Race Report - Jingle Cross Day (Saturday & Sunday)

9:39 AM


I can’t believe it has taken me this long to travel down to Jingle Cross.  I promise not to miss this awesome race in the future - definitely worth the effort to get down to Iowa City in mid-November!
We decided not to race Friday night under the lights.  Sure, it would have been cool, but getting a day off of work was not guaranteed and we decided that it would be better to commit to the Saturday and Sunday races instead.  While it turns out we could have made it there in time to race Friday evening, I am still happy we had a nice dinner out and rested legs on Saturday.  
DAY TWO - SATURDAY
Saturday’s course featured a heck of a climb (apparently a new one) and a heck of a descent.  The climb was basically four mini-climbs broken in the middle by a bit of a downhill.  The descent involved three perilous switchbacks and a bumpy exit that had me worried about my hands popping off of my hoods.  The rest of the lap was twisty fun stuff, a trip through a sand-filled barn with a left turn at the end, and my first staircase fly-over.
Racing in a field of 40 women is always intimidating when you are used to 15, so when the whistle went off I fell back from my second row spot and followed the field through the first turns - I didn’t want to be surprised by any silliness.  Turns out we were fine, so I spent the first half lap passing ladies I should never have let ahead of me.  I raced the course with surprising confidence, only getting in trouble on the fly-over - I actually burned my left knee with my own front wheel trying to navigate the steep stairs, managed to get smacked in the head by a bike, and also managed to smack just about everyone in my general area with my bike (sorry!) on the way up.  
No pictures of me racing, just one before the start
The rest of the lap (including the descent that scared one woman so badly she left the race in tears) was all fun.  The loop was both long and exhausting, with very few places for rest.  I actually found myself breaking a bit more than I needed to on the small downhill that punctuated the climb, just for a little more rest.  Oh, the bonk was looming.
Thankfully, a blessing/curse that I carry with me in cross is a constant awareness of the number of laps and the rest of the field.  This is usually more of curse, as I tend to race more conservatively than I should because I worry about how many laps are left, but on Saturday it was a helpful blessing.  They started the single speed guys before us, and when Craig Etheridge is in the field you know your race might get cut short.  Sure enough my two-laps-to-go turned into my last lap somewhere in the middle.  I saw it coming, attacked hard, and was able to pick off a few more riders before the finish.  Whew!
DAY THREE - SUNDAY
The elite women running Mount Crumpit
We didn’t get the epic mud conditions that were forecasted, but Sunday was definitely a mud race.  The course was pretty much the same, with the exception being a trip up Mount Crumpit (ugh) followed by a crazy and very muddy descent.  The Spouse offered up his 17-pound, carbon-fiber beauty as a pit bike, but I passed and decided I would stick with Max through peanut butter and slurry mud.  C’mon, I don’t even think the pros should have pit bikes…
All was good, as the mud only weighed my bike down without interfering with my drive train.  My first lap was my preview, as I didn’t feel like cleaning my bike before I raced.  Possibly not my best decision - as I got more comfortable with the muddy downhill I cursed my tentativeness on the opening lap.  I also only managed to ride the technical/muddy climb on my last lap, and definitely would have gained massive amounts of time if I had ridden it every lap.  
But for me, Sunday races are more about having fun on tired legs, and I definitely had fun.  My only regret is not putting Jingle Cross on the calendar sooner.  

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