Monday, May 10, 2010

Berkeley Hills Road Race: Working Reg

Yesterday was the first time I've ever worked registration at a sanctioned race. Berkeley Hills is a classic Nor-Cal course: San Pablo Dam Road, Castro Ranch Road, Alhambra Valley Road, and Bear Creek Road provide almost idylling riding in the hills east of Berkeley. The route is highlighted by the "Three Bears", three short but fairly steep climbs along Bear Creek Road. From the south, first Mama Bear (where the race once finished), then two bumps of which the second is generally considered to be "Baby Bear", then a descent over the bridge @ Happy Valley Road to the final climb, Papa Bear, at the top of which the race now finishes. For laps preceding the last, following Papa there's a fast, straight descent to another bridge and a short but steep climb to San Pablo Dam Road. Then it's back around the loop and another encounter with the Three Bears. The race is a war of attrition: survive a seemingly endless series of short hill intervals until the final, slow-motion sprint to the line. There's no faking your fitness here.

2010 Berkeley Hills RRMike Nachtwey photo from the road

Each of the past two years I raced E3 here. In 2008, I found myself off the front following the neutralized climb out of the start area. Very strange the riders didn't even seem sufficiently motivated to stay with the lead motorcycle's modest pace up the climb. I decided to take the gift and run with it. But the fun lasted only a lap and a half, and then I was caught and passed, my reserves spent. I forced myself to continue and get a finishing place, despite the temptation to pack it in.

In 2009, with less fitness I decided to ride smarter. Despite my lack of preparation due to a series of colds and allegy problems in the winter and spring, I was surprised at how well I was able to hold the pace. Until, that is, on the second lap when a rider went down in front of me and I crashed. Rather than continue on with bruised ribs and a potentially damaged bike, I spent the rest of my day in the nearby feed zone, handing bottles to teammates.

This year, with my focus on running in preparation for Skyline to the Sea, I was even further behind in my cycling-specific fitness. My club was co-sponsoring the race with the Berkeley Cycling Club, and so my responsibility, unless I was in top form, was to support the race rather than participate. So I volunteered for registration.

Due to the toxic influence of urban sprawl, the Berkeley Hills Road Race is forced to start bright and early @ 7:30 am. That means registration volunteers show up dark & early by 5:30 am.... After awakening at 3:50 am, I first ran to meet my carpool, then we drove to pick up another volunteer, then onward to the race start.

It was fun, and went a lot smoother than I'd anticipated. A few race-day snafus: a lack of pins and a lack of rider release forms had to be at least partially rectified with an emergency early-Sunday run into Orinda. But my group, 35+ 1-2-3, was fantastic. These guys all knew the drill: every single one showed up with license out and most even had their own pins sparing our unfortunately limited supply. Even though other categories tended to arrive earlier, registration of my master's group went almost without a hitch. Well, almost: I accidently swapped the numbers of two riders with the same last name. But a quick visit to the laptop guy took care of that, swapping their numbers in the database.

Afterwards, I finally got to see Don Becker's built-up Ruegamer Überlight, a true work of weight weenie genius. The bike is simply amazing, making my own racing bike (weenied out in its climbing wheels) look like a boat anchor. I couldn't help but notice his Aerolite pedals had a wonderfully hollow bore: they'd be perfect candidates for the Metrigear Vector.

Don BeckerDon Becker with his Ruegamer Überlight, at 2009 San Bruno Hillclimb

My duties done by 9am, I set off for home, stopping along the way to watch the riders pass. Intermittent rain eliminated any envy I might have had for them. But eventually I moved on for good, running up Wildcat Canyon to Shasta past Grizzly Peak then eventually down to Euclid, Hearst, UCB, and Berkeley BART. From the Civic Center station to home brought my net running for the day to 11.5 miles. For me, that's solid, and combined with the early wake-up, I was tired.

But it will be fun to be on the racer side of the reg table again. Hopefully at the Sierra Road KOM Hillclimb (if it happens) in conjunction with the Tour of California Stage 4 starting in San Jose. I just need my body to give me a hint it's ready for a hard climbing effort. I'm not sure the long run is going to help towards that, but at least it was fun.

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