The week leading up to Sea Otter was a pretty crazy. Kara and I drove home from the two races in L.A. on Sunday and left for Sea Otter in Monterey, CA on Thursday… Just enough time to see our loved ones for a couple days, unpack, repack and process my new Pro MTB license! 🙂 I had never been to Sea Otter, and it’s one of those iconic events that everyone talks about because it’s more than just a race, it’s like an outdoor version of Interbike. In previous years I didn’t want to go because it either directly conflicted with Xterra West Champs, or was the weekend before, which was just too close for comfort when considering the travel and all. With the new Xterra Pan America Tour this year, there is no longer a West Championship race so I had the perfect opportunity to finally go and experience this big event.
One of the downsides of racing the past two weeks for my pro license was that it made planning for Sea Otter very last minute and since Monterey is not a cheap place to visit, I decided to camp for the weekend to save some cash and spend some more quality time with Kara and August 😉 Thursday was a pretty stressful day, trying to squeeze in training, packing and the 5 hour drive to arrive at the venue before 8pm for Registration. I just barely made it in time and then proceeded to set up camp and cook myself a half way decent dinner in the dark. I didn’t get to bed particularly early and Friday morning’s Short Track race was weighing heavily on my mind.
I realized that night that while I love camping for a fun weekend of training and hanging out with friends, I remember now why I don’t love camping at races…I don’t sleep worth a darn! I got up Friday morning groggy and exhausted and super nervous about the weekend ahead of me, realizing that I probably wouldn’t be sleeping well that night either.
We packed up and rushed off to the venue, and warmed up for Short Track, trying not to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event. The entire Laguna Seca Raceway was full of vendors, teams, racers and spectators- it really was quite a sight.
For some reason the race was delayed a bit which gave us a little more time to wait nervously for the call ups. The race would be 20 minutes + 3 laps and since I was one of the very last entrants for the race I was dead last to be called to the line which meant I would be playing chase for the entire race again (the 2nd downside of getting my pro license so recently). The course was tricky with some deep gravel just a couple hundred meters off the start, followed by some tight corners, flyovers and a singletrack trail on woodchips. There were some serious bottleneck issues and crashes and again I got stuck at the back of the pack. As soon as the course opened up I punched it as hard as I could to get around a few riders before the next squeeze. During the 20 mins I made a lot of forward progress and finished 21st (out of 49), getting pulled 3 laps from the end. I was frustrated starting at the back and not getting to officially finish, but I did the best I could and it wasn’t important; more of a warmup for the big XC race. I knew I would be in a similar situation in the XC so I couldn’t help but get more nervous about the start, knowing how important it would be to go hard early and avoid some of the trouble that comes with being in the back of the field. I spent the next few hours previewing the XC course, catching up with some friends and searching out a couple of my sponsor booths. I had yet to meet some of them in person, so it was nice to finally meet Spencer at HyperThreads and Aly and May at Optic Nerve.
On Saturday morning it was the typical pre-race nerves and hustle and bustle of getting ready for the race. I was definitely nervous, but not as nervous as I normally would be for an Xterra Championship race. Of course I had my own expectations and goals, but there was no outside pressure on me to perform so that helped me stay a little more relaxed. Again, I was the last rider (of 59) to be called to the line so on the minute whistle I tried to be aggressive and move up as much as possible. The nice thing about starting on the paved raceway was that it was a little more forgiving for allowing a little space and distance for the field to move around and get situated. There was an early crash that I barely managed to avoid and it seemed like I was at the back of the main pack halfway up the first steep climb when the leaders accelerated and I had to really dig deep not to get dropped into no mans land. I proceeded to curse them for it when the group came back together when we slowed to a standstill at the top of the hill as we had to weave around a couple barriers. The whole first lap was dicey, with fast accelerations and decelerations as people were aggressively fighting for position and trying to move up. After a couple laps the field spread out and it we were able to ride at a more consistent, yet very hard effort. I found myself among a group of 4 or 5 women and there was no letting up or settling in. On the last lap I either accelerated or a few of them slowed down, I’m not quite sure which, but I found myself all alone and trying to close the gap on a rider about 30-45 seconds ahead of me. I finished 24th and felt good about my effort and the where I finished relative to my starting position.
I was relieved to have the race behind me and to have performed well. For the rest of the day I was free to relax and mingle with my sponsors and friends. It really was a great weekend and it most definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, which was scary and exciting at the same time. I learned a lot about that style of racing and look forward to doing more of it!