This past weekend I once again participated in the carnival that is the Sea Otter Classic. This once yearly event is billed as “the world’s largest cycling festival” hosting about 8500 athletes and over 50,000 fans.
Last year, a bunch of us had gone down on Saturday to check out the vendor booths, the pump track, the Sierra Nevada Brewery booth and then do dinner in Monterey. This year, my schedule didn’t work out that way so although the rest of the gang went down and did the whole thing on Saturday then had a good nights sleep at a local hotel, I opted to get up at 4:00 am on Sunday, drive down and do the race. I figured I’d check out the vendors and the scene afterwards.
The problem for me in trying to get up early is that I have this paranoia that I’m going to oversleep and I end up waking up every 45 minutes to an hour to check the clock which doesn’t bode well for a good night’s rest. I did manage to get up on time though and after getting ready, wolfing down a bowl of cereal and a clif bar I was on the road and made it to the parking lot with an hour and a half to spare.
Registration went quickly and I headed down to try to get my legs warmed up by riding around the vendor area. It was eerily quiet at this hour with none of the crowds, chaos and energy I’d find here after my race.
Soon enough, people were lining up on the track in their groups. Nick and I, being on single speeds were to be the second group out right behind the tandems. Yep, tandem mountain bike racers….and they say single speeders are nuts.
The race starts on the track at Laguna Seca and we rolled out in a group around a couple of turns and up the corkscrew before jumping off the track and onto the dirt. As soon as we hit the dirt I realized I may have gone out too hard as I was redlined and huffing. Slowing my pace I tried to get into a groove and just motor….it wasn’t working. I continued to struggle with my heart rate and no matter how much I tried to relax every time I looked at the gps, I realized I was going faster than I wanted and had to force myself to slow down.
It’s been a really wet and rainy winter and I haven’t been riding nearly as much as I had last year. At about mile 10 this fact became apparent as even the smallest climbs were sending me into the red zone. At mile 17 as we headed up the last long fireroad climbs towards the finish, my lack of fitness and the pace I had early on in the race really became my undoing. I was cramping something fierce and even though I had gone through 3 e-gels, a pack of shot blocks and almost 70ounces of water, I was forced to walk several times until the cramps in my quads would loosen up.
Finally we crested the last climb before heading back down to the track and the finish and I knew this wasn’t going to be one of my best days. I had finished though and that was my goal.
Nick rolled in not long after I did (surprisingly un-bloodied for a change) followed by Jon who had started in a different group a while after us. Tracy came in later covered in dirt and some pretty good road rash. Evidently he had been really flying as he entered one of the badly rutted sections and ended up doing a superman impression as his bike got caught in a deep rut. He was a little torn up but had finished strong anyway.
My plan was to spend a good part of the afternoon wandering around the vendor area looking for deals and schwag, but all I could think about was food and a hot shower so I headed back to the truck, swung through a Mickey D’s in Salinas for a grilled chicken sandwich and a large iced coffee and headed for home….and a long hot shower….