March 22, 2010

on racing xc and suffering (kind of the same thing)

practicing a track stand at the start line, Tyler Johnson is behind me (out of the frame) trying to throw me off my balance. He eventually succeeded.
Coming onto the bridge on crossover on my first lap, post crash. (photos: Dave Shiskoff's camera shot by Alyssa)
It's been a while since I've posted here, but I'll try and regain some regularity in posting from now on. Lots has been going on since I last wrote here, I'm in a new job and racing has started on Vancouver Island. I'm working for Capital City Cycles now and things are going great there. I'll be posting on their blog as well, and as it was with Rider's, there will be some overlap of posts from the Capital blog and this blog depending on the subject matter. The first race of the season was on March 14 at the Dump in Victoria. It was a xc race on a really nice course laid out by the Trek Victoria/Pro City Racing guys. This is going to be a huge season for me (basically from now until the end of november), and I'm more focused on racing than ever before. I've cut back in other areas which feels great for everybody except the closest liquor stores! The race at the Dump was my second ride on the Niner MCR bike that I just got for racing XC/Marathon and the Test of metal this year. The big tires and steel frame are a cool change from full sussers and aluminum, but it sure beats you up when you have not been on a hardtail for awhile. I prerode the course the night before the race and made some adjustments to the bike. But what I had not gotten used to before the first race, was the steep angles of the frame. Those help in making the bike nimble and quick in techy singletrack, but you have to be aware of how they change seemingly intuitive stuff like going hard into sharp turns etc. I was doing pretty well at the start of the race, after the climb to the top and was preparing for the descent down Crazy horse and into Rolly ridge. This is were I usually make up some lost time from the climbs so I turned on the gas and had this idea that I'd probably gain a couple of places before the next grueling climb. This was not to be the case as in the third turn of the downhill I went over the bars and slammed into the ground so hard and so fast that I saw stars and had no idea what had just happened. "RESPECT THE 72DEGREE HEAD ANGLE!"-Said the bike god at that time. I got up as quickly as I could, checked myself for injuries and kept going. But at this point I had already lost a few places. So now my strategy was all messed up. I had planned on going a little easier on the first lap and making a real push for it on the second but now I had to hammer hard to make up for that crash. All tactics were now down the drain, so I just rode as hard as I could for the rest of the race. I had a small crash later on but nothing as drastic as the first one. I ended up in eight place in the Intermediate category which I was very pleased with. After the racing I got my camera and took some shots of the experts. Check them out here: Drew Mackenzie one of my heroes, he's the two-time Single Speed CX champion of the world. Capital City Racing boys. Angus' face better represents how we were feeling after the Port Alberni Race. Photo by Regan L. Pringle.
Next up was the XC race in Port Alberni. Me and Angus went up there and arrived in time to do a prelap of the course. On second thought that time may/or may not have been better served by getting some food in our bellies, but we'll get to that later. The course was long for the race and the Intermediates only did a lap and a half. The preriding was awesome and we'll definitely be back there to ride just for fun. The course had a lot of climbing, and nasty technical sections with a sprinkling of fireroads climbs and insane downhills. All this suits me pretty well except for the climbing part, but the downhill part was obviously a favorite. Since I had done surprisingly well on the first super techy climb, I was in a pretty good position before the rest of the long fireroad/singletrack climb to the top. At this time I was really starting to feel the lack of fuel in my system but I managed to get to the top (was passed by a couple of guys on the way there) and then gained a few places on the downhill. I was looking good aside from the fact that I was almost totally blown before I finished the first lap. Poor pre-race planning has a lot to do with that I'm sure and I think I went a bit too hard on the first lap. However, it seemed as though I had built a bit of a gap from the guys behind me, so I had a chance to finish well if I did not totally bonk. I was probably in 4-6 place after the first lap. So off I went up that torturous climb again, but this time we only had to go half way to the top or so. I was riding in a considerably lower gear for the second turn around and at the same time was trying to maintain some speed through the descents so I would not fall too far back. In the end I got passed by a few riders, but did surprisingly well given the fact that for probably the last 15-20 min I was just grinding away in low-low, and trying to think about nothing except to keep turning those cranks while trying to ignore thoughts like: "why am I doing this" and "Oh my god, if this is so horrible, how is the Test of Metal going to be?". This method got me through to the finish line, where I suffered for a good half hour before I started to feel vaguely human again. The mixture of a tough course, tough conditions, and poor pre-race preparations made this the hardest race I've ever done. But it sure was fun, in a strange masochistic way. Also, I took a couple of lessons home with me after that race: Race and Learn.

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