I ended my season with a bang, finishing 3rd, Cat 1 in the 30-39 age group, just behind 1st place pro and just in front of 2nd place pro, so I'm pretty sure I finished in the top 5 overall. I felt really good throughout the race. I definitely had the legs today. I was a bit worried, not having ridden the trails here before, that there was a lot of descending and not enough climbing. I decided to go out really hard in the first lap and see how long I could hold my position.
I made the dumb mistake by forgetting to bring a jersey. I prepped the night before and swore I had stuffed one in my bag. Luckily I had a Rapha base layer so I didn't look completely out-of-place, but I did miss having pockets to carry tools and food.
I setup a mini aid station just past the lap marker. I had plenty of bottles and food stashed in my little cooler, but didn't dip into it. The course was shaded from the scorching sun, and I hydrated well enough throughout the week to need more than the single bottle of water. No more energy drink mix for me. My stomach feels better for it, but maybe I need to try a few different brands.
The first lap was intense. I started with the pros, Cat 1 19-29 and 30-39, and held onto 3rd place for quite a while before the descending started. I graciously let people by me, knowing I'll see them on the climbs ahead. Unfortunately there weren't that many sustained or tough climbs except for the very end of the lap. They call it the Dead Heifer, with an average grade of 20%. The Headlands Heifer is named after it. Good thing I had some practice on grades that steep.
My bike performed flawlessly. No drivetrain or suspension issues. My Specialized Fast Trak tires saved me at least three or four times from crashing. I've been super impressed with their performance ever since I made the switch.
The rest of the race was really fun. Lots of switchback short climbs, lots of loose over hardpack (common NorCal terrain), and lots of fast single track. The only bad part of the race was having all the Cat 2 stragglers in the way, but most of them cleared the way when asked.
Knowing it was only a 20 mile XC race I put the hammer down early one and paced myself with each lap. I could have pushed a little harder towards the end, but there was just too much descending for me to take that risk. Having done Leadville and the marathon nationals it felt really good to do something not quite as enduring, especially a race just 40 minutes north of the city. It also felt really good to step onto the podium, something I haven't done in at least 12 years, back when I raced as a junior, as well as a sport senior.
Sadly, it's Marin County's only race of the year, but I'm looking forward to it again. Great to see a lot of familiar faces and that the mountain biking community in the bay area is strong.