Thursday, September 2, 2010
SoNoMas race report, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the hardtail
Garmin record for the race
This has been the slacker year. I've raced three times this year, not counting the 1st Grasshopper. I guess four times. All have been long, steady distance kinda races; Old Caz Grasshopper, 1st Boggs 8hr, 2nd Boggs 8hr, now SoNoMas. I'm registered for Tahoe-Sierra 100 so it all sort of fits, and it's been a stressful year off the bike (work) so I'm just riding for pleasure. Haven't done an interval since 2009. Cyclocross season will be interesting.
The week before SoNoMas we were at Northstar, and I got a really fun Rose-Armstrong 12hr ride in with my friend Hyland and some other people. It was a relaxing week otherwise, and I think it made me faster somehow.
The morning of the race I set my alarm for 4:30AM. I woke up, panicky at 5. I guess I turned it off in my sleep. Threw my stuff together, food and coffee in me and I was on the road at 6AM. The race is 1:40 from my house, and there was a "mandatory racer's meeting" at 7AM. #%*(! I drove too fast, got a speeding ticket for 80 in a 65 one exit before the 101 -> Dry Creek Rd exit, but I got there at 7:30 and I was on the line at 8 when we were off.
I am not fast, just steady. I lined up at the middle-back, next to Jan Ludwig. Will I ever get that right? I could see my friend and teammate Carrie ahead of me. The funny thing is that Krishna wrote of the front group riding at a "talking pace" up the road climb to the bridge. I was in the 2nd group, not quite on the rivet, but holding myself just below threshold! No talking for me. I caught and passed Carrie, which was surprising. She's fast, but I think she had a hangover. :) Once on the singletrack, it really was a case of position-is-destiny. There was some nervous riding and some iffy bike handling, but luckily most people know that, when walking the trail, to get out of the way if someone calls out "rider" behind them. I was able to make up some spots where people walked steep ups and steep downs. Otherwise I was pretty much fixed in position between people.
The terrain around Lake Sonoma is somewhat reminiscent of Henry Coe; dry chaparral, narrow, side-hill singletrack and steep grades made before the days of IMBA. But that's where the similarities stop, becase Coe also has flow, and the Lake Sonoma trails rarely develop flow. They are either steep, granny-gear climbs or loose, steep, twisty descents. Or maybe it's just me, I've only ever ridden there twice, and both times were races. This time I was on my lightweight hardtail. It's a 22.7lb Niner AIR 9, and I had my tires just a little too hard. They measured 28-29psi on my Park pump, which I think reads low (i.e. they had more psi than that in them), and for the terrain I was on, they were too slidey. FWIW the tires were 29x2.25 Schwalbe Racing Ralph Snakeskin tires set up tubeless on Edge Composites (now Enve Composites) XC rims with Stans tubeless rim strips. I could have let 2-4psi out and had a much better ride, but I didn't want to stop and take the time. Once the first long series of climbs were over and we hit a ridge top, quite a few guys passed me, including some I'd already passed. This is ironic because I'm 215lbs, I think I'm a decent bike handler, and I am usually the one doing the passing when it flattens out or goes downhill! I was braking way too much. Skiddy tires. I am thinking about running this bike & wheels in the Tahoe-Sierra 100, but I am leery of losing a bead. These tires were hard to set up tubeless. Maybe I'll try a test ride with some meatier tires, less air and some rocks and see how it goes, before 9/11/10. Tubes are just not an option at my weight.
I held it very steady for the entire race. I'm a diesel. After the single speeds got in front of me, I didn't let more than 2 or 3 people pass me, and I steadily caught riders. I never had cramps and I did my best to eat and drink. This is a two-hands course, so it was hard to drink and eat enough, and I ran dry for the last 7 or so miles. I should have taken a third bottle at the third, Camelbak station (where Murphy & Arena were) but I didn't think to do it. Next time I think I'll bring a hydration pack, or maybe a third bottle.
In the last half of the race I'd gathered a little train, following me, including some who'd gotten ahead of me earlier with FS and grippier tires. I did not dare let them get in front of me, because I might not get them behind me again. If anyone wanted to pass, I let them but otherwise we all seemed content with the status quo. The thing is, they were all old guys, maybe 4 or 5 of them behind me. I was racing Men 40+ and they were most likely in my cat. I am not a good climber, but the Niner was giving me wings on the steep climbs. I didn't offer to give up my position for fear of upsetting the status quo, even though I had them all right behind me for miles and miles. So I pulled those guys along for at least 8 miles like that. Gradually, steep, loose climbs and cramps tailed a few of them off, until with maybe 7 miles to go it was me and two guys behind me. One, in an orange "+3" jersey was really chatty. I was definitely out of breath, so I let him carry the commentary, acknowledging with monosyllables most of the time, or letting the conversation die. He just wanted to talk. The guy behind him in a Roaring Mouse kit was silent. I couldn't contain it any longer, so I said "I'm 40+. What are you guys?" The orange guy said "I'm 55. I'd give my left nut to be 40+ again!" That was funny, impressive, and a relief. The Roaring Mouse guy was quiet. The orange guy then told me "He's 40+."
Well, OK then.
About a mile later, the Roaring Mouse guy said, in a British accent, "OK if I go by gents?" (Maybe I'm embellishing.) I moved over and he quickly moved up the road. He looked like a climber. Orange told me "Don't let him get a gap!" but I was happy to let him have the spot. I could pedal for hours at this steady state, but this year I have no ability or desire to go above threshold. He distanced us, to the point of disappearing around corners for minutes at a time. Orange stayed put. He liked my pace. I would get glimpses of the Roaring Mouse guy, then he seemed to falter and I was right on him again. We were getting close to the bridge, and the end, I could tell. I recognized the terrain from last year's SoNoMas. It was leveling out and it was rocky. Roaring Mouse seemed to be running out of steam, and I still felt pretty chipper. "Can I go by?" I said, and he let me by, orange +3 tucked right in behind me. I was able to go up three gears and motor through. My bottles were dry, my throat was dry and I saw a guy with a cooler at the dam. I said "Do you have water?" and thought about stopping, but he said "It's all downhill from here!", so I skipped that stop, shifted into the big ring and started dropping. There was a motorcycle cop waving us through the stop sign onto the main road - Awesome! - so I put it into my biggest gear (39-11, big enough on a 29er) and proceeded to descend. Orange got in front of me, I think he meant to help but at my size, no one is helping me on downhills by being in front of me! I let him take a pull, then got back on front and let gravity continue its love affair with me. We passed maybe 5 more people on the descent. I could tell they weren't in our cat, so when they'd look back at us (orange was in my slipstream) I'd say "Don't worry, we're old."
I distanced Orange by the finish and rolled in. I was sure it was mid-pack for me as usual, but Roaring Mouse came up to me later and said "I got 3rd, you got 2nd!" I was really surprised, but I guess most of the fast old guys stayed home, or raced pro/expert. The guy who beat me is definitely fast, (I googled him.) he finished 20 minutes in front of me. Turns out the Roaring Mouse guy, Paul and I knew each other, or knew of each other. He's a nice guy. Orange +3 turned out to be Jeff, and he won the 50+ category. The Fastest Dentist in the World is also 50-something, but he raced pro, just beating Krishna.
The free food and beer were nice, after the race. Carlos' races always have a great vibe, and I always make sure to thank him. Got to see Krishna, Stephanie, Griffin and meet Krishna's mom. They are a happy family. I am looking forward to seeing Stephanie race and ride more! I remember those days. Krishna amazes me, he is blessed with some amazing talent and a great disposition. Carrie CRUSHED BITCHES, winning the women's pro/expert field. Yeah Carrie! It wasn't easy either, I think she was in second for much of the race, caught and passed the woman in first place and rode hard to keep her in second. I had the familiar experience of introducing myself to someone at a bike event - one of the women Carrie was racing, Allison - and hearing "Oh, you're Lauren's husband." Everyone who read Lauren's blog misses it. I keep asking her to post some new stuff on it, but she's "over it."
Second place is a nice ego booster. It also means all top-tens for my races this season - barring Grasshopper - even tho the 2nd Boggs race was a disaster. I'm still debating whether to bring the Niner hard-tail 29er to Tahoe-Sierra, which will help me climb, or bring the Turner Sultan FS 29er with the light Edge wheels and some meaty tires, which would help me descend and be more comfortable. It might be 28lbs with those wheels. Hm...