This past weekend was the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival up in Cable, WI. For those who don't know, this is a fucking sweet MTB race on & around the Birkebeiner trail in Northern Wisconsin. Pronounced "Schwa-muh-gun", the options are the 40-mile course (the Cheq40, or "Freakshow") or a 16-mile route (the "Short & Fat"). I did the Short & Fat this year, because the Freakshow damn near killed me back in 2005.
Mike "Rage" Frasier braved the seven-hour drive with me. A group of us stayed at the Valhalla Townhouses. Rage and I shared a room with two tiny single beds-- try to sleep on a balance beam the night before a race you are totally unprepared for-- it rules. The townhouse was basically right at the finish line. Nice! Since my bed was directly under the stairs, I woke up to the fucking sound of an elephants-in-ice-skates parade. I stumbled upstairs grumbling horrible things and made a PB sandwich-- which I never touched. Some of my bunkmates had whipped up some batter and Rage set me up with a small pancake, which I was able to eat. I tried to make a second, larger pancake which I got about halfway down before the gag reflex started up... boo. I let the gag win and killed a bottle of orange juice instead.
The morning of the race, the temperature was 22* F. Now, it isn't odd for me to be lining up in cold weather (sometimes even subzero), but I have usually been training in cold weather when I do so. This was a total suckerpunch-- for the opener ride I did the day before, I was wearing shorts and a short-sleeve jersey. I had no idea what I wanted or needed to wear.
I was pretty much the only one in the house who was doing the Short & Fat, so I was on my own for race prep. I headed over and got to the start at 8:15. I got my bike set up and put it in line. I was only ten rows back from the preferred start, even though some people were there at 6 to stage their bikes. Either the S&F is way more laid back than the 40, or the cold scared people away. Whatever-- it worked out well for me. I had a great position.
I killed time and chatted with other racers. I was amazed at how chill I was. Other people were freaking out-- one woman was bawling. Hmmm- I've been there before. I saw Mad Dog McCoy and Bob from the DICE camp, and we hung out a little. The time was near, so I got out of my sweats and headed towards my bike, now buried at the front of 800 bikes. I left my Kenda jacket on until I got to my bike, then stashed it in my Camelbak Pixie. I raced in a windproof shell under my SS jersey with arm warmers and leg warmers. I had thermal booties over my shoes (with the Pearl Izumi logo blacked out, of course). Again, many comments on the rockin' Kenda gear. Folks love those fucking red flowers.
As I stood over my bike waiting for the start, I choked down a raspberry Hammer Gel. I nearly lost it, but kept it in check this time. Lucky for me, there was a random annoying teenager nearby babbling nervously to distract me. I should have fucking puked on him. Instead, I opted to point out an opening in front of us and offer it to him. Poor kid. I had water in my Pixie and a bottle of grape Cytomax on my bike. I was good to go.
The race ruled. It went much faster than expected. The Colesburg gravel RR did it's job; I didn't freak at all on the gravel. Actually, on one particular downhill, something beautiful happened. Not only was I able to stay off the brakes, but as I was bombing pell-mell, I shifted into my big ring and dropped the hammer. Yay!! It's official: I love downhillin'. I had a lot of little opportunities on different surfaces to test my new-found love of descent in this race: grass, prairie with babyheads, sand, gravel, dirt, etc, etc.
I ended up 2nd in my age group, and 36th female overall. I was psyched! I had never thought I would need to go to the awards ceremony at Chequamegon. I won a cool ceramic plaque and a nice SRAM X-9 rear derailleur. But-- oh, yeah-- I don't have SRAM on any of my bikes.... :)
Div Place: 2 out of 20
Gender Place: 36 out of 229
Overall Place: 283 out of 857