grabbed a margarita and some electrolyte drink and just headed on. As I left, Mat was pulling up to the top, and he'd shortly pass me on the way down the first stretch of trail. He and I diced back and forth until we hit the top of the Babyheads section of Pauly Creek pretty much simultaneously. I know where I stand with Mat on the downhills, so I got out of his way. He was out of sight within seconds, and I'd not see him again until the race was done.

“I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up”

Every cyclist at some point falls victim to the Scylla and Charybdis of bike racing: bonking and cramping. I was no different and soon became wise to dipped Mojo bars, shot blox, endurolytes, electrolyte powder and other examples of better living through chemistry.* But as in the ancient myths, sailors would steer clear of one danger only to face another and so to it was with me at Downieville.

I did not bonk but I cramped like… well… like a very bad word. How about mother fucker?

Early in the morning Derrick drove me, Matt, Caitlin, Chris and Wheeler into town so we could pick up our race packs and numbers.  To pass the time Matt asked who had ridden Downieville before - turns out that Caitlin, Dustin and I were the only ones going in blind. When Chris hears this, he gets all concerned, Matt on the other hand is jealous that we are about to pop our Downieville cherries. As you can imagine, I found these diametrically opposed viewpoints both terrifying and exciting. 

After collecting our packets we stood around a course map while Chris, Matt and Wheeler pointed out various parts of the course. Names were tossed out and favorite portions of the course were mentioned but it was a little like when friends start yakking on and on about people you’ve never met - none of it stuck. And little black lines on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper, no matter how graphically described, fail to do justice to the wonders and horrors that awaited. Sometimes you need to see it for yourself and as we headed back to the car, Matt pointed out the start line and then to the top of the mountain “the climb ends up there”. Yikes!

Back at camp and resplendant in my team jersey and new pink lightning socks (color matched to the team kit and my bike!) I made last minute adjustments to my beloved Specialized hardtail 29’er (admittedly not the right weapon for the job). Since I had finally broken down and bought a camelbak I decided to save some weight by removing my bottle cages (I probably would have saved more weight by burping or farting - I'll admit, this was crazy behavior). Chris saw me engaged in this insanity and cautioned me to keep at least one since running out of water would be pretty easy. I was at first dubious thinking that my 2L Camelbak would save my bacon but in the end caution won out and I put one back on.

At the Skyline race (link) I had hit upon a new strategy for consuming electrolyte pills - I would pre-open my shot blox packages and smoosh a capsule into the first piece. That way, as I ate up the blox I could also get dosed at the same time. As an added bonus, you don't have to struggle to open the packages and you are less likely to litter the results on the course, an act of such lazy carelessness that it never ceases to vex me. Some poor schmuck has to pick all that crap up kids.

After a quick nosh I downed 3 bottles of water and rode over to the start with Derek. Since I was early I took the opportunity to warm up on the highway. I can not stress how much better I feel when I get the chance to do this before a race - highly recommended.