|Part of the North Loop of the Wildlife Prairie Park MTB trail|
So I know I promised a RAGBRAI part two...and it's still in progress. Between packing for the big move, finishing up my work after six years here, and trying to do everything I love one last time before we leave, writing hasn't been much of a priority. It will happen, hopefully in the next day or so (before I forget all the cool stuff that happened!).
|Monster at WPP parking lot, practice day!|
As usual, life gets in the way and I have not raced since then. I wanted to focus on building my bike-handling and fully internalizing the skills we drilled at Ray's back in March, and was bound and determined to finally do my first triathlon. Though we have a terrific race series run by the Peoria Area Mountain Bike Association here in Central IL, I got so busy training for the triathlon and RAGBRAI that Monster the Mountain Bike languished in the garage rather than tearing it up out on the trails. It got to the point I felt guilty every time I went into the garage and grabbed the Civia or the Dolce. I apologized many times to poor Monster, promising that her turn to race again would come "soon."
"Soon" happened sooner than I had anticipated. I hadn't even been considering today's race until an old achilles tendonitis issue returned, ten years after the first (and last) occurrence. Despite careful run training all summer and obsessive shoe fittings, the second I started a marathon training plan Mr. Achilles point-blank made his feelings known. Running is completely off the table for quite a while, which means no duathlon next weekend and no triathlon in September. On a lark I took a peek at the mountain bike racing schedule and saw that one of my favorite local trails, Wildlife Prairie Park (WPP), planned to host a race on August 11. WPP is a fun course with a few challenges, though I definitely prefer the rockiness of these trails to the stupid skinny bridges on my home course :). I decided to do a practice run or two and if they went well, I would race.
|Monster, ready to race!|
Today was the big day, and we couldn't have asked for nicer weather or better trail conditions. After practicing the course a few times, I knew there were a few things in my favor as a road cyclist, namely quite a few flat, open places where I could sprint and quite a bit of climbing once we hit the woods. Of course, there were a few things that would be difficult as a relatively new cross-country rider, namely some of the über-tight turns and the rocky terrain. The wooded singletrack and more technical portion of the course didn't start for at least a mile, so my strategy was to push hard through the relatively flat part, where I could pass people easily. I wanted to have a good position once we hit the woods, where it was much harder to get around people. Also, the north loop starts with a ton of climbing, and I wanted to position myself ahead of the folks who weren't as strong on the hills. Nothing kills momentum like having the rider in front of you randomly jump off his or her bike, and sprinting while pushing a bike up a trail definitely didn't make the cut of approved exercise for my type of tendonitis.
|Representing the BCF race team! Second place!|
I really busted my rear trying to catch the woman in front of me, though I never saw her. I had a feeling she was far enough ahead by that point that my chances were slim. But hey, in mountain biking things can turn in a heartbeat if you put your foot in the wrong place (ask me about falling down a mini-ravine at Comlara a few weeks ago...), pick the wrong line, or flat a tire so I wasn't about to give up the chase. Plus I really wanted one of those cool Illinois-shaped medals, so tried to put as much distance as I could between me whoever was behind me. I easily got through a few difficult sections that had
|Me and Jane, post-race|
My Bloomington Cycle teammate, Jane, did great today too, finishing fifth despite being in the middle of a detox and lacking the coffee advantage I enjoyed :). I'm really going to miss riding with this one!
|The kids race between Novice and Expert/Sport events|
The sad part of today is that it is probably my last mountain bike adventure in central IL, at least for awhile. Next Saturday we unpack in Ohio and start a new life there. I've already made friends with a few Oberlin-area cyclists and can't wait to explore the trails in their area. It looks like they host some nice clinics and races, AND we will be close enough to Ray's in Cleveland to possibly warrant season passes for the winter. I will desperately miss the ladies here, and am incredibly thankful to Lori for getting me started (and justifying my purchase of yet another bike haha). The first couple of times we rode, I took everything she said to heart and practiced them on my hour-plus of commuting every day. From foot position to body weight, from cornering to shifting, I turned every ride to work into practicing the suggestions Lori gave. If there's anything I've taken away from a lifetime of piano study, it's that the best way to improve technique quickly is to incorporate it into EVERYTHING you do. If you get the chance to try one of her newbie rides (often an offshoot of the Comlara Off-Road Biking Association No One Left Behind rides on Mondays), take advantage of it. You won't regret it, and that's a guarantee!
|I gave her jewelry, I hope Monster forgives me for a season of racing neglect!|