Sunday, April 09, 2006

RACE REPORT: My 2006 Sea Otter XC

So after a few days of watching other people race, Sunday brought my Sea Otter event, cross country (XC). After days of me predicting doom and gloom about a soggy course, Saturday was a beautiful, dry day and Sunday started off the same. Although cold (it was barely 40F when I stopped for coffee in Seaside at 6:00 AM), there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It would stay this way all Sunday morning for the amateur races.

The race organizers had done wonders with the course. Other than just a few bogs of mud scattered around the course, the ground alternated between moist pack, sand and hardpack in a nice variety. The idiot announcers said that the promoters had trucked in a bunch of dirt, but I have no idea if it was true. Whether it was that, or two days of dry weather, it was hard to complain about the course itself.

The course starts on the Leguna Seca raceway, curves up and around the corner then heads for singletrack. For anyone that does large NorCal XC races, it follows the standard layout: starting on asphalt, narrow to singletrack climb, swoopy descent, rolling hills, big sustained climb bringing you to downhill finish. Clocking in at 20 miles per lap, the Sea Otter was no different.

I started off pretty well. Middle of the pack for my cat/age group on the track, moved up on the short singletrack climb, and barrelled through the descent. Unfortunately as we started to hit the first of the uphill climbs, my front wheel started to wobble. A simple tightening of the quick release solved it, but cost me a few seconds and let some slower climbers ahead of me.

Although it had been cold at the start of the race, it quickly got pretty warm and humid. I must not have been drinking/eating enough because around mile 10, I got caught behind someone who stacked going uphill and when I dismounted, I could barely stand due to cramps. I walked it off (and it was better pedaling than walking), but I couldn't shake them the rest of the race. Several times, I had to unwind my calf on the sustained climbs. It would have been really nice to have more than one water aid stand.

Mile 15 was the start of the real test. Basically, from there to the finish is a series of steep, sustained climbs meant to crush your spirit. And it did. At one point, bodies were strewn alongside the trail of people who had either blown up or cramped out. I was able to take all this in well, as I was only pedaling about 4 miles per hour. I think the worst part of the last climb wasn't even the climb itself. It was really the people who kept telling the riders "last hill, push for it", when they knew damn well we had 2 miles of climbing left. Ignoring them, I dug deep, finished the climb, raged through the short swoopy section that led back to the racetrack and sprinted downhill to the finish with a group of about 5 guys.

While I finished well, well back in the standings, I thought I had a decent race for the first major of the season. Of course, the guy in the Otter costume in the picture to left probably beat me, but everything is relative.

Race results for the amateur XC are posted here.

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