Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I cannot even describe how good it felt to receive the State Champion's Jersey! Right before they gave them out, every conceivable doubt went through my head! Then when the jersey and plaque was handed to me, I felt a stream of emotion run through my body like a river in the middle of a flash flood! I had worked so hard all season to accomplish this goal...and though I did not always have the toughest competition in my class, I pushed on and trained harder.
As I wrote in earlier blogs, I really wanted to finish out the State series with a strong race. I was a little unsure how I would do in the altitude of Big Bear but I was determined to give it my all. I was also a little worried that I was going to be standing on my feet the two days prior to the race helping a friend represent his brand at the Action Sports Retailer show. I rode hard Friday morning before leaving for San Diego and had a Long Board Skate session in a 7 story parking garage that night! I climbed the staircase over and over to give my legs the workout and planned on using Saturday as a rest day.
Early Sunday morning I left San Diego and headed up to the mountains. I felt a little stiff when I arrived so I checked in and started spinning my pedals. Fortunately the weather was perfect! Low 70's and the sun was in and out of the clouds. The last race at Big Bear was in the upper 90's! That and the altitude hammered me. Race time came and all the usual suspects were there. I had Brett in my class which was nice and he was on a new bike ready to race! The 35 and over guys were staring each other down as the championship would be decided by this final race! These guys have always been a little faster than me and my goal was to beat them! As we started one guy took off like a semi-pro and the rest of us settled in for the 3 mile climb. We quickly dropped two of the guys and the other 5or6 of us hung pretty much together. 2 of the guys pulled away at about 2 miles and I did not see them again until we started descending again. It was nice to see them and gave me something to chase as we rode on rolling terrain.
After months of road riding I finally saw some payoff by the way I was really able to push a much higher pace on the flat and rolling terrain. I was actually catching and passing some guys that were always faster than me. It gave me an extra bit of confidence that pushed me harder and harder. I was doing really well sitting in 3rd with the group I started with. I continued to keep a steady pace only slowing for some of the grinding climbs. I unfortunately got caught up behind a bad descender on the really fun single-track descent in the middle of the course which allowed 4th and 5th to catch my wheel. As we started to climb out of the valley 4th passed me and took off as 5th latched on to my wheel and wouldn't let go. Nice of him to let me do all the work up front. At mile 13 I felt as if I was popping. My heart was beating out of my chest and I was feeling the effects of the altitude. For the first time in the race I dropped my chain to the granny ring and slowed my pace. My follower did not seem to mind and continued to take up the rear. As we reached the top of the climb I started to feel a little better and picked up the pace.
At this point we had hit Fall Line and it was now hold tight and don't crash. This downhill single-track is some of the most technical trail in all the series. It's just plain scary downhill! I did fine on it last race but you do not want to find yourself behind someone that does not descend well! At about 14.5 miles in and half way down Fall Line I blew my back tire! I was so pissed as I was having a great race and this was my first ever race flat! I crazily ripped off my back wheel and proceeded to replace the tube as rider after rider flew by. I frantically aired the new tube up once I put it in the tire only to see it pop out of the rim and blow like a fourth of July firework! My heart sank as I reached into my saddlebag for another tube. I made sure to make sure this one sat inside before airing it up. Once I got it on and aired up I placed the rim back onto my bike only to here the tube blow again! Well that was it..I was ten minutes into this mechanical and I had no more tubes. I tightened down my rim and decided to take off on a flat and finish the race. I had close to two miles to go and it was the rockier than I ever remember! I would very often have to pull off the trail to let other riders pass always hoping that it would not be Brett. I had to stand and pedal the whole way, running a couple of short steep hills. As I approached the finish line all the riders that had already finished were there cheering us on. As they heard my broke down pile come through you could hear everybody groaning with pain. I love my fellow competitors...this sport is just so great!
As I crossed the line I was really angry with my result even though I had no control over it! Much to my surprise Brett came in 1 minute later! I could not believe that I had so much time on him! I ended up finishing about 20 minutes back from the 35 and over guys which really burned since I was hanging with them!!! Any suggestions on altitude training? Is it possible to acclimate in any way?
Anyways, this was an amazing XC series and I am stoked I finished as State Champion! I think that I have 2 more XC races scheduled for the end of the year, but all concentration now goes to the 8 Hour race in two weeks and the 12 hour race in November! I will put up a picture of the jersey and plaque in the next couple of days!