Event: ProCX Lion of Fairfax
: Foothill College, Los Altos
Date: 10.12.2013
Category: Masters 35A
Teammates: Murray
Place: 4th
Weather: 65 degrees, sunny
Tires: Tufo Primus Flexus, 23 psi F/R

First lap was all about moving up.  Photo by Steve Woo

First lap was all about moving up. Photo by Steve Woo

Friday morning, I still haven’t registered and I’ve got that familiar sensation—it starts as a sort of itch, then becomes a distraction, until I find myself wondering exactly how much time it will take at 9pm to prepare my cyclocross gear for a race on Saturday.  Yet, the adult in me kept fighting that urge, reminding me that the last two weeks since Candlestick have been rather painful and what I really need to do is rest my elbow or risk the season.  But then I read the race description again, and before I knew what was happening my inbox had a registration confirmation for Saturday’s Lion of Fairfax in Los Altos.

I lugged all my junk over to Erik’s house for transportation, threw my road wheels on, and caught the PV ride on Saturday morning.  I told myself it would be a few “leg openers.”  It turned out more like leg burners as I struggled through several pulls at the front figuring I’d better get a good workout in case I got wise and bailed on the race. Arriving at the PV compound I found several guys warming up and coming in from earlier races, covered in mud and looking utterly spent.  I knew then, I was doomed and would never ben able to resist racing.  I jumped on my B bike for the first time this season shod in mud tires to pre-ride the course that had been watered

down to create mud since we’ve had no rain.

It was a first class course featuring European-style hill traverses with off-camber turns, quick descents, and lots of 180s.  Add in a run up or two, a little mud, some loose wood chips and adoring fans and you have yourself a fantastic race experience. I especially appreciated this one as the zig-zag downhill traverses were one feature in Louisville that we don’t get a lot of practice on out here, and I definitely have room for improvement there.

Lining up for the start I was a little late and ended up 3rd row, which I wasn’t too worried about as I thought it would give me a chance to practice not blowing up the first lap since we had a full 60 minutes on tap.  We accelerate and enter the most dangerous moment of the whole race—the funnel from the road to a narrower trail over a drainage culvert and some barriers.  I was bandied about by some rather large individuals, but took my time and just picked some inside lines on the 180s and moved up into about 12th place.  We did a triple barrier that dumped us onto a sidewalk before a sharp left uphill turn.  In the pre-ride I was able to get up this no problem, IF I had the right approach.  I watched many others biff it, and knew this would be a trouble spot.

I lined up on the outside of the corner up against a large metal fence, and started seeing in my peripheral vision a rider trying to come up my right side.   He was breathing heavily and probably fully juiced with adrenaline, and I knew without a doubt that if he got alongside me, we were going to crash on the left-hander.  I began closing the door and his bars made contact with my hip.  Some rash insults were exchanged, and I believe I replied “you’re not getting by.”  Credit Larry Nolan who taught me a valuable trick to defending your position on the bike—keep the other rider’s bars behind your hip and they cannot lean on you easily.  I’m a little guy that can easily be pushed, but put his bars versus my ass and I will win every time.  I went in hot, people goofed, and I passed 3 or 4 guys on the outside line.  I never saw the guy who was challenging me, but he was left behind as we hit the pine-tree branch alley as I passed more riders and started to create a gap on the riders behind me.

slow motion pain after the tricky little technical climb.  Photo by Steve Woo

slow motion pain after the tricky little technical climb. Photo by Steve Woo

The rest of the lap was spent trying to work my way up through traffic.  I always spend my pre-ride checking for obstacles and trying secondary lines with the intention of using them when

forced off the main line.  That way I can have a few unexpected places where I can pick a rider off when they aren’t expecting it.  On the back side we hit the climbs and I knew I was going to have a really hard day—other riders just stood up and rode away from me.  Mentally I repeated over and over again to take it easy and stay within my limits as it was a long race. I knew if I tried to gas it and stay in contact, I’d never finish the 60 minutes.  Through the parking lot there was a huge number of supporters from Madelyn Swanson on the exit, Ray Alvarez on the turn, Erik Salander all through the zone and many other racers cheering us on.  That was awesome as I really needed the boost.

After a few laps the breathing behind me ceased and I was alone.  Murray and the leaders were ahead of me, and I reeled in one rider named William (I later met him), and we dueled it out for quite some time.  Sadly for him that dreaded hiss of escaping air came from behind me and he was out of contention.  I will admit that I was relieved as he was working me over pretty good!  This was maybe half way through the race and was the last I saw any riders until I started catching lapped riders.  For the rest of the race it was a balance of managing my efforts, keeping the bike in line, and making sure nobody caught me as I started lagging.  Through the start-finish Erik told me I was in 4th place, but I hadn’t seen anyone ahead of me for quite some time, and I kept seeing flashes of Alan Coats and the 45+ leaders as I went through the zig zags.

At 45 minutes, every muscle in my legs begged me to stop.  Ray said something to me and I replied and he said “you’re not going hard enough if you can talk.”  I didn’t have a chance to say it wasn’t breath I was needing–it was a lactate drain to relieve the burn in my muscles.  Had Erik not started supplying us water during the last few laps, I would never have finished. Chris Cowart’s daughter also gave me a lavender scented wash cloth hand up, which was much appreciated on the backside of the course.

I hated this hill climb.  Really hated it.  Photo by Steve Woo

I hated this hill climb. Really hated it. Photo by Steve Woo

At 48 minutes I came across the line and saw the first lap cards I’d seen all race—and I almost cried when it said “2” instead of 1!  I buckled down and did what I could, and limped my way through two more laps by finding my mental happy place and blocking out the pain.  In the end, I finished 3 minutes down in 4th place, but heard the great news when I finished that Murray had notched his first win of the season.  I was happy just to cross the finish.

Lessons learned: a good pre-ride is a gift: finding the 2nd lines for the first lap and identifying potential flat tire obstacles is key.  Starting from the front is a lot easier!




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