IMBCS #3 - Seven Oaks MTB Race was originally scheduled for May 31st. Due to the rainy weather and subsequent trail damage from a Gladiator event that was held at the venue in the mud, we had to scrap the original date to allow for rebuilding the trail. So it was postponed until June 14th. However, Ma Nature chimed in and the rescheduled date had to be scrapped. So, using the old proverb of Third Time's the Charm, August 30th was the final attempt for this race to be held.
Ma Nature toyed with us again leading up to the event. Is that even a surprise? Northern and Central Iowa were hit with storms on Thursday that dumped amounts of up to 9" in Dayton, 5" in northern Boone County and many reports were that the city of Boone had received around 5". That was never really confirmed outside of somebody's rain gauge they called into KCCI. However, at the Seven Oaks Recreation Area itself - which is just on the south side of US Highway 30 - rainfall amounts totaled less than 2". How that happened, we don't know? But, it left the trails in a condition - after it drained off and absorbed - that we could still hold the race on Sunday.
We used a 2 hour rain delay for the start of the CAT III and Juniors, but kept all other races as scheduled thinking that the forecasted sunshine all day on Saturday and Sunday morning would help make things perfect. Hmmmm....even though sunshine was forecasted - it never came. The original forecast going into the week was for 86 and sunny on Sunday. Then it got downgraded to a high of 80 and sunny.
Instead of seeing that forecast on Saturday and Sunday, it was overcast both days and temperatures were in the 60's to low 70's. Actually, those temperatures are just about perfect racing temperatures at Seven Oaks when you factor in all of the climbing. It's a tough course to race in the heat, so I think everyone who showed up was pleased we weren't fighting 86 degrees, sunshine and humidity. Not to mention - everyone was shocked that the course was in such great condition considering all of the negative weather reports, and footage on the news we saw of the carnage in other parts of Boone County on Thursday.
I drove up and arrived a bit after 9 to set up the banners, make the Hammer Nutrition Drink Mix (Hammer is our sponsor for the Endurance Events this season), and pre-ride some sections to help Derek out with final marking and to determine the routing. We decided, even though the lower section was able to be ridden, to keep the race on the top loop for all classes. The turnout for the marathon was so small, we opted for the upper half only and kept it there for the CAT II/COMP/CAT I as well. I volunteered to be the back up timer for the chip timing during the CAT III/Junior race and the first hour of the Marathon. Every single rider that crossed the line after their first lap were exclaiming how great the course was (again - out of shock due to all the weather news leading up to the race). The course was tacky and had only one 50 foot section of serious mud which was on the road, not he singletrack. So we cut an option line around it in the grass over the top of the ski hill. Riders had the option of plowing through the mud, or climbing the grass hill to avoid it.
A little after noon, Derek's wife stepped in for me to keep timing the marathon racers and I suited up to do a bit more warm-up and get ready for my 1 pm race. I did not have an ideal week leading up to this race as I put in a lot of time at Lake Ahquabi doing trail work, and capped it off with a 4 hour work day at Banner Pits to get that trail ready for the September 12th race. I was exhausted, sore and stiff from all of that. I also went to a couples wedding shower on Saturday night that involved gluttony, and way too much drink. So I had no high expectations, but wanted to race to enjoy all of Derek's hard work and effort getting this event ready. This was his first rodeo, so to speak, at hosting an event and he knocked it out of the park. He had built a nice start/finish area with a cyclocross style section before we rolled over the timing mat for every lap...
He had a BBQ vendor there, free baked goods, really unique hand crafted awards. In short, he had done an excellent job getting all of this ready, set-up and my hat is off to him. Unfortunately, turnout was not very good. Any time you start rescheduling events (especially multiple times), throw in questionable weather factors, and add to the mix what seems like a lot of mountain bike racers in Iowa having just given up on racing mountain bikes this year with all of the weather issues, it was sad to see that we didn't have a larger crowd out at Seven Oaks to enjoy Derek's efforts, a wonderful trail in great condition and perfect racing temperatures. We did, however, have some new faces as well as a return of many new faces come to this event. Kudos to Derek and his family for all of their hard work. It did not go unnoticed by those of us that were there.
I lined up with the 8 racers in the COMP category that showed up and noticed they were all fast cats. Nobody of my talent level (as in lack of) was there, so I made sure to be near the back going into the singletrack. Pace was quick and one rider in front of me spun out on a root on the first switchback and had to stop right in front of me. I couldn't get around him with the line I had chosen, so I had to put a foot down and suddenly I was in the rear position of the group. About 3/4's of the way through lap one, my chain came off the front rings. I fiddled with it and got it back on the front ring, but the cranks weren't turning. I figured I had trashed something (hub or chain) so I walked the singletrack to the next open/flat section and flipped my bike upside down in the grass. By this time, the entire Sport field passed me as I was messing with my bike. The chain was stuck between the smallest cog on the cassette and the frame. WTF?! I have never had that happen before, so I took my rear wheel off, got it all straightened out, and was back on the bike. All in all, I think I only lost about 3-4 minutes and was determined to finish the race.
This was the grunt climb of the day for me on every lap...
I stepped on the gas and caught back up to the back of the Sport Field and passed Jeff Reimenschneider, then Rob Cook, and settled into my race pace. Lap two felt much better for me, but I was tired from the week of trail work. As others had extolled, the trail was in great shape and it is always fun and challenging to ride at Seven Oaks...
Each subsequent lap felt more difficult on the power climbs. My times were consistent in lap 3, 4, and 5, but the effort was too much as lap 6 and 7 were pure survival mode. Those last two laps were a minute to two minutes slower than previous laps as I was struggling and grunting on the climbs. Even though I mentioned after Sugar Bottom that I guess my goal was not to be dead last in COMP, this group was a fast COMP field. Had my chain not fallen off costing me a few minutes, and had I not done so much trail work this week, I still would have been in last place out of this group. I got the effort under my belt clocking in a time of 1:52:31.
The "old man" brought up the rear today...
I only felt muscle twinges on the last lap, so that was an improvement over the previous week at Sugar Bottom. I didn't bobble anything out on the trail, didn't fall, kept my cool, even stopped for a second bottle of water. Fun was had, but I can tell I am not anywhere close to last year's fitness and form that I had going.
I weigh more than I desire at the moment (8 pounds more than last year at this point in the season which shows up on the climbs), did not get a very good 12 week build, peak, and race period completed due to vacation, my father's funeral, and the fog I have been in after that. So I take it all in stride. You have to pay your dues to reap the rewards. I am in excellent fitness, but not the kind of fitness to go as fast as I can. Going fast is an entirely different ball of wax. I was in much better fitness to go fast in May and June, but was not able to do the structured work to build on that as prescribed in my training plan. Those effects are catching up to me now competing in longer events against stronger riders. We have 4 more races to go in the IMBCS (3 for me as I will not race the one I host at Lake Ahquabi). I would like to think that with 2 weeks to recover from Sugar and Seven Oaks, the training effect from the August race efforts should kick in and leave me in better form for Banner.
Enough of that. Fun was had by those who showed up at Seven Oaks and it was nice to wrap up a rescheduled event that Race Director Derek Brewer handled so well. Kudos to Derek and his entire team (namely his family, and one or two other volunteers). We certainly rode the Seven Oaks trails back into great shape yesterday with all of the laps.
Now on to classes which start tomorrow at Simpson...
*All photographs courtesy of Eric Roccasecca