I have just completed my first ever XC race. Here is my report:

1. The Good:
I accomplished all of my goals, which are: finished the race, have fun, and did it within my time of 2:30 hours. Above all I finished in one piece, no accidents, no injuries. In the past 8months I have been training in Black Diamond Mine area in the east bay, if you know the area, it is not a technical trail, but the climbs are steeper and longer. Compare to SO, Black Diamond is harder endurance wise. None of the climbs in SO is harder than the North Ridge in Black Diamond. So it is a good training ground if you want to gain more endurance.

2. The Bad:
I read somewhere that SO trails are sandy, well, I dont realize that it is all sandy. There are more sands than I expected. Good thing I pre-ride it the day before. I used Maxxis MaxLite310 in both front and rear. This was a bad choice. Because the trails are mostly sandy (except for the last 4 miles where it is more like fire trails), I slided left, right and centre. Good thing I bought my spare tire and for the race I used Maxxis Advantage in the front and keep MaxLite in the rear. This proved to be a good choice. I don't have problem with the uphill, but I do have problem with the downhill especially in one area where it is practical a sand pit. When I pre-rode it, I fell a few times, and I decided that when I ride it for the race, I just have to pick up my bike, carry it, and run. Since it is all down hill, it's actually save some time and energy to run it rather than if you have to retry to ride it. Another new experience is being in the competitive race itself. It's very different when you are on your own, by yourself tackling the trail; than when you are struggling going uphill in a single track and the guy behind you keep yelling: "Out of my way", "Excuse me, I have to pass now";, "You better let me in RIGHT NOW". All of this happenned while I was in a single track where obviosuly there is no way I can set aside. Very frustrating, and the part that I least enjoyed, but then... again,... this is a race!

3. The Ugly:
Now comes the really ugly part of the race. Just before the first sand pit (approaching Marsh Point, I think), the guy in front of me flipped and his bike fell on top of him. He was on the ground, couldn't move and broke some ribs. He was almost in the middle of the trail. I stopped and tried to help him: called 911 and then the Marshall, who did not come until at least 10 mins later (I was thinking, if this guy has a heart attack, there is no way he would survive). The worst part, I asked the people who whizzed by later to slow down and asked for help, I had to wait until 10 to 15 people to passed before another person stopped and willing to use his cell phone to call for help. None of the riders before had phone or seems to care. In fact one of the rider whizzed by so fast, he almost clipped his head. That stopped cost me 15 mins from my time, but, heck, I was glad that I stopped and helped him. I hope that he is OK. One critical part of improvement is to place the Marshall closer expecially in critical areas. I know there are about 2 critical areas where a lot of people fell: the downhill before the sand pit, and the one after the sandpit. Its steep, rocky and technical. There are more Marshalls and people hanging about in the miles 9 and after, than before that. Not sure why. But those are certainly improvement that I would suggest to the SO planner for next year.

Conclusion:
I will definitely be back next year, I will target 2 hours to complete the course this time around.