Tuesday, September 29, 2009

BMX at Santa Clara Pal Track

After checking out Joe Fabris getting schooled by 12 year olds (his own expression), Eric and I decided to join Joe, Lori, and some other brave "old people" at the Santa Clara Pal BMX track last Friday night. For 10 dollars you get the chance to practice for an hour and a half and then put yourself to the test against others on a mini bike. Another dollar gets you a bmx bike and a full face helmet for the evening.

After picking out our bikes and helmets, Lori and I rode one lap outside the track with Joe, and then it was time for business. We got some brief instructions about how the handle the bikes on the pump-track, and then we were off to the starting gate. (It's possible this is not the correct term, but I don't know all of the bmx lingo)

Our Team Kit

BMXing is pretty much the absolute opposite of what I usually do on a bike. I like to race for hours, and this sport involves an all-out effort for approximately 60 seconds. After lining up at the gate and attempting to balance with the front tire on the gate and both feet on the flat pedals, you take off down a ramp as soon as you can after the gate goes down. There are 7 spots at the gate, and I have to say I was a bit uneasy about "racing" 4 year olds. Although they were clearly more seasoned than me, they didn't know much about holding a line. After the initial little down-hill you hit a bunch of bumps where you have to pump your way forward to create momentum. There are 3 banked corners where you pedal like crazy to catch a little speed before going in to the next bump/pump section.

I fit right in with the kids!!!

I was in Moto 22 (for novices)

After riding around for about an hour, I sort of got the feel for what you have to do to pump your way around the track, but it was still difficult to keep the bike on the ground. Eric, who used to race BMX when he was 10, clearly picked this skill up much quicker than me. Even though he rode a rented "cruiser" with a 20 inch wheel (I had the REAL thing, with 16 inch wheel) I had to laugh when I saw him on a mini bike.
Eric lining up for his race in the Cruiser Class

After practice, there was a short break before the races started. I am not sure how they figured out which moto (heat) we were in, but it was all posted on a board outside "the office". It was crowded at the gate with small people who all looked like they knew what they were doing. The kids were all business in their snazzy kits, wearing chest, shoulder, elbow, and knee protection, while I was in jeans and the mandatory long sleeved shirt.

Luckily, there were only 2 other people (adults) in my moto, so I didn't have worry about anyone crashing in to me. As soon as the gate went down I was left in the dust by my competitors. HOLY SMOKES!! What was wrong with my legs??? Oh yeah, that's called lactic acid, and it sets in after about 30 seconds of all-out pumping and pedaling!! I shouldn't have stopped riding after practice!!! Instead of feeling rejuvenated from the little break, my legs felt like lead. And as if one lap wasn't enough, I was supposed to race 3 times!!! Lori Fabris being a few years older and much wiser than me, decided to limit her efforts to the practice. After 2 races I decided that hanging out with her and watching the races was much more enticing than racing myself. Joe, Jeff Townsend, and Eric didn't seem at all bothered by racing for 45 seconds followed by hanging out for 15 minutes. They all completed their races, and kicked some serious butt!! Eric got 2nd in his moto. The guy who beat him must have been a serious pro, because he was performing all kinds of tricks in the air, doing manuals (aka wheelies) and made it look so easy. Joe also placed 2nd in his moto, and Jeff 3rd.

I would highly recommend this activity to anyone who is not too proud to get their butt kicked by a bunch on 12 year olds!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tahoe Sierra 100

After riding an extra 30 miles last year because of a wrong turn in the first edition of the Tahoe Sierra 100, Jim Northey was kind enough to give me a free entry into his race this year. Jim claims I "need to keep my head up while racing, I claim the markings were misleading :-) Whatever the case may be, I was looking forward to giving this race another go.

Eric and I drove up to Soda Springs fairly early on Friday in order to miss traffic, and to get a little spin in before dark. The Ice Lake Lodge where we were staying, is situated right on a lake in a beautiful area. After picking up my race number, we had a nice dinner at the Lodge with our neighbors Steven and Cathy "Seaweed". Steven "the Weedman" was also giving this race a 2nd go after bonking at mile 85 last year. We both wanted to turn our bad luck around this year.

The race started promptly at 7 am, and the group of around 200 racers took off on the dusty 8 mile downhill. I was being cautious because the group was stirring up so much dust it was very hard to see the ground. There were big sharp rocks and loose gravel that could definitely flip you over the handle bars. After 10 miles of gravel road we hit the first check-point where I tossed my arm warmers. I had not looked at the course profile, so had no idea where the climbs where, which sometimes is kind of nice, at least when you are feeling good. I was feeling really strong from all the climbing in Italy.

When we reached the 2nd checkpoint at mile 21, we got onto a really fun single-track for about 16 miles. We were climbing some really steep and rocky trails, and there were actually some short hike-a-bike sections to break things up. The descents were loose, rocky, and FUN!! I felt like I was back in Italy at some points. I think the rough riding there really helped me out in this race. I passed one rider on this section, but besides that I was on my own from this point on.

Even though it didn't seem that hot, I was feeling both of my calves twinging with little cramps, so I kept taking my salt tablets. After more gravel road through national forest, I finally stopped at the checkpoint at mile 50 to fill up my dry camelbak. We went by this checkpoint twice. After the checkpoint there was another fun single-track and then we looped back on a gravel-climb. Having no idea how far ahead of second place I was, I asked at the checkpoint, and they reassured me I was over 15 minutes ahead. I am not sure why I asked, because I have come to never trust any information I get out on the course, whether it is about place or distance.

I have to say that this race was very well organized this year. There were lots of checkpoints and volunteers. The place where I followed the wrong arrow last year, had a flag person pointing us in the right direction. I was relieved after passing that spot. We finished going back up the same 8 miles we had come down. I felt much better than I had expected. Overall, I felt really good the whole time. I only stopped briefly at two checkpoints and my only complaint was that my neck was killing me from all the rough riding.

I finished in 8:57:40, and at the finish line, Jim was very excited to see me in first place and under 9 hrs. Apparently he had a 100 dollar bet with someone about my place and time. He also had bet that I would finish in top 10 overall, but he lost there, because I was 13th!
The men's pro division was won by Tinker Juarez who killed the rest of the field despite a short detour. If Tinker doesn't let his age (48) slow him down, I guess I still have a few more good years in me too :-)

Thanks Jim for putting on a first class event, thanks also to all of the volunteers out on the course!