It was so nice to get back on dirt. It was even better that I got to race on it today. RF and I packed up Pearl and headed east to one of the Iowa series races at Seven Oaks. We raced there a few years ago at one of our first team 24 hour events and it was nice to be back. The venue was well-improved upon with an awesome little ski-lodge (it has a tiny ski hill but it has a lift!) with outdoor seating and showers in the bathrooms. It's about 2.5 hours from Omaha, tucked in some hills in between fields of corn and totally worth the trip. Unfortunately they've seen as much rain as we have, so most of their 8 mile loop was off limits due to flooding of its lowest area, so we were only able to race on its highest loop, thus cutting the course to just under 3 miles. Yep, many laps were ahead.
I was happy to see Julie Vardeman (soon to be Julie Kirkpatrick). Another woman was in our class Robyn Williams (no, not the comedian) and she put the screws to me off the start line. Cat. 1s had to do six laps, including us. We started with the guys and quickly we were at the back. Robyn got by a couple guys on the opening stretch and then one more as we entered the single track, which was a series of 3-4 tight switchback climbs. I was in the red immediately, but the recon lap I did earlier kept me calm, as I knew the climbing would mellow. I did manage to sneak past two guys upon entering the single track, so I was just one rider back from Robyn. She was really fast. I kept her in sight but was pegged the entire first lap.
I lost sight of her on lap 2 when I decided to back off a bit. Lap 2 was not my lap. Trying to get around a walking racer (which was really hard b/c the trail was 18" wide at most with steep terrain, like L&C). She did her best to pull off the trail but I managed to clip a tree and down I went. Not again! I think I tweeked my der cuz the shifting was off after I got back on the bike. Plus, since I was in chase mode, I started to panic and was bouncing all over the place. Then my saddle bag came loose on one side so I stopped to fix that and got passed by two dudes. Then as I started riding again, a large stick got caught up in the rear wheel. I started to laugh. Really? What next, will I get hit by a deer? So I was rattled and riding like shit as I tried to play catch up. Once out of the trees and down to the s/f I told myself to take a breath and refocus. Robyn was nowhere in sight.
Lap 3 was better. My heart rate was "in the zone" and I finally was figuring out the lines of a couple nar-nar root sections that I had spun out on on the two previous laps. Then my stupid saddle bag came loose again, at the same section, but this time both velcro straps came loose and the thing was only attached by the seat post, and it was hitting my leg. I decided to leave it there until I got back to the s/f where I ripped it off and threw it on the ground. If I flat, I thought, F it! I loaded up with a new bottle and was off. I felt lighter without the damn thing too!
The next three laps were pretty straight-forward. I had the flow going and my legs felt good. My back was pretty rocked. I so have a roady back. Seriously, I need to train more on the mtbike. Power racing is a lumbar spine's worst nightmare and I need to do more of that type of riding.
Towards the end of the last lap I was surprised to see Robyn. She was only ahead by about 30 seconds from what I could tell, so I stepped on the gas, but it wasn't enough and that's how it ended too. So, I felt pretty good that I gained some of the time back that I lost on the crash and the technical difficulties. Later after the race she said I was starting to freak her out b/c she could see me. Another lap and I think I could've caught her.
Afterwards the race hosts had some chow and water for us. The ski lodge had the A/C blasting so it was nice to chill out in a comfy area to eat and do the awards.
That same venue is hosting a 24 hour race over Labor Day weekend, so if you're not doing the 5-0 (whatever!) then I'd recommend this event! They run the ski lift so folks can watch the race at night and when we did it, they have a live band playing until midnight. Plus just having an indoor area is a huge bonus!
Oh and I can't go without saying that RF was 10 seconds out of the $, coming in at 4th place. Not bad considering he had to race Cam (2nd), Jay Chesterman and Josh Stamper among others! He had a pretty good day. We both did. We got out dirt jones satisfied!