We got our first omen when we pulled into our campground, told the lady we had reservations, and go the reply: “Reservations? We don’t take reservations. We haven’t for 2 years!” We were at Jubilee College State Park outside of Peoria, while our reservations (and one-night fee) were down at Moraine View south of Bloomington. D’oh! Thankfully, we’ve been to Jubilee before, and managed to get our favorite spot anyway …
(It was weird. Despite it being a holiday weekend, we only shared the tent meadow with at most 2-3 other campers all weekend, and we were all so spread out that it was like we were all alone! (And Moraine View doesn't have any MTB trails!)
This is how we spent most of the weekend, our feet up, reading and hanging out. We did manage to ride some of Jubilee’s trails on Saturday, but for the most part we were just relaxing and enjoying absolutely perfect, bug-free weather. We also got to cook out – here’s me creating perfection. (a.k.a, campfire apple pies – if you’ve never had apple pie from a pie tin before, you are missing one of life’s finer pleasures!)
We didn’t get that much sleep on Saturday night, once the animals from the forest started trying to rummage in our cooler. Thankfully it stayed closed, but we were awake from about 2:30 a.m. until we got up at 4:15 – not the best way to get ready for a race! It did give us a few extra minutes to get ready, and we rolled into Timber Pointe with enough time to pre-ride the bike course.
Thank goodness we did! All summer, I told Kim to be ready for wide-open bridle paths and a nice easy run course. I even told her I was worried the bike would be too easy, and that I wouldn’t be able to gap other racers. Nope! I knew when I hit the first log crossing that we were in for some fun – the ride course was 40% tight, twisty singletrack, and the run was more like 80%, and even had its own log jumps!
Here we are, just before the start: I opted for the mountain bike (over the cross bike), and we went to get our transition set up. They called us to the line, gave us instructions, and I marked the ones to watch … especially a little guy in a tri-suit. He was the one to beat, or so I thought.
We got the countdown, and it was go time! One guy shot off from the left like a rocket, gone around the first bend seemingly before any of us could catch a breath. I found my legs and settled in with 2nd through 5th (which included tri guy), staying steady and making sure all systems were go as we got moving. I lost a few seconds when I missed a turn, so by the time we came back through to T1, I was in fourth place.
But now was the bike, and I knew it was my time to shine. I blew past third place as we entered the singletrack – and saw first place take a sweeping dive on the wet grass! Maybe that was my chance! I gunned it hard, gradually reeling in second place tri-guy until I snaked past him on the second lap …
Somewhere in there I passed Kim, who was having an awesome bike leg. She was on her fully rigid hybrid – not the best for those conditions! In fact, I had done a warmup lap on my ‘cross bike before opting for the MTB, that’s how tight and technical it was. So she was kicking some major butt!
I got time checks here and there, and heard I was gaining on first place. I had harbored a secret hope that he was a relay participant, but no such luck – the glimpses I caught through the trees showed that indeed, it was the same guy who jumped off the line at the start. And even though I was gaining, he was clearly a runner with a huge engine – if only I had known just how huge!
At T2, he was just leaving as I was pulling in; he was 35 seconds up on me as we started the run. I had 2 minutes in hand on third place, and I was grateful for that as the stomach cramping started almost as soon as I hit the ground. I pushed as hard as I could and could just feel the power draining from my legs and body – thankfully the run was only 2 miles, just under 14 minutes of suffering! First place was gone and out of site, so I worked as hard as I could to preserve 2nd …
… and I did it! Just as I was crossing the finish line, Kim was heading out on her last bike leg, so I was able to give her a big thumbs up and a bit of a cheer. I crossed the line in 1:07 flat, more than 5 minutes faster than last year’s winning time – the time I had been aiming for all summer in an effort to pull out the victory.
Unfortunately, that was also 2 minutes slower than the winner – yes, I lost 90 seconds on the last run. (Heck, I lost almost a minute to the tri guy too, when you include the transition time!) But as I was waiting for Kim to come in, I found out why I didn’t have a chance in the run sections: the winner was the 2002 NCAA indoor mile champion (and 2003 bronze medalist in the German national championships), who had been on track to make the Athens Olympic team until a plantar wart sidelined him at the Trials. That’s some serious competition! At least I beat everyone on the bike leg – I would have been really bummed if I hadn’t!
I caught Kim again as she headed out for her run – she was pretty worked, but was doing great to control it. This was the first time she had ever raced anything, so she was putting herself through new levels of pain that training can never teach you. She had her breathing under control, she was sort of smiling, and she was learning to feed off the energy of all the volunteers and other racers who were cheering her on … And, the biggest bonus, she had passed people on the bike leg, so she was PUMPED!
I waited at the finish line, and then there, in the distance, was Kim, looking great! She crossed the line looking strong, and took a few minutes to cool down and catch her breath. It was quite a tough event, far harder than I had predicted, and she did awesome! Her bike leg was one of the top 10 for the women, and put her far ahead of some of the other competitors. With a little more run training and the right bike for the tough course, who knows? We may have created a monster!
Awards were announced soon after, and Kim got second in her age group! What an awesome finish for her! I was keeping track of the times they announced with the finishers, and I think I realized it just before she did – just in time to get out the camera and snap a shot of her collecting her “AWARD WINNER” victory towel!
For my efforts, I won a homemade rattle and a bit of coin – the race organization was very generous! All in all, it was a well-run event, and I look forward to maybe doing it again someday!
ONLY 103 DAYS TO NATZ!!