Written January 24, 2009
I have no idea why I am even awake right now…. I just got off my bike a little over eight hours ago after completing the 12 Hours of Temecula January edition down at Vail Lake Resort just outside of Temecula, CA. It’s about a 7-8 hour drive from Norcal, but I have done the event twice, once in June and now in January and the race course has been super fun (and different) both times. Quite a few Socal companies show up with test bikes and new product for a big raffle, the race organizers are really nice people, and there are tons of familiar faces from the endurance race scene present to tear it up! All of this is well and good, but there is still no reason for me to be awake right now…
I always really enjoy the first couple of races of the season because I get to see all the people that I only see because of bike racing once again. It’s sorta like coming back to school after summer break, only I don’t have to study! No, instead of books and pencils, it’s time for some good ol’ fashioned suffering aboard the glorious creation we call a mountain bike. I get extremely nervous before races until deep into the season and Temecula was no exception, I was definitely shaking with excitement/nervous energy at the start yesterday morning. I was just happy to be there though, the odds were a bit stacked against the race effort last week so I was excited that I was able to be there at all.
I only just put my Mtn bike together on thursday night using a borrowed set of wheels (had to sell mine to pay rent last month…) and I was very hesitant about the idea of racing my Mtn bike for 12 hours when I hadn’t even ridden it in over a month! I figured I’d remember how to handle the bike at some point during the day and that I could pick up the rest of the pieces as I went. The other issue was the cost of the race, but I lucked out and the owner of the shop I am working at down here (San Diego) agreed to pay my entry fees if I wore his jersey. Okay! So I had a bike, and I was registered. All the other race prep was going well until I tested my light out on friday night and found that my battery wasn’t working…. Oh no! I scrambled to put together a spare light system and by about 10:30pm on friday night, I was feeling about as ready as I was ever going to be.
I am only living about an hour and fifteen minutes from where the race takes place in Temecula, so I slept at home and drove up on race morning. Lots of familiar faces were present to kick off the season. They don’t have too many awesome endurance races down in Socal, a lot of the faces belonged to racers whom I’ve met or seen at one of our top notch Norcal events. We’re so lucky to have such a play ground in our back yards up there! I was only able to throw my single speed together, which was well enough because Tinker was supposed to show up and destroy everyone and I didn’t really feel like trying to take on Tink when I hadn’t been on the bike for so long…. I entered the ss class and looked forward to a day of racing with a couple of tough guys whom I competed with in the past. It was looking like it was going to be a long day.
Race started at 9am sharp and quickly moved skyward into the desert hills. The course was 9 miles and change with about 1300′ vertical per lap…. Hmmm, sounds a little like Humboldt. Humboldt hurt pretty bad and I was sure this race was about to do the same. Tink and company shot off the front of the field as I fought with first lap traffic and tried to find my legs. The weather looked like it was going to be pretty nice for racing, not too hot and not too cold. By the second lap I had scoped out just who my competition was going to be and had resigned myself to racing only my race instead of trying to catch all the gear heads on my ss.
The course didn’t really have any long climbs, just short STEEP little punchy ones that suited big powerful riders quite well. I am not a big powerful rider and by the eighth lap I was definitely feeling it in my upper body as I dragged myself to the top of these steep pitches. I was relieved to see that my handling capability came up to a reasonable level within the first two laps. This was not a super technical course, but there are some super fast descents and definitely a couple of tricky sections. Nearly all the descending is done on these cool singletrack ridgeline trails so there are consequences (did you bring your parachute?) if you don’t stick you line.
I had figured that the top guys might do something like 16 laps of the course as laps were being ticked off quite quickly throughout the morning and into the afternoon. I was pitting with the Navy bike team (a lot of the riders are customers at the shop) and the wives of a couple of the guys were helping out with water and pb&j duties. I didn’t worry them with trying to check results and get lap times and what not. It was kinda nice not knowing who, what, when, where. I just went out and rode my bike! I didn’t even look at my watch until 4:30pm and I only started keeping track of lap times on my last 3 laps.
I knew I was riding well when I caught up to a couple of Norcal hammerheads who were racing gears and who I thought had a good chance of giving Tink a run for his money. Caught, dropped, moving on. I had a flat on lap 10 which was my only mechanical and which cost me a few minutes. As I didn’t have any idea where the other racers were, I was very worried about those few minutes lost, but things turned out alright. Everything was going well and feeling good as the night approached. Riding in the desert at night is hard. Everything is the same color but some ground is hard, some is soft, some rocky, some smooth, etc. Oh, and there are these little ridges that develop in the hardpack sand that will catch your wheel and send you flying if you’re not careful. It was like riding a brand new course on my first night lap. I haven’t checked the results, but that must’ve been my slowest lap.
My first night lap was also the lap that I decided I was going to do 15 laps at this race. No one was going to get 16, but I hadn’t been lapped by Tink and I wanted to keep it that way. I love trying to figure out lap times and what I need to do to reach my goals toward the end of a race. My first night lap was slow, my last three were not super fast, but I felt great and they got the job done. I was pedaling my little heart out but I was forced to walk a few of the steeper sections of a climb. Walking is okay on a ss if you can walk as fast as you would be climbing anyway…
I cut it a bit close and skipped my last pit to bring it home at 8:55pm. 11 hrs and 55mins raced out of 12 hours total. Not bad! I made my 15 lap goal and won the single speed class. I was very excited to see that I also would have secured 3rd in the pro men class. I was only 10 minutes off the 2nd place rider and about 23 minutes off of Tinker! I was one of only 3 racers to complete 15 laps, the other two being the top two finishers in the pro class…. Oh, What?!
So then, why can’t I go to sleep?? I am very tired, no doubt about that, but I’ve been a little twitchy with race energy since falling into bed around midnight. Nothing is quite right after one of these events and perhaps I pushed a little harder than I realized. I felt so great during the latter part of the race that I just kept pouring on the speed and I think my body is arguing with me now… Oh well, sundays are good days for naps. Right?
All in all, it was a great day. Good friends, good course, good competition. I’m glad I was able to go and test out the old legs. I am also glad though, that I don’t really plan on racing for another couple of months! The season is long, and there is no rush. Slow and steady wins the race…