I had planned on doing 3 weekends of double header races this year. The first one was the trip to Nebraska for the Maskenthine Classic and then to Mankato for the Mt. Kato XC race. Luckily, I ditched the Father's Day Weekend plans of doing a double header at Ponca and Red Wing by just going to Ponca. This past weekend was my 2nd attempt at pulling off a double header because I really wanted to work at least one WORS race in this summer.
IMBCS #4 Summerset Shootout at Banner Pits north of Indianola - Saturday, June 23
The threat of rain looked to upset Saturday's planned IMBCS race at Banner Pits. The weatherman said rain was going to pass through and last until noon or 1 pm, followed by later in the afternoon of storms "re-firing". The radar for the western 1/2 of Iowa was filled with green, yellow, orange and plenty of rain headed our way on Saturday morning. In fact, the rain did hit before 10, but it was light and managed to taper off by 11 am. Fortunately, things stayed that way until all races were completed as the clouds split and headed north and south of Summerset State Park for just enough time to complete the day's events.
I got suited up and headed out to Summerset State Park with the JET 9. I warmed up for a good 30 - 40 minutes and the legs felt strong coming off a solid 9 hour training week. We lined up at 12 noon for the Shootout with the CAT 1's and COMP racers going in the 1st and 2nd waves. My wave had 28 racers taking off (CAT 2 Open, Cat 2 35+, Cat 2 45+). This number of people starting at once quickly changed my strategy to sprint out of the gate and hope for a top 10 entrance into the singletrack because once in, it was going to be difficult to pass. I hopped off the line and made it to the singletrack in the top 10 or so for good positioning against the others in my age group.
The trail was tacky and perfect for an XC race!!! We could not have asked for better...
I was behind a teenage rider who was having difficulty negotiating the singletrack with his bike which led to him getting flustered. He started cussing up a storm dropping the F Bomb every time he floundered with his bike. A few guys built up behind me and we all heard this kid yelling. I told him not to panic just because we were behind him and others chimed in with words of encouragement. I tried to pass him and asked if I could go around him, but no go. He fell in one section in the section called Corner Pocket with his bike completely blocking the trail and I yelled back to everyone to stop as a rider was down. He got up and still wouldn't let any of us around him as he hopped on his bike and took off. We all rode his tail out of Corner Pocket and out onto the paved connector section where we thought we could pass him.
However - he sprinted on the pavement and was in very good shape, I couldn't catch him on the pavement to pass. Nor could anyone else. So it was clear he had speed, just lacked the bike handling in the singletrack at this point in his development. I'm sure that will come as he gets more races and training under his belt on the dirt. As soon as we entered Riverside, he slowed again due to those bike handling issues. During the Riverside section 2 guys caught back up to my wheel. As soon as we exited Riverside to head to the start/finish line area for lap 2, the 2 behind me passed me and the teenager. I gave hot pursuit and our pack of 4 entered the singletrack for the 2nd lap at full tilt. It started to rain again, but it wasn't much and didn't last very long.
The flow of the trail was working well for me and I stood to power up all the short power climbs allowing the Nobby Nics to dig in and launch me up the climbs...
During this second lap, one of the guys that passed me took a fall and we all went around him. I was again behind the teenager, but decided to just sit in and follow him as I had the luxury of being able to hold back a bit and conserve for Sunday's race. Even if I did pass him, there wasn't anybody out in front of me in my age category for this particular race. I followed the kid through the entire loop - and the F Bombs were gone (thank goodness). I could have passed him in the Riverside section of singletrack, but decided to take him in the final sprint - not because it would do me any good for my placing, but what's the harm in a little competitive fun, right? Plus - I love finish line sprints.
As we exited Riverside and hit the pavement for the sprint to the finish - he took off with his speed on pavement, but I turned it up a notch and kept within striking distance. He kept looking over his shoulder thinking he had a big enough gap to beat me. I let him think this and maintained my distance until we made the final turn to the finish line. I stood up and put the chain on the 11T cog in the rear and big ring up front as I muscled up the diesel sprint engine to close a bit of the gap. I sat again and waited until what I thought was the proper moment. I stood and hammered with all I had left. I thought maybe I had gone too far from the line to maintain this kind of sprint for the duration, but the legs kept giving me what I wanted. I overtook the young rider about 25 yards before the finish line and he tried to jump back to catch me, but I managed to maintain my lead to cross the line. Fun!
I ended up getting 1st Place for my age group in the 45+ group and was worried Landon Beachy would beat me (as he has before in quite a few races). However it was me, Sterling Heise in 2nd and Landon in 3rd for the podium. I told Jason Dal who was running the race that I couldn't stay for the awards ceremony as my wife and I were headed off to Wisconsin for a WORS race.
I loaded up the bike, drove home and quickly showered. We loaded up the Element for our camping trip and left at 2:30 for Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
WORS #5 Red Flint Firecracker at Lowes Creek County Park in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
We arrived Saturday night about 7:45 and found a spot to pitch our tent in the County Park. We got our campsite set up in about 20 minutes and then headed off to Grizzly's for dinner.
Hard to see, but our tent is way back by those two big trees on the right (photo courtesy of Dave Reich's Flickr Slideshow):
I thought I was drinking enough water, but realized I hadn't really had anything to drink since the race. I made the mistake of not taking in enough liquids after the Summerset Race and now it was about 8:30 at night. So I took in some water, but in retrospect - not enough. The weather was really humid in Wisconsin. Temperatures were comfortable in the high 60's, low 70's, but it was so humid everything was sticky in the tent. I tossed and turned a bit because of it and probably didn't get the best night's sleep that I wanted, but it wasn't too bad.
We got up Sunday morning and had a cup of coffee at the camp area from the coffee vendor. Then we headed over to Panera Bread for some food. On the drive over, I could tell my stomach didn't feel very good. Previous night's dinner? The heat? I wasn't sure, but I did visit the toilet enough to know something wasn't normal with me. All this, in retrospect, was adding to my dehydration.
We headed back to the park to get ready for the race. Tara went on a bike ride to hit the paved trails and explore Eau Claire. I drank a couple of bottled waters. I watched the start of the Citizens, Kids and First Timer races. I love the course at this event and had not raced here since 2009 when I had a very good race (for me) and finished 6th out of 20 some odd in my age group. Many of the same racers from 3 years ago were to be my competition again. It was really humid and I was sweating profusely while getting dressed in the tent. I drank some more water and got everything ready with my bike, liquids and gels for the race. I went out for a warm-up and felt right away my legs were a bit cooked from Saturday's race. So I did an extended warm-up to push through the muscle soreness, but my stomach wasn't being friendly to me and again I had to visit the restroom.
In spite of all of that, I was here to race for fun and enjoy everything about a WORS race. Gobs of people. A great race course. The party atmosphere. The camping. I was basking in all of it. CAT 2's lined up at 11:20 for our 11:30 start. They went over the rules and the first wave took off. There were over 50 racers starting in my wave. When I originally lined up, I was about in the 3rd row, but by the time we eventually moved our wave up to the starting line and everyone jockeyed for position - I was starting dead last in the very back of the pack. Hmmmm....maybe it fit my stomach and tired legs mood. It didn't matter as I have nothing at stake in the WORS series. I just wanted to do this race and take part.
Me forcing a smile at the back of the line waiting for the "Gooooooooooooooooo....."
The opening sprint on this course is a long roll out. I mean - really long. Maybe a good 5-6 minutes of doubletrack of full out sprinting before we were to hit singletrack. Three years ago, I took advantage of this and went into the singletrack in the top group of 10-15 which really opens up your race as others get stuck behind you. So I knew the strategy for this course and hoped I had enough in my tank to work my way up in this big group. Off we went and I quickly moved from dead last up to the back of the middle of the pack on the opening pavement. Then I slowed to not get in a wreck as we turned a sharp right turn onto the doubletrack.
After the turn, I sprinted again and passed about 10. I recovered, and then hit it again over on the left side and suddenly was riding through grass that had several inches of sloshy mud underneath. Yikes, I powered through it as best I could and then moved back over to the right with the pack, but that mud had sucked the power out of my legs. I had to be content to recover and sit in the pack after that. I tried another move or two on the open gravel road sections - but so did everybody else. My legs were not responding and I was stuck. I saw over to the right that the first racers in my wave were already on the section of new whoops leading to the singletrack and I was way, way back. Maybe 30 racers back.
Old men on the new whoop section. (photo courtesy of Dave Reich's Flickr Slideshow)
Race over I thought to myself, but to heck with it - I was here to have fun and enjoy the course. My race wasn't really over, but my position going into the singletrack would be worth about 4 minutes or so that I would not be able to make up in the course of a 70 minute race with the way I was feeling.
As expected, being this far back meant some hurry up and wait riding through the first singletrack sections as everyone was bunched up. Each of the singletrack sections are connected by cross country ski trails that are wide enough to pass. I had utilized these sections back in 2009 to move myself forward at every opportunity, but today I was having difficulty in lap one to move more than one or two spots at a time. The legs and stomach combination just wouldn't let me. We hit the first excellent switchback section (saw Tara on the right who took a picture of me and shouted words of encouragement to me). I had crashed here back in 2008 or 2007 when the dirt gave way and I went down hard getting a concussion and a semi-tacoed front wheel on my final lap. Back to 2012...suddenly everyone started yelling to stop as a rider was down. So, we all had to stop as a fallen racer was moved from the singletrack to the side and we all walked our bikes by him. He was later taken by ambulance to the hospital according to Tara. That stopping and having to walk that section cost at least another minute or so to get through the traffic jam. After that, I guess my desire to compete got bumped up a notch and I started hammering, passing and working my way forward. It wasn't anger, it was just that I was here to RACE!!
Working it! (photo courtesy of Dave Reich's Flickr Slideshow)
The course was fast, fun and excellent. One of the best out there IMO. I really love this track and hope to come back again next year it is so much fun. The final switchback section before entering the finish line area was my favorite. Lap 2 was a bit different than lap 1 for the initial singletrack and I remembered it from 3 years ago. One of the top riders in the 60+ group passed me in this section as did the top female CAT 2 racer. I latched onto the 60 year old's wheel. By the way, you can tell which age class a racer is in because it is printed on the number plate we all wear on the back of our jerseys.
We exited the twisty singletrack section and were back on the long doubletrack opening rollout section that we had started the race on and I gave chase. Surprisingly, I was feeling better and started pushing myself. I flew up the climbs and was passing slower racers from previous waves and working my way forward as my body had finally kicked into race mode and I was feeling no muscle soreness (or I blocked it out). I knew I was way back, but I was having fun. Lap 2 had riders falling all over the course. I came up to a technical rock section and saw all the riders off of their bikes walking. Somebody had fallen and was blocking the trail. So I climbed off the bike and carried mine around the fallen rider (who was okay, by the way). Again, that cost precious time. What should have taken a few seconds by riding, took us a good minute to get off the bike, hike around the fallen rider, remount and get back up to speed. A bit later coming down to the creek crossing, I flew across and a few seconds later heard and saw 2 guys go down hard behind me crossing the creek. It wasn't that difficult of a section, but boy they went down hard after they lost control.
I powered out of the saddle on all the climbs and caught back up to the rear wheel of the 60 year old. I followed him closely all the way to us going into the last section. I saw that I had more left in the tank than he did and planned my sprint pass accordingly. Going through the final switchback section, I was on his rear wheel and as we made the final switchback turn to climb the hill towards the finish line, I passed on his right and he yelled out "oh - great pass man!". We sprinted to the line and I had him by 8 seconds. He congratulated me and I told him he was my hero as I hoped to ride that well at age 60. He finished 2nd for the 60+ group, and I finished way back in 11th place for the 50+ group due to my horrible start. Guys I had beat by 4, 5, 8 minutes three years ago had turned around and done the same to me. That's how important it is on this course to be up in the lead 10-20 racers going into the singletrack. Otherwise, it costs a lot of time that cannot be made up later in the race simply because you are stuck so far back in slower traffic and.....oh well - such is racing. I'm not upset as I'll take whatever I can get. This was a great course.
And I had fun. I found Tara after the race, had a piece of watermelon and then went to our camp site. We took down our camp site, packed the car, took a washcloth bath with cold, bottled water and headed back to Iowa. As soon as we got in the car, my legs seized up and cramped. A-ha! Wow that hurts. Luckily Tara was driving. Dehydration - that explained the stomach, the legs, my high heart rate, my sweating. I drank a lot of liquid in the car on the way home (3 bottles of water and a humungo Berry/Lemonade from Wendy's (size T-Rex), but never had to stop to use the restroom on the 5 hour drive. When I got home, just a little came out. That's how dehydrated I was from the previous day's race, the failure to hydrate, the humidity, the upset stomach, etc... . I will really have to watch for that in the future.
It was a fun weekend of racing and spending time with Tara. She has more pictures and even has video from several of my races - but cannot figure out how to get it to me. Hmmmm....talk about feeling old with technology....