DH Experience

Reflecting back on my Island Cup DH race season I can be reasonably happy with results:

Victoria 7th of 43 racers
Parksville 33rd of 68 racers
Duncan 25th of 29 racers (32 with DNS and DNF’s thrown in).

Riding as fast as you can is an eye opening experience. It is mentally challenging as well as physically challenging. The mental game was a big part of the results for Parksville. Mentally I wasn’t “on” during the race. I tapped the brakes before the jumps, and took it easy through spots where I have previously crashed. I probably could have moved up a few spots if I had let go of the brakes more. 2 years ago I certainly flew more than this year. I think the reason for that would be sprout. Either that or I have turned into a chicken 🙂

Duncan was a physical problem (then mental). I added air pressure to my tires the day of the race, and I think that messed me up a bit. Then I crashed and mentally I couldn’t hold it together. The goal of a DH race is to get down the course as fast as you can. When you crash you aren’t moving. This is bad. Getting up from a crash the instinct is to get going as fast as you can. The opposite should be done though. I tried to grab the bike, seat myself, calm myself then go.

When I just jump on and take off, the adrenaline is flowing so hard I push too hard and am in danger of crashing again.

It is a hard mix but definitely was fun. If I had been a minute faster in the Duncan race, I could have placed around 9th. That could have been a huge improvement.

Victoria was the perfect race. I knew the course extremely well. I was in decent shape, I got in some good practice, and I didn’t need to chicken out on anything.

The thing I like about racing DH is the fact that the whole goal is to push yourself and go as fast as you can. I just can’t bring myself to ride like that on normal trails, but during a race, this is not a problem.

I guess I am a little sad that the season is over for me (I can’t make the last race), but I am looking forward to next year.

Sorry Signup

So, ever wonder why mountain bikers wear armour? I can tell you why. Because when they crash it saves their sorry butt.

The Duncan DH was not my finest race. I got to signup later than I wanted this morning. That was a bad sign. I rushed, got my gear together and got on the first shuttle I could. I got to the top of the race course and did my prerun. My shoulders were tight, my feet were aching, and my arms were on fire. Other than that, I only made a couple mistakes on my pre-run.

The pre-run did point out that the finish line was not where I was expecting. This was good news since I was expecting an uphill sprint to the finish line, and this new ending saved me from that. 🙂 Whee.

I hoofed it back to the shuttle point. The sun was out and I was baking pretty good in my armour. My brakes felt a little off on that run too. Did I mention that this morning, before loading my bike in the truck I added a few pounds of pressure to the tires? Eh, no big deal.

Shuttling back to the top I sat in the back of the pickup. Besides being very dusty, it cooled me down nicely. I hiked to the top of the course and waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. Seems there was a miscommunication, and the beginners were sent to the wrong spot. They started late. My race number was 207. Thinking the intermediates were in the 200 range I thought I wouldn’t have to wait long for my run. Wrong. The numbers were doled out randomly, and I guess race order was signup order. I paid the price for arriving late, and was 3rd to last in the race order.

No big deal really. It was a nice day (beautiful blue sky, temps in the mid 20’s). But the bugs were out. My legs are covered in bites.

When time came to get in line I got my gear situated and got my mind thinking about the course. It was a long one, and I needed to remember that.

When I was next to go I felt pretty focused. I was in the right gear, I was amped, I wanted to ride.

I heard the 5 seconds to go and started my stopwatch. I heard 3, then 2, then 1, then nothing. They never said go, so I left anyway. The first section was really easy, and I had no troubles with it. The rest of the race was all downhill from there (pun intended).

On the next section I screwed up. My brakes were a little cooked, and on one section I reefed on the front brake a little too hard (carrying too much speed). The terrain was a shale like substance with tons of grip. Unless you lock your front wheel up, which is precisely what I did. The bars turned, and over I went. When I stopped sliding I got up quickly, and ran uphill to my bike (lame crash). My left lever had twisted so I put it back in the right spot, jumped on the bike and took off. My left hand hurt a little, and I could feel gravel underneath the armour on my left leg. I chided myself on that stupid mistake.

Not 30 seconds later I did the same thing again. WTF was I doing. I was pushing myself too much and needed to calm down.

Thankfully I reached a fun twisty bermed section in a clear cut. I was able to breathe a little, calm down, and pedal.

Regaining my composure I entered a zen like state. I flowed the course. Leaning into berms, gapping tiny holes to smooth out the trail, sucking up bumps, pedalling, letting the bike dance beneath me. I felt great. I loved the adrenaline rish of the speed I was attaining. The course just felt right. I knew the corners and relied on my instincts.

Until (always that stupid until) there was a fork in the trail. Take the high or take the low. I hesitated because I heard some spectator say high. That was enough to fuck me over. At that speed hesitation is bad. I wanted to go high, but my balance was set for the low line. In an instant my front tire dipped off the trail, and down I went again!

I got going again, but I neared the really steep sections. I was amazed during my prerun how much they had changed since the day before. Well, the steeps were even nastier again, and I made the cardinal mistake when mountain biking of looking at the obstacle you want to avoid. Sure enough I hit it, and went down again. I was super pissed off, and didn’t take my time. I almost fell again while trying to get going.

The last incident I had was a section of trail that I knew to look out for since the outside of the corner was getting baddly eroded during practice. Again I stared at it, and hit it. Thankfully I stopped before I fell off the trail, but it still cost me time.

From there I cruised to the finish line, completely disguted with my run. I was pretty pissed off with myself, and just wanted to go home. After remembering, I stopped my watch, and it said 8:55 (this was about a minute after crossing the line).

I figure my race run was close to 8 minutes long. If each crash cost me 30 seconds (some were more some were less), I could maybe have done a 6.5 minute race, or even 7 minutes. I might be way off on my timing though.

Any which way I look at it, it was not my best race, I could have done better, and I will try to do it again next year.

Shuttle Mother

The Duncan stop of the Island Cup DH series is this weekend, and I am not as jazzed about the race as I should be. For one, noone else I know is doing the race. I was super pumped about this race since it is such a long course, but it would be way more fun for me if there was someone else I knew there. Someone to talk with. Boohoo eh?

The other thing I learned is that there are no shuttle on practice day (today). Suxor. My plan is to ride the entire course once today, but repeat sections. Upside is Darryll is coming out to ride today, so that should be fun. If we take both cars there is a chance we could do a couple complete runs down the course.

Top it off, race day is on Mothers Day, and even though Sox is away this weekend, that kinda sucks that I am out of town on Mom’s day.

I’m sure the race itself will be fine. I know that Sunday I will get one pre-run, and my race run. I’m really not as pumped about this race as I should be. That may change though. At least the weather is supposed to be nice.

Moron Approaching

I got something to say here. To the drivers of vehicles on the streets of Victoria, get your heads out of your collective asses.

It’s not that hard to be a safe driver, and yet, there are lots of examples of stupidity by careless and clueless drivers. Since I am now a regular cyclist this trend scares me, and I know it scares Sox too.

My Friday commute home was a prime example of what makes me irate. 3 incidents in a 10 minute ride.

The first was as I was climbing a hill on Esquialt Road and approached Tyee, an SUV passed me with their right turn blinker on. No big deal since there was lots of room for them to get past me and make the corner. Stupid lady driver stops and looks back through her vehicle at me. She was wanting me to pass her on the inside. I had to stop and wait on the uphill. Why do people think this is a god idea? Pass a cyclist then stop on a busy road to let the cyclist pass them? Yeah, good idea moron.

The next incident was by a cab. Again on Esquimalt I approached Dominion the stupid taxi driver started to pass me with his turn signal on, I saw this and began to wonder. Sure enough cabbie turns in front of me, cutting me off, forcing me to grab the brakes. I yelled at him, something along the lines of “what the fuck are you doing”. One of the fares in the cab then gave me the finger. I was pretty displeased by that act, so I read the plate, and started reciting it over and over the rest of the ride.

The last incident was at the 4 way stop by my house. When it was my turn to go I noticed another car aproach the stop. Before I knew it they were taking a left turn to end up in the same direction I was going (I was going straight). I yelled Hey at the lady, and she didn’t react. I yelled again and finally she looked over and was shocked that I was there (she ended up driving down the center of the road for a bit).

In none of these incidents was I in any real danger but this is only because I was on the lookout for these moronic episodes. I just hope my luck won’t run out. All it will take is one slip up by me or someone else, and I will have a much more somber post here.

If you drive, please be aware of cyclists. Don’t do stupid things around them. Give cyclists the room on the road they deserve. Don’t pass a cyclist that is approaching an intersection. Slow down a little and let them have the right of way. It won’t cost you any real time on your trip, but it will cause less stress for the cyclist. Share the road. There is plenty of it out there for everyone.

Shuttle Section

My race run today was pretty good. Only one small bobble that caused me concern, and another that caused a small slippage in time. The concerning one was one of my feet slipping off the pedal while in the air during a bug jump. Yipes. Right in front of a bunch of people.

As usual it was a fun race, but I think I would have had more fun if I had done the race with some friends.

The details. I got to the race site around 10:30. I got geared up, and headed to the pit to register. After paying I grabbed my plate and got in line for the shuttle. Attaching it just as I got on the shuttle I was a little anxious. I was feeling a little tired, and not as fresh as I would have liked.

Jumping off the shuttle I made my way to the top of the course, got my armour all strapped on and set out for an easy run down. No taking chances, no pushing myself, just ensuring that I know the course and am ready for the race. No problems during the run. Previous races I have managed to crash pretty hard during my practice and I really wanted to not do that this year. Mission accomplished.

At the bottom of the course I headed back to my truck, dropped off my camelbak, ate some food, grabbed a bottle of water and a cliff bar, then headed back to the pit to get ready for the race.

I took a shuttle up and settled in for a wait. The begginers were doing their runs, and my plate number was 241. Add in the 1 minute intervls and I was in for quite a wait.

Once I saw 220 on the starting block I started getting myself psyched up for my run. I tightened up my armour, put on my jersey, and got my bike in the correct gear.

Climbing the starting block I started getting my pre-race jitters. Hearing the 20 second countdown I felt the nerves disappear. 10 seconds. At 5 seconds to go I started my stopwatch. 3 … 2 … 1 I hit hard on my pedals and started my run.

I remember the upper tree section well. I bobbed and weaved through the trees pedalling as much as I could. There was one line I didn’t hit quite right, but a quick couple pedal strokes and I was back up to speed.

I dropped onto the first fireroad crossing then down into the muddy woops section. Quickly I was through this section then into the sandy, rocky, bumpy mess that is the middle of the course. I tried to stick my lines as best I could, but going as fast as I was, I was getting bucked around quite a bit. The table tops I chickened out on, spiking the brakes beforehand to control my the amount of air I took.

After the last road crossing I geared up for the finishing chute. I almost slid out on the uphil section, but saved it, pedalled hard for the flat bit, then dropped into the berms. I got quite a shock as I almost slid out on the sandy berms, but held it together did the final drop and pedalled as much as I could across the finish line.

Overall, not a bad run. I probably could have done a little better with a newer bike, but you make do with what you have. I also noticed I didn’t push my limits during the race like I would have a couple years ago. 🙂 That is a good thing, but still a little surprising to me.

Overall a good race, but I would have liked to go a little faster 🙂 Results are up already, and I placed 33 of 68. Like I said, not quite as good as the Victoria race, but a challenge is fun too.

Suspension Branches

Race practice today was pretty good. I was glad to see the course has not changed much since the last time I raced it. My first run down was horrible though. My suspension was not set correctly, and my tire pressure was way too high. This combination lead to a very choppy run. Fixing those two things made for a much nicer experience, and way more fun for the rest of my runs.

Race run will have to be at the max if I want to place well though. This is a very fast course with some big jumps. Challenging for me, but fun for most (it seems). Hopefully I can pull together a good race run like I did for the Victoria DH.

No crashes today. I really hope I can say the same for tomorrow.

One sad note: I scratched my new goggles. Damn. I caught a few branches today so it must have been one of them. Now I regret not getting some tearaway strips as lens protection. Grrr.

Good Category

Results are up (finally). It is tough waiting so long to see how you placed. I am very, very happy too. 7th place out of 43 racers. Pretty damn good in my book. Imagine what I could do if I actually trained for such an event?

My offical time was 4:36. Looking at the expert times that would have put me in 22nd out of 28 (if I had been in the class). Not so good. How did I fare against the beginners? Well, 4:36 would have been a winning time of the 21 other racers. Just re-inforcing the fact that I placed myself in the right category.

I expect that a little local knowledge helped my on the trails too.

Crash Results

The wait for results begins!

I got to the race site at 9:30. I figured just over an hour to get to the top and do my pre-run, register (another 20 minutes or so), then take another hour to get to the top of the course. Racing started at noon so this timing worked well.

When I arrived at the dump I lucked out and got a parking spot in the lot. I talked to a few others there, and found out that registration was under way. I grabbed my wallet and headed down. Plate number 56 for me today. Cost me $57 to get a membership to a club and enter the race. Good karma? I dunno.

I zipped back to the truck, got suited up, then headed up for my pre-run. I hiked to the top, zipped up my armour jacket, tossed on my jersey, got set on the starting platform, and rolled in. Instant tunnel vision. I was focused on the course very intently. For Snakes and Ladders I followed the lines I wanted, pedalling hard, but not enough to exhaust me. I flowed the dips and turns, lifting my wheel around corners, prejumping logs, sneaking pedal strokes when I could.

Coming up to Shar’s Choice I noticed a newly exposed root. That was when I made the most elemental mistake when mountain biking. I stared at that root wishing myself to miss it. I fixared on the root. I hit the root. My front tire slid out, skidded across the gravel, and down I went. I slid a bit, then impacted a tree with my shoulder. Armour to the rescue. No harm done on that crash.

I grabbed my bike, descended Shar’s Choice, then messed up the chundry section while bottoming out my fork quite harshly. Onto the fireroad I pushed like my plan laid out. I crested the hill and while coasting I recovered. On the next flat section I started pedalling again and was feeling pretty good. Down the last fireroad section I could see the turn off to shortcut. 100 metres away I hit the brakes and pedaled as I downshifted. Over the log, up the tiny incline, then down the other side.

I hit the road gap with a bit of speed. Unfortunately I was off my line. I landed with too much speed lined up with a tree. I spiked the brakes and skidded into the tree. Thankfully I slowed down enough that crash 2 didn’t hurt either. Untangling myself I hiked back up to redo that section. Second time through was much cleaner.

Shock Treatment was a blast as well. No problems there.

So, 2 crashes on my pre-run. Hmm. Must remember those on the race run eh?

I went back to the truck to swap out my camelbak for a bottle of water. No sense wearing a pack if I don’t need it. I grabbed a different set of gloves, then headed back to the bottom of the course.

The hike up for my race run was pretty slow. Didn’t want to tire myself out. I ate a Clif Bar along the way. At the top there was a lot of nervous energy. The beginner male racers were up first, and lucky Darryll was 3rd out of the gate. Next in line were the beginner females.

When they called the intermediate men, I learned I was first in line. Great. First intermediate male down the course. I ran through my checklist making sure all gear was secured properly, my bike was in the right gear, and mentally reminded myself of sections to take care on.

All too quickly I was up on the starting block. I remember 40 seconds to go. I heard 10 seconds to go. I heard 5 seconds to go and started my stop watch. 3 …. 2 … 1

I was off. I was feeling great. I had way more speed than any previous run. I was hitting lefts and rights with ease. I was shifting correctly in all the rights spots. I was “on”. Nearing the spot of my first crash I saw the root again, and reminded myself to not look at it. Down Shar’s Choice faster than every, turned into the chundry section and blasted it. I almost slid out onto the fireroad, but managed to save the bike from going down.

I quickly got back up to speed and recovered on the downhilll portion in prep for the uphill fireroad. That was killer. I have no idea what gear I was in but as I crested my legs were burning and I had slowed considerably. I sat and spun out to higher gears on the back side and when the fireroad went flat I stood and pedalled. At one point I was on a different line than previous practice runs and at the last second noticed a huge root that I was able to bunny hop in time. As I practiced so many times before I came screaming down the road and as I hit the brakes I downshifted to get myself onto Shortcut. Hitting that I made the road jump no problem (and avoided the tree), then down Shock Treatment. My only bobble of the race came on this section. I took an incorrect line that slightly cost me a little time.

The last chute to the TTA was a blast and I straight lined in. I crossed the finish line, and was very, very happy with my run. I hit all the lines I wanted, and only made one mistake. I wasn’t breathing too hard at the end so I guess I could have pushed a little more, but who knows I could have crashed. I finally stopped my watch at the 5 minute mark. I knew I had done a sub 5 minute run. Very happy with that.

My legs were starting to seize so pedalled around a bunch to flush out the lactic acid. I watched the finish line for a while and saw a couple spectacular crashes, and one amazing finish (huge jump that made the finish chute look smooooooth).

Fun, fun time. Too bad there was no food being sold there. I noticed that preliminary results were out. My run was 4:36. Woah. Very surprised I was that quick, but that made me very, very happy with my run. I could immediately see a couple other runs in the 4:15 and 4:30 range, so I am pretty sure I didn’t make top 3. It would be great if I could make top 10 though. I think that is possible. I left soon after getting my results. Now I wait anxiously to see how well I actualy placed.