After a bunch of races with big climbs and long descents, I was hungry for a change of pace. I was craving some good old Midwestern singletrack. The South Kettle Classic has been on my radar for quite awhile, but since it relied on flying stand by through my lovely wife's flight benefits (I have mentioned this before, but she's a flight attendant) I didn't list it in on my race schedule. South Kettle State Park is located between Madison and Milwaukee. It is also only two and half hours from my hometown of the Quad Cities. This meant I had a couple of options available. Milwaukee flights quickly filled up so that was out. Madison was looking good until a couple days out, so that dropped off the list. The only option left was the Quad Cities. Although it was a little more driving, it was the cheapest option since I had place to stay and a vehicle thanks to my supportive parents. I'm truly blessed with great parents. I flew in on Thursday night, got about five hours of sleep, and worked remotely on Friday from my parents. After a long work day and a nap, I went for a ride at one of local trails, Scott County Park. These trails are tight, twisty ones without a dull moment. I snaked around the turns brushing by bushes and trees like ski gates. This was perfect practice for the South Kettle Classic.
I showed up at the south kettle trailhead ready for some fun. The start was “lemond” style where you run to your bike. A tri athlete's motto is swim, bike, run. My motto is bike, bike, and bike some more. Notice how 'run' isn't in there. I prefer it that way. My 'run' was more like a light jog. I don't know how far back I started out, but it wasn't anywhere near the front. I slowly picked off riders whenever I could, which in this twisty singletrack coarse was a bit of a challenge. I wasn't in too much of a hurry though. After all, my only goal for the day was to give myself one more beating after a hard block of racing to earn some vacation time off. It's been a long time since I've ridden in Wisconsin, and I honestly didn't remember it being so rocky! There was some great rock sections that made my Colorado heart sing. The trail was so much fun, but I have to admit I was a little out of practice of the twisty stuff. The locals had the advantage for sure. I did my best to stay off the brakes and find my flow. The fact that I was down to the last millimeter on my front brake pads was more inspiration to stay off the breaks. Didn't realize that until I unpacked the bike. I never really knew when I was climbing so I just tried to push hard on anything that felt like up. I heard the locals talk about the “big climb”. I think this was a short section that was a little steep and full of loose rock. I just blasted it every time. After five laps of clipping trees and bushes I felt pretty cooked, and so were my brakes that were completely depleted during the last mile. Ended up fourth among the local pros. I happily took it and got out of there before awards to hang out with more friends and family back in the home town. The trip ended with an added bonus of a first class seat back into Denver. Not a lot of sleep, but had a lot of fun seeing some familiar faces and riding some once familiar trail. I also was able to try my brother's strawberry blonde that he home brewed. Absolutely delicious. I'm not the only one in the family with a talent.
If you haven't already, I strongly suggest checking out one the races in the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Series (WEMS). Like I overheard the race director saying, there isn't a bad WEMS race. I surely enjoyed mine. Now it's time for some relaxation on an Alaskan cruise, and then back at it with the Leadville 100.