Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sea Otter Classic

Last weekend saw my debut US race (indeed, it is probably the first big and proper race that I took part in). It all started out not so well about 8 or 9 days earlier when I was Ireland. On a normal spin around Three Rock I fell off on a decent almost knocking myself out. A few cuts, road rash, bruised (possibly broken) ribs and an arm that I couldn't move was the result. First off, I didn't think I would be able to recover in time for the race so I held back from registering. A week later, I was in the US and just about able to mountain bike – rough terrain was very difficult due to the complete lack of power in my right arm. I decided anyway, that I should pay my $60 and enter the race. Second wrinkle – registration was full! Damn it, looks like I'll watch the events over the weekend.

Saturday came (the day before the cross country) and my brother was taking part in the road race. We drove down, had a look around and he went to warm up. The nice thing about the Sea Otter is that all the big companies in any way related to biking had stands. (Lots of new products where announced and shown for the first time at it) In addition all the big bike companies where giving demos of their bikes. My interest got the better of me so I decided to take a Connondale Rush 2000 out for a spin around the cross country course. On my way back, I nipped around the to athlete registration booth to check, just in case... Surprisingly, registration was open again so I could now enter that race – suddenly my spin around the cross county course becomes a little more important.

The Rush is an excellent all rounder bike – it's not as fast or responsive as my XC bike but it offers a lot more comfort and is still very pedalable. (It's target market is endurance racers). The course was simply amazing – mile upon mile of flowing bermed single track, steep short climbs, 100m long sand traps, deep ruts, mud pits and about 4 miles of fireroad climb at the end. The spin went well – I took my time around the course and watched out for good passing locations and particularly technical sections (there was nothing serious – at least in comparison to Ireland)

After the spin, I found Kieran who had came 5th in his category (cat 4) for the road race.

Sunday morning started at 5am as I had to drive 1.5 hours to Montaray for the start at 8am! Eeek. I warmed up and headed down to the start. The first mile of the course was on the Leguna Seca race track. (The one with the famous cork screw bend). The race started and a pack formed for the first section – a slow initial pace was instigated (I was happy with that) and we trundled along to the start of the dirt. Once the dirt came, the pace quickened dramatically – suddenly, there was no banter. The first half of the course consisted mostly of single track decent and short(ish) climbs again on single track. From about 30 minutes in to about and hour the race was very hard going – very steep sections and an aggressive pace sapped all your energy. From about that point out it became easier (my body got used to the pain?). Positions changed a lot over the first 40 minutes, I kept moving between 2nd and 7th, but my the time the major climbs started the aggressive passing ceased. On the final climb (with the onlookers shaking bells and cheering you on) I picked off two riders who apparently blew up – a final amazing single track section and I popped out onto the race way again for a long (very fast) right hander onto the straight with the crowds cheering. The finish was an amazing rush!

Coming up to the cork screw corner at the start of the race

This was about a minute from the end just before I cut back onto the race track – I felt grand at this point.

I ended up coming fourth in the race – I was very happy with the result given the conditions. It was a great workout and I had no ill effects after the race. The course was 19 miles with 3200 feet of climb. My HRM reports that my average heart rate for the race was 175 (highest average I've seen myself accomplish in an endurance event) with a max of 199 (again – the highest I've seen)

The whole podium thing was fun (most do it again :)) - there was a big cheer for Dublin, Ireland :)

Things that I learned from the race:
Warming up properly really works
In comparison to mud, sand is easy (and fun!)
Keep with the leaders – if your dropped, your dropped (unless they blowup)
Don't be worried about people with the shiny shiny bike and clothed completely in one manufactures gear (but are not signed by the manufacture as a rider), as they are all mostly crap

My next race is the first round of the Irish NPS on the 23rd of April in Northern Ireland and I can't wait :)

(I think there will be another post about the Sea Otter with photos from all the other events that I got to see)

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