Race Blogging

For some reason I had been really looking forward to the Illinois race this past Sunday. The race was held at Black Partridge Park in Metamora, IL. Being able to ride trails has been pretty intermittent this Spring, so I think a race held rain or shine gave me an excuse to get out there and ride my bike in the dirt regardless of weather.

On the way to the race I was almost a bit ho-hum compared to how I felt earlier in the week. Maybe it was nerves, I don’t know. The forecast wasn’t calling for rain, so I was stoked about that. However there was some rainfall at the course that morning. I was a bit nervous about my tire choice. I really think I dislike the Bontrager 29.2. The side knobs fill with mud and don’t clear, which then have absolutely NO traction in turns dry or wet. They are advertised as a loose over hard pack tire, so I guess the wet isn’t what they were made for, so I shouldn’t hate.


The Cat 1 women were initially supposed to do 3 laps of the 8 mile mostly singletrack course (same as the cat 1 men)… which meant I’d probably be out there for well over 2 hours. I was looking forward to the fun miles, but at the same time not really looking forward to it considering how hot and muggy it was. Not to mention it wasn’t dry, so lap times would be slower than last year. Which, yeah, get over it… but coming from 50s to 80s and humid is a bit rough on the body. Anyway, a couple of the girls petitioned the race director and we were cut down to 2 laps. I had mixed feelings, but it was going to be fun regardless. I unzipped my Metal jersey, so I wouldn’t be fumbling with the zipper in the singletrack, and lined up behind the men.

Us Cat 1 gals actually started in the pack with the Cat 1 men. I was a bit apprehensive about this at first, but it worked out pretty well actually. I was first woman behind all the guys. It was a fairly short lead out on the grass which then dropped us right into some downhill benchcut singletrack. Way awesome trail. The Cat 1 dude right in front of me was going a bit slow for my liking but it was difficult to get around him with all the creek crossings and bridges. Eventually I was able to sneak by him on a rooty climb. One creek crossing was very steep. It was like a wall to get out. The guy in front of me didn’t make it and I had to slide back down. I panicked trying to get up. It was so muddy and slick I couldn’t get a foot hold. I was just waiting for the women to come barreling down on me while I tried to get out of there. Finally I made it up the first of three switchback climb sections completely redlined and breathing hard feeling like my head was going to explode.

It took me a long time to settle, almost the whole first lap. With having asthma, the humidity and the fact I wanted to ride fast was causing me some breathing problems. I had to keep talking myself down; I felt like I was hyper-ventilating. Breathe Rachael, breathe. Finally I was able to settle down and enjoy the rad singletrack. And rad it was. Super tight, tons of log crossings. I felt like a Jedi floating between trees and dipping into little g-outs. I did end up at one point sliding out on a bridge (plank really) and hugging a tree, but I don’t think I’ve ever come away from a race completely unscathed.

Before I knew it the first lap was over. That ride on the grass was the hardest part of the race… I was pushing my gears so hard, but felt like I was going nowhere.

Second lap had me looking over my shoulder a lot. Betsy usually beats me when I race with her, usually after catching me after I’ve led most of the first lap. I could hear the sport guys coming on some occasions and feared Betsy, or another Cat 1 gal, was with them. I just kept pushing. Lungs settled, legs were good, I felt great all around. I was dreading that steep creek crossing, but not having anybody in front of me I floated right up it. What a relief! I was a bit more confident knowing the trails, not to mention they had dried out some, so weren’t as slick in the corners. It started to get pretty dark in the singletrack as it appeared a storm was rolling in; I almost had to take off my glasses. All I could think about at that point was how slick it was going to get if the clouds let loose. It started to rain just as I was exiting out of the singletrack on my last lap for the finish.

My first win in a very long time, and maybe my first one as a Cat 1. I was pretty stoked.


Iola 04.01.11

Driving up to Iola I was sort of bumming... I knew it was going to be close to 70 degrees at home and Iola was calling for rain and cold. And having read that they had snow up there just a bit ago had me nervous for conditions. I knew I couldn't ride at home regardless and the thought of missing Iola for another venue just didn't appeal to me, so it was the best of all my options.

Getting out of the car to pre-ride the wind was coming hard but it wasn't raining. About 15 minutes after we arrived the wind totally died down. It was weird. I ended up starting the pre-ride in arm warmers and undershirt but promptly ditched them soon after entering the course. The trails were perfect and the climbs didn't seem to be as bad as I remembered (though they never really do on pre-ride).

My first lap I didn't feel like me. Just wasn't confident tossing the bike around, the second lap was much better I felt the "rail" come back.

We packed up and headed to our hotel. Pretty boring really.

Morning wake up had us not rushing as Ryan races the Cat 1 Junior category now. Though the thought of sitting at the hotel for hours before the start didn't sound appealing so we headed to the venue.


Wow, was it cold! I ended up in 3 layers and a beanie with gloves just to walk around. I was sort of stressing about what to wear to race, always remembering that no matter how it felt outside of the woods, inside the woods always seemed 10 degrees warmer with only a few sections of dealing with the wind.

I ended up in arm warmers, jersey and shorts with wool socks. I lined up next to people wearing thermal jersey, tights with shorts, knickers, headbands and double layers. YIKES... I would have died of heat exhaustion! My head would have exploded on the first lap!

Don said Gooo... and we're off. I've never been a good starter. However I was surprised that the field wasn't completely gone as we got to the top. I hate the first lap as I'm sure most other people do as well. I went back and forth with a couple girls and then sort of settled into a spot until the first singletrack I passed a couple girls in there. I was actually surprised that I was able to power past up on what was definitely not the better line. It felt sort of good.

For the most part my race was uneventful. I passed a girl or two, a girl or two passed me. Tons of comps came by. I didn't have a problem with any of them. They all called their passes and weren't stupid about it. Iola is almost a perfect race course actually.

I still suck at eating. I totally forgot how quick one of the sections of singletrack came up so I ended up riding it with an unopened gel in my mouth. Finally ripped it open, sucked it down and stuffed it into my back pocket with all my unopened gels. So of course on my next lap that's the gel I grabbed thinking I'd be ahead of the game, I put it in my spandex on my thigh. EW. Gross. It wasn't so bad that it was all over my thigh, but when I grabbed it from my shorts, the gel was all over my glove... which then was all over my grip, lever and shifter. Ugh. There were times I actually had to pull my hand off the grip hard to grab the lever. I ended up sucking on my gloves where the gel was to help out with this a bit. So I had to get that mostly eaten gel into another pocket and grab an uneaten one out. *shakes head

Before I forget, I was so thankful for Jeff doing bottle hand ups. I go through a lot of water and not having to carry it on myself or bike is such a relief!

I actually felt pretty damn good on my 2nd and 3rd lap. I completely surprised myself. Going into the 4th lap right at the top of the start climb my legs started to fuss. It was the first time it was actually painful and hard to push them to go. I felt like they were pretty heavy. I actually didn't hate the start climb or the big climb in the back as much as past years. I really HATED the 3rd climb after coming out of the bowl. After you make that swooping left, ugh. I just felt my legs hate me. But I so love when you shoot back down into the bowl and right back up! So frickin' cool! I was hurtin' on that last lap but I was nowhere near being completely done and in survival mode like I am on my last lap at most WORS races. My legs still climbed and I was still pretty fresh in the singletrack handling wise, just wasn't poppy or fast.

Much better than last year's DNF, that's for sure. It's also the first year, I think ever, that I've raced Iola either not sick or coming off of being sick.

I ended up 11th overall/9th Cat 1. 4th age but 2nd age podium (I think) with the overalls taken out. I'm bummed I missed my podium opportunity. Those don't happen very often for me in Elite WORS (only once).

And how about the Twin Six Metal kits... so awesome!