See, I keep starting reports, but what happens when I go to post a short recap is this:
Today I kicked off my mountain season at Big Bear Lake Camplands. Mark Schooley and the gang had put together another beautiful and challenging course. I was expecting my early-season fitness (which I consider an oxymoron) to be consistent with the "20 minutes of legs, total" that I experienced at the Morgantown Road Race and Mountaineer Criterium over the past couple weeks. In each race I had fun duking it out and maneuvering in the peloton only to blow sky high after ~20 minutes and watching everyone ride away. As such my race tactics were to "get a good start and try to hang on for as long as possible before the sports start passing me".
After a quick warm up and spin to adjust the pressure in the new Kenda Slant Six 29x2.20 tires I'd slapped onto my trusty thrusty I9's we lined up. The expert field was bigger than expected and I was a little late to the start, so I weaseled onto the far end of the 2nd row behind Joey Riddle. Nick Waite lined up to the outside of me since he was even later to the start, so I figure I was good to go. Mark gave a mostly inaudible explanation of the prime available for the first man and woman through the prologue loop, which featured a half mile of jeep road followed by another three quarters mile of tricky single track back to the start before we headed out onto the course proper. With that out of the way, we were sent on our way with a quick "Ready-Set-Go".
I jumped into line, weaving towards the outside of the 180 degree left hand bend that came in the first 50 yards. The wide line let me keep some momentum up and I shot past the large part of the group to put myself into the top 10 onto the jeep road. Another 100 yards later we took a hard left right onto a short but tricky climb, made trickier by a fifty-gallon-drum sized rock at the base of the climb that cut off half the road. This squeeze, a few other awkward rocks, and the regular anaerobic haze sent the single-speed-riding-hot-shot-skiing-blonde-locks-flowing Mike Cordaro into the also-single-speeding-Ken-Doll we all know and love as Marc Glass and they fell into a heap in the middle of the trail. I slipped around to their right, slowed again by WV Night Clubber Morgan Miller slipping a pedal. He kept it together though and we got moving. However, the front group of 5 led by Mr. Waite was putting on a big gap.
For everyone else, remember this:
The key to having a good start to the mountain biking season is to have a good start.
Remember that the next time someone crashes 20 people in front of you right where the single track starts and you spend the next 20 minutes riding along in a stressful and awkward bicycle parade. Or just bring streamers and a bell and make a fun time out of it.
On the way out towards the dam where we'd drop back into single track, Jeremy and Steve Rowand, Joey Riddle, Marc Glass, and Don Powers, caught up with Morgan and I and Nate Annon who had fallen off the leaders. In the singletrack there were bobbles, but out the other end Nate, Marc, Jeremy, and I came out with a gap over the rest.
The next several miles were winding and fun, with some big and small rock features. I hope the beginners all made it through okay because there were definitely some drops that caught me by surprise. There was a long fire road climb where teammate Full Tilt TLT ("Sweet" Todd LaTocha (say Tawd LawTawd)) caught up. Jeremy and Nate disappeared ahead and I spent a lot of time yo-yoing with Joey, Steve, and Todd.
The weather was playing tricks with us. The sun would come out and I'd be overheating then it'd dissapear and a cold wind would bring a splash of rain down before rolling back to the sunshine. When the sun would come out I'd drive ahead. When the rain came out I'd look back and realize that whatever gap i thought I had was not nearly as large. At the end of each power section I could see a long line of riders behind me.
On the next climb, Steve and Todd rode away and Don caught and passed me. It was around here, on the way out to the airport where the Big Bear 2x12 and the now defunct 24 hours are/were staged that I began to question why in the hell I do this every weekend and how was I going to make it to the end.
That used to happen every single race. The "why am I doing this" phase. I usually came through it, decided not to throw in the towel, and eventually I'd get a second wind and be glad that I finished. Now, though, I recognize that it is indicative that I'm doing just what I should be doing--suffering. This is a race after all. Later in the season, the pain will be sharper and will be focused on attacks and counter attacks. The suffering will be the same though. It is always the same.
But now we were to the fun part! The half mile long rock gardens and the high speed swooping rolling single track to the thousand turns through the pines and on to the downhill. Through all of this I stalked Don. Making up time in the technical bits, trying to keep the gap low on the power sections. At the top of the downhill in a hard left hand berm I finally closed the gap and shot past him and Todd whom we had once again caught.
Using two of the tenets from the "Robbie School of Going Fast", namely Go Fast Where It Is Easy, and Brakes Only Slow You Down, I made up some precious seconds on the downhill and had teammate "TooFast" Nate Annon in view on the long climb up.
"Oh heck, now I have to try to catch him." So I lifted the pace and slowly reeled him in by the top of the climb! Except it wasn't him. It was teammate Chris Jones, leading the Sport Expert Field. The experts had done a longer loop than the sports and the courses and come back together a mile or so before the downhill. I guess that was Nate climbing steadily away from me further up ahead. YeeHaw.
So back onto the swoopy fun singletrack, cranking the pace. Marc caught up and passed me just towards the end. I used his smooth riding for motivation and came to the finish just behind him, less than 30 seconds behind Nate, who took the single speed win. 2nd in class, top 10 overall on the first race of the year! Not a bad start. And I was only about 10 minutes down on the 2 Pros who showed up(Nick Waite, Ryan Fawley), so I'll take that as good news too. Todd came in a couple minutes later for his first Expert top 10, though he was 1 out of the prizes at the end of the day. Chris took the win in Sport Vet and Nate and I went 1-2 in the SS.
All in all, a great way to start the season. We'll see where it goes from here. I'm looking forward to the suffering.
Big Bear for having awesome trails, conditions, and venue support
Everyone in the community for being friendly, courteous, and fun
T-Bott for floating my entrance fee since I forgot my checkbook. I swear I'll pay you back. For real n-stuff.
Kenda for supplying us with the best tires in the business
Chris McGill for his Goonies Never Say Die attitude
Todd for stepping up
Me for crashing really hard on my right shoulder on m cooldown ride after the race
Chris for crashing himself out of the race and maybe breaking his finger