Monday, October 12, 2009

Iron Cross VII-race report

Scott and I arrived in Pennsylvania late Friday night. After a good night's sleep we headed over to the race venue Saturday afternoon to watch some of the Iron Cross lite racing, and spin our legs out. Pennsylvania is absolutely beautiful this time of year and I was happy to see that the weather was cooperating. It was mostly sunny with temps topping off in the low 60's. Perfect for racing!

Enjoying the weather at Pine Grove State Park...
I had raced Iron Cross in 2006 (on a 29'er) and in 2007 (on a cross bike) so I knew what I was in for. 62 miles with 6,300 ft of climbing of paved/dirt roads, a bit of singletrack and one horrible walk-up!

Our race started at 9 a.m. Sunday morning with temps in the high 40's. I joined about 30 other women at the start line and the promoter told us that he was going to start us about 15 seconds after the men. Almost all of the women were on cross bikes, which made my wheels look really tiny, but there was nothing I could do about it! It was just me and my mountain bike...

Before I knew it we were off and chasing the guy's. The course started on a dirt road, then we had to do one lap of the regular cross course before heading out on the regular course. The cross course was slightly chaotic-but fun-as there were about 250 racers all racing around the tape and over the barriers at once.

The cross course we had to race around at the start of the race...complete with a "death spiral"
I have no clue what position I was in while we were all pedaling around the "death spiral," but I passed quite a bit of people once I hit the long dirt climb. Ever since my coach switched up my training, my legs have been feeling better and better and I finally felt like me again racing!

After the first long dirt climb we hit a long paved section with a few harsh climbs. I managed to latch onto the wheel of some guy and held on for dear life. I still had a 2.1 Karma on the front of my bike, and I could actually hear the "knobby tire resistance" as we raced down the road. Mentally it was a little unnerving! We were going so fast on the downhills that I was actually using the climbs to recover a bit. That's a first :-)

Finally, after a few miles of pavement, we hit the section that I was waiting for. A mile or two of singletrack. I was expecting to fly through it since I was on a mountain bike but I had a rude awakening. We had put a rigid fork on my bike 2 days before the race, and it was my first time actually riding with it in singletrack. I kept expecting my bike to handle the same way but I quickly learned I couldn't just plow over everything. After having to stop 3 times for a dropped chain and sticks in my rear wheel I reached the pavement with Betsy Shogren (Cannondale), a few guy's, and another fast female racer in a Lexus/All Star kit.

The section of road was longer, but overall not that bad. I ride my mountain bike on the road all of the time, so I'm pretty used to it. However, there were a few times where I was completely maxed out on gears. On some of the downhills I practically had to put my head on my handlebars!

And then we hit the walk-up.

Mentally I had been preparing myself for the "walk-up," but I clearly had forgotten how hard it really is. It's a rocky, rooty wall and by far the steepest thing I've ever tried to walk up. I'm not sure how long it took to get up (maybe 10 minutes?) but I do know that I heard rattling coming from my lungs. Yes, actual rattling. It sounded like I was going to have a heart attack. I guess I need to practice my hike-a-bike skills!

After that it was more dirt/paved roads. I was lucky to have a really fast group to ride with! Finally, we reached one of my favorite dirt road climbs. It's pretty long and I could feel my endurance kicking in. Thank goodness I still had some left! The last couple of miles were quite frantic for me. They were all mostly downhill on the road. Luckily there were a few climbs thrown in for good measure.

I ended up finishing in 4:36, which was good for 3rd place. I was 4 minutes back from first, not bad for being on a mountain bike :-) Of course now I'm trying to figure out what I could have done differently. I'm positive I couldn't have gone much faster on the road, but I'm sure I could have gone faster on that hike-a-bike section if I actually knew how shoulder my bike and walk at the same time!

Here are some podium pics!

This is a race everyone must try. The promoters do a great job, and the course is really pretty. Slightly epic at times, but that's what makes it so much fun!


Laura said...

Hey I know that guy in the middle pic. He's our race director. Congrats on a great race. Good job representing the MTBers. Someday Iron Cross will make it onto my schedule.

Doug Curtis said...

Nice write up and photos from Iron Cross. BTW, did your twitter acct get hacked?

Danielle said...

Doug, yes it did! Hopefully it's stopped now that I switched passwords....

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