Last Day of Summer and the Solstice Slam Race Report...

Today, September 22nd is the last day of Summer 2015 as we know it - or rather - knew it. The Fall Equinox arrives tomorrow morning at 3:22 a.m. in the Des Moines area to officially launch us into Fall.

Ma Nature continued taunting us (so what else is new?) for the IMBCS 2015 season with a nice 2" rain on Friday in the Des Moines area. That amount of rain put the Sunday race in jeopardy at Ewing Park as a result. The race was originally scheduled for June 21st and called the Summer Solstice Slam. Wet weather and trail conditions prevented it from taking place in June, so Race Director Nathan Cline and Team Sakari came up with the date of September 20th to shoot for the tail end of summer since the beginning didn't work out. We have had 3 rescheduled events this year, and this was the second of the three. The final one will be on October 11th at Sunderbruch Park in Davenport.

Luckily, going into Thursday and Friday's rain, things were bone dry around here in terms of the tread. That, combined with a Saturday that was filled with sunshine, a breeze, and cooler temperatures helped to dry things out in time that the race could take place. To be sure, we utilized a pre-announced 2 hour delay to allow the morning dew on Sunday to dry with the cooler temperatures and by modifying the race course a bit to remove the lowest areas that would still be too moist for racing without preventing trail damage. The loop was shortened by about 1 - 1 1/2 miles, and the number of laps were adjusted to account for it. The racing lap for CAT II, COMP, and CAT ended up being about 3.25 miles which was enough to spread things out and still give us an excellent race course.

I had no option but to put in a 5+ hour trail work day at Lake Ahquabi on Saturday since I am running out of weekends and I work until 5:30 every day. It mainly involved clearing debris from the sickle cut along the trail side on the west side of the lake. This meant a lot of bending over, and heaving the brush deep into the woods to get it away from the trail. Needless to say, my hamstrings were shot and in pain when I woke up on Sunday. My back and arms hurt, and my hands were numb from the usual carpal tunnel issues of doing lots of trail work. Recovering from trail work is not as easy it was just 8-10 years ago. It really zaps me now and leaves me in a physically wiped condition. However, it had to be done and I was going to race in spite of it. Yes, I knew fully what I was getting myself into this time around based on the Seven Oaks and Sugar Bottom races where I had done a lot of trail work going into both of those events as well. The 20th was my 54th birthday, so we celebrated at 801 Chophouse on the night of the 19th as I had an evening rehearsal on Sunday. Let's just say the 2 hour delay was welcomed so I could recover from the trail work and Saturday night's consumption of adult beverages.

Sunday was sunny, and mild temperatures in the mid-70's made for an ideal racing situation. I arrived at Ewing Park, set up the IMBCS banners, chit chatted and watched the CAT III/Junior race.


The parking lot had a good crowd for the CAT III/Junior race...


The course had been set up so that between the singletrack, we would start and finish by taking on a chunk of grass in the park that was mainly uphill. One could tell it was quite a grind as everyone labored up the grassy climb to the finish area...


I am glad I was there to be watching, as I noticed the USA Cycling Official was pulling certain racers off of the course as they rode by...


...the Official told me anyone that was lapped was being pulled. I informed him that we don't do it that way in Iowa for our mountain bike racing as it is based on your finish time of doing all laps and there were many age classes within each category that were racing for series points. So I quickly told those that had been pulled to get back out on the course to finish their race. It all worked out fine in the end.


Anthony Branch was there with a group of youth from Iowa City to race...


It was good to see them as they have not been able to make all of the races this year. I extended an invitation to him for The Mullet Fall Classic on October 4th and hope they can make it.

I've never ridden at Ewing Park, so after the CAT III and Junior races were finished, I headed out for a pre-ride of the course. The dirt was in perfect "Hero Dirt" condition! On the first climb, I immediately felt the pain from Saturday's trail work going against me and knew it was going to be a bit of an arduous day for me on the bike. I got lined up with the 13 of us in COMP and on the start, sat in for what was going to be a longer race due to the 5 laps (about 20 minutes each for me). I went into the singletrack in 11th place out of the 13 and settled into what I could muster in my condition. The extra 10 pounds I am carrying up the hills this year, and lack of much racing is all setting me up for next season as a "do over". ;-)

Oh well, it is what it is, and I will race the FORC Side Thrill Ride as my last event for 2015. The next two weeks getting the trails ready at Lake Ahquabi for The Mullet Fall Classic will wear me out as well, but I want the course in super fast and excellent condition.

The Ewing course was a blast! Lots of variety and fun stuff.

Photo courtesy of Eric Roccasecca

Everything was going fine until lap #4. The CAT I eventual winner, Nate Kulllbom passed me in the singletrack and as we approached the first pile of logs to go over, he yelled something out to me. I didn't quite hear what he said, but as I rounded the corner at my top speed and pulled my wheel up to go over the logs I noticed why he had yelled. The log on the descending side of the pile had rolled out about 2 - 2 1/2 feet from the pile. Normally, this obstacle had been rather innocuous for me in the previous laps, but I came down and my front wheel did not clear the log that had rolled away and suddenly found myself in the middle of an end over end tumble at full race speed. Not much time to think as one summersaults in mid air attached to a bike rather than have a quick "oh crap" moment. Somehow, I managed to tuck and roll as best that I could and WHAM! My head hit the dirt with full force, and my back slammed onto the ground. Then I muttered some words in pain and did a quick body check as I moaned on the ground making sure I could wiggle my fingers and toes. My neck and back took it full force and I was very fortunate I didn't break my neck with the force of the slam that I hit the ground - not to mention the odd angle that I hit.

I laid there for quite a bit hoping somebody would come along and help me up, but nobody came. Finally, after at least a minute of catching my breath and moaning on the ground, I managed to get up off the ground. I rolled the log back into place so somebody else wouldn't suffer like I did. I hopped back on the bike and took off at a timid pace akin to one of shock and surprise - both of having crashed as well as surprise of having not broken anything. Needless to say, the rest of lap 4 found me battling the post crash demon of fear while trying to shake it off. I thought about just walking it in from there, but kept going and managed to launch myself into lap 5 being careful enough to respect the trail a bit more. The final climb in the grass section by the finish line had me fending off cramps in the legs. It didn't matter if I sat or got out of saddle, both options hurt.

Photo courtesy of Eric Roccasecca

I crossed the line beat up and spent. I had rolled across the finish line in the same position I had gone into the singletrack - 11th out of the 13 of us, and 8th out of 9 for my age class. Nate Kullbom came rolling up and asked me how I had faired over the pile of logs that he warned me about. I told him I heard him yell something, but he was too far in front of me to hear exactly what the warning was and I had done a big endo over the logs.

Post race beers and chit chat (thanks Al Boone for the birthday beer!), followed by the awards ceremony rounded out the afternoon. Nathan said he had a total of 75 racers which was pretty good considering it was a reschedule. In terms of our regular IMBCS XC categories, the number of 75 racers just barely met our goal of 75-100, but hopefully word will get out how good Ewing Park Trails are for a race course and if an event is held there again, we can achieve that goal. I saw nothing but smiles, happy racers, and everyone sharing great stories about their race. That's what it's all about and is the best testament to a well run event on a great course. The beautiful weather puts the icing on the cake of course, and both Summerset and Ewing have had great racing conditions on the day of the race. Kudos to Nathan Cline and Team Sakari for hosting a really great event. Hats off to all the trail work, led by Brian Sheesley, to get this trail in shape for the event. I know a lot of work is involved, but I will be the first to say we all appreciate it. Now that I have ridden the Ewing Park trails, I will be back for more as it is only a 15 minute drive from my house.

I woke up Monday stiff as a board from the fall with a neck and back that hurt like a SOB. I made it through the day without having to take any pain medication. Today I feel even worse, but am hoping a hot shower will loosen things up a bit and I can avoid taking Ibuprofen (it is not good for the singing voice at all) and I have to sing tonight and all day tomorrow. I'm not as torn up as I was a few years ago when I did an endo at Tranquility Park (bad whiplash, separated shoulder, broken teeth), but this one will take a few days to heal for sure.

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