Fun weekend. An 8 hour drive up to the northern woods of Wisconsin for the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. The race takes place on the famous birkbiener cross country ski trails as well as the phenomenal trail system in that area. 2500 racer limit, fills up by lottery, and for the 1st time in "aboot" LOL 15 years I returned there for the fesivities. This was my last race, and my emotions were all over the place going up there because I am nowhere close to where I wanted to be physically and unfortunately mentally. I was reminded by the single greatest person to ever enter my life (the LPM) that I should go up there and have "fun". No need to have it turn in to an end all event. So that's what I did. GOD she has no idea how her little comments can make such a difference sometimes...Cool weather, the leaves have already turned colors, and a total vibe of a small woods town was totally great. That and the fact that NOTHING beats Wisconsin fish frys, and I made the best of it binging on all the fish I could find the entire time we were out there. The hotel had the indoor pool right outside our room, and a hot tub right there as well, so everybody had the opprotunity to have fun, and the one thing that's been most important to me is making sure everybody had fun when we would venture off on my race excursions. Race morning I found this small diner in town (the only one open at 6AM) - race started at 10..., and I enjoyed a hearty lumberjack breakfast in a real small place that everyone knew each other, it was actually pretty cool.Reminded me of something out of that show Northern Exposure from a number of years ago. I TOTALLY dig finding those types of authentic and "unique to the area" places.
I headed back to the room gathered my bike and gear and off we went to the start area 20 or so miles away. The weather was in the 40s in the morning, with a forecast for sun and mid 50s. PERFECT for a long distance bike race on some challenging trails with aboot 2500 other riders. Like I said this is or at least was the biggest off road festival in the US.So I decided to wear part of the team kit (minus the jersey) that I belonged to this year, as well as some sweet Rock Racing arm warmers that totally had me lookin good LOL. I chose the kit since this was my last race, so out of respect there I went. Anyway, on to the race. The course simply kicks ass. Anyone you know who has done the Birkebeiner cross country ski race should be RESPECTED because that trail system is simply punishing. I like Xcountry skiing but couldn't even fathom doing that on skis.The race highlights included rolling thru Hayward with a couple thousand mountain bikers and listening to the rumbling sound generated by all those knobby tires on asphalt for a couple miles - imagine a mountain bike on a windtrainer x1500! Then there was the spectators, the coolest being Pirate Hill. Didn't know what to expect when I saw the sign warning of the hill and low and behold it was full of people dressed as pirates, firing off a homemade PVC cannon, as well as offering rum shots to anyone interested (after all they ARE pirates lol. Then there was the Seeley Fire tower climb. There is nothing I know of that I can compare it to, it comes in at "aboot" 30 miles into the race. I dreaded it and looked forward to it the entire race. I had no problem riding any of the races endless hills thrown my way, something I've always had a natural ability to do, and I was wondering what that climb had in store for me. A quick right turn and there it was, and it's so damn long and tall you simply can't see the top, and it really looks like it goes on forever - your best served not looking up. So there I went up, up, up, up, riders walking EVERYWHERE. I had one guy in front of me who also managed to continue riding the climb and he had been calling out his presence, and the others would part the trail and offer shouts of encouragement. I was riding the "redline" and so deep in the pain cave that I had nothing in me that wanted to give up any energy or concentration by yelling out or distracting myself from the task at hand, so I silently pedalled behind him. He ultimately dropped aboot half way up, and then it was me, and I am so grateful for all the encouragement directed my way. If your one of the thousands reading this ;) and you were cheering for me "THANK YOU"! I would have responded, but it was me against the climb, and there was nothing extra. I made it to the last stretch before the jump in grade 20 or 30 yards yards from the top, and 2 guys bumped into each other while pushing their bikes and stopped me dead in my tracks. and the foot went down to the ground. There was no way I could get back on and continue riding so I pushed it up and over, jumped back on, and away I rode away DELIRIOUSLY lol I ALMOST conquered that climb... I made a comment to someone a bit later that there was nothing they could throw at us now that we were over that climb, but YES there was, they seemed to save the most hills from the Birkbeiner trails for the end. It was killin people left and right. Nobody was making jokes anymore, everyone was riding silent with the occasional groan and slew of dismounts on the pushes op the climbs. I made every climb ;) I rode a good race. I told those close to me I was hoping to do it in 4 hours, and landed up finishing in 3:23 which put me in the very middle of finishers among men. 856 0f 1602 to be exact. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel after the race was over, I did hold back some tears (for the most part), good and bad ones, but ultimately felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment considering how much(read little) training time I've had, and the current shape I'm in. I finished better than everyone I know that also came out to race and one victory over an acquaintance was a bit sweeter than the others, but that's the essence of competitiveness, and I don't doubt for a minute his goal was to beat me... He landed up coming in a minute behind me. That one small victory was indeed sweet...
So yes I had fun.. Not sure what comes next, but I figure I'll let the good feelings of riding a successful race to the best of my current ability sink in, after all, it's been a long bumpy road this year, and a "feel good" has been long overdue. Driving home my LPM told me to tell her she's right, and I did, but asked about what? She said "You can take the man out of the race but you can't take the race out of the man" She IS right.... and for that I love her.
So who knows what happens next, but this chapter is closed, and after a bit of reflection we'll figure out what to do. I'm moving on to running for a while to clear out the head and gain a new perspective, as well as get myself in shape for a Halloween 1/2 marathon,