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19 April 2009  |  Race Reports

Sea Otter Classic Race Report

Short Track
This year’s short track course was a little different than in years past.  There was a pretty long (for a short track), steep climb, then a downhill, a little roller hill and back up the climb.  I got a good start and was 2nd wheel for the first three laps.  I wasn’t feeling too spunky so I was content to sit on Heather’s wheel for a bit.  On the fourth lap (or fifth?  They all kind of blend together…) a chase group caught up to us, and then the attacks started.  Catharine went first- I didn’t chase, and Heather, Lene and Emily went around me.

I had pretty good steady power, but was lacking some of the zip (and some of the motivation to completely bury myself on that hill- I’m not going to lie…), so for the last few laps I dangled off the back of that group grinding along at my own pace, eventually finishing fifth.  Not my best short track result, but also not my worst.  I was disappointed, but I didn’t worry about it too much, instead I tried to focus on resting and preparing for the cross country.

Cross Country
This morning, as I was sitting in my hotel room eating cereal with Katerina, Alison texted me to let us know that the women’s race had been shortened to 1 lap.  Initially I thought that was a bad idea.  For one it was going to be a very short race (I was estimating under 1.5 hours).  Also, Sea Otter is one of the few races where the women race the same distance as the men, and I think that that’s important (they ended up shortening the men’s race to 1.5 laps).  In any case, it was significantly hotter on the course than it was in my hotel room…

First off, I decided against warming up on the trainer- it was just too hot and I didn’t want to lose any more fluids than absolutely necessary before the start of the race.  So I decided (along with everyone else, I think) to warm up by riding around the racetrack.  My legs felt BAD.  They felt flat, and I didn’t feel like I could get on top of the gears and really spin.  I wasn’t too worried because sometimes I feel crappy in the warm-up and great in the race, but it’s still nice when you can feel good in both.

After getting heat stroke at Santa Ynez last year, I wasn’t going to take any chances.  On the start line, I doused myself (and my feet- no one likes hot feet) with some ice water.  I had Chris put 2 bottle cages on my bike so I could start with 2 bottles and take 2 more in the feed zone.  I drank about 2/3 of one of my bottles on the start line.

I was expecting the start to be pretty slow, since you have to ride 1/2 mile or so of pavement, and who wants to pull a pack of people around for 1/2 a mile?  Apparently several people did.  There were a few women who attacked and kept a good tempo going on the pavement, but I was more than happy to sit in and let them work.  The down side was I was in a bad position leaving the pavement, probably barely top-10.  On the first dirt climb, some sketchy woman was riding really aggressively and pushed me over.  I swerved into someone else’s wheel and had to put a foot down.  I was pissed!  But then I thought that that’s what I deserve for riding around in back, and not being more vigilant about my position.

I knew that position into the first singletrack was going to be crucial- there is no room to pass, and gaps can open up fast.  I managed to get to the front and was first into the singletrack.    I heard someone behind me say something- we had a gap?  I wasn’t sure.  I thought it might be Katerina, and when I blew a corner sure enough, she rode by. I was psyched!  Katerina is pretty fun to ride behind.  She rides like a madwoman downhill, and I was doing my best to stay on her wheel.  She was hauling ass, and roosting sand in all the corners- it was pretty fun.  When we got to the bottom, I asked her if I could go first on the climb (singletrack again), and she was kind enough to let me by.  The climb was pretty exposed and HOT.  The sun was blazing and the air was still, no breeze.  I could feel my legs getting sunburned.  “Drink as much as you can!” I thought.  I reached down to get my bottle, and….nothing there.  I had lost my full bottle on the first downhill, and all I had was 1/3 of my second bottle.  I tried not to panic, but I was worried.  I knew that it wouldn’t take long to get dehydrated, and I didn’t want to take any chances in the heat.  At the same time, I didn’t really have a choice, so I rode at a conservative pace figuring if the others caught up I would still have enough energy to sit in and stay with them.  In the feed zone I got two bottles and doused myself with some ice water.

The climb out of the feed zone was one of the longer fire-road climbs, so I took the opportunity to drink most of one of the bottles.  I still had a little gap, but I could see a few women not too far behind, so I knew I couldn’t ease up.  The last half of the lap was very fast, so the heat wasn’t as much of a problem, and by the time I got to the final fire-road climb, I had a nice head-wind (probably one of the only times when I have actually enjoyed a head wind, but at least it kept me relatively cool).  I started catching more guys on the last road climb which gave me some good motivation and plenty of people to chase.  Once I was on that last climb, I turned it up and just tried to leave everything out there.  I still wasn’t sure about the size of the gap, and I didn’t want to look back (that always seems to make me slow down when I start looking back and worrying about what other people are doing).

I ended up winning the race with a minute over 2nd place.  I was psyched to do so well especially in the heat.  I think this was the hottest race I’ve done since Santa Ynez, so it’s good to see that I don’t have any problems racing in the heat.  And this race gives me some good confidence heading into the World Cups the next couple of weekends.

Wow.  My longest blog entry in quite some time.  Hopefully not too boring…


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