Monday, April 18, 2011

Sea Otter Classic - Monterey, CA

Leaving the land of snow and rain

The Sea Otter Classic bike race is always one I look forward to even though it can be highly schizophrenic with its weather. I have raced there in extreme heat when people were being taken away in ambulances from heat exhaustion and I have also raced in the biggest nastiest deepest mud bogs and puddles known to mankind there. You never know what you are going to get!

I like that this race serves as the kick off for me and my ever supportive husband to hit the road together for a open ended journey to CA to visit friends and family, race in warm weather and just hang out by the ocean! He gets a little break from work and that means we get to catch up with each other while driving out to CA after a busy winter for both of us!!

That said racing can be such a blessing as it can take you through the towns of your family and friends. And Sea Otter does just that allowing me to stop off and see my Aunt and Uncle every year. If it weren’t for racing I don’t think I would see everyone nearly as often!

Someone has a great sense of humor!!
After jumping in the car with the threat of snow over Utah and driving endlessly straight across the flats of Nevada we finally got to Monterey, CA on Wednesday. We were greeted with blue skies (that were supposed to stay that way) along with fairly warm weather. Yes!! Goodbye training in the basement!!! Hopefully this will be the official start to the “no trainer season!” The winter has been a good one in the Wasatch Range with tons of snow and I am eager to get out on the roads and trails for good now.

Our host Michael shows us where the locals go near 17 Mile Drive

Sea Otter is a massive race that serves as a multi day trade show and sports festival and there are almost 10,000 participants and 50,000 spectators expected to pack the venue!  Therre are countless vendors and bike companies on hand to showcase their new 2011 product too. And Stan’s NoTubes did just that with their new “29r GOLD Race Rims” that are lighter than light! Stan’s NoTubes always manages to pull off the unthinkable and give every rider and racer a product to “ooh and ah" over!! And lucky me…they are my sponsor!!
The new NoTubes 29r Gold Rims
Being at this event always serves as a place to meet up with your sponsors and learn more about their new product and discover new things about the current product. It is an excellent race to attend for all. You can race, walk around, spectate, visit the booths, eat, ride or do one of other ba-zillion things that go on during this weekend. There is always tons to do for the whole family!!
The Pacific Ocean just off of Pebble Beach

Sea Otter Short Track Race – Monterey, CA

Ever feel defeated before you even start? I was fighting off that exact feeling as I was called up to the line on the last row of 29 ladies.

Today your call up was way more important than normal too. One look at that first off camber, slightly slick and rutted turn that would come 10 seconds into the race and I knew THAT corner would be THE deciding factor in the race. This meant wherever you were once you got thru the off camber section, that is where you stayed for the most part. And that was true for me at least…

Despite the last row call up and being LAST off the line too (what the?!), I found the jagged hole through the sea of women falling, crashing, slipping and carnaging right in front of me and all around me. Thank you Cyclocross skills!!!! In that section I was almost taken off my bike by a wheel above me that slid into mine causing my rear wheel to skip down to the next rut below but I managed to keep it upright. The light at the end of the tunnel appeared as I rode to the top of the off camber hill passing ladies that were running. It was a chaotic scene. 

Once to the top of the off camber hill I had real estate in front of me and behind me which is unheard of only 25 seconds into a Short Track race. Like I said that first off camber turn was the deciding factor for most.

At that point I was thanking my lucky stars that the night before we had dinner with Schwalbe North America to discuss tires and pressures. It had been an enlightening evening and everything I learned I used in the STXC race. That allowed me to have more contact with the course and at the same time have excellent rolling resistance helping me to keep moving forward and to stay on my bike the entire race. Thanks Schwalbe for all the info and support!!!!

Kelli making me suffer for it
The Short Track course was a whole 2 minutes long as I made my way alone around it in 12th place. Kelli E. snuck up on me and threw in some attacks that I kindly returned but in the end her legs and lungs outdid mine. 13th was going to have to do.

Sea Otter Cross Country – Monterey, CA

The start of the race was noticeably hotter than it was during the Short Track Race the day before. I was once again called up pretty dead last but with a very long pavement start it wasn’t a huge deal as there would be time to move up.

After we started I positioned myself in what I thought was a great spot near the left of the pack. Well… it was a good spot until we hit the wide dirt stretch. That’s when, as anticipated people got jumpy, the pace picked up and people were going for it trying to be first onto the “singletrack” that was now only a 100 feet away.

The pack veered left to the shortest line which I just happen to know had the “Grand Canyon” in it. It wasn’t marked as hazardous and it also wasn’t apparent to the eye that it was even there until you were on top of it either. And because of the course pre-ride restrictions I knew not a lot of the people were able to see this section yet. To no avail I yelled at people to not go that way and watched as the pack headed right towards the “Grand Canyon” while taking me with them stuck on the inside. Instead of becoming a carnage number I slammed my breaks on and surrendered while ladies stuck their wheels in it and flipped over.

And that put me LAST into the singletrack. SWEET. Well, at least I was moving with my bike intact I guess…

Chasing back on for the 2nd day in a row

I figured it was only up from there so the fight began to get through the pack as we made our way around the 15min (ish) course 7 times that day. Time was on my side certainly but the long pavement section was not as groups ahead would seem to only get further up the course on that section. As I started to see this occur on the 2nd and 3rd laps I decided it was ideal to “rest” the best I could before the pavement so that I could try and jump group to group on my own. That was the only way to move up otherwise the real estate between me and everyone would just have multiplied. At that point I didn’t even care if I took anyone with me from one group to the next. More power to them if they wanted a free ride up – I had work to do! The sun was beaming down and sweat poured off of me for the next hour or so as I worked my way through the pack one by one.

It was a HOT weekend!!
And while doing so I was dealing with a loud noise coming from my drive train that sounded like a lawn mower. DOH!!! Well, at least it was still working, it just sounded BAD. So between thoughts of possibly having to DNF because of bike problems and being off the back anyway, I had it tough mentally but I hung on for a 12th place finish!

XC MTB race? Yep.

I am pretty bummed overall because I had GREAT legs and instead of racing for real with them I had to use them to chase back on. But that is racing and there will certainly be another race right around the corner!

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