Since Asheville, I've had a craving for dirt. Think of it this way; If it were a craving for a food, I would get out of bed and dressed at 1am to bike up to three miles in a light drizzle and even get cash from an ATM (assuming this food is cash-only) to get this food. What I'm trying to convey is that this is a very. serious. craving. Because once my pants are off for the night, I'm incredibly unlikely to put them back on.
On Friday, the first sunny day after two nasty weather days, I got the itch. Bad. On the one hand, the belt is being tightened on my finances, but on the other hand, it was important for my sanity that I leave Milwaukee and ride my mountain bike on dirt. Were I to go insane, I would lack the mental faculty to even mail checks to pay my bills, so I decided that the only responsible thing to do (big picture, here) would be to take off for the weekend.
Via facebook, I found out that Chris K was driving up with a friend, Tony, on Saturday to pre-ride the Iola WORS race. (Carpooling for the win!) With a minimal amount of planning, it was on. We left around 1:00 on Saturday, and arrived to brisk but livable weather and really nice trails.
The trails were perfectly tacky with unlimited grip in some places. Mmmmm. I had brought my single speed, since my geared bike is still in NC, which is another (short, boring) story in itself.
You know how you go to races and look around and realize the bike you thought was humble yet nicely dialed looks like a pile of grimy doll heads with one eye missing and crudely shorn hair next to all of the shiny, glossy carbon things with carbon wheels and XX groupos? Hoo boy. My bike is humble alright, and not in a 'I don't need fancy things, watch me kick ass anyway' sort of way. Being as I've been mountain biking 'plein air' a total of twice this year and haven't been training, that wasn't a statement I was prepared to make with my bike.
That leads me to my race strategy: Have fun. I had a 34t ring up front and a 17t cog on the back. I knew it would be tough, but my only other option, a 20t cog that Chris pulled off the Pugsley, would be sissy to the max. (I would ride that at Levis, but not really anywhere else around here.) On the pre-ride I noted that with the gearing I had on I'd have to walk a few of the climbs, could ride a few others, and would be very, very tired by the time lap 4 was in the books.
Sunday dawned cold, cloudy and windy. Some people cheerfully likened it to cross weather, saying things like "Oh, it's just like cross. You're used to that, right? This is no big deal." To which I replied with pursed lips, narrowed eyes and a non committal 'Mm' noise. Seriously. Too cold. I spent a lot of the day huddled in the car.
The race rolled around and I rolled off the start line. As much as I wanted to race (especially in the first lap, when there were so many women in sight) I knew I would be wrecked and hating everything by the last lap if I were to go out too hard. So I took it easy. I said hi to people out on the course, I did rad (tiny) jumps into the bowl, I remembered to eat enough and when big groups of guys needed to pass, I stopped trail-side and had a drink of water. Yes, it was low stress. The first half of the course is rather hilly to begin with, and the second half is fun and flowy. I didn't kill myself up climbs so I could enjoy pushing my limits in the second half, laying off the brakes in corners and downhills. I did my best, and in the end it was mission: accomplished. I had fun and paced myself well enough that I finished tired but not defeated. I wound up 12th out of 20 (with 3 DNFs) in the Cat 1 women, too. I'll take it!
Topping off the weekend, I got to eat dinner in the presence of this:
And we stopped in Scandanavia on the way home. No big deal.
Oh! And as a funny aside, I think two of the women riding Trek Top Fuels, the official (and enviable, and beautiful) bike of WORS, had mechanicals that put them out of the race. To be clear: Not funny that they had bad luck for the first WORS race of the season. Funny because my bike is a trooper, anyway, and I should be glad for that.