We knew it was going to be a small crowd at Castaic. With Idylwild the weekend before and Castaic's reputation, the field was going to be smaller than usual. The temps weren't going to be as low as I liked, but I've raced hotter conditions there and I was thankful for what we had. This year they were starting the beginners, right behind the Sport class field at 10 AM.
Deb lined up somewhere back there and I took up my place with about a dozen other racers. What I didn't know, was that they changed the beginner race from only doing a single lap, to doing two laps! Deb found this out at the starting line. At any other race, this news would've been ok, but Castaic was different. Castaic has the reputation of being one of the toughest courses in SoCal. It is not technical at all. What makes Castaic different is that it is incredibly demanding cardio wise.
My group rolled up for the usual two-minute countdown and when we got the 'Go', I jetted out, leading the pack, got passed and by the time we hit the muddy tank crossing two minutes later, I was battling out for fourth. Up the grinding switchback climbs. All very steep and soft. You're barely making it around in the granny and at the top, no relief as we climb alongside the spillway. I watch the leaders pull away, but today, I'm working my own game.
I've always done poorly here. I've bonked, I've cramped, died a thousand deaths, blown up and had mechanicals. Today was about keeping it under control. We hit the double hills to the picnic area and at the top, I cranked it in the big ring and kept at it. Crossed the paved road and was on the fireroad at the bottom of the tough climb, called 'the wall'. Dropped into the granny and watched my self. The morning heat poured on and sweat was dropping on the top tube of the bike. We were all suffering.
From the top of the ridge, we then dropped down to the very bottom at the lake. A short run around the edges of the water and then we start to climb the long, steep sandy climb back to the top. Oh, what a royal beyatch this climb was. You fought for traction and dared not wander off the narrow path. My heart rate started to rise. I sat up, changed the cadence and just kept a lid on it. This was the toughest part for me. I have failed in previous attempts here, and now I'm doing OK with it. At the top of the ridge, we begin the fast descent down the valley. This is a very fast singletrack that opens up halfway down the valley into a double-track. Serious speed going on here and not a good place to lay it down. I got caught up behind a couple of guys, who while going fast enough, weren't exactly hauling. Finally got to pass the first guy as it opened up into the doubletrack and then sailed by rider #2 on the screaming fast doubletrack.
At the bottom, we transition to the 'green box' climb and in a few minutes, we're rolling across the foot deep layer of shredded sticks. I'm still in fourth place, doing OK and I'm good with it. Finish the lap, with the 'green box' descent (the old Cal-State downhill course) and I start the second lap. There's mud out there and I splash through it, instead of around it. Mistake number one (mistake two, was using 'White Lightning'). Going up the switchbacks, the drivetrain starts to skip. The chain keeps jumping three or four links with any serious pressure on the cranks. I believe my granny gear is worn out. I play with the cable adjustment to no avail. I get passed by one, then two, then three of my competitors. Easy to bum out about, but I accept it and keep working the ill bike up the monster climbs, with the drivetrain constantly puking.
Work the lake climb behind Bob Meeker, the Specialized Rep, who's having the same problem. We get in line behind a long line of guys and I watch as Bob, just puts a jam on the pedals in the granny and gets around five or six guys, I follow, with the chain puking, but pulling it off. At the top, I'm behind him and we're doing the second ridgeline S/T, before the doubletrack descent and we make the left turn into the long, fast descent. Bob is darn fast on the downhill and he gaps me.
On the last half of the 'green box' climb, I can see one of my competitors, but I'm unable to close the gap. At the top, we drop down into the former DH course and I work the bumpy, but fast singletrack and pay attention to the course. It's easy to get distracted, when you're beat to crap and tired and suddenly find yourself going OTB or worse. Cross the finish line for seventh place and then go back and wait for Deb. I didn't know she was doing two laps for quite awhile, until I inquired at the registration tent. I caught Deb at the end of the course, as she was finishing the second lap. She flatted on the greenbox climb and had to go through what all racers eventually have to face: changing out a tire in the hot sun on an exposed hillside, while sweat just pours off've you like a tropical deluge.
She was the only one in her class, so first place was automatic, but then again, she deserved it, as nobody else showed, so it was hers and it wasn't like she rode around the parking lot and got it either. After eating, we watched the Experts, Pro's and SemiPro's work the course and helped man the water station, giving the occasional racer who wanted it, the big old splash on the helmet and back, as those guys started their race at 1 PM, the hottest part of the day. I didn't envy them.
Not good results for me, but I'm happy with how I did, as that's the first time, I was able to work the course with good control of my mental situation. Afterwards, we stopped at the new BJ's Brewery here in Palmdale for IPA's and evil food. Damn, was it good.
Posted by STP a 48 year old Racer riding a K2 Razorpiggie from P'Dale on 05/21/07