Monday, April 30, 2012

Sea Otter

So, I've been home for more than a week, and I'm still having trouble figuring out what to say. I had a great time. I raced (and got served), I oogled new bike stuff, hung out with new and old friends, and all in all, had a blast.

Anyway, I've written several paragraphs and deleted them all... I don't want to just run down a chronological report. That's lame. I'm trying not to be lame, but, that's kind of hard... And, to add to that. I had this ALL WRITTEN and it got lost in the Interwebs. Damn. Get the full story...

I DON'T have a huge report of new and exciting things shown at the race. First of all, other Web sites like VeloNews, CyclingNews, Dirt Rag, Bike Radar, and others are going to do a much better job than me, so why bother? Also, when I used to go from booth to booth checking out the newest stuff, photographing the latest stuff, and writing about the latest stuff, I was getting paid to do it because that's work. I wasn't working this time.

I DON'T have any exciting race reports from any of the pro races. In addition to the fact that it's also work to focus on the races so much that you can write about them, it's also a fact that there are SO many events going on, that it's hard to keep track. I honestly had to hear about things like Kabush's win on Twitter, even though I was right there. This is a BIG event and it's easy to get lost in the expanse of it all.

I do, however, have some thanks I need to give before I go any further.

THANKS to AJ at Royal Racing. AJ was super-cool and allowed me to keep my bike and other crap in their team van. Obviously, he understands the return on investment he'll get from supporting my sub-mediocre racing endeavors. I'll probably be on the cover of their next catalog.

THANKS to Fox Racing Shox for their on-site tech support. My fork spewed all it's bath oil out when I let the air out to compress the fork for travel and I was able to get new seals and a rebuild. Awesome.

THANKS to Matt and Jim at Pedro's for washing my bike. Admittedly, they washed nearly everyone's bikes (they were the official bike wash station for the event),  but I aslo used one of their work stands to take my bike apart for the return flight. At one point, they had some potty-mouthed chain smoking bike messengers doing the washing, which is pretty funny.

THANKS to Genuine Innovations. Because of airline restrictions, I couldn't bring a CO2 cartridge with me, so they hooked me up. I didn't need it (fortunately), but if I had flatted, I'd probably still be out there pumping up with my mini-pump.

THANKS to Jamie "SmokeStack" for the lung cancer. Jamie was a Monterey local we were talking to at the Crown and Anchor. He was chain-smoking his Camel cigarettes like he was in a smoke-off. From him, we learned that Ecuador is a dangerous place, and I could be a king in Santiago, Chile.

And, of course, a huge THANKS to Ralph at Michelin for helping make this trip possible.

Thursday was a travel day, Friday was a chill day, and Saturday and Sunday were race days.
Bike assembled, in CX configuration. Yes, it was all in that grey case.
As any racer knows, the days leading up to a race are very important, so I strived to "prepare" by hitting the previously mentioned Crown and Anchor, and the next night, we hit Cibo. Ralph had billed Cibo as a "cougar bar," and he was right on. This place was so cliche that it almost felt like a movie set. There was a cover band doing a horrible rendition of some AC/DC songs, there were desperate looking middle-aged singles, and guys who danced like they were having seizures (yes, I'm middle aged, and no, I can't dance, but that's not the point).

Most bizarre were these big-screen TVs that we up over the bar. Each TV was playing some new-age, acid-trip computer graphics. I can't even describe the weirdness. Silver orbs would become half-humans which would morph into psychedelic shapes and colors. It was bizarre and hypnotizing. We were making memories though, and if in Monterey again, I'd definitely pop in again. 

This "preparation" got me ready to hit the start line for the Men's Master's 35+ Cat 1/2/3/4 race. The course itself was adequate at best. The thing about cyclocross racing is that you can create a course just about anywhere, and regardless as to if it's somewhere picturesque like Stage Fort Park, or in an industrial park, the race is a race.

We started on the Laguna Seca raceway, hit a hard right turn (at least it was hard for some of the guys who crashed right in front of me), hit a short climb, rolled by some empty bleachers, down back across the raceway, through a gravel section, hit a short climb, rolled along a ridge, hit a short run-up climb, descended an off-camber twisty section, then back across the raceway, in through the expo area (and yes, by the beer tent), over some barriers, and then repeat. 

For me, this race was weird for many reasons. First, I was racing 'cross in April. Second, I was racing 'cross in California. Third, I was racing at 4:00pm. Fourth, it was about 1,000 degrees. So I just did what I always do, start hard, pedal hard, and then fade hard. We started with the Men's Master's 45+ Cat 1/2/3/4 class too, so as you can imagine, this was a big group with some fast MoFo's. Don Myrah won. You know, the National and World Champion. I guess if I'm gonna get spanked, doing so by someone in rainbow stripes ain't bad.

Overheard while racing? "You've got the second biggest beard out there, GO!"

That's a lot of beard.
Nothing motivates me to go faster than facial hair competition.

Eventually, once I knew I wasn't going to win (which, I knew when I clicked "submit" when I registered), I decided to go for style points. I nearly crashed bunny-hopping the barriers on my penultimate lap, and decided to go for my patented dismount and 360 barrier hop, times two. I pulled it, and "the crowd went wild." I see that one of the pro's did the same thing during the Men's Pro race ( at 1:20ish), but he could only manage to do so over one barrier and he had to beer up to do it. Leave these tech-moves to me. 

If you're really, really, really bored, you can watch nearly my whole race via my helmet cam footage (AKA "footy"). It's completely unedited, raw, and likely boring. The first turn is probably worth watching though, so you can see the crash. Other than that, it's just 45 minutes of riders pulling away from me while I wheeze. 

I mentioned the heat? Well, yeah, it was hot. How hot? Really hot. Really? Really.

See how hot I was?
Normal barrier hopping. 
Here I am mid-way through the 360. Note the shock and awe in the crowd. 
Hot. Hawt? Not.
Bike assembled in cross-country configuration.
It was so hot in fact, the pro races, both the men's and women's, were cut short by 15 minutes because of the heat. Not that I watched the races.... Sad to say, I had to quickly convert my cyclocross machine into a cross-country missile. AJ and Ralph were my pit crew. We swapped out the tires, and fork (rigid for squishy), added some bottle cages, and my seat bag of goodies, and I was ready to rock.

I didn't do as much *preparation* the night before my cross-country race (which was only a little more than 12hrs after my CX race). Dinner with the Michelin, Royal Racing and Pedro's crew.

I got to bed at a reasonable-ish hour and was up bright eyed and bushy tailed on Sunday morning. The Starbucks that was just around the corner from the hotel was SUPER convenient. Anyway, with a 7:30 start time, we arrived at the venue a little early and I proceeded to NOT jump around like I was in a Monty Python Silly Walk skit. Plenty of other racers were already doing that.

The start was an interesting place...

There was the dude with the stars & stripes disc wheel
and a little flag on the back of the helmet...
There was this dude with the full face helmet and
RIGHTEOUS beard...
There was the guy holding the sign for Clydesdale staging,
appropriately eating a sandwich...
And there was some THICK fog...
So, before getting too much into the race, let me gripe about the start. I've been racing long enough to know that different classes will stage at different times and will sometime start 10 or 15 minutes after the posted start time. All of the official Sea Otter Classic information had all of the Cat 2 cross country races as starting at 7:30am. What time did I start? 7:40? 7:56? 8:05? 8:12? 8:20? How about 8:30! A full hour later than the posted time. That was a bit more than I would have expected, and I think the start times should have been a little more clear.

Anyway, with an extra hour of standing around in the fog, I had time to strategerize about the race. I figured, I drop the hammer at the start, take the holeshot, and then sort of see what happened. Interestingly, at about 4 minutes to go, one of the guys in my class had a massive rear tire blow-out (apparently, riders next to him were covered in Stan's goo). He calmly moved his bike to the side, put a tube in, and was ready to ride when the gun went off. Nice!

Okay, so like I said, I decided to take the holeshot, and boy did I. I was leading the race, and it was essentially my race to lose. Unfortunately, a few things happened to cause me to lose the race. First, I got tired. Then, I started to slow down. Then, lots of racers passed me. That's okay, because to the 12 people who were up that early and were watching the Cat 2 XC race starts through the thick fog, I was leading the race while in the Laguna Seca Raceway. What happened after that was none of their business.

The course was fun, but very different to what I'm accustomed to riding here on the East Coast. It consisted mostly of wide, gravely trails, with some loose sand and huge ruts thrown in for fun. Not very technical at all, but the ruts were certainly challenging. It's funny, at one point I had just passed a rut (ravine) that could have swallowed my bike when a spectator warned me of an upcoming root. A root!

I suspect the scenery was very nice, but I couldn't see any of it. Seriously, at times I could only see 50ft or so down the trail. The temperature, was quite cool compared to the previous day, so the fog was a welcome change.

The climbing was a bit intimidating. It seemed like I couldn't even come close to that kind of elevation on my rides around home, so I actually took it a bit easy, in anticipation of what I thought would be a death march climb at the finish. To be honest, it wasn't bad at all, even with a 1x9. I did walk two of the shorter/steeper/looser climbs, but otherwise, it was all good.

I chatted with plenty of other riders from all over the country, and many were surprised that I'd actually be sitting up, talking, and even taking photos. That's the way I roll.

In total, it was about 20 miles, about 2hrs, about 3000ft of climbing and 1 water bottle, without stopping at the water station. I was probably still well hydrated from the "preparation" I had done two nights ago.

I came upon one guy who had perhaps done too much "preparation," as he was barfing trailside.

Add your barfing sound effect here...
After the finish, the real race began. I had to get the bike washed (thanks again Pedro's), disassembled, boxed up, and then we had to get to the airport in San Francisco for our red-eye flight.

Needless to say, we got home without a hitch.

I remember when red-eye flights, or staying up all night for whatever reason, wouldn't phase me. I'm past that point now. I thought I'd be okay on Monday with only a couple of hours of sleep. I was even supposed to work Monday, but fortunately, one of my buddies swapped with me. I was a wreck Monday afternoon. My bike is still in it's box, and I think some of my stinky laundry is in a plastic bag. My wife is going to love finding that stink bomb.

The trip was, in a word, super-awesome-fun-o-liscious.

Next race? Weeping Willow. Better start my preparations...

Enjoy the rest of these random pics:

Full size 29'er, two sets of tires, two forks, clothes, etc... 
Pre-race preparation.
Seriously dude? It's GoPro, not GoPorn...
Hey. Settle down. 
Obligatory Monterey Bay photo.
I don't need any of your stinkin' water.
If they had one of these at the aid station, I may have stopped. 
Ibis taking the big wheels up a notch or two.
There was a launch ramp that went into a professional air bag landing. Cool.
Yeah. Come up with your own caption. I'm speechless.
Brush guards? If you have to ask, you ride too slow.


  1. After a quick scan of the video I have surmised two things. First, the Cat 1,2,3,4 cross race skewed heavily toward the Cat 4 end. Two, It appears the guy who caused the crash has his uniform wrapped in duct tape from a previous poor choice of line. Can you confirm point 2?

    Oh, and the photo of the guy wearing his Indiana Jones hat and halter-top half-zip jersey with his iPod attached to the arms of his young lover is priceless.

  2. Excellent Sea Otter CX video!

    The only way to make it possibly better is to show it live - at $495 + 4G modem, the resistance is futile! See "Portable" video @1:30 on: