I was very surprised to have received so much feedback from my last post: Stories from the back of the Pack. I received tons of encouragement online and in-person; come to think of it, I suppose I didn’t expect anything from it, although I must admit that it was very humbling to have so many people offer their support. If nothing else, it reminded me that there are some people who actually read my nonsense. Thank you.
After explaining in said post that I had been following a training plan that Geoff graciously sent me, I decided to stray from it, it being Thanksgiving break and all. First, I had to wait until I recovered from my cold and then try to get back into the swing of things, then I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do some fun rides when we all had the time off from work.
Thursday I met Geoff for 4,000 feet of climbing at GMR, then a tough ride with Dave Williams who dropped me numerous times on Friday, then a mountain bike ride on Saturday, just to get us to start thinking about the mountain bike season, at Bonelli Park in San Dimas where both Dave and Geoff made me throw in the towel after about an hour and a half!
“No más! I have to race tomorrow!”
Geoff said something about a warm up and the need to put a few 30-second maximum efforts and I promised I’d do that at the race. In those three days I rode about 8 hours for close to 80 miles and about 10,000 feet of climbing . . . not exactly the prescription for the three days leading up to a race. . . oh well, it was a lot of fun, if nothing else!
When I got to Verdugo Park on Sunday morning, I registered (which went expediently smoothly) then hopped on the course for a lap, hoping to loosen my legs up a little as I became familiar with the course. I heard someone coming up behind me as I passed the pit and took the next turn on the outside to allow for that person to pass.
“I think you can take that turn a little tighter.”
I looked to my right and saw Brad Bordon, whom, you might remember, I battled during the Knobby Time Series this summer. We chatted for a bit as we went around the course and I told him my legs were burning during that lap; I think he took the comment as one of the obligatory pre-race disclaimers–otherwise known as an excuse–and chuckled a little. My legs were in fact burning, however, and I thought of the end of the ride at Bonelli the day before when I asked Geoff how much damage he thought my straying from the training plan would cause:
“It’ll cost you a place.”
I saw Dave & Dino and Dave & Cathy, and Scott and Jeff Sanford all before the race started. I only had about 30 minutes to spare before my race started so I went out on the streets to warm up for fifteen minutes before heading back to the course for another lap. The races were running a little behind schedule and I caught Mark Campaigne before one of the run-ups and we rode together for a bit before we heard the announcement:
“Last call to staging.”
We both rushed to the start line and Mark, being one of the race leaders, found his spot on the front row and I, not being one . . . well I didn’t. I jumped in to the last row of the Master Men 35+B staging and I heard Dave Lawson.
“Go Chuy Go!”
I wiped my brow with my finger tips to show that it was close then I heard Scott Reeves.
“Nice of you to join in!”
Some good natured heckling ensued, including Cathy Chambers, before Dot made the call for 30 seconds.
“What are you doing way back there?”
“This is right . . . [I looked ahead of me] Mark, Miguel, and Matt are all ahead of me . . . yeah, this is right.”
Dorothy sent us off and I did my best to move up as much as I could. There was some bumping early on, all incidental, and I realized for the first time that I was jockeying for position. I passed a dozen a guys if I passed one before the first turn, before we hit the street section I looked at the guy in front of me and didn’t like what I saw, Why do I always get stuck behind the guy on a mountain bike?
As the course straightened up I moved up and kept moving up through the street section, bunny hopping the bumps and hitting the next grass section hard. I thought of Brad who’d said I could take that turn tighter and followed the wheel in front of me around that long sweeping right turn leading to the sand, where Brad had also gapped me in the warm up lap by sticking to his right, so I stuck to my right.
The first run-up was slow and I hit it hard after remounting only to realize there were only about 20 yards before the next run-up section. I won’t make that mistake again. I continued to move during the remainder of the first lap; I smoked through the barriers as fast as I could and finished the first lap somewhat pleased. As I hit the first run-up again in the second lap I started to feel a little better. Am I settling in . . . or just slowing down? Probably both!
There weren’t as many people to pass during the second lap and I had absolutely no idea where I was in the race, but felt good about how much I’d moved up in the initial lap. The two consecutive run-ups took a lot out of me, yet I seemed to go up the stairs section with much more ease. The course was soft in a lot of sections almost causing me to wash out a couple of times, although the sandpits were very rideable.
I got caught by someone from my race right before the barrier section in lap 3; I smoked it through the barriers again and then gave him room to pass through the start/finish area so that I could jump on his wheel. It seemed like he slowed once he got in front so I passed again and it was obvious going through the twists and turns on the first grass section that he had better skills. He pulled up next to me right before we hit the street section and we jumped the curb in unison. He bunny hopped the first bump and as I went around it on the far right I noticed he decreased his speed a little so I gunned it at the second bump to beat him to the next grass section. I wanted to make sure I was in front so he wouldn’t drop me through the next section of twists and turns. He caught me and we hit the sand together; I, to the far right, was able to get ahead of him again. We were caught by the 45+ leader at the first run-up section so I jumped on his wheel up the second run-up and all the way around, through the second section of sand and I noticed we’d gapped the other guy.
The 45+ leader gapped me at the stair section and a few seconds later I was caught by another 45+ guy. I clung to his wheel as much as I could and that’s how I spend my final lap, hanging on the wheels of the three other 45+ guys who caught me. I made some mistakes in the turns following the barriers and I heard Scott yelling at the last turn before the finishing straight.
“Don’t let me catch you, Chuy!
. . . Here I come! Don’t let me catch you!”
I could hear Scott coming up fast and I sprinted for the finish and held him off by about half a wheel! I’m sure that saved me at least a place or two because the guys who finished behind me were only a couple of seconds back. Thanks Scott!
Scott finished 6th in the 45+ race, Mark won my race and I finished 20th of 36, yes mid-pack again. I looked at my previous results and the good news is that I did finish ahead of a few of the guys who’ve beat me the last couple of races. That’s improvement, I suppose. Also, I was able to hold a guy off who was pretty strong and clearly had better skills than I do by racing a little bit smarter. That’s definitely improvement.
I will be sticking to the training plan this week, especially the part that tells me to make a conscious effort to stay off my legs. Hopefully I can go to DTLA with fresher legs and do a little better. Claire and Isa were visiting family on Sunday, which is why there are little to no pictures.
Until next week . . .