After a couple days worrying about a rain cancellation, Bob, Paul-Brian, Ronit and I were happy to hear that the mountain bike races at the Fall Colors Festival were going to be held as planned at Kettle Moraine South last Saturday. Sadly, Ronit had to back out at the last minute due to a friends illness but the rest of us were there bright and early, ready to race on a well-known and well-loved trail. Bob and Paul-Brian started first in the 20 mile race. I was scheduled to start 30 minutes later for the 10 mile race, figuring that I shouldn’t overstretch for what was to be my first race as a member of the HAC team.

The start went well, and though I started near the back, I managed to pass a few folks on the grassy warm-up section. Feeling pretty comfortable, but unhappy about some pretty heavy traffic, I turned on the gas to try to get through the first singletrack section quickly; I knew it was fast and twisty and I thought it would be the best place for me to make up some ground quickly. Moments later, though, I found myself in a group of 10-15 riders, all piled up behind one slower rider that was ignoring repeated requests to let people pass. The pace was agonizingly slow and I was worried I was blowing out my legs early by being forced to slowly climb up hills I usually have the momentum to just cruise through. Slowly, folks were getting by the rider one by one and when it was my turn I confess I let my frustration get the better of me. After calling for the pass twice (to no avail) I went for the inside line of a sharp left turn, saw the rider turn their bike in towards me, and opted to ride/crash into the brush rather than risk taking out the rest of the field behind us. As I got myself up, I realized this meant I was going to have to let the whole rest of the field pass before I could remount. Five minutes into my first race and I was effectively last.

As I rode away, frustrated and disappointed, the voices of my teammates started to enter my head. What Jacob wrote about pedaling with <a href="">hot and sticky blood running down his leg?</a> Check. The “Red Mist” that Chris warned us about, the same angry red mist that tried (but failed) to <a href="">kill Jeremiah?</a> Double check. At least I was alone and was making up some good time. Before I knew it I had caught up with the slower rider again (with 5 riders still struggling away behind him!). This time we were each able to get by cleanly, thank goodness, and I felt like I was ready to mentally restart the race.

I rode cleanly and well until I hit the back loop of the blue course, where things got pretty sketchy due to some very slippery rocks and roots. That made some of the climbs and descents on the hilliest portion of the course much more technical than usual. I wasn’t feeling very fast, but at least I managed to keep the “wheel side down” (another teammate’s favorite piece of advice—thanks, PB!). Also, at that point, the leaders from the 20-mile race started to come through—after my recent experience of being caught behind someone who won’t let you pass, I was determined to give those guys all the room they needed. Besides, it was fun seeing them blast through the slippery rocks like they weren’t even there!

The rest of the course was fun and fast and I was incredibly energized by the attitude of many of the other riders. I got several fun shout-outs from folks responding to my HAC jersey, and got cheered up a steep hill near the end by a big-hearted rider from the 20-mile race who waited until he saw me up it to pass. I passed a few people from my own race near the end and finished up feeling strong.

Unfortunately, when I finished I found out that Paul-Brian had flatted out on his first lap, so he didn’t get to finish his race. He did a great job cheering me in, though, and soon we got to cheer in Bob finishing up his 20 miles. After struggles with mechanicals for the first part of the race, he looked great crossing the line.

After the races the three of us enjoyed talking with the guys from Wheelfast, Amy from Clif, and HAC-hopefuls Julie and Jared, but missed our HAC teammates tearing it up just a few miles north at the Madison UCI cx races. I finished 3rd in my age group and was happy with that result, especially given the circumstances. Lesson Learned #1: In racing as in life, patience is a virtue. I can’t wait until my next race: WORS Sheboygan here I come!

!! (Photo by Amy @ velogrrl)

 -Jen Mosley