Tracks n Treads off-road biathlon

I awoke this morning feeling sick to my stomach, not because of something I ate but from nerves. I was singularly unprepared for this morning's race. I hadn't registered, not knowing how I'd feel in the aftermath of LBL (did I mention I just did a 28 hour adventure race?), but I came home from Tennessee feeling great.  More accurately, I guess, nothing hurt, but I've been incredibly tired since getting home, and my one run since last weekend felt much like I imagine running in quicksand must. Still, I'd roped enough people into the race that I felt like I really had to do it. Plus, it's my club's race, held practically in my own back yard.

That explains why I did it, but why was I so nervous? I had no illusions of podium-ing, so there was no pressure in that respect, and I'm very familiar with the trails. It all boils down to lack of confidence on the bike. I've progressed to where casual rides with friends only induce mild panic, but mountain bike trails in a race situation still bring on full-blown nausea (one of the perks of our slow start at LBL was the lack of bikes passing us on singletrack).

Despite the race day jitters, I had a great time visiting before the start.  Lots of tri club friends were out, as were my friend Susan and a couple of cousins.  I also got to meet up with Tori from A Journey to a New Me, who did a great job on her first (I think?) trail race!

With Tori before the race
I set my bike and shoes and stuff up in transition and finally asked what the starting time was.  Right around 9:00 we all lined up for instructions...after singing Happy Birthday to Race Director Robin

Pre-race instructions
I was lined up close to the front so I could hear Robin, and it didn't really occur to me to move back in the pack.  Starting in the front is never a good thing for me, since even when I'm trying not to I end up pushing harder than I should at the beginning to keep up with the fast people.  The first half mile or so was on sidewalks or paved trail, and it was not pretty.  I was seriously thinking I was going to have to walk it before we even got to the trails.  I should really consider warming up before a race so I'm not stuck doing that in the first mile.

Luckily, Chuck was running with his son Jacob.  Since we were all moving at about the same pace, instead of concentrating on how I was about to keel over on the sidewalk I got to hear about Chuck, Robin, and Lori's recent trip to adventure camp and talk all about LBL (my new favorite subject).  The conversation carried me onto the trails, and by the time Jacob needed to dial the pace back a little bit I was feeling much better.

Photo credit: Robin Rongey
The trail portion felt pretty good.  After my first (primarily paved ) 9-something minute mile, the next ones were in the 11 minute range, but I managed to run every step of the run course, something I've never done in the Big Woods before.  Really, the very worst parts of the run were the paved parts on the way out and back.  Running back to the transition area I was wondering what the heck made me want to do the biathlon instead of sticking with the trail run alone.

My transition was just under 2 minutes, and then we were off down the paved bike path to the singletrack.  Luckily Susan had pre-ridden the course and warned me about taking the left turn onto the trails plenty wide and making sure to gear down for the uphill right after the turn.  I gave the two girls near me a heads-up about the spot, but both of them ended up putting a foot down coming around the turn and I was able to scoot by them and make it up the hill.

Any ride on singletrack is always affected by my fear of speed and lousy bike handling, but I felt fairly brave during the first part.  I'd say I rode the trails faster than I ever have before...that's just not saying much.  My cousin Bob was right behind me for awhile, but he passed me when I took a turn badly (too slowly) and crashed.  After making sure I was ok he flew by and I never saw him again until the finish.

For a long time one of the girls from that first turn onto the trails was right on my tail.  I'd offered to let her by, but she wanted to stay where she was.  We were passed by lots and lots of guys, though (there had been some problems with some of the trail markings being taken down, so these guys had run further than we's not that we were that much faster on the run), and eventually when I dismounted to go over a bigger log, she went ahead and passed me, also never to be seen again.

Kate Geisen 02
Photo credit: Jeff Schleicher
Clearly not the face of a confident rider.

Being passed so many times was really frustrating.  Not being passed so much as the fact that I'd be passed and then the other riders were just gone.  I spent the second half of the ride mentally composing whiny facebook posts about how I was never going to get faster on the bike.  (And what's weird is that, while I run way more than I get to mountain bike, being slower on the run doesn't bother me nearly as much as being slow on the bike.)  Waah, waah.  On the plus side, I got through the trails faster than I have in the past, rode all the switchbacks, only walked one obstacle, and only fell once, so I guess it was a pretty successful day.

As I turned back onto the paved trail for the sprint back to the finish line, my friend Jim rode up and provided me with my own personal escort/tow service to the end.  Big thanks to him for helping me finish strong! :)  After the race, I hung around talking for a while, comparing notes about how everyone's race went, and whining about being so slow.  I need to mention especially that my cousin Bob, who runs and rides far less than me, beat me by 5 minutes, and I'm sorry to report that my nemesis once again has the upper hand, not only beating me by 2 minutes but also apparently running a mile more than I did (he's still older and bigger as well, I'm sure he wants me to admit that, but at least I can update my blog regularly).

Anyway, my pity party was interrupted by the awards, and after clapping for several of my victorious friends I was thrilled (and shocked) to hear my name called for 2nd place in my age group.

Holding the awesome TnT glass that Chuck, Lori, Robin, Patrick, and I etched after our Cuivre River Run. Clearly this isn't my handiwork because it's not splotchy.
As Patrick put it so eloquently, "If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I wouldn't have believed it."  So true.  Still, despite the supportive expectations of my husband, who asked if there were only two in my age group when I told him I took second (incidentally, I'm now taking applications for #1 biggest fan, since he's clearly out of the running), there were actually 5 women in my age group.  Maybe not a huge field, but that makes it feel like a legit win to me.

(By the way, if you haven't read the latest installment of the LBL Challenge saga--I'm up to part 4--you might check it out.)


  1. You had a great race Kate, and I love your attitude, you try everything and you always have fun. I'm glad you're my friend and your post always make me smile.

  2. congrats again!
    I love that picture on the bike!!

  3. Fan-freaking-tastic!!! That had to feel great!!!

  4. You truly are an inspiration and I'm glad I found your blog eons ago. You help keep me motivated, encouraged, and entertained (hey-have I made it to #1 biggest fan status?). I really enjoyed meeting you today and the race itself. I didn't know what to expect but it brought back memories of my childhood living in small town close to the creek (opps sorry-this is YOUR blog not mine). Congratulations on your 2nd place!

  5. Congrats on the second in AG! Your husband....does he think he's funny? ! That isn't earning brownie points. :)

  6. Use your brakes less. Get aero bars before Highland.

  7. Congrats Kate! Very cool you took 2nd in your age group. Wish I could have been there to cheer.

  8. Congrats for the race and the podium. You have a great attitude.
    Beautiful picture: a terrible trail to bike through; I would be scared.

  9. My hero!! 2nd place in age group, too! You rocked it!

  10. Part 4 up already? How did I miss it?!?! :) I will get caught up tonight, I am so behind.

    Happy to hear those pre-race jitters landed you an AG award, awesome!

  11. Two out of five is legit! Way to kick it in the rear.

  12. That's a very legit win! Ask your husband where he would place!

    I hope you take it in to show your students.

  13. So awesome! You've had the best week! I love weeks like that.

    Now go write Part 5!

  14. Great race report! Wow on the age group place. Seriously legit. And I formally submit my application for #1 fan! :)

  15. Was cool to get to run with you again and get to hear some of the LBL stories first hand. Great job on the podium finish!


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