Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Immersion Approach to MTB'ing

I'm a bit lubed up on fermented grapes and hops, along with 800 mg Ibuprofin, so excuse me if this post is not perfectly coherent. Or should I say, even less coherent than usual. More on the lube later...

So here's the story in a nutshell. I last dabbled in MTB in 1989 when my friend Hans got me a pro deal on a bike. I'd go out with him and his pro'ish buddies and provide entertainment for them by crashing on every technical descent we'd encounter. Then one time I endo'ed into a huge patch of Poison Oak, and got the worst full-body case ever documented. Even in places that were tightly enclosed within protective chamois, if you know what I mean. That was my last ride in the dirt.

Until today.

Fast forward 19 years to this past Wednesday when I finally assembled my new bike. Thursday I rode it up OSM (19:00) and Friday around the roads of Goleta. Still no dirt ...I saved that for today, my first ever mountain bike race.

Now I don't know how to write a race report for a MTB race so I won't even try. I like how Dave Lettieri described what to expect: "a hectic sprint off the line followed by a long time trial". OK, but what about the crashing and being scared sh**less parts?! Dave's comments were well intentioned I'm sure, but he's too much of an old pro to give the real advice so I'll do that below.

But first, for all the SB locals, have you lately bowed down and expressed your appreciation to Mr. MTB in Santa Barbara? Mike Hecker is amazing and deserves huge kudos for all he has done and continues to do for this community. It's a small group of folks who labor long and hard to bring us events like this, and we owe them a huge collective thank-you.

THANK YOU MIKE!! (...and Trish, Charlotte, and Evan too)

And man-oh-man what a beautiful venue the Chamberlin Ranch is! I imagine that's what California looked like 200 years ago. Somehow Mike contorted an 11+ mile course onto that land as shown here:

So yeah, I "raced" two laps on that course. I crashed four times on lap #1 and none on lap two. I must have unclipped 10 times on #1 and maybe only two or three on lap #2. As a consequence, my second lap was about 4 minutes faster than #1. That made me happy, since it meant I was capable of learning. Like a lab rat.

Now I'll share with you some of the lessons I learned today. It may be that these nuggets of info are only applicable to other rookies who take the immersion approach to MTB racing and do their first dirt ride in an actual race ...I don't know.

1. It's a good clue that you're a bit too anxious for your race if your dream the night prior is of you riding along a single-track trail with live Land Mines along the edge.

2. Do not watch videos like this or this before your first race.

3. That number that they give you when you register? Don't pin it on your jersey goes on the front of your bike! (Thanks Dave)

4. Just because the sidewall of your tires says you can inflate them up to 65 psi, don't do it. (Thanks Roger)

5. Just because you can clip into your new pedals in your driveway while holding onto the car, does not mean you can clip into them during a race after stepping in a cow-poo pie.

6. Speaking of cow poo, when racing through a cow pasture, you might want to back off that rider in front of you. I discovered today that cow poo has an oddly sweet taste.

7. That little teeny chainring really does have a purpose! And it's good to remember to shift into it before you've bogged down to 1.3 mph.

8. Say thanks to your friends who don't call you a wussy just because you got scared at a downhill and decided to walk your bike in front of them even though everyone else rode down it no problem. (Thanks Mondo)

9. Don't pass people on the uphill just because you can, if you're so slow on the descent that you'll be obstructing them on the other side.

10. If you get yourself a fancy-smancy bike with cool suspension, don't get so nervous that you forget to unlock your forks so you ride the whole race with no shock absorption in the front. What kind of dumba$$ would do that?!? (me)

11. Quit looking down at your rear tire's not flat, that's just the rear suspension working!

12. Don't look off the trail. I crashed four times on the first lap because my front wheel followed where I looked.

13. Don't hold the bars in a death grip the entire race unless you want a hand-cramp that lasts the rest of the day.

14. No point in carrying two full bottles if you don't heed lesson #13 above.

15. It turns out that you can flip over completely backwards if you try to ride up a steep enough hill. Should you try to determine this yourself with a little real-world experimentation, let me suggest that you NOT do it on a rocky slope while wearing no helmet. Nobody gave me this valuable yet obscure advice before today, so naturally I tried it. The result seems to be a cracked rib and bruised hip. Thus the lube job.

I have some pictures to post but my battery is about to die, so later...

[Sunday morning] After re-reading what I wrote last night, I realized I neglected to mention the dominant thought running through my feeble brain, which is that the race was an absolute and total blast and so incredibly fun that I can barely go 30 seconds without revisiting some aspect of the day.

OK, pics... mostly of teammates from the second wave of races (expert classes) but a few other notables too...

Team Platinum Performance dominating the expert field.

Steve Silva and Ron side-by-side, and Specialized rep Bob Meeker (in black Bearpaw kit) in back of them. I remember Bob racing for UCSB and SBBC in the early 1980's, so yeah, he's put in some time in the bike biz.

Bobby Langin Sr. getting some air. I haven't gotten to know Bobby yet but I bet he's got some stories. I googled him (not to be creepy or anything...) and discovered he was quite a BMX star back in the day. And more recently completely dominated the SoCal 45+ cross scene (didn't he win every single race?) but the funniest thing google coughed up was the picture down below. That's Bobby Sr. getting sideways in front of Mark Noble.

Ya think Bobby is having some fun yet?

Ron and Joe White coming over the hill. If Joe ever trained, he'd be one of the best guys in town, but on this day he was eating Ron's dust. (Of course, so did almost everyone else too.)

Roger intensely focused on the drop. He broke his hip in a crash last year and certainly doesn't want to repeat that. Takes some guts to get back out there!

Our semi-pro teammate Jamie looking, well, quite pro.

Bob Nisbet won his age group on Saturday and looked really smooth.

As did Nick...

Looked to me like Steve Silva was smiling the entire race ...or was that a grimace?

Mark B-Lukie looking sharp. Mark acquired that nicky because a couple years ago on Painted Cave he suffered a crash just like Joseba Beloki's horrible fall in the TdF.

Steve Bertrand grabbing a bite to eat while descending. Is this the accepted manner for MTB racers to fuel?

A gutsy race from Platinum gal Stacy.

Frazer rode a single-speed bike. That boggles my mind. I probably used every single gear of the 30 available combinations at some point or another, yet he did the entire race with just one. How?? ...and why??

Bellas are everywhere! It's really cool that no matter where you to race in California, and no matter what flavor of race (MTB, CX, Road, or track), you're likely to see some Velo Bellas competing and having fun.

I must have done half a dozen hard road races last year with Ozzie (pictured here) and I don't think he knows me but I know him because he is not afraid to pull hard and work--which I usually view from behind with great respect and humility. I had no idea he was also an accomplished rider in the dirt. He and his fellow Cal Giant Strawberry just rode away in the Pro/Semi-Pro race.

And last but definitely not least, this is Michael "Olaf Vanderhoot" Hernandez, a true Renaissance Man of cycling. He does it all and is good at most everything... fast crits, hard road races, track, CX, and apparently MTB too. (Yes, I left out TT'ing, but hey, I calls 'em likes I sees 'em) He rode the marathon event at the MTB race, five laps for 55 miles. Amazing. Very cool that he and his lovely significant other Sabine made the trip down from the SCruz for Hecky's MTB day. If there were such a thing as a King and Queen of cycling in NorCal, these two would be it.

That is all.


Chester said...

Classic- glad to hear it was so much fun!
I learned a WHOLE LOT up at our two races as well. I'm sure non of the lessons quite as comical.
I hope we don't loose you to the dark side. Once you get a taste...

Rick "man of leisure" Vircavs said...

Sorry to hear your banged up, heal quickly. But fun, yes!

PS thanks for link to those crashes. That first one is nasty.

jen said...

We are Bella, you are powerless to resist us ;-)

Racing in February should be against the Geneva Convention. See you all in March. Or April.

Velo Bella said...

You're a good sport! And you looked like you were having a blast.

Sorry to hear about the riblets. Ouch.

Marco Fanelli said...

Chester- I don't think MTB is the "dark side", and not even running is that bad, but if you had said triathlon, then yeah, that would be bad! I can't wait to hear all the details from the RR's up north. Sounds like you rode great.

Rick- I remember reading on the internet that the guy who tumbled down the cliff was ok. I think it was somewhere in San Diego county.

Jen- MTB == Waterboarding, so I agree the Geneva Convention should apply.

VB- It was so much fun (except for the accidental flip) and a great vibe on the day. Glad you could make the trip south.

Greg Knowles said...

Marco, congrats on completing the race. I hope to see you out there at some of the other mtn. bike races.

Anonymous said...

I thought you would get a kick out of the article here:

-Enjoy the ride!

Cliff said...

Talk to Gary about #10 (If you get yourself a fancy-smancy bike with cool suspension, don't get so nervous that you forget to unlock your forks so you ride the whole race with no shock absorption in the front. What kind of dumba$$ would do that?!? (me))he did it at the 24 hour race we did a few years back. Sounds like you are learning all his secret mountain bike tricks. Great recap, funny stuff

Steve said...

The OtherSteve said ;


Hey maybe I should Fly out and do a race with you we would be in the same Class I think, And I have not done a Mtn bike race since 95 ish ... Any races MAY 17+18 I think I will be in town. If GAry would let me ride his Bike I just need shoes Hmmmmmmmm..

Hey anyhow I hope to meet you and some of the other Team guys this summer ..

Steve D

Marco Fanelli said...

Thanks Greg! I can't wait to get out on a C-Ranch Sunday MTB ride.

Anony- That BikeRadar story was funny and it made me laugh which really hurt my rib. Cruel of you. But also, in the interest of balanced reporting, you have to read this from Mike So-Pro Jones:

Cliff- Don't those 24-hour races involve some beer drinking? Maybe that's why he forgot. But anyway, I think Gary has become pure roadie so I probably won't ask him anything about MTB.

Steve D'Velo- You're in luck! That weekend in May is a huge MTB race at the same venue... it's a Norba National, or something like that. It conflicts with some good road events though, so we'll see...

mhernandez said...

jayzuz Mark!

no injuries allowed, brudda.

and i had no idea that was your first race in a couple-odd decades. wtf?

you are amazing.

and i have the ultimate pro shot of your skinny mtb ass ... i'll wait to pull that one out when it's appropriate.

be sure to let me know if you guys want to come up and slum in the sCruz with me and Sabine. There's a downstairs room with ya'lls name on it.

... maybe we'll take you up to Demo and get you some skilz, baby.

ps. time trials SUCKASS!