If anyone felt like they’d lacked the experience of a “real” ‘cross race, this year’s Jingle Cross was an easy way to end that. Photos by Berly Brown, Emily Hoesly, Noah Marcus, Josh Rice, and Anne or Mark Savery.
After 5 hours of driving, I wasn’t really too excited to race. Legs didn’t feel good, stomach didn’t feel so great either, and though it was exciting to be there and under the lights and such, the doomy cloudy sky wasn’t really revving me up. I did a practice lap and headed to the line with all the rest of the Cat 4s.
|GO! Watch 608, she’s my competition…|
The mess began just after the start, as the officials had only left a 15-second gap between the 60-ish Cat 4 men and the women. We’d caught the tail end of them in a bottleneck right after the first corner, and trying to maneuver through the group was going to be critical in the first lap.
|Running up Mt. Krumpet. Beastly long and steep.|
This hill run-up helped with that. Lots of people were moving really slowly up this, so I tried to push it harder, sending myself way into the red. After the first lap, where Ms. 608 kicked my bars on her remount, I got ahead of her. Not for long, though, as she attacked somewhere on lap 2 and put in a bit of a gap. Girls 1 and 2, speedy Juniors, were way ahead, and I was trying to find motivation to push harder while also thinking about the 2 additional days of racing ahead.
|Under the flyover. You’re supposed to ring the bell for good luck.|
That motivation came in the form of John Lefler, race announcer and fellow Lincolnite, calling out that the race for 3rd place was the one to watch. He called me out, called out 608 (Sarah Rice from Chicago), and started doing a play-by-play of our last lap, wondering over the loudspeaker if I could catch her. So I did. I shouldered and ran a long, muddy off-camber section all the way to the base of the flyover, and I caught her on the top. Lefler saw and called the catch, and I drilled it down the other side and to the base of Mt. Krumpet. Pushing as hard as I could to run up the hill, I started to make a little gap. Down, through the barns, and back through the pinwheel — where you could catch glimpses of your competition repeatedly — and grinding to the start/finish, and I’d pulled out 3rd place on the podium. Phew! Time to go have some fun on the hill.
|Friday podium, with two girls half my age.|
After watching the pros, we got dinner at a great pizza pub. Back to the hotel, time to sleep for an early start Saturday morning, rain in the forecast.
It was raining steadily when we woke up, and it was clear that the ground that had already been a bit soft Friday was going to get soggy pretty quickly on Saturday. Luckily, when we raced at 9:30, it hadn’t yet gotten much colder, and the temperature in the upper 40s was perfectly tolerable despite the rain.
|Start line on Saturday. Rain, but not too cold yet.|
I hadn’t really warmed up at all Saturday (having a really full car meant forgoing luxuries like trainer and extra wheel), and there was a new cast of characters on the line. Adding to the fun, teammates Berly Brown and Emily Hoesly were in the mix as well.
|Soft, wet ground. Not bad here, much worse elsewhere.|
The ground was a real powersuck. Though there were many places that were truly muddy or necessitated running, I could ride more than others despite not having mud tires. Lots of places, though, were just soft, wet ground, and my legs felt tired from the effort the night before. I slipped from 3rd into 4th and then 5th wheel, with 6th giving me chase. On the 3rd lap, the rider in 4th went down in a greasy corner, and I came around her with now-5th place hot on my heels. She gave good chase for the last lap, but it wasn’t enough, so I ended up with a 4th place finish, a wet, cold, muddy body, and a really messy bike. Clean up, warm up, yell at friends, and hit the hot tub.
One of my favorite spots for food in the Midwest is Masala Vegetarian — it was an oasis of great vegan food that I always tried to make part of my road trips back and forth to Providence when I was in college — and after a cold day in the rain, Indian food sounded so good. A group of 10 Nebraskans met up and gorged ourselves on spicy deliciousness. It’s so awesome to get a full menu from which to choose!
Sunday was going to be cold, windy, and full of the muddy effects of Saturday’s rain. It was a mess. I warmed up in the parking lot, knowing I wouldn’t actually be sprinting much once on the course. Again, there was a new set of characters (albeit smaller this time), though all three of Saturday’s podium finishers were on the line again, too.
|Running through the logs.|
I took the holeshot, but not having pre-ridden the course meant I was completely unprepared for the first re-routed turn. Oops. I maintained position for a little bit, but two-time 1st place finisher Skyler Schneider moved around me pretty shortly. Along with her came Saturday’s second-place finisher, and another girl who hadn’t raced yet this weekend. I settled in to my tempo again, trying as best as possible to find good lines through deep mud and puddles. Slow and steady, no mistakes, that was my goal.
|Holding steady in the mud.|
And slowly but surely, I was once again in the position of holding 4th place and gaining on 3rd. I found my attack on the third lap, and I think I heard Lefler call me a diesel engine as I came through the start/finish. I rode the last lap increasing my gap for another solid 3rd place finish.
|Sunday podium, and an end to my 2011 season.|
After getting cleaned up and watching the other races (including Ryan goofing off in the Single Speedo race wearing Sheclismo bikini briefs), we headed up to Mt. Krumpet for some SHEnanigans. It was a fun way to end another great weekend with friends, and a somewhat bittersweet cap to my 2011 season.
|SHEnanigans on Mt. Krumpet.|
I’m pretty tired of being on the road every weekend — I’ve only had one weekend home since the end of September — and my house shows for it. I have freelance projects demanding attention, cats demanding attention, and knitting projects to finish before friends have their babies. I still haven’t unpacked my race travel bag, but I’m hanging my hat on racing until spring. Being at a race age of 29, I’m in an odd spot for Nationals. I could spend a bunch of money for a Wednesday “non-competition” race, or I could complete my upgrade and race the elites, only to get pulled after Katie Compton blows by me a couple times. Next year, I’ll be old enough for Masters’, and with Worlds being in Louisville, I’ll plan on extending my season into January. This year, though, I’m going to build up my anxiously anticipated War Axe, goof off on it in my parents’ pasture, ski for the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and enjoy that 29th birthday.
Nebraska travel squad who went to Jingle Cross, it was great to hang out with y’all for the weekend. Super fun times. If you want to just ride around sometime, look me up. The calendar seems a lot more open now…