01 July, 2012

Superloop 2012

Today was my first XC race of the year with Penelope making her 29er debut too.  All I can say, after dialing her in after three weeks with elongating the stem and seatpost and narrowing the bars...etc. it's what those components are mounted on that makes the difference.  When I threw my leg over my first Yeti hardtail it was like mind connecting to a Banshee (James Cameron's Avatar reference, not of the supremely lame Last Airbender avatar).  Now I have Banshee 2.0 and she's an Airborne Guardian named Penelope.  She's red with sexy lines and dare I say tubeless (blush!)?

Hoo-wee, she was FAST (too bad I ain't).

The course starts at a very low elevation of 9,000 feet.  33 in my category showed up-Mens 45-49 Sport.  After the marshall counts us down with 5 seconds to go we're off and Mr. Lactic acid shows up for our sprint out the gate.  It looks like geese flying south.  The supreme badass is on the leading edge while I am echeloned out in seventh position.  We worked up a gap on the rest and that's when I stopped counting.  People passed me and I'd mentally correct for passage, then I'd pass some and this is the first 20 minutes of the first of the next countless climbs on this badass course!  Once I settled in and I know longer noticed my legs burning, it was time to move up the food chain.    Remember I'm 5'7" and not too good at any one cycling discipline (I'm exceptional at resting if that counts) but I can sorta climb.  So climb like Satan's what I did.  I'm probably pretty average at climbing but I like to think I can climb.  So we climb and climb and the first descent hits and I'm raring to go.  I quickly get in the flow-zone of this really serpentine downhill and actually pass people kind enough to give me room when I ask to pass when it's safe.

Can I pass when it's safe?  Thanks brah.

On the first plateau, I pop it on my large chainring (my Airborne's a 10x2) and crush it.  There's a guy in front of me whom we would introduce ourselves later and we take turns taking pulls on our 29ers and there's no 26er in our group leeching a train freebee.  Why?  Rolling inertia (creating that flywheel effect) and we're more efficient covering ground per pedal stroke than their smaller diameter wheels AND we have rather manly legs.  The 26ers try to hang but we're locked and loaded at this point.

That's the truth, Ruth.

So it's off to the races with Jay and I picking off people.  He has a dual suspension 29er and once the road points down he pulls away slightly but I'm right there.  At one particular technical stretch of downhill he's screaming and I can't hold on because I'm being jackhammered by the hardtail.  I say to myself, "Self, there's a boat load of uphills. I will have my time yet just be patient and don't blow!"  Sure enough these uphills are grinders.  The first singletrack climb, my cadence goes buzzsaw and I say to myself, "Self?  Why are you spinning like a loon?"  I drop it two smaller cogs, and I roll just enough to pedal in efficient circles where the legs are pistoning.  This slowly accelerates me around my climbmates.  In fact, I pass people but don't get passed myself and I'm saying to myself, "Self?  That ride you went on with Kenny L. is just what the doctor ordered because it occurred on a grueling, hot, windy, long day."  The lack of pain was the from the physiological adaptations of these nutty training rides, now paying off in spades (whatever the hell that means).  It was almost unreal as I was passing these people I was not feeling like I was in the red zone.  By this time though, J's gone.
On the next to last uphill I see him and I pass him.  Being the non-elitist competitor I am I say to myself, "Self?  Say something encouraging when you pass."  "Job brah!"   Is what I end up saying to Jay as I cruise uphill.

Elegant wasn't it?  Yeah, I thought so (it's a truncated version of Good job kind sir).

After climbing, we're on another fireroad plateau and I see a group of 5 riders (35-38 age group, I can tell because all riders are marked on their calves by their respective age) and a hoss of a rider's leading them (looks like a track rider).  As an XC racer, you can't get lulled by drafting of a pack to rest, if you have the gumption you gotta roll so as not to give the leader in your group a freebie of increasing distance.  So roll's is what I do.  This time Jay's caught on my wheel too.  So I do a roadie maneuver and pass 'em kind of fast so's they can't catch my draft;  in fact, they have to accelerate rather abruptly to get on my train thereby disrupting their rhythm and hopefully putting some lactic acid on their legs for their acceleration.  The hoss doesn't like it and he punches it, out of the saddle rocking his bike (damn roady).  He doesn't accelerate very fast, so while sitting (saves precious kilocalories), I slowly get back in his draft.  He punches it again, and like his last result, I'm glued on his wheel.  The left hand corner into the singletrack's coming up and the minute his buttocks contact his saddle after another one of his poor accelerations, I kick in the afterburners on and get the holeshot into that lefthander singletrack.

Take that sucka (and Mr. Lactic acid says hello dere to my legs)!

He's rocking a dual suspension so I have to cherry pick my line on this downhill but since it's not too technical I put it in my largest gear ratio and actually pedal on this singletrack.  He's breathing down my neck but he doesn't have the speed to pass.  Another long-ish climb and I put some distance on him.

He's 38 and I'm 46 so I feel good and strong.

On a rather technical descent he passes me (I don't clog the trail if there's a safe place to let people go around me) but before when he announces the pass he does it On Your Right dickhead style.  So I say to myself, "Self?  You need to put a smackdown on this beeyatch."   I follow his line because he is a good descender but on the last long climb I'm basically this guy's enema.  On a particularly tree rooted, stiff uphill, I don't bother announcing my pass instead I quickly and oh so smoovly thread the needle between him and the roots we're climbing on and a tree close to the singletrack.  I did it quiet and ninja like too so V-crotch didn't even see it coming nor could he respond but I did see him flinch when I passed just centimeters from his handlebars.  From there I buried myself in the climb and put quality distance you can measure by car lengths between us.

Buh-bye dickhead hoss.

The last part of the downhill was just cut a week ago and it had the characteristic of true mountain, XC sadist.  It was super narrow, dusty/chalky, with baby heads and tree roots abounds.  People in front of me where hitting trees and going down and cussing in such a way that would make a nun blush.  I again was in the flow as was Jay.  The last kilometer or so was flat and it paralleled railroad tracks.  With about 200 or so meters left, I jump and Jay slowly comes around me and I run out of finish line.

Awesome.  I towed that savvy sumbitch to the line.  Rats!

At the end, 2nd-5th places were separated by mere seconds- it was that close.  Our winner put in 3 minutes on us.  That is what's called sandbagging folks (our winner, not me).  I was fifth, Jay was fourth.  Fun.  In two weeks the next XC race is on.  I think I wanna do it if the Firecracker doesn't break me.


PS.  If you don't believe me here's the link showing the final placings (click on "link").
PPS.  Click link for course profile.
PPPS.  On a sadder note, my younger teammate Samer-the Hammer, sheared his sidewall, patched it, and still managed to be 2 minutes faster than yours truly.  I hung out with his family (his wife raced it too-came in 4th) post race and they're a class act.
PPPPS.  Samer-the Hammer-3rd; Danielle-4th, me-5th.  Coincidental don't you think?
PPPPPS.  I met a former student of mine and his lovely wife Krista.  'Tis a small world...
PPPPPPS.  Got in a 4h road ride the following day, 60 miles worth of climbing for one more practice run for Weds.

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