I kind of wanted to race on the way to and from Nationals just to race in different areas and keep the legs going, so I found the FORC Side Thrill Ride happening at Sunderbruch Park in Davenport, IA on July 13th. The weather was touch and go, with the area receiving a lot of rain, but luckily the race happened with a 2 hour delay. After a miserable night with bugs and tons of rain at my campsite, I was more than ready to get up and get the race going and get on my way across the country.
Due the the weather I didn’t get any sort of pre-riding in, so I decided to just race blind and see what happens. Sometimes I think this is an advantage as I don’t have time to create hang ups in certain parts (like that damn rock at nationals…) and I can’t stress about something on course. It’s also a disadvantage because I don’t know what’s coming up. I had already decided that I wouldn’t ride at full race pace, as I needed to keep my body and “back up” bike in one piece for the big show in Pennsylvania. So I showed up, ate a baked potato from Wendy’s – my appetite had been crap so far on the trip and I pretty much had to force myself to eat. I drank a TON of water beforehand, trying to hydrate for the humidity. It was a decent day, not too hot, and not too sweltering, but course it still affects me. I noticed in warm up I had a hard time elevating my heart rate even during sprint efforts. Definitely weird racing at almost seal level, and I’m not sure my body knew what to do.
There were 4 ladies in the cat 2 race. I didn’t know anything about them and they didn’t know anything about me. Kinda nice, as I had no pre-expectations built in. I told them all I was aiming for 4th place. Hell, I didn’t know how it would go! The start was on some grass that reminded me a lot of cyclocross. I hung on the wheel of Marta and let her take the lead. It was an ok pace, through the curves in the grass but once we hit the pavement climb to Kickapoo Up, I was struggling to remain patient. She went into granny gear for Kickapoo Up and I was still in my big ring and in a way harder gear rearing to go. So when Kickapoo Up kicked us out to cross the path and disappear into the single track I took the passing opportunity and never looked back!
The course was mostly tight and curvy single track through the trees, with occasional log ramps and a few drops. There was a tricky stepped switchback that was still greasy from the rain that I handled ‘cross style, and the course marshall told me I was the fastest through that all day! Woohoo, go me! There were a lot of steep, punchy climbs and some were still very slippery so it became a scramble up them, sometimes sliding down (I needed my toe spikes in my shoes apparently). I was going fast, but felt comfortable and at just a casually fast pace. I noticed my heart rate was in the 180s, but I didn’t feel out of breath at all! That’s when I realized this is what doping must feel like… I mean, that sounds terrible. But I was just GO GO GO and my body was happy. I knew I still very much had my high altitude blood cell levels going on, and I was just in total beast mode. Apparently I need to train/live at 7000 feet, and only race at sea level. Haha.
About half way through where the course doubles back on itself a course marshall let me know I had well over a minute. So I settled in and just enjoyed the course. I loved how many course marshals and spectators there were in the trees, playing music, cheering, etc! I’m not use to that at races so it made it a lot of fun! I’m glad I chose to ride my Specialized Fate, as the course wasn’t too bumpy (just rooty), and the punchy climbs called for a hard tail.
I used only a bottle, and had good success with hydrating while racing with my Osmo. I came through for my second lap, and finally could play in the grass corners and also take long drinks. I still felt amazing, though I did allow myself to slow considerably since I knew I had a very large cushion. The rear derailleur on the Fate was clicking and misbehaving so I wanted to keep the bike in one piece as well. I rode more of the log ramps and drops since I knew how slippery they would be. Towards the end I nailed a group of punchy climbs into a rock drop that I ran the first lap. I hauled butt down Kickapoo Down, going off the small drop (there’s a flat go around for it, but what fun is that!), and had to gather myself and remain upright when I came into a corner a little too hot. Crossed the finish line with a big smile!
1:38:15 was my official time. I had a 6.5 minute cushion over 2nd place… whoa! It felt amazing to have a dominating performance for once in cat 2!
I won both Cat 2 Women Overall and my 30-39 age group! What was even better is the awards were super unique and handmade out of chunks of wood! Always better than a generic medal in my opinion! I had to take off early before awards so I could make it to my campsite in Indiana before dark unfortunately 😦
Fun race, very fun course, great spectators! It was all well run! I’d definitely attend another FORC race if I was in the area! I ended up skipping racing in Chicago on the way home from Nationals (just tired and eager to get home), so I’m glad I got at least one midwest race in during my trip.