Every year we go to blueberry festival.
Isaac and I enjoyed them immensely.
Beach days followed. Beach days are on par with Christmas.
Red Earth Race Report
Next up was the Ishpeming/Negaunee (RAMBA) area trails festival and Hiawatha Music Festival. The trails festival consisted of a bunch of different distance mtn biking and trail running races called The Red Earth Classic. I did the longest one called the beast because I wanted to get my moneys worth in terms of ride time
and there was a prize purse, The Ishpeming trails are a great place to race because they are super challenging technically and directionally. The trails cloverleaf in direction and one can spend a fair amount of time getting lost. They aren't a place I would ride solo and bike dates don't happen all that often so the race seemed like a smart choice. Promises were made that the course had been changed to not be as painfully hard as past years and more flowy. There are sections of Ishpeming (Bacon Strip, Flannel Shirt, Section 16, Sissy Pants, New York Street) that I think rival sections of trail anywhere in the country (think Tahoe, St. George, Moab, Malibu, San Diego) I would travel from outside the area to ride or race these trails. They really are that good.
I told my gang I was a little nervous about racing post my experience with cramping in Boston. Cramping with miles to go is a physical and psychological beat down. I'd be negotiating technical granite cliffs and slippery roots. If I wanted to call it a day I'd still have logistics of getting out of the woods. I was nervous I'd do something stupid and crash my bike.
Annika told me to give it a shot. Seriously she said "C'mon Mom just give it a shot. Just give it your best effort." Five year olds says the darndest things. I know she wasn't the sole author of that pep talk. I did exactly as she said and gave it a shot.
The first 10 miles were a bit of a shocker with heat and hard climbs. Not going to lie I heard another racer tell his buddy that the first 10 miles were demoralizing and spirit breaking and then things got a little easier. Hearing that helped a lot because I felt I was flirting with hear rate max. I did this race in 2014 it was about 3.5 hrs of heart rate max (which is a bit miserable). The fact that others struggle too and that it would get easier made me smile. Then we settled in to more of the shaded technical climbing and descending. I realized that I was on my game from a technical stand point
which sadly isn't always the case. I was having fun. I heard a guitar playing. I smiled thinking about meeting Tim and the kids at Hiawatha later in the day. I emerged on a two track to find Tim playing the guitar and Annika dancing along side Isaac remained chained in his car seat for safe keeping. If you've never seen a 5 year old dancing in the dirt...well you are missing out. We've been told the guitar playing made the local news that evening. I'm not sure about the dancing. Tim reported that there were two girls a few minutes up. I knew who they were. I knew couldn't catch them. Both race or have raced pro. I do not race or train at that level. It is not the world I live in. However the world I live in has required me to read The Berenstein Bears book "The Big Road Race" at least 1,000 times. In the event of any other riders misfortune I wanted to be positioned to capitalize. Competition aside I still wanted to use my personal talents to the very best of my ability. Every rider owes the Ishpeming trails their very best.
One of the things I have learned to appreciate most about racing mountain bikes is that you don't have to beat the fastest women to beat the majority of men :) This is an extremely important concept for female mtn bike racers to embrace because the harder the race the smaller the turnout. I went back and forth with a couple guys from lower Michigan. They were faster than me on flat fire roads. I could edge them on climbs. I was resting behind them on single track. At one point we talked about who should take the lead entering a single track decent. I didn't want to be cocky but I did not want to descend slower than I would on a Sunday spin. " I'm not a world champion but I am from Marquette and I have a seat dropper." I think "lead please" was the response to that statement and it still makes me smile.
Yes...I have a seat dropper on an xc bike. I could do a technical blog about it, but it has already been done. It adds weight. However at 5'3 and riding a 29 er it allows me so much speed, safety, and fun cornering and descending. I have a great trail bike too with 27.5 in wheels and a seat dropper which is great for this terrain and for learning lines. For an xc race that has enduro sections thrown in I will always choose to ride an xc bike. I learned the hard
slow way not to ride an enduro bike for an xc race. It just climbs and maneuvers faster especially for a smaller rider. People think seat droppers are all about descending....you can corner so much faster. I'm a fan!
My friendship with the downstate folk was short lived. I made a choice to accelerate on the approach to the Bacon Strip and Section 16 switchback and climbs. I knew there was a chance I could clear the section but not if anybody bobbled or spun very slowly in front of me. I had an open approach and cleaned the sections. It was fun! In truth it was probably better than any award. If only I could send it on the technical sections and pull big watts on the flat fire roads....then I'd be top tier. I just generally seem to lack sustained power and apparently don't have the time or interest in addressing this problem. There was some more technical riding. I paced myself wisely for a 5 mile section the has an extremely hard climb followed by a techy techy descent. I practiced this section with Tim when my in-laws were here. I mentally budgeted that the section would be at least 30 minutes of high intensity riding. Pretty much I found myself following the arrows and crossing the finish line with 27 miles on my watch vs the 32 advertised on the website and course map. I quickly confirmed that I did not miss anything. The section had been removed from the race because of spring rains and last years whining. I'm not sure why this decision wasn't shared. It would have changed my pacing but not my overall placing. I felt a little guilty that I hadn't given more in the final miles of the course. Maybe a handful of women would have bumped up from the middle distance race. Maybe more men would have had the courage to race :) I don't do the work of putting on races so I will leave it at that. It's a lot of hard work for which I am thankful. In truth, I wasn't all that sad to be done racing with gas in the tank
to ride 10 miles home and headed to Hiawatha Music Festival.
Before I departed I checked in with the race director to see if I was eligible for the 3rd place prize money without staying for awards. I was planning to donate the money back to the trails network and my not so humble ego will admit I was kind of proud of that. I was informed that I did not qualify for the money because in order to be eligible I needed to submit a resume. After submitting my resume it would have to be approved. I was informed that if I applied for an elite start at a larger tier local race and was granted it...I then would likely be approved to be eligible for the prize money. The prize money from this particular race was intended to help out those racing pro. I'm not sure how I feel about prize money at small local races in general. Ok, maybe I am sure. Maybe I think it is silly. This is an extremely interesting and deep topic with a lot of different and valid opinions. I do believe our nations top athletes who compete at a world class level could and should be better financially supported. I know that I am fortunate to be in a life that allows me to ride and race (expensive) bikes and to have a family. I do not know how deeply my heart bleeds for people who financially depend on prize money for gas to drive a rusty Subaru to the next race. I respect that people often take the time to put on races to support the cause they believe in. So if a race director really felt passionate about supporting pro racers with a prize purse then I am all for it. I just think it should be clear on the entry form who is eligible to receive the money. Politics aside it was a great morning of riding Ishpeming. I am thankful for the marked and weed wacked trails and chance to race again. I would recommend this race to many. I rolled 10 miles downhill to home on the bike path. Showered and hopped back on my bike to meet up with my gang at Hiawatha Music Festival.
Annika thought Hiawatha was the best day ever. Face painting, painting, singing and dancing, swimming in the lake, and making a tie dyed t-shirt.Isaac's favorite part was riding a plastic tricycle round and round the camp ground. I think I chased him at least 5 miles.
Maybe not all day everyday do they get along in perfect harmony.
But on that day they did. Maybe it was just the perfect light.
They were the best of friends.
It was the best of times.
In those moments
In these pictures
It is abundantly clear to me
The two of them.
The four of us. We were paired up.
I don't chase perfect. Serendipity is more my style. The perfect match is all about being imperfect. It comes from tolerance and appreciation of loved ones imperfections.