I patted myself on the back — I did it, the Sea Otter Mountain Biking Recreational Ride (aka MTB tour).
I have to confess though my motive in signing up for the ride was not pure. Erik had ridden at Sea Otter a few times. Last year when he quit riding there (not interested any more), his buddy Derek got us in the festival for one day on his extra passes and we got some swags and bought some items at good prices. This year, Derek thought he would have one extra pass, so not knowing that one could buy day passes separately, I thought I would have to sign up something just to get in the festival. Yep, I did not sign up for the ride; I signed up the tour for the swags. Plus, being there would enable Erik to hang out with this circle of MTB friends. As luck had it, Erik ended up having to work long hours on an IT project over the weekend and did not even make it down.
Why was I so happy about myself making the ride then? Well, always having enjoyed long distance riding, I had made up my mind to do the long version of the tour (called the sport, or 20-mile, course). However, I had only ridden at Sea Otter once (last weekend with eight dirt divas) and only did most of the beginner course. So there were about 7.5 miles of trails I had not seen. I did not know what to expect. I found myself awake at 3am wondering how technical it could be on those trails unknown to me. The time finally arrived at 9:30 am on Saturday morning. "Well, I guess I'll find out."
There were eight of us in our group, but it would have been almost impossible to all stay together anyway. So, from the beginning of the ride, I hung on to Jeff and Ryan. The very moment the riders left the pavement, I witnessed a crash — a little kid (about ten years old) went down when his wheels washed out on the gravel dirt road. He was wearing full protection gear though, so the crash did not look too bad. I was a little nervous when we hit the first single track because that was where I went down last time. But the ride went quite uneventful. I caught up with someone who obviously had taken a tumble judging by the dirt coverage over his body and passed him when he stalled in a sandy bend. I was never very fast, but I was not on my brake much either.
For the most part, I did well climbing and even got some compliments from a total stranger whom I leap frogged with for a while. But at one very short steep technical (rutted and loose) climb, I guess I was trying so hard to impress the guy pushing his bike right next to me that I rode off the good line I had planned on taking and veered into a deep sand patch. The bike stopped moving forward, and started tipping sideway. I landed almost right next to his feet. And it took me a few seconds to unclip my right shoe. Hmmm… embarrassing. The good thing was I landed on my right hip, which already got a pupple-blue bruise from who knows when, so it was no big deal. What's even better was that was the only crash for me on this ride.
For the most of the way, Jeff stayed in front of me, and Ryan stayed behind me. Sometimes when we hit a downhill/technical section, I had the previlage to watch Jeff catch some air and do some fancy stuff before he totally disappeared. But we regrouped often along the way, chatting, drinking water, eating, and answering nature's calls. On the last long climb out, Jeff and I stayed together in the feroucious wind. At one point, the side wind blew me right across the wide fireroad and added a bit of excitement to the ride. We made it to the finish after 2 hours and 45 minutes from the start. According to my GPS and motionbased, my riding time was 2:24. I am feeling pretty good about it.
There was a mishap in our group though. Nick, Derek's teenage son, crashed hard after his tire blew up, most likely due to a pinch flat from a dip. The front wheel was all mangled up. He got a ride out on the course service truck. The bruises and wounds in his chin and legs did not take his smiles away though. A tough kid, I must say.
My camera was too bulky to be carried around on a ride, especially when I'm not sure if I can staying away from crashes. So, it's a pity that I have no pictures to show for this scenic ride. But the lack of photos did not seem to stop me from typing — man, this trip report is getting lengthy again.
Oh, wait, before I finish it off, last year, I heard Sea Otter gave out one festival pass for every ride/race one signed up as well as a guest pass, which obviously has been cut this year. From what I heard, the post-ride lunch plate for the finishers also got quite a bit less fulfilling despite the higher registration fee. It makes one wonder where the event is headed. Guess we'll find out next year.
Elevation Profile (3885'+/3860'-)
P.S. Please see my Sunday's post for photos from Sea Otter.
P.P.S. I guess I forgot to elaborate on how the course was, especially the section that was not on the Beginners course. Overall, this course, in my mind, is very beginner-friendly. For the most part, it is very smooth. The main technical aspect is that you need to deal with loose sand here and there. But unless you are unlucky, I don't think eating some sand will hurt much. The Sport section was not bad either — there were no logs to hop over or a steep cliff side to fall off of. I remember there was a section of fairly steep downhill section that was a little rough, but I had enough time to pick the best line and ride it, so it really was not that bad at all.