So: A couple weekends ago, Jay, Chucker and I loaded up the Cruck and headed north late on Friday to pre-register for the Pre-Fat, a mtn bike race in Spooner, WI to ready the crowds for September's Chequamegon Fat Tire 40 mile mtn bike race. As we flew north down the dark roads (at the speed limit, of course), we counted down the minutes until pre-registration ended....btw, awesome to have pre-reg at a bar the night before! Dual purpose: register & carbo load on barley sodas!!!
So, maybe 30-40 miles outside of Seeley and right on pace to arrive 1 minute before pre-reg closed, the tail-lights in front of us strangely disappeared up ahead the dark country highway. Knowing that something was wrong, Jay flicked on the high beams in time to see a doe w/ buck close behind crossing in front of us from the left. In full control, he brought the car to a crawl, missing the doe as she passed in front of us. The buck, as they are known so well to do, froze in the middle of the road trying to figure out if he wanted to fight us or the white sedan bearing down on him from the on-coming lane.
Jay veared onto the right shoulder just in time for the buck to choose us, hip-checking the front end of the Cruck, and running off to the limits of our headlights and then disappeared into the night.
With the lights still in tact, Jay steered back onto the road to continue our adventure even though my jaw still rested nicely on the floor mats. Through protest, Jay tried to calm me down as we continued on our way from the dark highway to our bar/grill destination. The car drove perfectly fine aside from all the preceding events, giving Jay more fodder to soothe me with. Reluctantly, I sat quietly in the back and stared into the darkness outside my window.
When we finally arrived, I was the first to jump from the car and see the deer imprint on our front quarter-panel. Surprisingly, even to me, that was the only damage the lil Cruck sustained.
Lucky for us.
Unlucky for us, they closed registration early, so only the barley soda half of our plan was accomplished. After we filled our bellies, we headed off to sleep at Rob O's super cabin in the woods. May I say GORGEOUS!? After a full night's rest, we all rose early to return to the Sawmill to register and ready ourselves for the sloppy ride to come.
By 9:00AM, I toed the line as the mist surrounded us and the clouds kept the warmth at bay. Once the horn finally rang, the peace and quiet of the north woods ceased as hundreds of mountain bike riders charged the road, jockying for ideal place for the single-track to come. The roady in me took the reigns and I found myself as the women's leader and top-10 overall as we left the road to enter the gloomy shade of the trails.
In the quiet of the trails, I heard only the whoosh of the wind and my breath as I battled the confines of my lungs. Like never before, I charged the course with my road-race intensity, filling my ears with the sound of my bounding heart. It was so intense, keeping the energy high and the speed even higher as I wove along the fire roads and trails. I've never felt so alive in a mountain bike race as I did that day.
Zoe passed me along the way, and I tried with all I had to hang on. Unfortunately for me, I was flatlining big time and needed to recover and she slipped out of sight and into the shadows. Trying not lose any further positions, I charged through the mud and the brush mile after mile. I attacked the hills in my big ring. I rode, hands pulling on my bar ends, as the men around me walked. I rode so hard I couldnt' image ever going faster. As the 1K sign appeared before me, I dropped into the hardest gear I could turn and sprinted for the finish.
Sounds behind me faded until the only thing I could see was the finish line before me. The only sound - a quiet, undecypherable murmur from the crowd mixed with the rushing air from my lungs.
Crossing the line, I sealed a 2nd place finish, just minutes behind Zoe and elated beyond my wildest dreams. Jay was still out on the course, so a silent smile was shared with my bike as I returned to the car for clean clothes and a moment to take it all in.
Was I becoming a Mtn biker? By skill level, not so much. By complete joy, hells yeah!
I took my place on the podium with pride (right). By far, that was my best mtn bike race to date. And I'm sure it's going to be hard to beat.... it's the dirt, the time trial, the silence, and the sound of my own heart beating....it's the way it fills the woods around me and makes the energy blur and vibrate to the point you can almost touch it..... and yet it's completely indescribable.
Still surprising even myself,