California fun and racing...

We are out in sunny California on a 10 day vacation visiting family and friends. Tara suggested if I was going to go along on the trip, I bring along a bike and maybe hunt for a race to do while I was here. Bringing a bike was out of the question in terms of economics as American Airlines wanted $150 each way to carry my bike in the cargo hold. I found a mountain bike race in Northern California on Saturday, July 7th to participate in for a little fun. And I called the bike shops in Santa Cruz, CA and was able to reserve a size XL Santa Cruz Tallboy carbon race bike for a 24 hour rental. Perfect - that was all set before leaving Iowa.

We were headed down to Santa Cruz this past weekend to visit our niece, Rachel, who attends the University there and is working on the Boardwalk for the summer. That's how I ended up finding the race nearby at Ft. Ord. It fit the 'schedule' of our planned events while out here vacationing. Tara lined up a condo for us to stay in via an old boss of hers when she worked for Diamond Lotus - and we lined up a dinner with two of Tara's cousins on Saturday night while we were at it. Perfect planning. Santa Cruz is home of surfing, the Boardwalk Amusement Park, staying young, etc... . Life for many in this city includes skate boarding, mountain biking, kayaking in the ocean, swimming, drinking fine coffee and hiking.

The race I found was part of the mountain bike series hosted by Central Coast Cyclo-Cross
. Central Coast Cyclo-Cross hosts a downhill series, a cyclo-cross series, a mountain bike XC race series, and a road race series. Their XC mountain bike series featured one that fit our schedule. That was XC Race #7 of the 8 race series held at Ft. Ord on July 7th.

I pretty much took the week off of riding after the heat zapped me last Sunday and I was due for a rest week. Normally, it would be an active recovery rest week, but I didn't have a bike until Friday - so I was off the bike for 4 straight days. We drove down to Santa Cruz early Friday morning, found our condo and unpacked. Then we met Rachel for lunch on the wharf. After some wonderful seafood, we left the girls to hit the amusement park while I went to get the bike. Tara and I headed out to Wilder Ranch State Park just on the west end of town to hike and bike (she hiked, I biked). This is an amazing playground of multi-use trails that blew me away for the Friday afternoon ride as I got used to the Tallboy demo bike and primed my legs a bit after 4 days off the bike. If you ever get a chance to hit Wilder Park - do it! What an amazing trail system and temperatures are cool enough (60's - 70's) to not have to worry about overheating.

A quick note about my time on the Tallboy: It reminds me a lot of my JET 9 and climbs equally well.

Saturday morning we headed down the coastal highway (Highway 1 that is) to the Ft. Ord exit for the race. All the migrant workers were in the fruit and vegetable fields tending to the crops. We stopped at one of the stands and got some fresh strawberries, raspberries and some veggies. I got to the race site about an hour before the gun, registered, got suited up and headed out for a warm-up.

Our races in the Midwest target finishing times of 2 hours for CAT 1, 90 minutes for Comp, 60-70 minutes for CAT 2, and 30-45 for CAT 3. The CAT 2 race at Ft. Ord had us slated to do about 25 miles!!! Wow, that put the duration equal to a CAT 1 level race in the Midwest. There were 19 of us that lined up in my wave of 45+. I looked around and ascertained that these were some serious XC racers. Unlike the Psycowpath, Minnesota and Wisconsin series where I can compete in a smaller spanning age category such as the 50+ group, I was in the 45-54 age group which meant - it was time for me to get another good dusting! ;-]

Listening to the race director give us pre-race directions...

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All smiles during the countdown to go...

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The opening climb was up a paved road and the start was - fast!! I was hanging with the top 10 going up the climb and felt I could go a bit faster, but figured "a wait and see what the pace settles into attitude" would be prudent. We hit the dirt and the pace actually picked up! I settled into a position and was going to use lap one to learn the trail and get used to steering the Crossmarks through the sandy sections.

I got a little too comfortable sitting in behind another rider during lap one and at the start of lap two. I finally passed him on a climb and bumped up my tempo a bit to see if I could pick off any riders ahead. I pretty much caught up with some slower riders from previous CAT 2 waves and passed a few here and there.

Thumbs up after lap 2...

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My stamina was good through the first 4 laps, and on lap 5 I was in suffer mode to keep the pace on the climbs. Hint - hint to BB: drop 10-12 pounds sooner, rather than later.....for the 2nd half of the season. Well, we'll see about that...

On the final steep climb of lap 5 which I had been attacking in the middle 32T chainring on the previous 4 laps, I decided "what the heck", it was time to ease my suffering a bit and use the granny ring to spin up the final climb. It was a pretty bumpy climb which the bike was fighting with the ProPedal setting on. Since I was near last place as it was, I figured it wouldn't factor into the equation if I slowed a bit on the climb. My bad, within 10 seconds 5 guys came flying around me in a group headed to the finish line in 'sprint mode' and I could not catch them in the final descent and flat section to the finish line. I had no more gas to give for a sprint. You snooze, you lose...

I had a lot of fun doing this race. It is always good to see how other series conduct their races and what types of trails and terrain are out there. At least I know what it feels like to do an XC race of this 2 hour length. Actually, it felt pretty good to race that kind of distance and it sure gave me an idea of what is needed to keep the screws tightened for 2 hours if I ever decide to do races that long on a regular basis. I crossed the line in 13th place for the old men, packed up my bike and took it back to the bike shop in Santa Cruz. Thanks to Another Bike Shop on Mission Blvd. for the Tallboy demo and taking care of me. The bike was a lot of fun on both days - at Wilder Ranch State Park and Ft. Ord.

We rounded out the day with a nice dinner with family on the beach at a new restaurant. Sunday we packed up and headed back to the Bay Area for the remainder of our visit.

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