friday morning i flew into a cloudy san diego and started hearing countless people talk about how it was going to rain all weekend. a little rain on friday was assumed to be good for us as it would help cut the dust on the course, but 24 hour racing in the rain is pretty miserable.
as i left the rental lot a few spots of rain started hitting the rental minivan's windshield but they petered out as i drove over to bike tours san diego, a shop that's run by a friend of mike and as such a convenient place for us to ship our bikes to and meet up once we got off our respective flights. while mike and i were getting the bikes assembled and ready to go the rain started again and slowly turned into torrential downpours. after the bike shop we headed out to find the whole foods and get our food for the weekend and REI to pick up some fuel for our stoves.
by the time we reached vail lake campgrounds, just outside temecula, ca, the rain had mostly petered out but the skies were still gloomy. mike & reconnoitered the venue and waited for matt & katie to arrive. mike had some digestive issues going on, but just after matt & katie arrived they cleared up (i'll let him fill in the details). once they we went back down into town to have some dinner.
after a breakfast of coffee, pancakes, and oatmeal mike, matt, and i went down to the start/finish to scope out the scene down there. after we had a look around and had a quick chat with laird (knight, the race promoter) we took off along the course (in jeans and most of us without helmets) so get a feel for it. we rode the first 2 miles, down to the bottom of the dam(n) climb then doubled back just in time for the captains meeting. as the meeting was ending, kemler pulled in and we headed back to the campground. riding order was chosen as matt, mike, me, kemler.
after matt turned in a 58 minute first lap (with the run) and mike notched a 56 minute 2nd lap i went out for my first lap. the first two miles of the course were a mellow rolling fireroad climb leading to the dam(n) climb - a lung-busting mile of climbing straight up the ridge. steep in places, but never to technical. this time up there was a lot of middle ring with a couple of short bailouts into the granny gear in steeper sections. as the race went on there was more and more granny gear and less and less middle ring.
at the top of the climb you turn left and and start descending, first along the sides of the ridge, and then after about a mile you pop onto the top of the ridge and ride along the spine for a couple of miles of super swoopy riding. the trail was right on top of the ridge and completely exposed, drop-offs on either side. the trail went up & down in short steep climbs and descents but flowed so well that you could coast most of the way up the other side of each dip. there were a couple of technical climbs, but nothing that you couldn't let the brakes off and let the bike roll.
once you dropped of the end of the ridge the course doubled back and rode back up into the valley next to the ridge and then climbed back up to the ridge, through a saddle, up a quick hike a bike, and then down the next ridge (more super-swoopy singletrack here). the pattern repeated a couple more times, up the valley, back down the ridge until the campsite came into
view for the last time and you drop onto a doubletrack trail that you could hammer in the big ring, then onto the road and into the start/finish.
my first lap was a blast, plain and simple. i pushed hard on the dam(n) climb and passed a half dozen racers the rode the downhill comfortably. back to the tent in under 56 minutes and sent kemler on his way.
kemler (who hasn't been on a mountain bike in 2 years)) turned in a solid 1:04 and we started our 2nd rotation. matt beat his first lap time - not surprising since his first lap had the lemans start tacked onto it, and mike matched his first lap. i went out strong and did my 2nd lap within a couple of minutes of my first lap but was starting to suffer by the end. i was more comfortable on the downhills, legs starting to hurt a little on the short steep climbs toward the end. hand off to brian at the end who did our last no-lights lap of the race, then cleaned up a bit and came back to the start/finish for some deep muscle stimulation massage and a burger.
first night lap, still climbing ok, but lots more granny on the damn climb and later in the course. tentative on the downhills, issues getting my light aimed just right. my lume is generally pretty good, but the helmet mount sucks so i had to reattach it midway through the lap. towards the end of the lap i realize that it's not the light that's aimed wrong, it's the cap i'm wearing under my helmet that's causing the shadow that's bugging me so i flip the brim up and ride the rest of the lap with ease. funny thing is, i've had the same realization of at least 3 or 4 night rides. one of these days it'll finally sink in.
night lap number 2. managed to catch a little sleep between laps 3 & 4, which helped, but i managed to psyche myself out about the 3 semi-technical downhill sections. i had a technical incident at the transition. after mike came in and handed off i jogged over to my bike, turned the bar light and then the helmet light, except it did come on. nothing, nada, zip, zilch. check the connections, still nothing. so i end up riding back to camp and changing to a spare battery, wasting 5 or 6 minutes. the rest of the lap was fairly unspectacular. get back to camp and have some oatmeal and hit the sack as soon as i can to get as much rest as possible before my next lap. 1:15 including the trip back to base camp for the new battery.
by daybreak we've dropped a couple places, down to 7th. bad luck mostly... mike had a bad transition, kemler had a crash that hurt his knee and left him a little dazed. as mike comes in from his 5th lap he tells me to take it easy, i figured this was because kemler was out. i rode the lap at what i considered a comfortable pace, but occasionally the competitive side of my personality comes out. if i see someone ahead, and i see that i'm making up ground i'll push a little harder and try to catch them. i managed to pass the 2 teams ahead of us, both of whom i'd sat around talking to in the fire pit by the start finish. 1:02
we're back to sixth and we've got my lap and matt's left to go. the team ahead of us comes in just ahead of mike and i follow their rider out of the transition tent. i shadow him for a while, but start to sense some weakness, so as soon as we start the ride out to the damn climb i pass him and start to push a little. the 2 miles to the damn are a gentle but fast climb, i figure that if i can hit the damn climb far enough ahead of him he won't be able to chase me down and i can give matt a cushion for his last lap. knowing that this was it for me i put it all on the line this lap, pushed as hard as i could for every inch of the course, probably rode the downhills faster than any lap before. finished under an hour, a little over 59 and a half minutes. the rider i'd followed out of the transition on the previous lap had dropped another place, but i'd also put another minute into the new 6th place team
matt put it all on the line and finished his 7th lap in 59 and half minutes, holding 5th place for us and finishing the race 15 seconds ahead of 6th place. so, in the end: 1st place men's expert; 5th place overall. a great course, great teammates, great fun.