Chuck Ballard, Market Development Operations Specialist, Subaru of America, Inc. is passionate about mountain biking. Subaru sponsorship of the Sea Otter Classic (SOC) gave Ballard the push he needed to fly out to Monterey, California, and take on the SOC’s challenging event.
Subaru Insider (SI): When did you start riding and what types of races do you normally do?
Chuck Ballard (CB): I started riding competitively two years ago in local and regional races. The courses are either 7- or 14-mile single-track, cross country. I ride in the beginner or intermediate group and typically finish in the middle.
SI: How did you train for the Sea Otter Classic?
CB: I have an 8-mile commute to work from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and bike to and from all week. The month leading up to the race was crunch time for me, so I added a few more miles to my daily commute. The road rides helped me maintain my endurance.
On the weekends, I increased my speed on the single track. I documented my time for completing different loops and tried knocking off a few seconds each time. I also spent an hour at the gym twice a week for strength training.
Probably the most challenging part was avoiding beer! I brew my own beer, so there is always beer at the house and social settings.
SI: Why was the Sea Otter Classic an important race for you?
CB: I wanted to compete in a prestigious race at the national level, and I had a personal goal of competing in a 20-plus-mile race. Both goals were accomplished. The race gave me the opportunity to race against riders from all over the country who are used to different terrains and weather conditions, as well as different techniques, riding styles, and bikes. I wanted to see how my East Coast skills fared against the competition.
The SOC is the largest annual cycling event in the country. As a fan, I watched pros compete. As a participant, I met bikers from all over the world who swapped stories and gave me trail recommendations. I got a sneak preview of new products from hundreds of vendors and enjoyed food, beer, live music, and bonfires.
SI: Describe the course.
CB: I participated in the intermediate cross-country race, which was 24 miles. The terrain consisted of fire roads and cross-country single tracks, both with steep elevation. The fire roads were paved, and the single tracks were mostly compacted sand. The course wasn’t technical (meaning no rocks or tree roots), so it was really fast. I’ve never raced such a long distance, so I saw it as a challenge.
SI: Any race day rituals?
CB: I always eat breakfast before a race – and it’s the same breakfast each time. I’m not superstitious; I do it because I know exactly how long I can go on that meal. Before the race, I stretch and then ride for half an hour to warm up.
SI: How did it go?
CB: I was fine until the very start of the race. We were herded into a corral in front of the starting line and divided into age groups. As my group made its way to the starting line, I got anxious. I started second-guessing myself, like maybe I should have entered the beginner category. I kept thinking about the distance as I stared at the steep hills in front of me.
The course wasn’t technical at all, so that part wasn’t a problem. It was the elevation – and number of elevations – that almost killed me. At the 5-mile mark. I thought to myself, “Wow, I have to do this four more times.” Once I got comfortable with the terrain and knew what to expect, I settled in for the ride and hung in there to the finish.
After the race I was tired, but not exhausted. I took off my equipment, cleaned up, and set out to enjoy the festivities.
Best decision of the weekend? I splurged on a hotel room, took a shower, ate, and slept for 10 hours.
Subaru is proud partner of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), a nonprofit organization based in Boulder, Colorado. Subaru sponsors the Subaru-IMBA Trail Care Crews – teams that travel across the country, encouraging responsible off-road cycling, supporting volunteer trail work and promoting cooperation among trail users.
In additon, Subaru sponsors many biking events for enthusiasts. Here are a few headed your way:
- Subaru Elephant Rock Cycling Festival, June 1, 2014, Castle Rock, Colorado
- Tour of America's Dairyland (ToAD), June 19-29, Wisconsin
- Ice Man Cometh, November 8, 2014, Kalkaska to Traverse City, Michigan
Find more Subaru events.