The biggest MTB race in Chicagoland is the Palos Meltdown. Oh wait, who am I kidding, it’s the only race in the area. I raced it last year, right after we moved here and with very saddle time. Thankfully I still had some muscle memory and managed to win the Sport category.
I can’t believe it’s been a year already. I’ll save my thoughts on that for another blog post though.
I finally got around to upgrading my USAC license to “Expert” so I’d be doing the longer race at 2pm. For those of you who don’t know, racing at 2pm sucks- you never know what to eat and how much (think food coma), and by that time of day I am pretty wiped out already. On the other hand, you can sleep in. Oh wait, who am I kidding, I don’t sleep anymore! Plus AKA wakes up around 6am anyway.
Like most folks here I haven’t mountain biked much this summer- it was a really wet year and the trails were closed for a very long time. We only made it up to Kettles a couple times too. I’m pretty focused on the upcoming CX season, so I hired a coach and am training “by the book”, which means I have only spent time building base miles until now. I was a little worried going into this race because I totally redlined last year, and my Z2 rides aren’t exactly race-paced. On the other hand this was not an “A” race and I was mostly doing it to support the local cycling scene.
I was lucky enough to get five full hours of uninterrupted sleep last night. Woo…the whole five hours! But, compared to the two or three hours I was getting earlier in the week it was a big deal. Since we had so much time in the morning Eric went to the gym while I got the beat down from AKA (I think the terrible two’s have arrived, folks). By the time he got home I was totally frazzled. Miraculously, we managed to leave the house on time. Parking was tough but fortunately we were able to drop some gear before finding a spot in the very back lot. We had a lot of stuff this time- most of it was AKA’s though!
Registration was quick and before long I was suiting up for my warm-up with a teammate. To make a long story short, we decided to ride a small section of trail and unfortunately he crashed, breaking the seal on his tubeless tire. I rode back to the team tent a couple times for CO2 cartridges…and that became my warm-up. I returned with just enough time to watch the kid’s race (and AKA’s spectacular crash), lower the pressure in my tires and to eat a gel. Then it was off to the start line.
It was cloudy all morning but the sun made an appearance just as we were lining up. That’s not a big deal in a CX race, but my vision in high-contrast situations (i.e.-dark shadows and bright sun in the forest) is not great and I have a hard time seeing important things like rocks and roots. Thankfully the course was different for 2015 and we didn’t have to ride up the hill until our last lap. Yay! It’s not much of a hill but doing it first thing is a good way to blow up your legs. I had no interest in getting the hole shot and tucked in behind the leader for the first half mile or so. Both of us were passed by a fast girl right before the singletrack and I managed to pull into second and hold the position for a while. That is, of course, until the massive of group of men that started 2 minutes behind us started catching up. First it was one guy behind me…then I could hear two…and then three…and finally “Can we pass?”. Well, that’s great and all but we were on miles of freshly-cut trail that didn’t have a lot of flow and virtually no space to pass. Finally I slowed up to let them by and discovered that the train had grown to like eight people, with one of the ladies in between. Damn. Then my water bottle wiggled it way out of the cage on a downhill. Double whammy. It took a while to catch up and all the guys sped off, leaving us two ladies to do our own thing. Until the next wave of dudes wanted to pass. Rinse and repeat. We were SO annoyed! Finally we turned onto a gravel road and I gunned it, leaving that girl behind and catching up to the leader. We were in a nice little pack with two guys in between us and then suddenly found myself on the ground- something snagged my front tire and I went straight over the bars. My left knee and shin instantly hurt. I got up, poked my kneecap a bit and determined it wasn’t out of place or broken. Good enough! Bike was fine too (not even a scratch!) so I hopped back on and tried my best to catch up. We were on a particularly crappy part of the newly-cut trail and I just couldn’t get my mojo back. I fumbled through the rest of the singletrack but pushed hard on the gravel road to the finish line.
So I came in second place overall and took home $100. Not a bad day, all things considered! I’m ready for CX season now.