Despite a threat of rain and unseasonably cold temperatures, Half Acre mountain bike riders Julie, Erica, and I headed up north to Green Bay for the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series (WEMS) Stump Farm race. The 2009 WEMS series consists of nine races at different Wisconsin trails featuring a 3, 6, and 12-hour event. Last year, HAC women took first place in the 12-hour women’s relay series.

While we wanted to race the 12-hour relay again this year, we opted for the 3-hour event due to the weather. The 3-hour started later in the day, which allowed us to confirm the race was still happening before we made the 3.5 hour trek up north.

The sky was grey and threatening as we drove to the Brown County Reforestation Camp, but fortunately the morning rains had ceased. The parking lot was bustling with riders in brightly colored jerseys and fans swaddled in thermal layers trying to stay warm. Riding my Gary Fisher in the parking lot, I felt the usual pre-race jitters. Not only was this my first race of the season, it was my first off-road RIDE of the season. I don’t usually like to do things this way, but the trails at Palos have been a soggy mess.

The race started with a Le Mans style start (running to bike.) I sprinted to my bike and jockeyed for position on the singletrack. I thought I was doing well until a rainbow blur of riders steadily overtook me. I veered off the singletrack and onto the grass - Julie urged me to aggressively slip back in the rider stream. I clumsily did so and held on tight. My skills were rusty. I braked too much on the corners when I knew I should just flow with the curves. But hey, I hadn't been on trails since last October.

We were deep in the pine forest, the smells were lush, the foliage thick. The trail was packed down; making it a fast, smooth ride rather than a technical one. There was a mixture of single and doubletrack, with a few short hills and some squishy mud sections thrown in for fun. My legs burned on the hills, but the downhills were refreshingly sweet.

In the WEMS series you ride as many laps possible within the allotted time period. My goal was to complete three laps. I rode more cautiously in lap one; cranked things up in lap two, and became well acquainted with lactic acid in lap three.

I was greeted at the finish line with the sounds of a tinny cowbell and three children shouting encouragement. “Do another lap!" one boy yelled. But my three hours were up; the race was done. My effort was enough to earn me 8th place out of a field of 17 women. That made me happy.

After the ride, my teammates and I shared war stories. Julie by far had the best one -"I swallowed a bug that stayed alive in my lungs. I could feel it crawling back up.”

After the race we ate at Taco Johns where we had burritos and potato ole's...glorified potato puffs with salsa.

We drove home to Julie's choice selection of cheesy rock - Journey, Quiet Riot, Rush, ELO and Boston. She heard my grumblings in the back seat and humored me by putting on Le Tigre.

I was tired, sore, and happy as I stretched out in the back seat of the Julie's VW Jetta listening to Kathleen Hanna of Le Tigre, as we headed back to the Chi.

 -Ronit Bezalel