Hurt in the Dirt

Hurt in the Dirt

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bike Lessons from Coach John Wooden

The people who turn out best are those people who make the best out of the way things turn out. --Coach John Wooden

A great section of flowy descent with banked corners at the Utah State Championship Race

Last weekend I finally got to stay home and race...well sort of. I only had to drive one and a half hours to race instead of the twelve hour trip we've done routinely over the last month or so. A new, well-organized, and fun series known as the Utah Championship Series launched its first race last Saturday at Lambert Park in Alpine, Utah. It was a circuit-type race consisting of four laps on about a 3.5 mile loop. It was similar in distance to the UCI sanctioned races that I have raced as part of the ProXCT series. However, the course was much different, in a good way! It started with a redline, full-throttle climb followed by a swooping descent with banked turns and all! The course circled around through a fun rocky section and back to the start/finish. The womens' field was not well represented for some reason. Only Sarah Kaufmann, KC Holley, and I stood at the start line. Too bad for those who couldn't make it, because they missed out on a great course! Anyway, the race started just as I expected with a hurried pace up the climb. My legs were ready for a break by the time we hit the top and the three of us were pretty much grouped together amongst a few of the expert men who managed to catch us early on. Sarah and I had ridden wheel to wheel through about 3/4 of the first loop when disaster struck! Near the mid-point of the loop I complained out loud about the sudden onset of shifting issues. Turns out my rear derailleur was jumping around because my rear wheel was moving about. This usually happens when an inexperienced rider fails to adequately tighten the rear skewer. Or, in my case, when I seemingly checked EVERYTHING on my bike to ensure proper functioning...everything except the rear skewer that is! In the middle of the rocky section, my rear wheel struck a rock just right and became dislodged. Thankfully, the wheel stopped rotating fairly abruptly and didn't come completely off. And furthermore my speed at that particular time was pretty slow. So simply put, I came to a halt and looked down at my skewed rear wheel not fully realizing that I was very lucky to escape injury. After a vocal outpouring of disgust, I struggled with the wheel and chain to replace it in the rear dropouts while using extra care to tightly secure the skewer in place. By then both Sarah and KC were no where in sight. I tried to take some deep breaths and prepare myself for a tortuous game of catch-up. It was not until the latter half to the final lap did I catch a glimpse of KC but was unable to reel her in before the finish line.

Sarah with her enormous check!!

Both my father and my college basketball coach were fans of the late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. He therefore became a hero of mine too. Not so much for his unmatched basketball success, but more for his insightful theories about living a success life and being a good member of society. Both Coach Wooden and Coach E believed proper preparation was the key to success. One of Wooden's most famous quotes is "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail". Boy has that been resonating with me after the two avoidable mechanicals I've had this year. Odd, how those simple lessons are applicable to so many things in life!!

So to help me prepare a little better my friend, riding partner, mentor, and cycling guru Chad Davis offered to make a checklist of sorts. A quick run through to do before each race that hopefully will become routine after a few races. When I played basketball I had a pre-game routine and free throw routine... I need a pre-race, bike check routine! Chad chuckled when I dumped my sorrows upon him and he made me feel better when he told me that his coach had to give him a checklist after he experienced a slew of mechanical mishaps one season.

All these crashes and mechanicals are becoming all too frequent. I've begun to feel self-conscious that some people will start seeing them as excuses. They are coming to an end! Sarah tells me I have paid my dues to the bike gods and good karma is coming my way. And I'm doing my best to learn every bolt, screw, dial, skewer, etc to check so that my pre-race preparation is done before EVERY race! Because as coach Wooden says "Don't make excuses. Your friends don't need them and your foes won't believe them."

This coming weekend I will have a chance to try out my new routine. I'm headed to Fruita, CO to race the Rabbit Valley Rally, a Mountain State Cup Series race. Along side of me will be friends Chad and Tricia Davis, both banks of never-ending bike and training knowledge; as well as Amy Arriola, my emotional stalwart while we suffer through racing and the last few months of PA school together.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sea Otter Recap

Everyone always told me Sea Otter was a huge event, but WOW! I was totally amazed by how many people attend and the multiple activities that are simultaneously occurring. The venue was completely packed with vendors, media, racers, spectators, etc. The other thing everyone warned me about was the infamously cold, wet weather that usually graces the Sea Otter goers. Quite to my surprise, the weather was pretty good. Beautiful sunshine the entire time and temps in the 60's with a cool ocean breeze that was chilly at times, but for racing it was perfect. Northern California will always have a special place in my heart from the countless fun times I spent in the bay area and Sac-town with my aunt Mikan, but Monterey/Carmel...oh my! The green rolling hills overlooking the ocean is an amazing sight. It was no accident that they chose the Laguna Seca area for this grand event.

Sea Otter Bridge

The weekend actually started on Wednesday with Brandon and I once again loading up the trusty Suby-Ru for another long road trip. After dropping off our pooches to their doggy-sitters (thanks to my mama, Sara and Brett) we made the 13 hour jaunt across windy Nevada to NorCal! We arrived at the team house in Seaside  to pretty much fall into bed. Thursday morning we made our usual Trader Joe's stop then made our first attempt at the Otter madness! I'm pretty sure that the biggest challenge of Otter is parking. You'd think that by driving a giant Sprinter van with Team Jamis plastered on the side would be a dead give away that we were not spectators but participants! Never the less, we were sent to three different lots before we were "allowed" to park the damn thing! We finally did some pre-riding on the dirt portion of the XC course which was basically the short track course. I was warned that the XC course had some road sections, but I was shocked to find out that probably 1/3 of it was on the road!

Since the pro women were racing the first stage of their race, Brandon and I decided to watch our god friend Nicky and her Primal/Map My Ride teammates race the crit. It was nice to chat with Nicky at the Primal tent afterwards since we hadn't seen each other for awhile. The day passed us by quickly, I felt like I had done nothing but run around all day so we decided to head back to the house and relax.
Its so nice to have a kitchen while on the road. We were able to stay in, cook, and have dinner with my teammate Thomas Turner, and Jamis gurus Sal and Tim; all of whom Brandon and I had just met that day.

Friday morning was short track day! Racing short track the day before XC was a new experience for me.  In the two previous Pro XCT races, XC was first. In hindsight, I liked this much better. It allows me to get the jitters out during ST for the next day's XC. Because Otter is such a big deal for sponsors and media, EVERYONE is there. The start list was packed with superstars--nothing new from Fontana and Bonelli! To make the race even more challenging, the course was really short and a little bit interesting due to some sections having only one good line for the 30-some odd riders to negotiate. I new the first corner was going to be trouble. I was a sharp left hand, uphill, off-camber turn immediately after a wide fast section. The upper part of the turn was in deep, mushy, muddy grass. The lower side of the turn was dry but more technical. I knew the group was going to explode there because the first 10 or so girls were going to ride it clean but a crash here was inevitable! My call up was surprisingly good, I'm not sure how it happened, but hey I'll take it! I was mid pack at the start and chose to take the lower dry section of the corner. It was no surprise when the race came to a screeching halt at the first corner and I was off my bike running the first hill. I couldn't help but chuckle out loud! I rode as hard as I could, but after a very short 9 minutes, the race officials began pulling riders. Seriously!?! Thirty-some riders started this race and after nine minutes only 12 girls were allowed to finish the race. The short course and the crash at the first corner allowed the leaders to circle around too quickly so lapped-traffic was an issue quicker than usual. In short, that was the most expensive ten minutes I've ever spent on a bike and the shortest race I've ever done!

Call-ups at the start of STXC

Saturday was XC and I was excited to be on my new 26" hard tail. It was my first race (well unless you count the 10 minutes the day before) on that bike and my first race on a hard tail too. I figured since the course had so much pavement and fire road I wouldn't be missing my dually. Unlike the day before, my call-up was nearly last. Damn those UCI points! Oh well, since we started with a long road section, there was plenty of room to move up and the group stayed together until we hit the first off-road section. I figure Kathy Sherwin's wheel was better than most so I did my best to follow it until the first gated S-turn. Man am I glad I followed Kathy! Once the group got off the road and on the grassy section, there were two trenches that ran across the entire track. They were only about a foot wide, but they were major wheel-eaters if you missed timed the bunny-hop. As I was tethering myself to Kathy's experienced wheel I heard the sound of carbon mashing to my left. As I looked over I saw bodies and bikes airborne! Whew, its about time it wasn't me involved in the crash! I found myself in a good group the as we rounded the second of seven laps. I was feeling good and was very happy with my placement. But, all things must come to and end! Even though Nicky had reminded me the day before to use my road tactics, I let myself get gapped off the group just enough that by the time we hit the road section I was too far off to catch the fast moving group. Those of you who know anything about road riding know that one person left out in the wind will NEVER catch a group! They just continued to gain speed as I worked twice as hard to keep them in sight. BIG MISTAKE! Basically, I screwed myself by committing the cardinal sin of road racing--falling of the back! For two laps a tried to play catch-up while I rode the road section alone in no man's land. The one break I did catch came by pure luck! Georgia Gould had flatted a couple of laps into the race. On the road section of lap 5 she caught me and another rider. I jumped on her wheel and enjoyed a free pull to the group ahead of me as we hit the dirt. Then I watched as she effortlessly rode me off! Well, it was nice while it lasted! Unfortunately by the time I got to the group, it had broken up quite a bit since lap 3. I was able to hang with them and even pass a couple of riders. By the last lap I was blown! I gave it my all chasing Sarah Kaufmann but in the end had no gas left in the tank. Another lesson learned. I can honestly say that this is the first race of the year that I had a chance to make or break my own race. This course favored riders like me because it kept groups together longer due to the long road sections.

Despite the fact my error was a race breaker, I learned...once again! And I made it through the weekend without a crash or mechanical. All-in-all I had fun, I'm no longer a Sea Otter rookie, my family was there to see me race, and I have another big race under my belt. If I can just continue to improve and not make the same mistakes twice, hopefully my name will move up the list on those paper results!

Pre-XC at the Jamis tent

We finished up the long day with a party hosted by Jamis's owner, Karen. It was held at a beachfront house on Ocean Ave in Carmel! AMAZING! I got to hang with such an amazing group of people and talk and laugh until early hours of the morning! The food was fantastic and I had no problem enjoying some wine! I couldn't help but smile as I took a moment to absorb the situation and remember how lucky I am to be part of Team Jamis!

Team Jamis ride in Santa Cruz

The weekend was capped off by a team ride in Santa Cruz and some team photos. What an amazing experience riding through the redwoods--even though I was on a hard tail! I couldn't imagine being able to ride those trails everyday. Hopefully I can get my hands on some of the photos, however unless you can ride the trails yourself, photos just can't do it justice. It was really fun to see all the guys outside of the competition scene and just hang out and free ride. I can't believe the guys didn't fall over laughing when the Santa Cruz "troll bridge" swallowed my front wheel and caused a ridiculous endo! I would say that they were just being polite gentlemen and not kicking a damsel in distress while she was down...but let's be honest, I've spent enough time with these guys to know they just waited until they got in the van to bust out laughing! I'm so glad I've have such good teammates!! : )  What happens in Santa Cruz stays in Santa Cruz, right guys?!!

Santa Cruz riding! Just above the infamous "Troll Bridge"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Off to Sea Otter

Well it has been an incredibly long 3 weeks since my last race at Fontana. I've managed to stay healthy for the most part and have been finalizing the last couple of tweaks on my bike. In addition, I've been putting in some  quality time pedaling. Despite quite a bit of rainy weather, the Shoreline trails have ranged from a few mud puddles here and there to amazingly tacky and fast. The road bike has also been out a bit due to the Rooster's/Biker's Edge team starting their group rides, a perpetual torture fest week after week chasing the Cat1/2 roadie guys!

A few of the local O-Town riders out for the weekly group ride. Don't worry, I didn't make my cute dog chase us. He just likes to pose for pictures!

I'm feeling well and hoping that all crashes and mechanicals are behind me and I've received an outpouring of support and well-wishing from my friends and family after my last sob-story post! How could I not feel good going into this weekend? I'm pretty excited to be submerged in the famous Sea Otter environment. I've always wanted to make the trip to Monterey as a spectator so its pretty cool to finally be attending.

I'm also pretty excited to have my dad in the mix of spectators! Oddly, he has never seen me race a mountain bike. He was exposed to cyclocross in his own backyard last fall at Moose Cross in Victor, Idaho but because of his busy summer work schedule and "life's curve balls" we've both had the last couple of  years, it has just never happened. He also sounded pretty excited when we talked on the phone today, but I think he is a little giddy about the "conveniently" close proximity to Pebble Beach golf course! He is after all a golf pro jonesin' for warm weather as the everlasting Winter continues to dump snow in Jackson.

So its back in the car for our third trip to California in about a month's time. It's pretty sad when I drive to Las Vegas now I think the seven hour drive is "short". Speaking of Vegas, I just got back from a road trip there about 48 hours ago. A few of my Rooster's/Biker's Edge buddies went down to compete in the Xterra West Championships and I figured I would tag along and get out of the rain to ride in the sunshine. On Saturday I rode at one of my faves, Blue Diamond. I met up with my friend and fellow racer Erica Tingey and her hubby for a morning ride. It was most enjoyable to ride those fabulous trails in such great company! Later that afternoon I caught up with the triathletes to pre-ride the Xterra course. I'll be politically correct and just say it was less enjoyable than Blue Diamond...much less. Not because of the company with which I rode, but because of the terrain--I'll leave it at that! Those of you who have participated in that race know what I mean!

Erica and I at the top of Techno
On Sunday morning as the Tri-geeks took the plunge into the freezing cold Lake Las Vegas, I mounted my trusty road bike for a spin around Lake Mead. It was nice to spend a little time soaking up the desert sun, listening to some music, and not having to worry about cars speeding by. Since it was fairly early and cold by Vegas standards, there were very few people on the perfectly paved bike path which made for sightings of jackrabbits and coyotes. One of the best sights however, were blooming cacti everywhere. Spring is such a great time to visit the desert! After my calming stroll, I returned mentally refreshed and ready to cheer on my friends as they crossed the finish line one by one. I felt quite content as we made the "short" seven hour drive home!

Lake Mead

Feeling both mentally and physically refreshed after my long three week break from racing, I once again have high hopes for the Sea Otter races. Yet another new race to add to the list! I'm looking forward to meeting some of my other teammates as well as some of the Jamis folks that Jason speaks about so often. I just hope I eventually get used to the pace of whirlwind race weekend trips dispersed throughout my medical career!