Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Silver Lake Race Report 2010

2009 Silver Lake.... Same sand, different year.

Aside from some pathetic yoga on Monday after the brutal race on October 10th, I didn’t work out all week. I felt beat up and sick so taking the time off, made the most sense.

Sunday morning the air was crisp and there was frost on the grass. Tux was anxious as I ate my oatmeal; he wanted to come, but this wasn’t the week to bring him. I made my way to Silver Lake with SFW following me.

The early sun created a misty fog that gave the lake a surreal look. The ground was dry and if it weren’t for the sand it would have been a fast course.

Course description:
Crossing the start/finish line you are on the only flat pavement on the whole course. After only about ten rods in distance you are on sand. Riders would invariably try to ride the sand and in two to ten seconds the riders would be churning and wrestling their bikes to stay upright and keep moving forward. With rare exception, everyone would eventually grind (perfect word usage) to a stop and bail and run. The sand went on for about ¾ furlong which wouldn’t be bad except it was sand, so it took forever to run. I run better than most, so I generally made up ground here.

After the sand you had twenty yards before a sharp left hand turn took you to an uphill that had a barrier at the bottom (what idiot thought that was a good idea?). Up and over the barrier and then about one chain later you have a loose climb that you don’t stand a chance of riding up because it is too close to the barrier you just went over. In theory with a perfect remount and lots of power applied instantly it could happen. After ascending the loose run up, you mount up and begin a gradual climb on singletrack. Then a series of tight twisty turns where I did better than in years past thanks to tubies and Sam teaching us about cornering. This emerges onto a gravel road that starts flat and then turns sharply downhill. Then a sharp ninty-plus degree right hand turn onto a short, super steep loose trail and more tight turns including downhill off camber devil turns followed by short, but really steep climbs. Then seventy meters of pavement brings you back onto a sand section which can be ridden by about half the riders. You are trying to float effortlessly over the sand and put our mega watts of power at the same time. The best way to describe it is to imagine applying power through the full cycle of the pedal stroke avoiding the bobbing of only applying power on the down stroke.

After riding the sand you hit a patch of harder stuff followed by sand that 90% had to run. Then you emerge onto a super steep climb that takes you directly to the top of the park with only one short off camber respite from the double digit grade gravel and grass climb. When you get here you are absolutely gassed. Then a series of downhill, off camber turn, stupid steep uphill short flat to the next downhill, repeat turns. The downhills give you a moment to catch your breath and then another series of tight switchbacks lets you practice your tight turning skills. This final series seems about half a league long.

After crossing the start finish line, the sand looms ahead like a debt that cannot be escaped.

I got the call up to the first row. This was the first time I have been in the first row as a result of call ups. For reasons I don’t fully understand our first lap was in fact a half lap with a detour that took us through the first fifty meters of sand and then turned around and caught the end of the sand section on the last half of the lap. To my udder amazement I got the hole shot as we hit the sand. While all are equal in the sand, some are more equal than others. I soon was about tenth as we started riding the menacing hills. Out of the saddle I fought to hold my position and improve it when I could. I did okay on the steep downs and ups and was still about tenth as we hit the sand on the second lap. I rode most of the sand on the second lap and when I bailed I was able to keep my momentum up and moved up a bit through the sand. I tried to climb the loose stuff past the barrier and piled into the ivy. I lost a couple spots but then passed some who had just passed me. The Curtlo was awesome and went where I pointed it. I was a little too cautious and people would catch me on downhills, but I powered back on the climbs and flats. I felt whipped on the third lap, but pushed it on my final lap. I felt I was able to ride the tight stuff better by keeping my outside pedal weighted and just going for it.

I crossed the line 14th which is my season best among a field of 48 finishers. Unlike last week, I was able to speak after finishing. Last week I just wanted to climb into a warm dry sleeping bag and close my eyes. This week I found some post race food and put on some dry clothes and prepared to double up and do the single speed race.

I had changed out my front ring from a 34 to a 38 last week. Kevin was running a 38-20 and said it was the set up to have on this course. My 38-16 was clearly too high and this wasn’t the course to go high. I will revert back tonight. The single speed category is largely young studs that could mix it up with the CAT 1/2 guys. I feel every one of my fiddy years when I line up with those lads.

I rightfully start at the back of the SS race and as we hit the sand ten seconds after the start the carnage exploded in front of me. Sand, arms, feet, and wheels were flying everywhere. I bailed quickly and ran through the Omaha Beach scene and was “not last” as I like to say. The climbs were almost, but not quite, impossible in my high gear, and I held my own through the turns. I moved up a few places among the rear of the SS field and was passed by a couple of the CAT 1/2 Women. The 45+ Master 3 Men were likewise catching me after my ninety second lead was squandered by my slow pace. I took a tumble in the sand and managed to scrape my elbow, but I quickly got up and kept plugging. The sand was beginning to lose its luster and although I continued to do okay, the day was wearing on me. On the third of six laps, at the run up I got someone’s brake hood shoved into my right kidney. Since your power comes from your low back something that rarely enters into a Cyclocross racers mind darted into my stream of thought; reason. I began hoping for a “mercy” mechanical.

As I crossed the start/finish line I looked ahead at the sand section. It looked a mile long. I coasted into the sand and shouldered my bike. I already had a top fifteen finish on the day and was still recovering. My low back hurt where I got jabbed and I was tired. I decided that was enough for one day.

I brushed the sand off my elbow and noticed I was bleeding. My hip had also taken the classic bruise/scrape that is the “I fell on my side during a Cyclocross race today” badge of courage.

I cheered on my teammates and when the race was over I packed and headed home. I was tired, bruised and bloody. By the way, Tux was totally fascinated by my elbow smelling like blood. It was a good day and I am looking forward to the SSCXWC race next week.

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