Sunday I did a team relay race with some guys from forums.mtbr.com (Al, Don and Dave) up at Lake Sonoma in Geyserville. The race is part of the Billy Cross series.
Here's pics my wife Lauren took, and a motionbased record for my laps:
The race was really low-key, grass-roots. The course was tricky, lots of twisty narrow singletrack on wrinkly terrain - very up-and-down, through creekbeds, blind corners transitioning from flat to steep, that sort of thing.
My family agreed to come with me; Lauren, Sam and Lulu. We were late. I hadn't paid enough attention writing down driving directions, so I was only able to get us to the general area of the race. We drove around for a while, trying all the roads until I finally asked at a Marina, a phone call was made to the local Army Corps of Engineers office, and I was directed to a campsite. I didn't remember the name of the campsite or road it was on correctly, so then it was another tense half hour before I found the race. I was unsure I'd found it, because although there were cars and bikes and riders, it was a very tiny group of cars and bikes and riders! But we'd found it. (It was on Rockpile Rd, at Liberty Glen Campground, site E.)
We got there sometime around 9:30, and the start was at 10. At registration the race organizer, Ken, asked who was first and my teammates said "He is." That's what I get for being late! There was a very small turn-out. I think it was two teams of four; "Team 66" (us) and "Team Sunshine". Then five solo men racers and one solo woman. Ken, the race organizer told me "Don't worry about Brian, he's fast." Well heck, that made me worry! Brian was the lead rider of Team Sunshine. At the start I went out hard but Brian was faster. The solo riders let us go. We climbed up a stretch of road, then turned left onto twisty singletrack. I'd never ridden the course before and it was very tricky, so I was not smooth. Brian was like Brer Rabbit in the Briar Patch. He was gone! I got through my first lap as best I could, running the creek beds and steep sections, riding as best I could with limited line of sight through the tall grasses and twisty trails. My cyclocross skills came in handy.
I bent a link on my chain at the beginning of the second lap trying to get all the way from one end of my rear cassette's range to the other end, while under load. Did the whole race in my middle ring. There weren't long climbs, just lots of short ones, and bike handling was as big a factor in the results as fitness, I think. Often I couldn't see the trail twenty feet in front of me. The turns were marked with downed branches, it was wild west. I had a great time racing the course, but a lot of the time I was wishing the course was more open so I could just hammer. There were disorienting moments where I'd look over at another leg of the trail parallelling the one I was on, twenty feet away, not really knowing when I'd be on that section. The course demanded full attention.
Team Sunshine was fast! Two of their riders were regularly turning 25-minute laps. The best I could do was a 30-minute lap the first time, then two 31-minute laps. I felt smoothest on my third lap, and I'd fixed the kinked chain, yet I still wasn't able to go faster than my clumsy first lap. Fresh legs really matter. I think most of the riders on my team were riding 30-40 minute laps. Al and Dave each had laps where they had to fix flats, and I think Dave went off course once. By one hour to go, Sunshine had a lap on us, so it was all about trying to do personal best lap times, and have fun. I think they were all about half our age, too. Can't get that time back! Lauren was very helpful, getting me drinks and food, and the kids just played and entertained themselves. Unfortunately they were the only kids there most of the day, but luckily they had each other.
After my last lap we hung around in the big covered picnic area with Ken and Carrie and their dogs, got our medals, said our goodbyes. Ken and Carrie are neat people, and just spending time talking with them was a pleasure. Sam wanted to ride a little bit of the course with me, so he and I set out, but he was tired and hot and got grumpy quick as the course got tricky, so we hiked back out, me with two bikes trailed by a hot and bothered kid. As we got to the road, got back on our bikes and descended back to the parking area he said, "I go first." and rolled ahead.
Well, he has the right idea. If only it were that easy.
Afterwards we had a nice dinner at our friends Nick and Jen's restaurant in Sonoma, the Harvest Moon Cafe. (http://harvestmoonsonoma.com)
It was a good day. I'd like to try the race again, maybe solo next time.
Lauren and I are both racing the first CCCX cyclocross race in Prunedale, next Sunday. See some of you there? And I think I'll be racing DFL tcx this Wednesday.
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