I need to write up this race report before I pass out from exhaustion. I do my best recounting races soon after, so want to get this down sooner than later.
Many of you know that I broke my ankle last year on the CAMBA trails, Rock Lake section. This was my first time back riding said trails. I haven’t really been training for what I thought would be 100 kilometers (62 miles) of single track. So with that in mind, I had two goals for this ‘race’. . .spend all day on my bike on the fabulous CAMBA trails and make it through Rock Lake without injury. Happily, I accomplished both goals!
Shout out to Tim Krueger and Odia Wood-Krueger for putting on a very well run, low key, fun race. Loved the new race pickup spot, the Whistle Punk Craft Beer and Coffee Shop in Stone Lake, WI. Will definitely be back for more tasty brews.
Yea, so my race. I was slightly worried about having another epic crash in the WI woods, especially after I promised the Little Bellas mentors that I wasn’t going to get injured this year. When preparing for the race, I thought of that and of getting a mechanical deep in the woods. I stuffed my backpack with supplies. . . water, food, bug spray, inhaler, chammie cream, bike pump, CO2 cartridges and air chuck, tube (even though I have tubeless tires), mini multi tool, quick links, chain break tool, tire boot, tube patching kit, first aid supplies: gauze, steri-strips, ace bandage, gloves, triangle bandage, and of course, Wonder Woman action figure zip tied to the back of my backpack.
Lining up for the start was super low key. Tim announced that the 62 mile race was actually going to be more like 69 because of the change to our starting location. This didn’t really phase me. I was out for a day in the woods. 7 more miles? Whatever.
We started with about 6 miles of gravel before hitting the single track. I didn’t even really try to hang with the lead pack, kind of meandered my way up the hills. By the time I hit the single track, people had spaced out a bit, which was good. There was a long wooden bridge over a small pond shortly after we got to the single track. The bridge sagged into the water in the middle. As I got onto the bridge, I saw a rider off her bike near the end of it. I was able to slow down in time, luckily, and very slowly ride over the bridge, through the water and out the other side. I heard stories later of packs of riders all slipping off the bridge in a giant game of dominoes. What a way to start the race!
The first section of single track was in the Rock Lake cluster, and as it’s named, very rocky and technical. The weather was exactly the same as when I broke my ankle. Not raining, but the rocks and roots on the trail were damp. This made for some difficulty riding, but I was quite pleased with myself in just taking it slow, enjoying the scenery and being thankful for ability to be out riding my bike!
Wall Street, the section of trail where the injury occurred, was on the race course. There is a ride around, and I knew I was going to take it. I also thought about stopping and peeing on the rocks, which took 12 weeks out of my riding last summer. However, as I was riding, I was having such a splendid time; I decided to take the high road. I decided I would send vibes of loving kindness to those rocks, and to all who choose to ride them. When I got to the section, I saw Dee Clouse Bartlam and her friend there. They weren’t racing but were sessioning Wall Street. How rad is that?! I stopped for a moment to say hi to Dee and watched her friend make it down Wall Street successfully. Good for her! So great to see women kicking ass like that.
After the Rock Lake section, the trail gets slightly easier and I am absolutely loving life on a mountain bike. I make it to the Namakogen check point 30 some miles in. I see Sara Bisso (another kick ass mountain bike rider), fill up my water, eat a banana and head back out. I am riding slowly, but I don’t care.
Sometime after that I felt some vibration in my handlebars. I was thinking I should stop at the top of the next uphill to check it out when all of a sudden I hear this terrible noise like a stick was caught in my wheel. I looked down to see my right shifter is no longer attached to my handlebar! It wasn’t broken, the bolt had just worked it’s way out. Hmm, ok. I quickly thought, cool, I always have zip ties in my bag. Yep, emptied out my entire bag and found ZERO zip ties. Not quite sure how THAT happened. Meanwhile I am being attacked by mosquitoes. Luckily I have bug spray. I look in my bag for other McGyver solutions, grab my ace bandage and use it to tie the shifter back on.
This works only marginally well. I practically have to use two hands to shift. Earlier, I had been thinking to myself that I wasn’t using my big chain ring much if at all. So, I have the brilliant idea to take the bolt from that shifter and use it to reattach the shifter I like to use about every 5 seconds. This is where I find my weight weinie micro multi-tool is pretty much shit. I try to tighten the shifter on, but can’t quite get the right position. Plus I’m old and really need my reading glasses to do maintenance like this. And the bugs are eating me alive so I just do my best.
This works for a while, until I start to get worried and use a non-latex glove I happen to have in my back pack (in case I needed to render aide to a rider bleeding or something) to reinforce it.
I come out to a gravel road and get to spin my legs a bit, well more than a bit because yea, I can’t easily move into my big chain ring because I took that shifter off. I hate riding gravel in a mountain bike race so when I see some pink arrows pointing to the single track, I dive right in. In hindsight, there were arrows also pointing straight ahead, but I was just hoping to be off the gravel and wanted in. When I went into the single track it said Rock Lake, and we had already done that section. .but I had been on my bike for HOURS and just kept riding. Ok, then the rocks started to look familiar and I decided I was going to turn around. . . .then second guessed myself and turned around again. . . went a little further and turned around again!, telling myself, I’ll ride this way and if I come across a rider I’ll know this is correct, if I get back to the gravel, I should probably continue on the gravel.
I did come across someone, Tom from St Paul, who also somewhat questioned this turn when he turned in. We somehow convinced each other it was right, continued back on the single track until Tom also decided he had ridden these rocks before. Yep, it was incorrect and it added 2 ½ miles to my already very long day. When we got back on the gravel we needed to continue on it for TEN MILES. This was definitely the low point of my race. Boring, boring, boring.
At the end of the gravel was another checkpoint with Odia there to save me with a can of root beer and some oreos. Now it was just 19 miles of singletrack to go!
The single track was fabulous but by now I had been on my bike for almost 8 hours and my body is getting shot. Then, bam, my shifter works it’s way off again. The second bolt is gone. I really should have tightened it with a proper tool at the check point but didn’t think of it because it was working fine.
So I do the dance of 1,000 mosquitoes again and tried to use the glove to tighten it really well. Only 18 miles to go. . 3 laps of Buck, no problem.
But I’m getting tired and drained.
My legs felt fine, my cardio was fine, I was eating well, drinking tons (actually peed about 5 times during the race) but my hands were killing me. Partly because I’m not used to mountain biking for that long this year, partly because of the rocky terrain, and partly because I had to be a contortionist to shift with my McGyver set up.
Most people know that I’m a competitive person. This race was different. Women would come up behind me and I absolutely didn’t care that they were passing me. This day for me wasn’t about beating someone else, it was about showing myself I could ride these trails confidently and have fun. Though at this point, honestly, the shifter thing did start to really bother me.
With about 10 miles to go I was riding down some beautiful berms when a deer jumped out and proceeded to run down the berms in front of me. It brought such a smile to my face and helped me take another moment to be grateful to be out doing what I love.
Also came across a guy who was completely bonking and was able to give him my extra banana. That made me happy too. He passed me later when I was reattaching my shifter for what felt like the 10th time.
For you single speeders out there, I did actually try to ride my bike as a single speed for a while in that last section of single track when my hand just didn’t want to work so hard to shift. That lasted about a mile, if that. I just don’t have the temperament to do all that advanced planning of working hard to push it up a hill. I decided stopping to tighten the shifter and dealing with the wrist pain of shifting was worth it.
As I came out of the single track to the mile or so of road to the finish, I took my front chain ring shifter out of my top tube back and shifted into the big ring. It was worth it! So fun to mash that last section and make it across the finish line to my cheering fans. Thank you James for being there for me, hours after your finish and taking care of me and my bike. Thanks to Team Sly for letting me wash up and change in your Sprinter van. And thanks to Mick and Beth and the Rivers Eatery for the awesome after party.