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Non Dot O.C. Classic #2: Aliso & Wood Canyon

Non Dot O.C. Classic #2: Aliso & Wood Canyon

Plan A was to conserve energy on the initial run-up, use the climbs to secure a mid-pack position, and then tear up the final flat back to the finish.

So I was happy to hear the race director ask that the segment from the start to Wood Canyon be a neutral roll-out. Everyone seemed on board with that plan, so I didn't struggle to keep up, but I started to worry when I noticed that my HR was already 170. Either it was adrenaline, or I'd have to back off at some point.

I started sliding back in the pack pretty quickly once we reached the Wood Canyon Trail. The pace picked up substantially, and I ultimately had to accept that if I wanted to have the legs for Cholla and Mathis, I'd have to let them go.

After that, my race was mostly a solo time trial.

But I did everything I came to do. I finished with the pack (Final result: 16th of 18), rode a strong race (for me), and I feel like I used well the skills I've gained in the last few months.

That's a good day in my book.

Aliso Race


Center of Gravity

Center of Gravity

Changes are afoot, and my cycling life will soon be centered around Orange County rather than the inland foothills of the Santa Monicas. In many ways, the trails have been my home just as much as any apartment or house, and I'm not sure when I'll get to ride them again.

So I'm going to do three things.

1. Races around the Santa Monicas

I'm going to make sure I do a mountain bike race or two each year in the Santa Monicas. I'm not even sure if such races exist, but I'm going to find them if they do. Might be a proper MTB race. Might be a Gran Fondo, or CX race.

2. The Bucket List

I'm putting together a "Bucket List" of trails I want to enjoy over the next few weeks before Orange County really becomes the center of my cycling world.

Johnson Fire Rd.

Johnson and I have unfinished business. I want to take one last real shot at climbing Johnson's Fire Rd in under 30 minutes.


I'd really like to make my last run up Bulldog for a while a PR. That means topping my current best of 38:56. I've climbed Bulldog twice in the last few weeks, and I feel like a PR is a possibility.

New Millennium Loop

More unfinished business. I tried this loop on a hot day years ago, and bailed before the last climb. I really want to go back and do the loop properly. It's been on my list for ever, and I don't know when I'll get another chance.

Runkle Cyn

I've never once managed to climb Runkle clean. There's a particular spot that always gets me. It sets you up with burning legs, and once you're climbing at your limit, the whole trailbed turns to loose, baseball-sized gravel. I'd like to get one more run up that climb, set a new PR, and get it clean. No pressure.

3. Welcome to O.C.

I think whatever melancholy I may feel at not riding my home trails much any more, I'm thrilled to be moving to a place where mountain bike racing seems to, well, to exist.

I've enjoyed having Bulldog as my "big climb" benchmark for the last few years. I need something in O.C. to take its place.

Coal Canyon fits the bill nicely. Time to get out there and see what's up.

Blackstar Canyon might also be a great local challenge, and I'm intrigued to try Harding Truck Trail: 9.1 miles at 6% average grade. Could be a huge challenge. The KOM is listed at 53:17, so my time would likely be near 2 hours. That's a long climb.

And I'm having a blast using the OC Classic races as an excuse to explore. I want to start from that, and branch out to explore the trails around Laguna Beach this summer. (I'm told they're the spot to escape summer heat. We'll see!)

And I'm going to make a point of using free weekend mornings to come back and ride a few old favorites from the coastal side of the Santa Monicas. In particular, I really want to return to Corral Canyon, which I did two summers ago, and I really want to do Latigo at some point.

Resting up for Aliso

Resting up for Aliso

Since watching a friend line up for the L.A. Marathon, I've said: This isn't the starting line. The outcome of this race was decided weeks ago. This is the finish line. Everyone's just here to see how their training turned out.

I know lots of people find that thought discouraging. They feel like the day is then out of their control.

I look at it the other way: the preparation is no longer my problem. I've done the work. Nothing left to do but go.

Final Aliso Training Ride

Post-Bulldog Recovery

Once More Up Bulldog

Morning Cheeseboro Loop


Riding the Aliso Course

Training Changes

After the race at Whiting Ranch I resolved to change up my training. So I've been riding in the morning regularly, and I've reestablished climbs as the central training component of my rides.

That's gone really well. I feel stronger, and my times up the Edison climb from Las Virgenes are steadily improving.

Aliso Pre-Ride

I pre-rode the 2016 Aliso Course on Sunday. (I started from the trailhead off Canyon Vista and rode to the actual start of the race course off Alicia Pkwy, so there's a warmup and cool-down included in the GPS map.) Great course, perfect day, and lots of friendly people. Can't wait to get out there on a closed course and let the bike run.

I worried that it might be too much in one week, but decided not to miss the chance to pre-ride. (Good call: the official pre-ride has now been cancelled due to rain in the forecast.)

Recovery Follow-Through

After Aliso, I ate a great lunch, drank lots of water, and spent the afternoon watching movies from the floor. I sat, I knelt, I rolled around and stretched and even stood for a while.

I originally got the idea from Katy Bowman on the Joe Rogan Experience.

I had worried that it might take me more than a week to completely recover after climbing Bulldog on Wednesday, but I came around pretty quickly, felt good on Sunday, and felt great on my new regular loop in Cheeseboro this morning.

So I'll follow through on making this week a back-off week (low volume, high intensity), and get ready to climb Bulldog again next week.

2016 Aliso Course

Las Virgenes Edison Loop

Fighting the Gorilla

Fighting the Gorilla

It's a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired - you quit when the gorilla is tired.

- Robert Strauss

I felt weak on Dreaded Hill, and I've been feeling like my climbing is off the pace in general. But I like data more than I like qualitative impressions. So today I headed for Bulldog to see where I really stand.

Bulldog is my "ride of truth." If I'm strong, it shows. If not... well, then that shows, too.

I half expected total disaster, but today went reasonably well. Final time: 42:30, about three minutes off PR pace. That's plenty strong enough to allay my worries that I'd let my fitness fade over the last year.

I'm going to follow up this ride with plenty of rest and stretching, and then go pre-ride Aliso this weekend.

Fighting the Gorilla

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