How was the course?
You know Blankets Creek. It’s steep and bermy and sandy and rocky and rooty with creek crossings and drop-ins and technical rock barriers and twisty-turny with pine straw and logs and narrows and even some flats. I’d say this course doesn’t suit my strengths but no shit it doesn’t suit anyone’s strengths. It’s just hard and fast and usually hot and sunny. All in all it’s pretty great, I always leave a little bit of myself in those woods.
What did you ride?
2016 Raleigh Tekoa Comp 29er stock except for the Crankbros Cobalt 2 720mm bars and Crankbros Cobalt 70mm stem. I like the bike a lot and it really handled the rocks and roots and elevation changes much better than the bike I rode last year but really this was only my fourth ride on the bike and I just haven’t ridden it enough to be really fast. I’m also just not as comfortable riding berms so I would bet I gave up anywhere from 3-7 minutes a lap just not being familiar with the bike and the berms. Oh well that’s what I get for not pre-riding the course, like ever.
Stock gearing, 36/22 in the front and 11-36 in the rear.
Stock Kenda Slant Six. Worked ok but I just didn’t handle the berms very well as they are hard and packed and the tires want to self-steer at high speeds. This is obviously corrected by training and familiarity but I wasn’t ready for it so I lost a lot of speed on each berm fighting the unfamiliar sensation. The tires/rim combo did take some serious rim strikes with no issues. Last year I pinch flatted and this year I had similar strikes with no issue.
What’d you eat?
Regular breakfast but 4 pretzels now instead of 5. Had the clif bar 30 minutes (actually 45 due to delay) before the start and then during the race I had one clif bar, one gel and one clif bar. It was super hard to eat – I think liquid nutrition might be something to try next time.
Not enough. It was hard to drink from my bottles since there are only a few straight, flat sections without roots or rocks. I also spent an hour standing in the sun training for a new job from 9-10 so I kinda came in a little drier than I liked.
How was the week leading up to the race?
Good, I walked a lot and hiked the trails near my apartment. Stretched a bunch, tried to eat ok but mostly didn’t and played a lot of Metal Gear Solid 5. I feel like I’m getting stronger but worried about getting enough volume. The ride I did on Tuesday was an absolute soul crusher, I’ve rarely ridden so hard for so long at Sope. I was blown on Tuesday so just chilled and hiked the rest of the week. Warmed up for a bike on Saturday before the race and was fine. I think once I get my racing legs riding the day before a race is not strictly necessary.
Where’d you start?
Like near the middle end, I didn’t do very well in the parking lot sprint.
How’d you do?
8 out of 21, better than last year! What’s funny is that for all the working and passing and getting passed I was the same place for both laps based on time. I spent the first lap and a half with anywhere from 3-6 riders trading places and following lines as the race was pretty packed. I did re-learn that aero is important even in mountain bike racing. On the mild downhills I would drop over my bars, tuck in and it was like hitting one of those yellow arrows in F-Zero – instant speed boost right to the rider ahead of me.
I knocked myself into solo riding after I biffed one of the rocky, rooty sections and had to unclip. I was the lead rider so it was pretty embarrassing but that’s fine. The three riders behind me took off and I was mostly solo from then on. I crashed again a little later on some roots as I just lost my brain for a bit. My left calf cramped like crazy but it ended up ok. Sometime after the first lap it was like my skin caught on fire. I was super-hot and felt like I ran out of oxygen and was just riding like shit. I think I blew-up the first lap and just didn’t realize it. The second lap was hard and I spent a lot of time in my baby ring just spinning up the climbs.
My back complained a little but I managed to stretch and keep it ok the whole time. Really by the end of the race my hands and shoulders were in way worse shape. Riding the whole of Blankets Creek is an intense full body experience.