Race Report by Brooke McFerren, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team. Photos: Called To Creation
Non Dot Adventures Aliso Woods XC Race 3
A different time of year for the Non Dot Adventures’ Aliso XC race! At first I was little concerned hearing the race was being held in August instead of April, especially since it’s a longer race and has sections where the heat could be an issue. However the organizers wisely held the race early in the morning and it ended up being a perfect day to hold a race.
Every race has different challenges and therefore different strategies involved, and for Aliso the key for me as a challenge and a strategy was pacing. The Elite women race the same distance as the Elite men, with one trip up Cholla, two trips up Mathis, and three descents down Rock-It. The beginning is also tough-a deceptively easy fire road that stretches for almost 5 miles; however it has a slight grade upwards and several sandy sections which can suck the life out of legs before reaching the first climb at Cholla. After each tough climb the strategy for me was to recover quickly enough to be ready to tackle the technical descent and rock gardens of Rock-It. I had completed a quick pre-ride a week or so prior to figure out a few sections of trail, make sure I had good lines, and do a climb up Mathis, but I wasn’t feeling too ready for the length of the race. Most of my training and racing up to this point had been short, intense distances, and I knew it was going to be tough to estimate proper pacing for the length and challenges of this course. My goal therefore wasn’t necessarily to win but to stay in one piece and try to improve on my course time from last year.
The start went smooth, and us ladies set off on a nice pace for the five mile fire road - not too fast, not too slow. Nearing the approach to Cholla I made my move to have a nice gap while tackling the punchy climb. However near the top I reached some traffic and got held up a bit. I was able to barely sustain a small lead through the first Rock-It descent, where I knew I was probably going to be a bit slower than my competition. I then worked on smooth fast riding until Mathis and put my climbing gears to the test! Mathis is always brutal, and doing it twice is just torture. Hearing the cheering and encouragement by the volunteers and spectators was very helpful for a little boost. By the second lap of Mathis I had a comfortable lead and felt completely alone! Most of the other racers had already finished their race because they had a shorter distance, and part of the time in my tired delirium I wondered if I had wandered off course! Thankfully I made it safely down Rock-It all three times although probably not as fast as I could have, since I wanted to stay safe and make up my time on the climbs and flat flowy sections. In the end, in addition to surprisingly finishing in first place, I was especially happy to have met my goals: I beat my old personal record by over a minute on the course, I was able to recover quickly after each climb, and I was all in one piece after all the descents!
A shout-out goes to my always fun-loving and amazingly talented competitors! And also much appreciation to The Path Bike Shop for all their support and for having a strong showing at this race! It’s great to have a nice turn out by our Race Team at these events. And a special thanks to Non-Dot Adventures for a terrific race and providing a great, fun atmosphere as always.