This time it was Bear Springs Trap, which is a little south of Mt. Hood just off Highway 26.
On a random note - the Prius got 40.1 miles per gallon, even loaded down with 3 200# men, and a bike hanging off the back of the car. Pretty impressive since it included climbing over Mt. Hood, twice.
We got there pretty early, and snagged a choice parking spot right near the course. We stood around, killing time until about 45 minutes before the race, at which point I started warming up. I rode up a gravel road for a while and then hopped on a single track to follow some people riding around. It turns out I got on at the far-point of the initial lap, and I rode the single track back to the start. I tried to keep the heart rate low and gentle, but some of the singletrack was pretty rocky and technical and I got pretty revved up. But I was happy with about 30 minutes of riding. I downed some water and a Clif bar to make sure I was topped up.
I thought I might have a few more minutes to warm up, but realized that the Pro men were starting at 11 sharp, so I should find the start and get ready. You see, I'd looked at the starting schedule when I checked in, and I knew I would be starting after the CAT 2 men, and just before the CAT 2 women - right around 11:14 am.
Well... it appears that the Clydes were moved up and started ... I still don't know when. When the last bunch of CAT 2 men (45+) were lining up, we heard the OBRA official say that after that were the CAT 2 women. Someone shouted, "wait, what about Clydesdale?!" - and we were told that they'd already left, and the official had announced it 3 times already.
I was pissed.
I let out a frustrated curse and tried my best to catch up to the Clydes in front of me - wherever they were.
I'd read about the start on Mel's blog from her post about last year's race, and as I rounded the corner and saw that the course went straight up the power line. And... there was a huge pack of people walking their bikes up. Gah. I rode right into the back of that, and luckily most of the people had already reached the top and I was able to ride up the whole thing, passing the tail end of the CAT 2 men.
I knew that I had to get in front of as many folks as possible, because like all the other races, once you enter a single track section, you're pretty much locked into place - and if you're behind someone slow, the people in front will begin to gap you. And I didn't know where the other Clydes were...
I was in the middle of a group of around 15 guys when we hit the singletrack, and we got pretty bunched up early on because of some rocky sections. People began to get frustrated and yell "if you walk, move to the side" - which doesn't really apply when everyone has to walk b/c some dude is clogging up the entire trail.
A few passes later, we finished the first of the 3 loops of the ride, and were a little spread out. We entered a climb, and my mad dash had caught up with me. For the first 20 minutes, I had an average heart rate of 181 - which is basically my limit (using the standard calculations). Ignoring the fact that I shouldn't be able to sustain max heart rate for 20 minutes, I knew I couldn't keep it up. And, sure enough, right after that first loop the trail began to climb again, and I had to slow down. A handful of people passed me going up (what? that's my strength damnnit, they can't do that!) and I settled into a slower pace to recover, and the next 20 minutes I was down to an average of 170. The numbers are all thanks to Strava, I wasn't looking at them during the ride.
The trail so far had been an absolute blast. There were long sections of rollers - where you couldn't sit down because the rollers would throw you into the air. I'm still not quite sure how to ride these fast going up. Going down, you pump them like the BMX kids do in the parks, but up ... I like to sit and power the pedals, but you can't sit - so stand I did. So, when there weren't rolling bumps, the corners were well banked, and mixed in all of that were short sections of big rocks. You wouldn't fall asleep on this ride.
I tried eating a little snack and getting some fluid in, but it was a challenge given the terrain. I opened my little snack bag up and had a few Dots, and I drank some water from the CamelBak. I left the snack bag unzipped for easy access ... and lost nearly all the Dots at some point. Live and learn - don't pack the bag so full next time.
After about an hour of riding I was still thinking about the late start and lamenting that, but the pack had stretched pretty thin, and I could only see two or three people at any one time. We hit a few straight roads and descended toward the ravine. The CAT 2 folks take a sharp left at the ravine, while CAT 1 dives down it for a quick lap of hurt. The trail traverses the top edge of the ravine with what I imagine are some pretty views - I was more focused on the fist-sized rocks littering the narrow trail, threatening to dump me off the edge. That whole section is actually a 20 minute long climb - the first 10 are next to the ravine, and the rest are a bit safer and steeper.
We then dive down a half mile to the bottom of the ravine and then tackle a very technical 10 minutes of trail along the stream. It's very rooty, lots of little ups and downs with twists and rocks and more roots. I did pretty well, but did walk a couple short sections. I remember thinking, "I could spend half an hour here, trying until I can ride the route clean, or ... I can spend 20 seconds walking it." Walking won out.
Then it was time to climb out of the ravine - over 6 minutes climbing up a 12.5% grade, with a couple of tight switchbacks thrown in. This was where I had planned on catching and passing people, giving them my best Lance Armstrong look and dropping them like he did Ulrich in 2001. But... at this point, there really were no other riders. I'd passed one guy in the technical terrain next to the stream - and one guy passed me (never to be seen again). That was it. As I climbed out, I was tailing a really young kid - a teenager, and I couldn't quite catch him. I nearly did just before we got to the road at the end, but I didn't push it because he wasn't in my category - and there was nobody behind me.
I officially finished in 2:05:33, about middle of the pack for CAT 2 men, and a minute and a half in front of second place. I don't remember passing him, but I obviously did. I chatted with him briefly and asked when he started the ride, and he was the one Clyde who started early (I think with the first CAT 2 men). So, I really beat him by several minutes, but I'll just take the gold.
Sam and Dad were there at the finish to congratulate me. They took my bike and I wandered around in a bit of a daze, eating some potato chips. I changed and we drove home.
Looking back on the race, I'm very happy with my descents. I caught some people on the down hills and even passed them - which I haven't done in other races. I think I rode the banked corners pretty well (still going a little slow into them), and I managed the rollers pretty well too. My climbing was a little disappointing because I did get passed by a number of people, but I was a bit strung out, and it was just skinny guys who passed me.
As always, a good start is critical. Had I started with the other Clyde, I'm sure I could have been in front of quite a few guys going up that big, initial, climb and been better situated for the long sections of singletrack.
I did end the race without much air in the rear tire. I could hear it on the corners - all the tread was digging in. Great traction, but I was a little worried I might burp the tire and flat out. I'm glad I played it a little safe to finish on that tire, instead of pumping for air (and likely losing the race). Time to buy a bottle of Stan's.
All in all, a great course - I had a good time once I let go of the start. It's very technical, and my bike handled it great - at least once I was out of control and on a horrible line only to have the shocks absorb the obstacles in my way. I think the brains really did help on the climbs as I saw other folks bouncing on their bikes during warm-ups. I'm very glad that I got a good warm-up in, I was able to punch it right from the start and didn't have any weariness in my legs until the end of the race.
Food-wise, I need to pack it a little better so I don't lose it on the trail. I liked having water in the CamelBak and an energy drink in the bottle - it felt good to get some tasty beverage during the ride.
Two races and two first places. Granted, today's race only had 3 other Clydes, only one of whom was competition, but it felt good. I feel confident that a top-3 placement is possible for any of the rides I've got coming up.