Kickapoo Bash

I made a last minute decision to race stop 9 of the Illinois Homegrown Race Series. I wanted to race, I just didn't want to be in a car for 5 hours that day. I knew I'd regret not going so I made the decision to just do it. John headed the other way on I57 for the xXx cross relay with the girls in tow.
I love Kickapoo. It's a 10 mile loop of mostly all singletrack that I love. It's tight, technical and twisty with short punchy (at times super) steep climbs, ravines, off camber sections, not to mention two (or is it three?) pretty awesome downhills. There's like one spot on the loop to recover- the double track to start your next lap.
In past years us women have done two laps of the course. Twenty miles on that course is a lot. As I'm in the staging area I found out we weren't doing two, but three. I was not prepared to do three. Luckily I had brought enough water, but mentally it sort of deflated me not to mention that if I knew I had an extra 10 miles to do, I probably would've ate more. There was nothing I could do about it, so I shrugged it off and prepared myself for a long day.
We started two minutes after the men. There was a longish double track lead out that lead us to surprise hill, which is very aptly named by the way. My plan was to get out front to get into the singletrack first to hopefully put some time on the ladies.
As I struggled up surprise hill (should've been a gear easier) in the lead, I felt Bev right on my wheel, literally. I felt her tap it as I grunted pushing my pedal down to crest the hill. By this point I was pretty redlined. Arms tingly, breathing hard and legs burning, I almost felt like I was coming to a stop as the trail continued to climb.
I knew it would start going down in a couple feet, but Bev passed me before the trail turned to my favor. I sat closely behind her as she descended down the fast flowy singletrack. I wanted to get by her, but it was so tight. She'd brake going into the turns, I'd have to brake too, slightly annoyed that I knew if I was up front I'd be railing the sweet, sweet singletrack. But Bev can accelerate out of a turn like nobody's business, so it was impossible for me to get by.
We headed down the switchback down into the ravine. I was still right behind her as we climbed up the switchback out of the ravine, both of us dabbing as we made the super steep left turn. Still behind her we recovered as we finished climbing out of the ravine and onto more twisty, rooty goodness. I waited for an opportunity to get by. I was rewarded for being patient as Bev lost traction going into a turn and was off her bike.
Sweet. But, not so sweet. Her misfortune happened right at the only section of multi-track on the whole course! Her strength, definitely not mine. I laughed at the irony.
All I could do was slide forward in the saddle, click my gears and push as hard as I could. I raced this course last year so I knew the next section was the wall rides and technical creek climb. I hoped to stay in the lead once we got to that point. I know Bev is strong, and though I'm a better singletrack rider than Bev, she still is no slacker; so I knew staying ahead of her was near impossible, but anything could happen so I just kept pushing.
As I entered the trees I almost felt relieved as I thought I'd start descending to the wall ride. NOPE. More doubletrack. It felt like forever. Bev caught me here and I pulled her into the singletrack. I led for a bit but she was right on my wheel. I'd put some space between us in turns, but she was right back on me in no time. I probably still had 25 miles to go at this point in the race, so I told Bev if she needed to get by to go. She was gone. I didn't even try to stay on her wheel. She was way stronger than I was. I still pushed hard though because I knew Betsy wasn't far behind, and well, anything can happen.
As I entered the second lap I still felt good. I grabbed a gel, chugged some water and pedaled on. I had the singletrack all to myself! I was having a blast until I saw Betsy as the trails weaved next to each other. A sort of panic set in; I didn't want 3rd. I pushed harder to keep the distance between us.
As I came to the end of the 2nd lap there are two super steep hike-a-bike climbs (for me anyway), as I stood at the top of the second one trying to clip in my pedal I heard shifting behind me. It was like I saw a bear on my tail. I flew down the steep technical downhill, skidding around the 90 degree turn out to the multi-track to the next singletrack section. I saw Betsy again as I messed up the switchback climb to head to the finish. As I was running up the climb Betsy came shooting down out of the woods. CRAP! After climbing up that climb it took my legs what seemed like forever to want to turn over the pedals, but finally I got them going.
After that, surprisingly I still felt okay going into the 3rd lap. As I pushed down the double track to drop into my 3rd lap I almost missed the turn to surprise hill. I slammed on the brakes and barely made the turn. I felt like I lost so much momentum. As I climbed up the hill I heard the crowd cheering for Betsy. She was so close. I pushed myself so hard in the singletrack in hopes of gaining a bit of time where I knew I could make it count. I almost ate it twice. I flew down the switchback downhill perfectly and cleaned the steep switchback that I missed the first two times as well. I wish somebody was there to high five.
I pushed through the rest of the lap harder than I thought I could. On one of the downhills I thought I was going to have a significant crash. I was going very fast, way faster than I should have been. I brushed a tree which moved me to the left side of the trail where there was a hidden log in the grass. I'm not sure how I missed it, but I did. So I dialed it back a notch on the dowhills. Fatigue and pain were starting to take over. My stomach was crampy from the gels, both of my feet had blisters and my back was twinging on every root and ravine, not to mention my feet kept flying out of my pedals for some reason. Every sound I heard I thought was Betsy right behind me. I dreaded the hike a bike section. My legs were hurting, I knew I was close to cramping and I had blisters that burned and stung worse when off the bike. As I came flying down to the descent to head out to the finishing section of singletrack (which isn't short), I looked back and didn't see Betsy. I knew at this point that if I could keep moving I'd have second place.
A part of me wanted to cry. Whether it was PMS, pain, joy, I don't know, but the urge was there. I didn't though, instead I laughed. I was almost done. That last section of singletrack is super fun, however after almost 30 miles I just wanted it to end. I was close but still so far away.
Finally the little steep exit onto the double track. I put my head down and then looked for the timer's table. I hit the brakes and high-fived Bev who was standing at the finish line. As I stood there I wondered how I would get back to my car. The thought of pedaling back with legs that were probably planning a mutiny and a back that was revolting, not to mention I was feeling quite sick from my effort, was not one of joy.
It was the first race I'd ever done where I couldn't eat anything (well, okay, I had an ice cream cone) nor did I want anything substantial until the next day.
My legs feel okay today. My left quad is sore, but I think my cleat on my new shoe is a bit off. My back however, I feel like I've been punched in the kidneys.

No results posted yet. No pics yet either. I saw one guy out there in the ravines. I hope he posts them up.


cfreund said...

Awesome Rachael!!!