I’m back at it again!
First, I’d like to thank Steve Herrera and The Cyclery Bike Shop for putting me on my sweet full suspension Giant Anthem Advanced. The only response that comes to mind when people ask me how I like the bike is, “I love it! It practically rides itself!”
Since getting the Anthem, I have started riding more. We’ve started a regular Thursday ride at Fullerton Loop, which I only hope will be better since we’re now into Daylight Savings Time. My mileage per week has been increasing since early February. I was having some difficulty motivating myself to ride, not to mention race. I got into the ugly cycle of not racing because I hadn’t been training, and since I wasn’t racing, I wasn’t training. It was pretty bad. There is nothing like a new bike to get you motivated again.
I wouldn’t call my training good, by any stretch. It’s simply a start.
To get myself out of that rut, I registered for the Bonelli race after a couple of weeks of fun on the Anthem. We went out Saturday morning to pre-ride the course, which had nothing new or unexpected, and that was a very good thing for me. I had spent some time with Andrew at the shop dialing in my suspension, and I adjusted my saddle and tire pressure to where it felt spectacular! The pre-ride was fun, and ordinary, I guess. We did one quick lap and got out of there because the Cat 1s and Pros were racing on Saturday.
I was happy with the recon, however. I felt better, especially after we left because Dave and I stopped at the Giant tent, where they double checked my suspension and adjusted my rebound before sending me on my way. Dave also had his bike adjusted, and on the drive home we talked about the course. We talked about the lines, especially through the rock garden. Earlier I’d heard Elmer talk about the lines he would take and I listened to Dave’s ideas about the best lines to take and with my new Anthem, I knew I’d be going into the race with more confidence in my downhill skills than before.
I made sure I turned the clocks ahead early in the evening on Saturday and went to bed around 10. I woke up the next morning and made breakfast for Claire and Isa because Isa had to go to a basketball tournament, it’s madness in March when it comes to high school basketball.
I rolled up at Bonelli a little after 9AM and watched Gabe, Kim and Big Dan and the rest of our Cat 3 racers finish up their races before getting ready to warm up. I thought I’d cheat a little because my hamstrings were feeling tight, so I applied some In Heat embrocation by DZ Nuts hoping it might help keep my legs warm and loose. I rode about 3/4 lap to warm up and when I lined up and saw who was in my age group I knew I was in trouble. I started feeling a little nervous and even scared.
I tried to take the pressure off by reminding myself that this was a “C” race for me and that my goal was to finish. I was glad to see Gerry Martinez and some other Red Zone guys in my race. Behind me I saw Sal and a bunch of The Cyclery Bike Shop Team guys. I had no teammates in my AG, which I didn’t like.
I was pretty sure at the start I’d be DFL; perhaps it was, as my friends at work would tell me the next day, a self-fulling prophecy. After final pre-race instructions and a little banter between Tom and some of the Red Zone guys, they shot us out of a canon–or at least that’s what it felt like. I was pushing 25 mph coming down the asphalt at the start and I was off the back. We turned left onto the grass and up the hill and once my momentum died, which was very quickly, I was almost completely gassed! I thought about Dave Williams and his wisdom in skipping this race and even considered calling quits on the first climb of the day.
I was motivated by the impending stampede that was quickly working its way towards me. I wanted to reach the rock garden descent before they got there; I made sure I stayed off the back–actually, everyone else made sure I stayed off the back–and I went down fairly quickly and smoothly, without any of the difficulty or mistakes I’d made just 27 hours earlier. I entered the single track and could still see people in front of me and as we climbed out of the single track forest area and onto the fire road, I was on someone’s wheel. We went up the fire road and then quickly down again, and up one more time before taking a right. I was still on the back, but behind two guys in my race. We avoided a GoPro that some dropped on the next downhill and by the time we came down the other side of the tractor climb I was alone again.
At this point I was feeling great, physically. I saw the guys pull away from me and believed I couldn’t catch them. “I just can’t get myself to race effort,” I thought going through the parking lot at swim beach. Coming out of the next single track, there was a guy who was cheering for all the racers and when he saw me he said, “Oh! Just out for a Sunday morning ride, are you?” I laughed.
I knew I wasn’t racing. My heart rate was steadily in Zone 2! As I entered the caution tape chicane section through the grass, a kid went around me without saying a word. I laughed again, this time because I was embarrassed.
I hit the lap button on my Garmin and it told me I was around 30 minutes. “30 minutes and I hardly got out of Zone 2?” I thought, “I’m going to beat that on my second lap.”
I don’t think I went up the first hill as fast on the second lap because I wasn’t trying to stay with a group or worried about an impending swarm of stampeding 45 – 49 year olds. I did push myself, though and when I got to the top of the rock garden descent, Stevo was there waiting. I didn’t look at him enough to recognize him by sight, but he said something encouraging in his unmistakeable booming radio voice and then told me to “push those handle bars out in front” of me, and to keep my butt back. I knew what he meant so I adjusted, then I heard him yell, “They’re coming for you, Chuy!” I didn’t know who was coming so I kept my pace through the single track and up the kickers as steady as I could. As I came out of the trees, I moved over to my right to let the guys behind pass.
“Thanks Chuy!” the first one said. I looked up and teammate Chris Bautista was on teammate’s Eric Howe’s wheel. I quickly jumped on Bautista’s wheel hoping to stay with them as long as I could. The three of us climbed out of there and up the fire road and down and up again on the next section together. I knew there was a guy set up with the camera so I tried to stay on Bautista’s wheel to photobomb his picture! Actually, I was hoping to get a picture of the three of us in a line; I ended up photobombing one of Chris’ pictures. Somewhere after that, I heard someone tell us to work together as a team and help each other. Chris went around Eric at the swim beach parking lot. “Let’s go Eric,” I said as I passed him, still on Bautista’s wheel. I followed Chris all the way around to the end of the second lap. We caught and passed some people in my race and I suddenly was no longer willing to accept DFL. I was racing with Chris like the good old days. “This is what racing feels like,” I thought, and it felt fantastic!
We started to climb again near the end of the lap and I saw Sal Martinez from Red Zone ahead of us. I wanted to help Chris because he always helped me during our races, so I went around him and said, “C’mon Chris,” and started to make a move around Sal. I was right next to Sal, if not slightly ahead when my left hamstring suddenly cramped. Both Sal and Chris went around me and I struggled to get up the climb, where there were some spectators yelling at me, “Work out that cramp! Ride through it!” I guess they could see the pain in my face? I was able to ride through it and finish my lap at about 29 minutes, wondering if I could beat that.
My race strategy in the past has been to race hard early, maintain and recover in the middle and finish strong. This time I was looking at potentially negative splits! I didn’t push as hard, though, because the cramps got to my head and I wanted to finish. During the final lap I caught up with a couple of other guys whom I believed, perhaps erroneously, that they were from my AG. One was dressed like a downhiller who wasn’t dropping me horribly on the descents and although I was tempted to go harder I figured I would stay with them and maybe sprint it out for the finish. Until I got to Tractor Hill, where I thought I had a chance of getting a gap; I tried to go around and I cramped up again! This time I was bent over trying to stretch my left hamstring for about 5 minutes. Then I had to walk it off, up Tractor Hill. I’m not sure how much time I lost, but it was a lot!
By the time I got to the finish line, more than 37 minutes had elapsed since I’d finished my last lap. I knew I was DFL and I was disappointed: I’d started the race fully expecting to be DFL, and finished disappointed that I was, in fact, DFL. Either way, I was excited to race again! I want to keep racing and keep training. The cycling moons should align for me and give me a little more time to ride now.
Next up is the dreaded Fontana City National at Southridge. It’s not quite as daunting on my Anthem.