“Smoking kills” featuring a mural ‘American Icons’ by Daniel Aubry, late 20th century & Fort Custer, Michigan US, photo John Phillips, 1941 - postcard marquetry by Peter Sylveire (psylveire.blogspot.com)
I was up & out the door Sunday morning just as the sun was rising. I did the 2 hour drive solo out to Fort Custer Recreation Area near Battle Creek with tunes cranked, eating breakfast, & dodging a multitude of low flying kamikaze birds. It was the strangest thing??? I narrowly avoided a goose, a duck, a red-wing black bird, a starling, a sparrow, and had a crow play chicken with me. He won! I swerved & he stood his ground continuing to eat whatever dead thing he was eating in the middle of M-14 West. Crazy :oP. All that action-paction from the birds made the drive sort of fun & video game like…lol. I arrived at the venue in plenty of time to get ready & head out for a good long warm up. At the start line I asked a few of the girls what kind of shape the course was in? How was the water crossing? etc because I hadn’t ridden the trail since last years race. I got “fast” & “fun”… well, this I already knew ;o). How different could it be? Actually….VERY! There was a a lot of new trail added & old stuff was omitted. All in all there were no big surprises as the new trail fit in very well & was just as twisty but I did miss riding the big crater.
On “Go!” I got the hole shot with Heather Spencer (Team Fast) right on my wheel. I pulled for the mile or so until we saw the first few Expert men & right before we hit the single track Heather jumped ahead. Her and I, wheel to wheel, weaved through the single track together, passing a lot of expert men along the way for about 20 minutes. It was tough being the 2nd rider of the 2 of us trying to pass all these guys as I had to keep yelling out “2!” “2!”. Well at one point Heather got around someone & I couldn’t due to circumstance & that began a small gap that she knew was there & took advantage of. But hey… it’s a race right?! I would’ve done the same & as a matter of fact there was nothing else to do really. She was able to get in front of more guys & to her credit she was also just riding a bit stronger than myself. Also having prerode the course she knew it a little better. I came onto some sections that were totally unfamiliar & brand new & some that were familiar but didn’t remember them well enough from a year ago & it cost me. Live & learn eh?! I passed more expert guys than I had in a loooong time during a race. Really I don’t think there was more than a few minutes at a time when I was on course alone. That in itself was fun just riding with & catching guys that were up ahead. It felt good to go fast! Lol! And although a win would have been great, having raced against Heather before & riding with her a few times this past winter, I realize she’s just super strong! No doubt about it! Coming in 2nd a few minutes behind her I can still say I had a really good race! We did our cool down together & she told me to “keep doing whatever it is you’re doing ‘cuz it’s working!”. Thanks Coach!
Thanks to SWMMBA for putting on an excellent race. And thanks to all the people that were cheering! Those cheers work magic sometimes! I ended my day with a stop off in Ann Arbor to visit my friend Marne & even got to see my old teamie Lummis at the bike shop too! It was a great day!
I actually hadn’t planned on racing Fort Custer. My plan for months now had been to race Mansfield, Ontario Cup #1, with Sue. But when I totalled my car in an accident the Monday before the race, my priorities immediately shifted to staying home to make sure I physically recovered from the impact, find a new car, & if I had time & felt well enough… maybe racing Fort Custer. By the end of the week I ended up feeling pretty darn good & managed to get the new car all buttoned up… which left Sunday to race!
When I left Walled Lake Sunday morning the rain was really coming down. Driving further south west I spotted the clearing skys that the weather channel promised and it ended up being completely dry, sunny, & in the mid-high 60s all day. The turnout for the Elite women was quite small but we had 5 by the start of the race. Two girls I knew and two I did not. I figured Heather Spencer (Team Fast) to be my big competition for the day & my assumption was correct. Upon the start I took the holeshot across the open field and into the single track we went. I wanted to ride my own race so I figured I’d try to control the pace for as long as I could. I was in front for only a few minutes before Heather jumped ahead of me. I chose not to go with her at that moment as I knew at that pace I would’ve come completely unglued to early. We wound around in the woods for quite awhile and I could see her for a long time but gradually she started dissappearing more until she was finally gone out of sight for good. That was the last I saw of any of the women. There was a lot of expert guys to try and catch so that kept things interesting. The trail was just a boat load of fun. I think it’s 9 miles or so of hard pack, with all kinds of different terrain to play on… winding banked trenches, log piles big & small, sand, flat twisty single track, a few climbs, a crater, one very deep mud puddle, a couple whoops, and switchbacks. It was so good to be back at it again. After three laps I finished in second place. Heather definitely earned her first place cash with a strong ride. And I was very pleased with my effort! Besides Sue kicking my butt on a ride at Highland a couple weeks ago I haven’t had much intensity yet, but I can say I feel much stronger this year at this time than last year so that’s encouraging. I am really looking forward to the rest of the season! Brighton’s up next with a weekend full of fun… see y’all there ;o).