14 May 2013

Race Report: 2013 Cedar Cross

It was the Friday night before the Cedar Cross, a 112-mile mixed-surfaces ride through mid-Missouri. I was thinking it would take me about 10 hours. And the strange thing was...riding my bike for that long seemed just about normal. With all of my training for Dirty Kanza this year, a 10-hour day in the saddle seemed about par for the course. I knew what I would be wearing. I knew what would be in my bottles. I knew what would be in my pockets. Packing everything took no time at all, because I'd done it several times already this year. And that made me feel good. Bring it on, Bob Jenkins.

LEG 1: 0-47 MILES
Leg #1: From the start to the Drop Bags at mile 47.
I meet up with my Alpine Shop teammates Jeff and David at our second-favorite commuter lot in St. Louis at 0500 for the drive over to Jefferson City. For some reason the drive takes a little longer than expected so we roll into the designated parking lot about 0715 for the 0800 start. After socializing a tad bit too long while signing in, we're all a little frantic in our final prep. I for sure don't want to miss the National Anthem, so I grab my gloves and finish getting ready while Kayne Kirchner shreds. What an awesome (and very Bob-ish) way to start a race. David and Jeff still aren't here yet, so even though the race is starting, I soft-pedal at the back of the pack waiting for them to catch up. They do, and I hop on their wheel for a 20mph draft. They pull me to the first tiny little climb, and then I back off that effort because it's waayyyy to high for a 10-hour day.
The start! I'm in the back in the red jacket. Photo: Christina L
I spin up the first big climb at my own pace, happy that it's not raining and the temperature's reasonable. Since I have a sorta important adventure race next weekend, my strategy today is to just ride steady and stay comfortable all day. I'm hoping that will keep me competitive among the women that are here, but for now I have no idea of my position in the field due to our crazy start.
Riding in the field! Photo: Michael Raine Kauk
Cedar Cross is known for being a mixed-surface ride. This means we're primarily going to be on gravel, but there is some pavement, and...SINGLETRACK! And some riding through a field. The first section of singletrack/fields happens about mile 15 and I am so excited for it. I am pretty confident the Skirmishturkey will gobble it up (haha), but I can't wait to experience it for real. And my expectations are fully met: the Warbird handles great in the greasy slimy field, and even better on the muddy rocky singletrack that follows. This bike can really do it all. I'm totally grinning as I bomb down the technical singletrack in conditions that would be challenging even on a mountain bike. The Warbird, paired with 700x40mm Ritchey Speedmax Cross tires, lives up to its marketing as a mud-shedding freak.

So I pop out of the first section of singletrack in an awesome state of mind. Next we have a bunch of gravel miles to crush, and I do that mostly solo. Sure, there are some riders ahead and behind me, but I'm not riding "with" anyone. And it's kinda nice. My feet are really cold but otherwise I'm feeling great and just happy to be on my bike.
My drivetrain after Rutherford Bridge.
The next singletrack section (#2) is even more fun than the previous one. Less rocks, more flow, and more creek crossings keep me and the 'bird on our toes. I pass my buddies Aaron and Jim here. I'm actually looking forward to the Jeff Yielding Staircase of Pain because it will give my feet some circulation and hopefully they will warm up. It does help a little but they're still pretty frigid. They stay that way even through singletrack section #3, otherwise known as "the Rutherford Bridge climb", otherwise known as "this part WILL suck". There are some volunteers to meet us just before the bridge and I say hi to Team Virtus friend Christina as she hands me a bottle of water and a donut!!! Amazing!!! Rutherford Bridge is really cool, and the climb afterwards does kinda suck because all of the mud makes parts unrideable. But the Warbird is easy to push too, so pretty soon I'm at the top and cruising along. A few miles later, I link up with another rider, Rob, on a singlespeed rigid Niner for the last few miles before the drop bag checkpoint at mile 47. We chat a little and just generally pass the time as the miles progress. Just a short distance out from the checkpoint, we meet up with my friend Dave from the CAC! We are actually on the same road we used at the CAC so it's very familiar territory.

As we roll into the checkpoint, I am greeted with the news that I'm first female! Actually other people had told me that earlier today but I never really believed them until the news was corroborated several times over. I dig my drop bag out of the truck and get to work refilling bottles and pockets. I have more food than I plan on needing but I take it all with me anyways. Team Fohty is there with the beer bus so I also have some beer to try and help my feet warm up. It definitely helps. I rally some of the guys that are hanging around the checkpoint and we roll out as a group of 4.

LEG 2: 47-87 MILES
Leg #2: From the Drop Bags at mile 47 to the Katy at mile 87.
Very quickly after we leave the drop bags, our group of 4 becomes a group of 3 as one guy zooms away, leaving me, Rob (SS rigid Niner guy) and Keaton (SS Schwinn guy). We ride along in a loose pack, usually with me at the back but I catch up the the guys when they have to stop to check the cue sheet. I have mine conveniently mounted on my bars (practicing for DK).
Want to crack 100mph with your own legs? This Donhou was created for that exact purpose
100 mph bike!
Now, I need to tell you about Keaton's Schwinn. It's pretty ridiculous, but Keaton turned out to be a strong, eternally optimistic riding buddy whom I very much appreciated  in the final miles of the ride. But his bike. Ohhhh his bike. It's an old Schwinn, vintage, if you will. It's also a singlespeed, and his gearing is something crazy like 48x22. Dear readers, that is HUGE for a 10-hour gravel ride. Most guys out there are riding something like 36x17, 36x15, or in one strong dude's case, 40x18. So for Keaton to be geared at 48xanything is basically like riding the 100mph track bike with the 108-tooth crank seen above. And then there are his pedals - they are platforms. He's wearing worn-out skateboarding shoes. And Banana Republic khakis. He looks so anti-bike racer that Rob mistook him for a casual bike commuter for the first 47 miles, and only after we rolled out of the Drop Bag stop together did he realize that Keaton was actually doing the Cedar Cross. It's always humbling to be riding with (or being passed by) people on non-traditional bike setups, much like the guy on the Walmart hybrid that crushed 1.5 loops of Tour of Hermann faster than me. It reminds me that equipment isn't the biggest part of the speed puzzle..your own fitness and mental attitude are. Bikes are cool, but brains and blood are better. Basically.

So I spend the next several miles chatting with Rob and Keaton about everything and nothing, all while making steady progress along the course. Around mile 63, we are just rolling through the countryside when we see a tent set up in someone's front yard. There are 2 guys standing there, and a bike, and a Red Wheel Bike Shop banner strung up on the tent. Obviously that means they must be friends of the Cedar Cross, so we stop to check things out. Turns out, one of the guys there is Nick who owns Red Wheel. The other guy is his dad! And Nick's dad is grilling hot dogs...for Cedar Cross riders! How awesome! We all stop for a snack and chat. Nick's dad also has a hose in his front yard which I use to clean the worst of the mud off of the Warbird's drivetrain. We hang out for a little bit, getting updates on the front pack (who passed through 2 hours ago without stopping for hot dogs), and generally taking a break. But pretty soon I get a little antsy so then the 4 of us (me, Rob, Keaton, and Nick) roll out to crush the remaining 50ish miles.

The nuclear reactor with awesome clouds. Photo: Michael Raine Kauk
Not 2 miles after leaving Nick's dad's house, we hear a bad noise from Rob's bike. He suddenly loses momentum and we learn his chain has broken. Too much power, Rob!! He has a couple extra links in his saddle bag, and Nick tells me and Keaton that he will stay with Rob to help him with the repair. I am really grateful for Nick's generosity since I am starting to feel anxious about finishing. We still have a long way to go, and I've spent a lot of time (for me) not making forward progress. So Keaton and I pedal onwards, agreeing to make the stop at Ham's Prairie Gas Station at mile 72 as short as possible - meaning NO HARD SALAMI SANDWICH. We'll be nice and leave some for Luke to enjoy. We are pretty efficient about the stop and continue on our way to the nuclear reactor about mile 80. From there it's a totally badass downhill and then we are on the Katy!

The last 30ish miles. All flat. 
ATTENTION future Cedar Cross riders: this part of the course is extremely challenging. You've just crushed almost 90 miles of gravel, pavement, and singletrack. You've ripped down a huge hill, and are now looking forward to a few easy, flat miles to finish out this ride. WRONG. At this point, you still have ALMOST 30 MILES TO GO. You are barely over 75% done, but your mind wants to think that it's just a short hop, skip, and jump to the finish line. Be warned: it is not any of those things.

Check out the sky. THE SKY. Photo: Michael Raine Kauk
Keaton and I are still riding together and as we start this last section, we comment on this exact fact. We probably have at least 2.5 more hours of riding to go, when it feels like we should be done already. But there's no choice other than to keep making forward progress, so we just ride. We take a few brief stops here and there to fill bottles, and I discover I am completely confused about the cue sheet directions. Never fear though, because I have my Garmin (a 310XT) loaded with the route so I switch over to that screen for this section. It's a lifesaver.

The Garmin directs us off the Katy and onto some flood plain farm roads. These are absolutely stunning. The sun is streaming through gaps in the clouds, there are wildflowers in the fields, the whole area is just rich and vibrant with spring. It's really pleasant, and combined with our easy pace, just a very relaxing way to finish out the ride. 
The final miles. Photo: Michael Raine Kauk
Finally, FINALLY, we can see the Capitol Building on our left, and Highway 54 straight ahead. We have a little bit more confusion with the cue sheet but again the Garmin saves us, reminding me that when Bob Jenkins says "immediate", he really does mean IMMEDIATE LIKE RIGHT NOW DO NOT PEDAL ONE MORE METER. The route ends with a really short, cool section on a muddy service road which takes us under Highway 54 and has me smiling at Bob's determination to get our bikes as dirty as possible. We roll back into the finish line to the cheering of a bunch of folks who already finished!! Oh yeah!!

POST-RACE (10:04 total time)
The Thunderchicken after 112 miles. Love this bike.
I'm really happy with how the Cedar Cross went for me. I kept my effort steady and manageable the whole day, giving me confidence that I will have some legs for next weekend's MISSION 18hr adventure race. I spent some time solo, which I like, and also some time with a buddy, Keaton, who kept a great pace and cheerful conversation. And I also was the first female finisher! I wasn't really chasing that but it's cool that it happened. Bob also found $100 somewhere in his race budget to award as a prize for 1st place female. But my AR teammate Jeff told me that the male winners donated their prize to Team Noah Foundation, so I played copy-cat and did that too. Bettina from Team Noah sent me a pair of socks as a thank-you present. I will wear them proudly! Congrats to all of the Cedar Cross riders out there, that course is NOT EASY!! Also thanks to Bob for terrific organization, including my favorite post-race meal of all time...baked potatoes and beer. Nothing better. See you in 2014!

Me after 112 miles! I was really excited for beer! Photo: Christina L.
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  1. Hi Emily,
    A righteous recap, Thanks! Wish I could have been there.

    Don Buttram

  2. Great job out there! I was happy to hear you'd won. :) What a fun race! We had similar issues with the cue sheet after we hit the Katy, which was for sure a soul-sucking experience for me from Tebbets on. Having a GPS track next year should help that a LOT.

    You are sooo ready for Dirty Kanza. I can't wait to hear about you kicking ass there too.

  3. Oh, and dry socks at the beer stop way improved my ride satisfaction index.

  4. Glad to have shared even a teensy part of your day! You are a rock star! Pretty sure the Sapling will be on my race calendar next year.