Friday, September 21, 2007

Chequamegon -- hard to say, fun to ride

Say it with me: "shuh - WAH - ma - gun." There, that wasn't so bad, was it? This was a quick weekend trip. Josh D drove while Bill L and I kept the entertainment flowing in the cab of the truck. We didn't leave Bloomington until about 7:15 which meant for a late night. Bill promised he was going to sleep on the drive, but he never did. (He also shocked both Josh and me with one of the most crass jokes I've heard in a while.) While Bill pretends not to sleep I model my complete assortment of shades designed to cover every possible lighting condition for the weekend.

I think I was finally asleep around 1:30 after a stop for dinner and getting camp set up. Temps plunged all evening to a balmy 25 degrees by morning. I was in heaven wrapped in my down cocoon and I didn't want to crawl out. Josh is under there ... somewhere.

Rise and shine at 6:15 folks! It's time to go race 40 miles on our mtn bikes! Sunrise on a lake en route to Hayward.

I tried my best to motivate but really wasn't feeling it with stiffness, soreness (crash from the 5-0 resulted in a minorly separated shoulder) and a general malaise in my belly. We wouldn't have had to get up so early except with 1700+ people starting the race you want to get your bike situated in the front at the start line if you possibly can. Luckily the sun was out and the temperatures were on their way back up. It would be at least 45 by the start at 10:00am. I realized one big disadvantage of staging your bike for a mass start was not being able to warm up. The roll out from town would have to suffice.

The roll out itself was impressive. The start dips down a hill along Main Street and for as far as one could see in front and behind it was a massive sea of bicycles and riders clamoring for position. I had one gear, what did I care? I decided to spin as much as was comfortable and let the trails sort things out. I am pleased to say that I did pass a lot of folks as soon as we left the pavement. Since the course was mainly cross country ski trails and gravel roads there was plenty of room to pass the geared riders who wanted to 'sit and spin' up every little knoll. At first it was kind of nerve-racking to have so many riders around me. I settled in though and had a nice surprise -- I caught a second wind at about mile 18 and it just kept going. The second half of the race was a blast. I didn't stop once the entire time, I just grabbed cups of Gatorade on the fly at the aid stations.

Pulling into Telemark Lodge I was definitely feeling it. My goal had been sub 3 hours. I was happily surprised to see the big ticker at the finish: 2:59.45 when I rolled under! What about the rest of the day? We hung around the festival and took in the scene. The next mtb craze -- 36er?

I chatted with the rest of my Hub mates for a bit. Their account can be seen and read here. Umm ... overpriced meat snacks ready for the grill.

"I swear, I'm never gonna wash this jersey again," says Josh.

We all met, and some of us harassed, Gary Fisher. I got to hang out with Bill's brother, Grady -- a cool cat from Duluth. (BTW, Grady, plan your beer ride/party and we will come.) On the way back to camp we stopped off at the original Famous Dave's for barbeque. The Pride of Chippewa Falls ... brewed by 73 people who care.

Bill in a food coma. Hot Stuff is right!

After ingesting all this, it was then time for John to crash. I managed to stay awake for the campfire but was out soon there after.
Hey, did anyone pack weenies? Uh, wait, that didn't come out right.
A precise packing job for the drive home.
Another great event. I hesitate to say a "true" mtn bike race ... it was almost like a gravel and dirt road race with a few obstacles. But a blast nonetheless. Definitely worth doing and it would be even more fun in the rain (or snow).

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