Racing, Midwest-Style

The last year has been tough fitness-wise. I’ve had the best of intentions (CX season, Lumberjack 100) but lost both motivation and interest. And just when I bought a new mountain bike and started to exercise again…we moved. Now I have a different set of challenges- I’m a full-time stay-at-home mom and also a part-time marketing manager. I’ve been making the best of my situation by running (jogging really) a few days per week with the BOB stroller, but that’s about it. I was lucky enough to get in a few rides while staying with my parents last week. Makes me wonder what I did with all of my time before Amelia! Seriously!

Upon arriving in Illinois I looked up the local mountain bike association (CAMBR) and found that the area’s only race was coming up. I kind of forgot about it until last week and decided I would do it, with no expectations. I felt Sport was the best category since I had no idea where my fitness level was at plus that’s the category on my license.

Our race day morning was pretty mellow even though I could’ve used more sleep (darn kid alarm goes off at 6am with no snooze option). We arrived with plenty of time but had to park a ways away and walk to the start area. It was only 9am and already HOT. Registration was quick and I went out for a 5-minute warm-up.

There were 14 total Sport women and six in my age group. We started behind, I don’t know, maybe a hundred men which totally sucked once we hit the singletrack. My race brain, dull from not competing, knew only one thing- ride fast. The first half mile was on grass, up a long hill and through a field which resembled a CX course. I got the hole shot but lost it as we headed onto the trail…there were SO many slow men to pass and I was too passive. Doh! After a couple miles I caught up to the leader, who was being complacent sitting behind a train of guys. After I while I yelled “HEY! Can we pass?!” and boom!, the chick heard me and took off. Darn! Should have kept my mouth shut but I didn’t want to lose time because of some slowpoke dudes. So, that girl and I traded places a few times and I followed her through the spectator area going into the second lap. I was feeling confident, went to pass a guy and BAM! I FLEW off my bike. My front tire must’ve hit something and that was that. Once I came to a stop I stood up, took a quick survey of my limbs (just a flesh wound), found my sunglasses (~10′ away), straightened my bars and pedaled away to the amazement of the spectators around me. I can’t believe I didn’t break something. One of the racers was like “Wow! You’re not even bleeding!”. After that I was pretty cautious and worked hard enough to secure my place. By that time my legs were getting tired anyway. And I was tired of trying to pass guys (I could barely say “Left”). Of course the race had to end on that grassy hill. Ugh!

Overall the course was good (considering our location) and even had 900′ of gain over 15 miles. Woo. My favorite part? One section was enclosed by tarps, full of tiki décor, loud music and cheering fans. I couldn’t help but laugh and sing along to a punk version of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”.

All in all I’m pleased with my finish, especially since I haven’t ridden much. I think I still have some “residual Seattle fitness” that helped me out. I feel like the Sport category was just competitive enough for me (for now). I definitely need to work on endurance though…my longest ride since AKA was born was 35 miles! I’m getting excited for CX season but have a long way to go if I want to be competitive in the 1/2 category. I’m thinking about getting a coach. Thankfully the local series doesn’t start until late September so I have time to train. I remember being told by a couple racers back in 2012 that if I haven’t started training for CX in June it was too late. That was August, and ironically I had my best season ever. Nah-nah boo-boo! I think I’ll stick to my plan and just work on endurance for now 🙂

Ok, so not to pick on Chicago area racers, but…

I feel like the riding/racing scene is stuck in the 90’s or something-I totally had a flashback to the MMBA series of 1997 (cheesy old jerseys, anodized components and even a 90’s playlist).  Maybe it’s just a Midwest thing. Or maybe I’m used to the more sophisticated scene of the PNW. It’s not necessarily bad though, just different. These people are true “weekend warriors”, kinda like the Mountain-Dew commercial crowd. Hardly anyone had ridiculously expensive bikes like they do in Seattle, and no one acted like they were pro (because let’s face it, if you are not a card-carrying pro you’re an amateur). The atmosphere was fun and the crowd diverse- there were a lot of Latinos, an inner-city junior team and even a fat bike category (the Midwest’s answer to singlespeed).

Anywho, today I ‘m completely beat but already looking forward to a race or two in Wisconsin next month 🙂



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