Wow, Downieville. What a beast. I was coming off of a big trip to Oregon where I was riding my mountain bike quite a bit. Thanks to my awesome friends who had a rental for the week, I was able to head to Downieville on Sunday night, almost a week before the race. Common sense would dictate that it would be best to take it easy, swim in the river, eat well and keep my feet up. However, a week of riding the Downieville trails was too much fun to pass up, especially with great friends coming to join us throughout the week. So, I ended up riding almost every day, figuring that it would hurt my result but really…the good times would be worth it.
The race was rough. I woke up at 4am starving, and realized that somehow, despite trying to eat a big dinner, I’d totally blown it on nutrition already. Then, my bike went into a van that didn’t make it to Sierra City for an extra 30 minutes, meaning I was standing around at the start nervously waiting for it instead of warming up. Realistically, once my bike showed up 25 minutes before the whistle, I knew I’d be warming up on the climb. I told myself to ease into it and try not to blow up early, a classic mistake on this steep, loose and exposed hill. I started in the back of my category (Expert), and right away I could tell I just didn’t have it. There were a few times during the famous “trail of tears” 8 mile climb where I seriously considered quitting. I was slightly more enthusiastic after cleaning the entire thing, albeit at a snail’s pace, thanks to my granny and sturdy new 2.3 Vigilantes. However, towards the top I started to get the dreaded feeling I was heading towards some serious cramping. Sure enough, riding Sunrise trail I could feel my muscles seizing on the punchy uphills. First my hamstrings…then quads…then inner thighs…oh, and then my lower back seized up. Yikes…there were a lot of miles left, and my body was revolting.
At that point I just figured I was in survival mode, and would have to ride my own pace on the climbs, and get my kicks on the descents. I took it somewhat easy coming down Pauley - I was tired, and crashing there amongst the babyheads has serious consequences. I started to recover a little bit but had to baby my legs on the short climbs. I was happy to notice that thanks to my horrible climbing performance, I wasn’t getting passed much on descents, but was definitely picking off some people. I need to get better about passing on the downhills - had some ladies in my sights that managed to get through traffic and take off, while I was a bit bogged down. I had been riding those trails all week after all, and had them pretty dialed, especially Third Divide.
By First Divide I was actually enjoying myself again - despite intermittent painful reminders that my legs were toast. It’s hard not to have a blast riding those trails. I ended up finishing in just over 3 hours, which I was pretty stoked about. Downieville was only my 4th mountain bike race, and by many accounts it’s one of the hardest around. I felt terrible but I rode cleanly and pulled off what I considered to be a respectable time, all things considered.
So, of course, I came home and registered for Annadel. Maybe I’ll even give myself some recovery so I can actually race this time…