Jingle Cross Rock – Iowa City, Iowa – Thanksgiving Weekend.

This race truly humbled me last year.  You  basically spend the whole weekend going up and down and circling around Mt. Krumpet in trecherous conditions.  Being from Seattle, I thought I had already conquered one of the toughest U.S. cx run-ups – The Knapp Time run up in the Rad Racing GP.  But Mt. Krumpet is three times as long, three times more steep and infinately more technical and scary to descend.    I swore I’d never do it again.

Yet, here I was being pursuaded by my husband to race it again.  He was right, I did need to conquer it and Mt. Krumpet.  My whole off season and skills preparation had basically centered on being able to handle and not be intimidated by courses like Jingle Cross Rock.  So I got to spend another Thanksgiving racing in Iowa conquering my race course nemisis with the support of Team Redline and my husband in the pits.

It was great to see the level of competition so deep.  The previous year it was only 13 elite women total.  This year over 30 were registered, with the competition feirce for a top 15 spot.  I was grateful all my practice and skills work had paid off.  Mt. Krumpet didn’t seem nearly as steep up or down and I was able to follow my teammate, Ryan Iddings and my husband smoothly in their lines.  Someday I hope to look as fluid as them!

The first race (of three) was a night race – my favorite!  It was cozy 25 degrees and I was thankful for my AWESOME Voler Thermal skinsuit and thermal baselayers.  My Pryme Suspect gloves (complete with fingerprint pattern grip on the fingertips!) also felt like another secret weapon with their built in hot hands pockets so my hands were perfectly warm and comfy.  I felt good and ready.  I was first off the line and chopped out of the hole shot  in the last second by Nicole Duke.  The pace kept ramping up and I was able to stay smooth and be in the top 5 position going into the first descent down Mt. Krumpet.  Unfortunately, on the second switchback, I got squeezed into the fencing by the rest of the field crashing and sliding down.  Now back in 15th, I untangled my bike and settled into my own pace, slowly picking my way back up to top 3.  All was going well until I got taken out on the downhill again on the 5th lap which took me back to 8th place.  With a less than a half a lap after Mt. Krumpet, I did the best I could, but ended up 7th in the end. 

Saturday I woke up with a sore throat, but figured it was due to the cold, dry Iowa air and racing hard in it the previous night.  While Friday had been about conquering the downhill part of Mt. Krumpit.  Saturday was all about conquering the uphill as it was a long, very slick, muddy scramble with a bike that transitioned into even more power-draining climbing through thick grass to the top.   Toe spikes were today’s not-so-secret weapon.

Although I didn’t have a great start, I ROCKED the run-up every lap to eventually be seconds away from 3rd & 4th place on the 4th lap.  Unfortunately for me, the officials decided to make the race shorter (which means we raced 4 laps for 34+ minutes ) rather than longer (guestimate 5 laps for 42+ minutes).  So I ended up 5th knowing I would have likely been 3rd with one more shot at the run up.  At least I felt complete in having conquered all the aspects of the race I had set out to.  Sunday would be about putting it all together for a top 3 result goal.

Saturday night, however, my nose started to run in addition to my sore throat.  I tried to be hopeful that it was still the effects of the cold, dry Iowa air combined with hard racing.  Unfortunately when I couldn’t sleep due to my sinus pressure and congestion, I had to fear for the worse – I was sick.

As Sunday was the last day of racing and the warmest yet – 45 degrees and sunny – I decided to at least attempt to race.  My body revolted the second the gun went off.  I was almost last off the line, managed to chase up to top 10, crashed out on slick off-camber back to 20+ place, chased back to 8th, crashed out again, then chased again back to 15th-ish place.  All on the first lap.  Hoping the second lap could only be better, tried to remain focused on the rest of the race and overcome my screaming body.  I had just settled into my rythym and into 12th when my tubular tire rolled off on the same slick off camber section I had been crashed on the first lap.  I managed to pop it back on the rim while running over the fly-over and rode gingerly to the pits, but my body was officially sick and done.    As much as I hated the thought of a DNF, I knew my bigger objective now was to get healthy for Portland and the National Championships in less than two weeks.  

At least I had conquered Mt. Krumpet!