Sunday was the 7th race in the Iowa Mountain Biking Championship Series. For those who do not know, you can obtain information on all of the races in this series in several locations.
Sugarbottom is always one of the largest events in the series, and yesterday didn't disappoint at all with 200 racers showing up to brave the heat and race on the excellent singletrack at Sugarbottom.
I drove over on Sunday morning and arrived an hour before race time to get registered, warm-up, make my drink mix, and chit-chat with fellow racers. Although the temperatures were warm, luckily the humidity was on the lower side which, when combined with the breeze, made it a less hostile environment than it could have been. And after all - it's summer. Perhaps we have all been too spoiled this year with sub 90 degree temperatures? Regardless, while warming up it was very noted of the heat and I adjusted my drink mix accordingly and popped a SaltStick Cap every 1/2 hour before the race. Then I sought out a bit of shade while waiting for the line up on the starting line.
CAT 2 was to be a mass start (with 58 racers) and I managed to line up in the 3rd row in hopes that I would survive the opening gravel climb well enough to enter the singletrack more in the front half of the mass, rather than the back half.
CAT 2 starting line - photo courtesy of Angy Snoop
The climb went well and going into the singletrack I noticed I was only about 4 racers behind Tom Jeffreys and Landon Beachy who are in the 50+ age group with me and were my picks to win. I was hanging with the pace as we wound our way through the forest and opening 10 minute section. Some gaps started to open up in front of me and pushing the big ring up until now, I didn't have enough fuel to close some of them.
About 2/3'rds of the way through the south side trails, I needed to back the start pace off a bit and settle into a pace I could ride for the remainder of the duration - especially in the heat. I had quite a train of guys following behind me and moved over enough to let a line of younger CAT 2 riders by me as I didn't want to hold them up. A bit later, I was passed by about 3 or 4 more as we transitioned from the south side to the north side on the gravel connector section.
We were scheduled to do a portion of the north side in this prologue lap, then do 2 full laps of the north side trail. I buzzed down the gravel connector section after the prologue section and when I hit the singletrack, I could suddenly feel the heat trying to zap me. This first time through the full north side section, I got the feeling I was just riding along rather than racing and fought the inner battle to push myself out of that. The north side was filled with a lot of short power climbs that added up in terms of physical stress. I moved the chain to the smaller ring of my double crankset and worked the gears to retain some type of flow. There was some new trail back in this section that I had never been on before and with all of the sharp turns, switchbacks, climbs - keeping a flow that didn't involve digging deep in the pain cave was not possible.
The famous Cyclocross Hill is also on the north side.
I blew a hub trying to muscle out that climb 2 years ago. Here's the exact moment the hub blew on that climb 2 years ago and halted my race...
I decided to keep it in the small ring and work the gears going into the climb to make it. I made it on lap one. No blown hub. No need to dismount. I think I had finished my need to sort of "recover" from the opening prologue lap intensity and now was able to feel like I was racing again and pushing hard instead of just riding along.
Coming out of the north side lap ready to take it on again for a 2nd lap...
Photo courtesy of Angy Snoop
I started passing a few of those that I had let by on the south side and on my 2nd lap through the north side I didn't feel quite as overwhelmed with it. I choked one sharp uphill turn coming out of a switchback and had to lay the bike down, but I hopped right back on and got going again without any issues.
My front wheel was right behind the rear wheel of a rider going up Cylcocross Hill on this 2nd lap and I had to take a different line to avoid bumping into the rider in front of me. This ended with me in a very tall gear to mash out what was left of the climb in a cross-eyed daze trying to inch up the climb just as the leader of the CAT 1 race flew by me going up the hill like it was a small blip in the road for him.
Whatever I had left in the tank, I was going to drain on the remaining section. I passed three riders and was worried somebody was on my tail in the 50+ (I swear I saw Andre Rethman back there a few turns behind me) which had me grunting out every climb to hold him off. Coming out of the forest and onto the doubletrack grassy section that led to the finish line, I sprinted with what little I had left and crossed the line spent, worked, exhausted. Usually, I head out for a cool down ride. Not this time. I pulled over in the shade to catch my breath. I felt a few tingles and tweaks in the legs on the final north side lap that cramping was possible, but it never happened. I'm sure the opening 10 minute effort, running the big ring for the entire prologue, the length of the race (longest XC race of the year for me thus far), the heat, and the effort all combined to contribute to those tingles.
I don't know the age group results yet, but I came in 24th with a time of 1:37:02 out of the 58 or so that started in the CAT 2 mass start group. Ah.....Midpackitis.
Not sure how it computes out into the age group for the IMBCS points, but Tom Jeffrey underlined in the results photo he took some of the 50+ names he knew, but he didn't know Landon who came in right after him and there might be a few more 50+ in there as well.
I talked to Andre Rethman and Landon Beachy after the race. Both are in my age category for CAT 2, and we all shared stories of the effort, heat, difficulties, etc... . After some cold water and a banana, I headed back to the car as I had a
lunch date with Alexa and her roomate in downtown Iowa City. I gave Andre my raffle
ticket for the prizes and after cleaning up with a washcloth bath and
cold water, headed off to meet Alexa outside of her dorm for lunch. We had a
nice lunch at Basta, followed by a shopping trip to get a few more
needed items for her dorm room. Although it had only been 4 days since Tara and I dropped her off at college, it was really nice to see her and touch
base. I wished both gals all the best as they start with their classes this first week of school.
Kudos to ICORR, Goosetown Racing Club, and Mark Guthart on a well run, excellent event in the IMBCS. Year in and year out - you prove an excellent role model of how to run a premiere mountain biking event here in Iowa!!! Well done...