Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Getting my feet wet

Weeping Willow - it's in the books.  Got my feet wet with my first Cat 3/Novice (depending on the race series I suppose) race.

I pre-rode the course on Saturday (everything was nicely marked) and to my surprise the trails were AMAZING.  I could not believe how dry they were with the constant rain/drizzle we've been having.  There were some serious water crossing in the course though... but that is pretty much a constant there.  So I rode the course and discovered a section I had never ridden before - providing a step uphill off a fire road, and then another dip (through a mud pit) and short up again.  I think the pre-ride was especially key so I could better prepare for this section, and really turn it back up after these two short climbs.  Got back to the car in good time and felt psyched.  I hadn't pushed it - kept things at a good pace (it was the day before the ride) and felt I came out with a good time... so that stood to mean that in the race I might do well!!

hmmm... then comes the start time.  Noon.  I don't like that.  Too much time to play with.  For my first race I enjoyed getting up, grabbing my stuff, eating breakfast and out the door.  Register, warm-up and go!!  But with a noon time I got up, got my stuff together, had time to wash the bike, lube it up, eat some breakfast, pack some drinks and food for after, and then head out the door.  Got up to Willowdale and registered as the big boys were heading out.  2 hours before I race...

What to do... made sure everything was good to go and I grabbed my camera and headed out to post up at the end of the lap to grab some photos of the front runners as they came by.  Took photos for a bit and then headed back up to the car to get changed and get my warm up on.  Started too early and I ended up finishing my warm up with too much time before the start for my liking... but then again, I didn't want to miss my start.

As I was coming in from my warm up Annie and my parents were arriving.  I passed them as I headed back to the car to check my rear tire... I had lost more pressure than I would have liked since the ride on Saturday so I wanted to check how much I had lost just with the pre-ride... 2psi.  Yikes.  I stood for a second and debated just switching the tube out or just going with it.  Gave the pump some action and just went with it.  Made my way back towards the start and chatted with my Annie and my parents briefly before heading to the staging area.  Did I mention I was wicked nervous for this race?  I was.  Not sure why?  I was excited for my first, but nervous for this one.  So I just wanted to get it going already, and in the staging area I began to think of where I want to be in the line up.  After the debacle in my first race (crashing in the group) I decided "let's go toward the front."  I had the spot and then....

They changed our starting point due to the big boys still finishing off as we were set to start.  So move spots and lose my good positioning.  I end up 3rd row out of 4.... and boy was that annoying!!  As we took off someone washes out at the first turn/dip and causes some chaos.  Get by but now stuck behind some guys not pushing where I'd like to be... it took the whole mile of double track to negotiate through the pack.  I was happy to be in the 4th/5th spot as we were heading into the singletrack but again stuck behind the lead who may have pushed himself too much at the start as his pace was dragging.  At the first wall crossing the lead falls (secretly I'm happy because that means we are past him) but then the rider in front of me spills - landing on the rider getting up... YIKES!  So I hop off my bike avoiding those two and run up the hill - letting a nice line by me.  EXCELLENT!  Now I'm back in the middle of the pack (at best).  And the singletrack takes over.

Remember how I was all excited when talking about the pre-ride on Saturday???  Praising the trail conditions and hopeful about my chances??  Well after multiple laps with many riders (big boys, or should I say the fast boys??) the course was a nice snot-slick track.  Which made roots my everyone's enemy.  They were in full "I hate bikers" mode and did everything they could to take us down.  Roots on turns, climbs, descents, off camber messes just seemed to push my back wheel sliding or spinning out.  At one point I thought maybe I was running a flat in the rear and that was why I felt like I had no control over the rooty mess.  But nope.  It was just the damn slick roots.  I was feeling beat up and defeated by the conditions and resigned to just "finishing without dying."  So I backed off my pace and just concentrated on riding well.

Climbs became obstacle courses with riders slipping or hiking.  Side note/question - they sent the the Junior class out in front of us... which seemed backwards.  There were many a youngster standing to the side of any type of climb as we came through.  Big thanks to the kids for riding with their heads up (and a couple were actually able to play a little game of hop-scotch with us) but if we had gone off ahead of them we wouldn't have had to contend with that....  then again, I'm sure there are some in every class that are going to be invading the wave ahead of them... ok back to it.

So climbs I was cleaning (and looking forward to using as an catching up/passing area) on Saturday were slowing me down with the other riders.  I was able to go full throttle on any and all straight aways and doubletrack which did allow me to finish with a time not far off my pre-ride time.  That certainly surprised me, but I think it was my push on the doubletrack that allowed me to have the finishing time I did.

After the pre-ride I knew that toward the end of the course there was a bridge that I most likely wasn't going to ride for two reasons.  First, it starts off pretty narrow and second it comes at you off a curve - a root covered curve.  So with the slickness of the day I knew from the get go I was 100% running it.  Problem was I had three on my tail as I was coming to the bridge, so as I jumped off I yelled back, "anyone riding?"  First two went straight for it, third hesitated and went, but ended up jumping off the bike as soon as his tire hit the bridge.  That tied me up for a second as I waited for him to compose himself and get going.  I ended up taking him (I think he was form the class behind me) before the finish but I was kicking myself for losing 2 spots to riders I'm pretty sure were in my class.

Long story short.  I'm happy with my finish, but not happy with it.  I felt like some portions of the ride were good, others not at all.  The roots really did throw me off and I got stuck in my head way too much.  Too much worry and not enough confidence in my bike or my ability.  BUT, the bright side of that is that even with a "subpar" performance (in my own eyes) I guess I did alright... gives me some ground to gain with each successive race.  Results - I finished 14th  (Novice -Vet I) with a time of 1:07:27

Might I also add I was very impressed by the whole organization of the race.  Instant times posted by computer, great raffle with a ton of free swag up for grabs, and just a smooth operation of the whole thing... might have to look into racing more in the EFTA series.
Coming to the finish in mid-point to the camera.  See Annie, it was totally worth waiting for!


  1. Glad to hear your cat3 debut went well. Sounds like EFTA has a good thing going, may have to check one of those races out this summer.

  2. Thanks man! Yeah you should check EFTA out. I enjoyed the Root 66 race, and will continue in the series, but EFTA has it together.