Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Solstice Chase Fat Bike Race-Race Report

This race report is long overdue but in my defense the Solstice Chase wore me out. Not so much the actual race, but all of the traveling. As soon as Jill and I were done with the race we jumped into the car and drove 7 hours to Chicago.  By the time we arrived at her brother's house it was midnight and by the time I went to bed it was 2 a.m. I was too tired to shower and slept in my clothes in the living room. Needless to say when I got home the next day I was not smelling or looking too good :-)

But I digress...let me start at the beginning!

I left with Jill, my friend (and event coordinator extraordinaire), late Thursday morning and headed west to Hudson, Wisconsin, where we were going to stay with our friend E_fred.

Obligatory #selfie times two :-)
Right after we took this picture, this conversation took place...

Me: "Whoa, it's been a while since I've driven a stick..I'm rusty!"

Jill: "Wait, this car is a manual??? Uh-oh!"

From that moment on I was the official driver and Jill was the official navigator. It actually worked out well since we all know how I am with directions. If it would have been the opposite scenario and I was in charge of navigation we would probably be in Texas right about now...

12 hours after we left Grand Rapids we arrived in Hudson, Wi. I was asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.

The next day we ran a bunch of errands picking up things that we had forgotten (my road trip packing skills were rusty as well) and then headed over to St. Croix Falls, Wi. By the time we arrived at the race venue it was almost getting dark, but we were still able to pre-ride a little bit of the course.
The Solstice Chase is new to the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series so I didn't know much about the course except that it was hilly. The whole venue was absolutely beautiful and it's probably a good thing that we were running out of daylight because I would have kept riding all day if I could have.

Jill bombing down one of the hills...wheeeeee!
After our pre-ride we ran into some of the volunteers and promoters. Unfortunately it had gotten warmer over the past week, causing the snow to soften up. They were doing their best to keep it hard packed and one of the volunteers was heading out at dark to do another run with the groomer. They informed us that we would have heated changing rooms in the big barn and also a shuttle (should we want it) to bring us from the parking lot to the start area. Talk about setting the bar high for the rest of the races in the series! I was so excited to race.

The rest of the evening flew by. I prepped my water bottles and hydrapak with Raspberry CarboRocket (which I SWEAR by),  got out all of my warm clothing and spent the rest of the night stressing about what to wear for the race. There's a very fine line between being too warm and too cold during a winter race, and I was feeling rusty in that department too.

And then it was race day!

I opted to wear less then I do on training rides but decided to stick with my Optic Nerve Boreas Goggles. Wearing them always makes me feel like I'm in a warm bubble and I've never had to deal with them steaming up...at all.

We rode over to the start line as a warm-up and my legs felt sluggish. I was like, "crap!" but tried not to stress about it too much. I had done short races on both Sunday and Tuesday prior to the race and I think the sluggish leg feeling was due to a combination of those two races and too much time spent in the car. There was nothing I could do about it but still go out and hammer anyways, right?

After catching up with a friends at the start line it was time to GO! Instantly I was gasping for breath as I took off with a bunch of other fatties and the cold air felt very harsh on my lungs. I think temps were in the low-20's...if that. Even though my legs and lungs were screaming I couldn't help but grin. Fat bike racing is just so ridiculously fun. I can't even describe what it's like to race while surrounded by snow but it was absolutely beautiful.

Even though my legs weren't feeling the best I was making good time...mostly due to the sweetest bike on the planet. To tell you the truth I still can't believe that it's mine. It floats!
Photo Credit: David Gabrys//45NRTH

People weren't joking about the course being hilly and while I was able to ride some of them I definitely did my share of running  walking! Half-way through the first lap I realized that I made a HUGE error and had let the water in my Hydrapak mouthpiece sit for too long. It was completely frozen which meant I had half a water bottle left for the rest of the race. Agghhhh! This has happened more then I would like to admit and I'm still trying to figure out the best way to keep my water from freezing. I decided to not think about it...worse case scenario I was surrounded by snow. I could always just eat that :-)

Before I knew it I was heading out for my second lap...which incidentally seemed like a completely different course then lap 1. For a few panicked seconds I was afraid that I was going to have to walk the entire course. The snow was sloshy and there were a million footprints all over the place. A few guys were stopped in front of me and one of the guys told me that in order to ride he was letting out enough air so that his tire would be to the rim.

Little did he know that I would take him literally.

I hate stopping during a race but desperate times call for desperate measures. I ended up stopping 5-freaking times to let air out of my tires. I definitely had more traction but the sidewalls of my tires were wrinkling and I felt really bouncy on the bike.

I started to fall apart during that lap. I was so hot that sweat was pouring down my face. This was especially unfortunate since I had no water. My feet were threatening to cramp and I knew that I was becoming dehydrated. At one point I felt like I was riding sideways instead of straight down the trail. Eventually I caught up to some guys and we were each others rabbits for the rest of the race.

I was SO EXCITED to finally hear music and then see the finish line! I crossed it completely exhausted (and thirsty!)
Photo credit: E_fred//Salsa Cycles

I can't say enough good things about this race and I definitely plan on going back next year. The promoters and volunteers did a really great job. Yes the conditions were less then optimal but that's part of racing. You can't control the weather.  This race pushed me to my limits, but I think that made crossing the finish line even that much better.

Here is our podium pic! Huge congrats to my friend Jill for placing 3rd! She just started racing and trust me when I say that was NOT an easy course.
Thanks to everybody involved with the race. Like I said, the Solstice Chase set the bar high for the rest of the series and I'm already looking forward to my next fat bike race. That being said, I have a lot of training to do in-between.

PS. Those heated changing rooms were awesome.

PPS. I crossed the finish line with less the 3psi in my front tire. Not recommended!!!

Happy Holidays everybody! I hope you had a great day!!!

1 comment:

Fat Bike said...

This race report is long overdue but in my defense the Solstice Chase wore me out. Not so much the actual race, but all of the traveling. As soon ... ifatbike.blogspot.com