Now with DK fresh in my mind…I thought I’d better finish this one before moving on…you’re welcome.
If you’ve ever had a beer or two with Bob Jenkins…you’ll know he’s a pretty cool dude. I wasn’t sure what to think of this guy when I first met him…because just a few months later I was riding Cedar Cross 12’…and it was brutal for me. There are a few things I’ve learned about Bob over the last couple years…and we’ll just leave most of them out of this or any blog posts, as they are most likely at least nc17 rated. But one thing is I can share is I would guess there is nobody around that knows his way around Cedar Creek conservation area any better than Bob. He knows the best most beautiful spots, and the worst. That is why this Cedar Cross is so good bad. He sends us through some of the worst crap you can imagine…and then some of the best. At least that was my experience on the first Cedar Cross last year. Most of the worst parts are destroyed by horses…but I won’t get started on that. This year promised to be pretty amazingly terrible with the two days of rain leading up to it. The first year was pretty hot, so I was happy that this one would be in the 50’s. This year would also be different in that almost my whole family would be there. My awesome Mom, amazing Dad, ok Sister (just kidding..she’s pretty cool), exquisitely beautiful Wife and crazy kiddos came out to see what this gravel racing was all about and show support. I can’t express how much that meant to me.
This year Cedar Cross for me started the same way all my races have this year…a mad dash to the start line to hurry and get ready to go…despite living 4 miles from the start line. I needed to get signed in, put a frame bag on my bike, and connect with my family who would be meeting me along the route to say hi and hang out for a bit. I got everything mounted up, and realized that I had forgot my full fingered gloves at home…no biggie it’s only 114 miles in 55 degrees. At the start line with a few minutes to go, I realized that I had also forgotten to put the water in the frame bag, and I didn’t butter up.
As I rolled back to the start line, the race started and after an awesome high five from Luke hanging out of the Virtus van…we were off and hopefully would ride back into the same spot some time later on. My only goals for this race were to finish without using my headlight and to have fun. Last year I finished about 11pm with the other 3 people to clear the course last.
The first few miles had a pretty good climb before hitting pavement for a bit. At this point the temp was a bit chilly, but this hill climb did wonders to get some blood flowing into my fingers which were pretty cold up till then. As with any long race, I paced myself pretty slow at the beginning, to get an idea of how I was feeling, get a good warm up time and to not burn out too easy. Although I was hanging with some great company…it was quickly apparent that the slow pace wasn’t going to work for me. I guess Robby and Jim had the same idea, because they stuck with me the whole time. There were a few people I recognized from the first Cedar Cross…mostly from their bikes. The guy with the Single Speed Schwinn le tour stands out…I met this guy at the church water spout last year and admired his bike…and this year I saw him right at the start and got to ride with him for a while. I also chatted up a guy on an all city frame with full fenders and pretty skinny tires. He was like a kid on his first BMX bike. He was bunny hoping puddles and just having a good time. On Hwy MM we missed a turn back onto gravel because we were talking and weren’t paying attention.
The first section of single track was a field muddied up with cow poop and a little rain. This made for a challenging but completely ride-able trail out through a beautiful part of Cedar Creek. I’m guessing that unless someone stopped, this would have been missed while just trying to stay upright. Jim was with me for most of this…it was pretty fun. The more technical rocky downhill I walked, just to keep my face and the rocks from meeting each other. I was using Schwalbe Marathon Mondials in 40c width…and I was pretty happy with the performance in the mud…rocks were a different story…more on that later.
Out of the singletrack…it was back to gravel…and it was good. The next section of singletrack would be coming up…and it’s a little longer with some creeks and mostly in the woods. We rode most of it…there were a few smaller climbs that were just too slippery for the mondials. The creeks were cold…and wet. Up to now my neoprene boots were keeping me warm…but now they were wet and cold. Emily Korsch past us here by cutting the course, and we would not see her again until the finish. Jim and I were ecstatic to be walking out bikes up a hill climb with wet and muddy shoes…it was awesome.
After a bit more singletrack…I lost site of Jim, but coming up was our final creek crossing and the staircase of pain where I could take a little break at the top of the climb. This is where having a lightweight bike comes in really handy. It’s a creek bank with a few rocks and roots to grip or step on to help you up…it is awesome.
Coming out of the staircase I remembered how bad we all felt by this point last year. It was much hotter last year, and this is where the Hoosier Daddies were sitting handing out keg beer. This is also where I learned my stomach doesn’t do well with beer while riding. No beers this year…just sweet trails and I couldn’t have been happier. There was a nice little runoff creek that I decided to ride across…all was well until I hear the hissing of coming from behind me. Almost instantly my rear tire was flat…sad face. I pull the wheel off and find a ½ gash in my sidewall. I had tubes, but not anything to patch a ½ hole in the sidewall to keep the new tube from bulging out. About that time Jim roles up, and after explaining my predicament…I could tell rider Jim went away and mechanic Jim stepped up. We decided I should down a delicious e-fuel straight so that we could use the foil package to boot the sidewall and get me back on the “road”. While Jim dipped his bike in the creek to wash it off a little, I grew increasingly frustrated getting the tire/tube/e-fuel packet combo back together. Finally he offered assistance and we were back on wheels in no time.
At this point we were just 30 miles in…I can’t remember what our time was to this point…but it wasn’t great, and wasn’t terrible. A little gravel and we would hit the Rutherfords bridge and a really sweet muddy climb out. Jim and I walked all but maybe 10 ft of this section. It wasn’t worth the effort and destruction to our bikes. Once back on gravel we hit some super soft stuff…although it wasn’t near as bad as when we had rode this a few weeks prior.
Along side of the road was a really great site…someone with food. It was Christina and she was handing out donuts, bananas and water. I passed on the donuts..but I really wanted one. I took a pee break alongside the road and got hit with a banana peel.
As we headed out from there, it was pretty uneventful, just riding bikes with friends…or as I would prefer to call it a fantastic day. It got to the mileage where we should start looking for the drop bag spot…when we hit this super awesome 2 mile downhill…at the bottom we found ourselves in someone’s yard. The cue sheet says it will look like this but we didn’t notice any bike tracks…so we headed back up a 2 mile climb. We saw one other rider heading down the same road and told him to turn back…and we quickly found where we went wrong.
At the checkpoint was our teammate Dave who called it a day on the ride and Jim’s wife Janie and kids. Janie always has yummy applesauce…so we partook. My bike had been sounding pretty rough lately, so I was really glad Don Daly completely cleaned the mud out of my gears and lubed up my drive train. After watching some guy’s party like it was 1999, we got cold and decided to head out.
I remember kinda being in the zone most of this leg…not killin it but just having a good ride. Jim mentioned his ankle had still been hurting from his self diagnosed tendonitis of the ankle. Another OGRE casualty.
A few miles from Hams Prairie we see the Red Wheel canopy, a grill, and some people yelling about beer and a hose to wash our bikes. We passed on the pit stop. I had been in contact with my family and knew they were waiting in Hams Prairie with my favorite race fuel…monster java and rice crispy treats. Jim’s wife and kiddos were also here…and reluctantly, Jim decided to call it a day here. He wanted a shot at Dirty Kanza, which was only a month off, and was going to take it easy on his ankle until then.
Too bad…we were having a pretty good ride. I really loved seeing my family here…it gave me a huge moral boost and takes some of the sting out of being gone all day riding my bike. To my surprise, I learned that Robby “the darkness” Brown was inside the store and getting ready to head out. I latched on to him and we rode a few miles of super nice pavement to let our food settle. Robby pushed the pace up all the hills and I started to wonder if I was going to finish this out by myself. He must have stopped to take a nap cause I finally caught up. As we passed the place where the girl crashed on our century ride…I noticed car parts still hanging out in the ditch.
After the power plant were some really fun miles of fast gravel and a really nice downhill. Then back on the Katy Trail.
This is where this race can break you mentally. It would seem that once you back in the river bottoms the race would be close to finished. That’s not even close to true, with nearly 30 miles left, it is nearly flat but the wind down there can be pretty rough.
Anyway…this year was so much different than last. For one, I still had a few hours before dark, I wasn’t feeling like I wanted off the bike immediately, and there weren’t any storms coming in. I was actually feeling pretty good. Robby is pretty good company to ride with …he can push the pace pretty decent while still talking and having a good time. We rolled these remaining miles fairly quick and I pulled into the finish just behind Robby which enabled me to slide under the beer spraying radar.
It was a pretty damn good day on the bike. I enjoyed the muddy singletrack…I really enjoyed the dust free gravel roads, and I enjoyed some great company to ride with.
I really can’t say enough about Bob Jenkins and all the volunteers that helped put this on…it’s pretty awesome to have this in my backyard.
Thanks Bob and everyone for another successful Cedar Cross!