Downieville Classic XC - Lessons Learned
So once again I decided to race the Downieville Classic this year, despite a generally reduced training regimen and a few extra pounds. Still, it's such a beautiful course, I just had to make the race. So I decided to use a strategy specific to my conditioning: Ride very easily uphill and make-up time on the downhill.
Mistake #1: I broke the golden rule of racing to one's strengths.
Everything is relative of course (I am a mid-pack, beginner, "veteran"), and by make-up time, I just mean relative to my own pace last year. In any event, I am not a very good technical descender. So picking-up time at Downieville going downhill probably wasn't the best thought for me, but it seemed so much better than suffer like a dog uphill. Part 1 of the plan worked beautifully; I felt really good at the end of the climb and started bombing down the fire road (Yeeeeehaaaaaaaaa type descending) and I even passed 2 or 3 riders. Then came the baby heads. First section was a little rough but I'm getting through, then the "Baby Heads" (what a misnomer that is) kind of turn into "Adult Heads". I had to dismount a couple of times quickly. That sucked, but I am still getting through. Arms getting a little tight, but I'll loosen up when I'm through... right. Soon after the "Baby Heads" I hit a section on Butcher (I believe that was the trail) with a quick switch-back before I ran directly into a tree root and 4" of travel wasn't nearly enough. I went ass-over-head over my bars and felt like a circus performer without a net. I landed face first onto a rock, which was fortunately of the flat variety. Quick body check, and everything was actually ok-- whew!. Problem is after that incident, what little confidence I had was shot, and I held my bars like my hands were vice grips for most of the rest of the race. Boy, was I sloooooooow.
Mistake 2: Emptying a bottle of water on my back. This actually happened near the top of the climb at the first water station. I grabbed a couple of waters, and just emptied one over my back. It felt great. Unfortunately, my electrolyte tablets were in my back pockets, and those little things have a way of disolving when they are wet. So, of course, I cramped up right at the start of the First Divide without any easily consumable salt available.
After the race, I am of course wasted. I go to the shuttle pick-up area to get my ride back to Sierra City, where my car is parked. All I want is a change of clothes and my a/c, and I want it now! "Sorry sir, you just missed the shuttle; the next one will leave at 3:00." What...it's only 1:30. I'm not waiting that long.
Mistake 3: I decided to ride the 12 miles back to my car after the race. Let's just say that may have been the longest hour in my life. I was hot, hallucinating, and weaving, but I finally made it. Drove to the local store, and the locals were staring at my like I was a zombie. Guy at the register: "So, did you crash." Me: "Yes." Register guy: "Did you have fun?" Me: "Good question."
After picking-up some cold water, ice, and a large package of Nutter Butters, I started feeling better. Then I jumped into the Yuba River, and that was great. Back to the car-- eat more Nutter Butters. Fresh clothes, and I'm am approaching normal again. As I am driving home next to the beautifly river front, I start thinking. How did I get worse at the downhill this year. I have been feeling so much better. I was sure I was going to descend better this year. Then it hit me.
Mistake -1: That's right, Mistake -1 actually occured before the race. Last year, I used the Gravity Dropper (which I broke and never replaced). With my bike's very steep 71 degree head angle, it's crucial to be able to stay low and get behind the seat. I was not using the right tool for the job. That's Mistake -1: "Use the appropriate tool for the job." Or as my old Taekwondo instructor would say, "Never bring a knife to a gun fight."
Well, that's my Downieville story.
Funny(not ha ha funny but funny).. I had a similar experience except 1 managed to crash 3x in the baby-head and the section right after the big creek crossing. Generally I'm a pretty good decender but not yesterday. Rode in the One-Speed class, came up the hill pretty well, came across....check...decend smart...check...guys on FS rigs blowing by me....check. Then it happened. I got a little lazy and went over the top. With confidence blown I did it again and once more for good measure- then spent a few minutes re-adjusting my draggin brake. Managed a 2:34, just over my goal time of 2:25-2:30 - BUMMER! There's always next year!
The beauty is in the truth of your tale.
You are awesome and at least made it through a tough Stargate. Congratulations!
And that's a problem because it's a sucker's bet that I always take. Each year right after the race, I always think if only did "x" or paid more attention to "y", then I would have done great. Well, I tell you what. Next year...will be different. That's for sure.
Originally Posted by DISSR
BTW, nice race DISSR. If I finished in 2:34, I would still be dancing in the streets of downtown Downieville. 2:25 is yours next year!
Thanks so much Berkely Mike! I like your adjectives a lot better than those of some of my very close relatives when they hear I am racing bikes and crashing.
Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike
Just so you don't feel misunderstood
You do what on a bike? You're a grown man! Are you f**king crazy?
Damn Gary, you're still pretty impressive. Sea Otter did the same thing to me, so everytime I ride I 'train' for the Otter. Make this your race. But Congrats on the race! I hope you didn't drive by yourself. Btw, if it makes you feel better, Zorg's fork is leaking and he needs to pay 45$... Well, at least it makes me feel better! This time we won't let Scott near it, though.
Did you have fun? This is important.
Enjoyed reading your posts. I was in the "red t-shirt" this year.
"When you ride hard on a mountain bike, sometimes you fall. Otherwise you're not riding hard.
-- So, most of the time when you're riding hard and not falling (since you only fall sometimes), you aren't actually riding hard." W.
Nutter Butters to the rescue.... nice story, glad your in one piece...
nice running into you Gary.. even though we both felt like sh!t. And to answer J's question, NO, it was no fun at all, and was the crappiest feeling I have ever had during any race, but afterwards, sitting in town with everyone else, being part of the even made it worth it.
going to bed now, but some sneak peak pics: (more to come later)
river jump (nathan rennie)
that really fast guy
IT was fun. I felt great on the climb and great descending. Some cramping on the descent, but nothing too bad. Don't think I'd do it again on a 80mm hard tail. Even a 29er I got beat to hell. Everything was rideable and I felt fine, but I lost time from just getting beaten up.
Good race homeez!
Mike Henderson, Dirty Hippy Mountain Biker and part owner of Jet Lites
Older & Slower
i had to miss downieville this year...first time in 6 years!...
can anyone give/direct me to the results?...how did Weir do in the DH/all mountain?
Mountain Lion Bait
Weir got 1st in DH, 2nd in All Mountain. And self-shuttling to to Sierra City from Downieville is crazy.
Took me 2:05 to get to Packer Saddle, with a bit of bike-pushing on some of the steeper stuff. The rest of the ride was fun until the cramps kicked in. Embarassing results but glad I finished without passing out.
The baby heads werent so bad really but overall my hands and arms took a real beating. No crashes, no flats. No excuses. Will prepare better next time.
When I crossed the finish line, the guy who took my number asked how I was feeling, to which I responded "Horrible!". He said lots of people have been saying that! Well yeah, cuz it sucks to spend 4 hours out there getting beat up by the sun and the trail! I guess spending only 2 hours out there would be nicer, but I"m not there yet.
My lessons learned:
- train better
- don't drink so much beer next summer
- show up lighter
- don't start at the back of the pack
- improve my technical descending skills
I was 17th in sport vet men 35-44 at 2:42. I was shooting for 2:35. Next year! Two years ago I had an awful race. Knew I needed a new bike. Got it. Last year I got sick right before the race, missed it. So this year I finally had a good, trouble-free race. Stayed upright, only had a few fumbles. UST tires and rims rock. The Blue Groove front and Nevegal rear at 32psi were perfect for me, at about 208lbs. (Raced an XL Blur "Classic".) Woulda had a podium in the clydesdales. Maybe next year I'll race clyde, but I hate being a clyde. Maybe I'll be 195 next year! Yeah! Gotta have goals. I started WAY back in the 9:35 group. I was behind this:
But there were a few people behind me:
My teammate Sean beat me by two minutes, and he started at the front of that group. Next year! I brought a full camelbak, spares, a big pump and a bottle and was carrying too much. I'll bring a smaller camelback, a can of compressed air and a water bottle next year, and more gels. I'll also race harder. I finished feeling fresh, which means I didn't go hard enough. Also sat in a lot of traffic on Third and First Divides.
But I had so much fun! I love this race, I love Downieville. I'm so stoked that the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, Santa Cruz Bicycles, Yuba Expeditions and the whole town get behind this race. My wife and kids had a great time, and I'm really glad I brought them. We spent Sunday swimming in the Yuba and hanging out at our camp site. This morning they were telling all their friends at summer camp about the fun weekend we had. Me too.
My lessons learned.
If you want to do well:
1- don't take an extended, beachchair vacation (with all you can eat and drink)a week before the race
2- don't get seriously sick the week of and during the race weekend.
3- DO sign up for the catagory with the smallest field!
On wednesday, I couldn't get out of bed, and I decided to back out of the race since I could barely breathe (smart move). I still decided to bring the bigger bike and head up just to cheer on the racers and fulfill my volunteer commitment for the sunday race. As we pulled into town friday afternoon. Jeffh and ibikergal had been insisting I still race during the whole drive. They finally got through my head as Jeffh was picking up his packet, I filled out an entry form (must have been the medication getting to my judgement). The fact that only 2 people were enrolled in the 29er class also added a bit of convincing (turned out to be 5 of us total).
come race morning, I wasn't feeling much better, but loaded up on about 6 different pills, my sinus passage was clear at the start. Off we go, and I am started with the experts.. Yeah, I lined up against the pro's damnit! I immediately realized I made a mistake. Before we were off of the pavement I was struggling! I was just trying to hang with the last group of about 4 riders, but man was I hurting. About 2 miles in, the fast sport riders caught and passes us. I felt the meds mixing in my stomach and I started to gag, threw up a little and thought about turning around. Man the view was gorgeous, and I was about 1/2 way up the original climb. I just thought to myself, "spin with ole' granny and try for the 11:30 packer saddle cut-off". Shortly after, the fast beginners were catching me. It was painful, but when I made it to the first water stop, I knew I had tackled most of the hard part. the flat/rolling fire roads I was able to spin a bit faster. and get into a decent groove. Finally Packer saddle, and only about 1/2 the beginners had caught/passed me.. not as bad I thought.
Once I got to the baby heads, I thought I would be fine as the dh was gonna be easy since I have ridden the trail many times. I started to do better, for the first time passing a good number of riders, but I still wasn't enjoying the ride. The whole descent, I just wanted to get it over with. By the time I got to 1st divide, my body was aching everywhere, even though I didn't get bounced around that much. When I got to the pavement, I was done, and crawled through the town across the finish line. woo hoo, I finished! alive!?! But damn, I can't wait until next year! Next year I am sure the 29er class will grow, and this will be my only chance at a DFL and a podium spot
Originally Posted by grrrah
Here're my lessons learned:
Train the long climbs: Kennedy HCW, Black Mountain, Mission Peak.
Practice downhills: Steam Donkey, White Oak, etc
Leave for Downieville Thursday morning and practice the XC downhill course in the afternoon (took me 1:45) and again the next morning (1:40).
Don't start too fast and spread the energy out over the entire climb (1:27).
Don't break too much on the downhill (easier said than done). I managed to do the downhill in 1:37 (even with tired legs from the climb) for a total time of 3:04, good for 5th place in Beginning Men 45+ and 25 minutes faster than last year's race, when 3:04 would have been good for 2nd place.
The race was especially fun, since I was chasing JeffH on the climb. After he took off at the start I didn't see him until after the water station. We (hiked/)biked together up to the top of Packer Saddle and I stayed with him going down Baby Heads. Wow, finally I can keep up with somebody going downhill! I managed to pass him, but he stayed right behind me until Pauley Creek crossing, where he cramped on the short hike up. In the end I beat him by almost 3 minutes for 5th place.
Menso did well too and came home with three medals, but I'll let him tell his own story.
Also known as Menso's dad.
Downieville Rocks !
By far the most fun for a race weekend this year.
Train harder or smarter?
Don't drop your only water bottle
Work on DH skills
Come back next year !
I knew I was in trouble when J.L. started telling me about his practice DH runs with Menso.
I started out pretty fast up the road at the start. I was into the back of the sport riders by the time I hit the dirt. Passing riders in the first mile or two in the dirt seemed ok but as we climbed it was getting harder and harder.
Near the top of the climb J.L. came up along side and we hit the summit together. By the time we were at Pauly creek I had a small lead over J.L.
About 1/3 of the way down the baby heads J.L. blows by me and never looks back. I was just trying to hang on but my legs started to cramp really bad. I ended up 6th with a 3:06 and will be back next year.
J.L. de Jong in Victory !
Last edited by jeffh; 07-16-2007 at 09:16 PM.
Who was that dude on the RockLobster Monstercross and how did he end up behind me on the descent flying past and staying ahead!?!?!?! Maybe some of those pinchflatters were catching back up.
Mike Henderson, Dirty Hippy Mountain Biker and part owner of Jet Lites
I bet it was Erik Thunstrom, he's on the left in this pic:
Originally Posted by wolfy
It was a singlespeed 29er with drop bars. He's freakin' strong. I got ahead of him and stayed ahead on First Divide only because I had gears and he had gear.
Going down to SC to pick up some Rock Lobsters after work Wednesday. :stoke:
That was him. Tough MF!
He had his race crew of short ugly trolls bludgeoning him with 2x4s after the race as a warm down.
I love the finish there. A nice hypoxic pave spin followed by a dead stop. My lesson learned: Trying to stand up in a dark, stanky sweltering portopotty RIGHT after a race is not a gamble I want to take again... I'm not even sure that thing had a urinal, I may had just peed on the wall.
Oh, and If I had stopped to clean my glasses I would have made up the time.
Mike Henderson, Dirty Hippy Mountain Biker and part owner of Jet Lites
Hey, are you the guy on the green & orange 29er? I talked to you at the start I think, "Cool paint job."