Race Day Adventures: PertNear 20 ('16)

Photo Credit- Lone Wolf Studios
Last year in 2015 I learned about the PertNear 20 race in Viroqua, WI. Viroqua has been a favorite destination town for me to explore due to the plethora of fun downtown shops (like a rock/mineral shop!!!) learning about their off-road trails after I discovered mountain biking sealed the deal. Why not?
My friend Steph and I did the PertNear 20 together; having enjoyed the event and folks so much, I made plans to do it again.

Fast forward to 2016 and a few of us Decorah folks decided that we'd make a trip to the beautiful Wisconsin town. We were absolutely fortunate to have the weather on our side as weather had originally looked to be on the wet/cool side. I was very excited to have a non-rainy/wet/mud-fest race.

Travis and I got up bright and early so I could have a solid breakfast. Last year I had a difficult time eating due to nerves. This year I was much better off, but my stomach started doing the whole 'pre-race jitters' dance. I've gotten to the point where I'm able to keep a cool on my anxiety, but I still get the nervous stomach bug. Hopefully, in time, that will change.
(Always open for tips/suggestions!)

The drive to Viroqua was foggy by the river until you got out of the valley, then it was crips and clear. Registration was quick and getting ready was just as fast; plenty of time for that one last, most important restroom break before lining up!

I felt a little bit like a celebrity when folks came over to say hi- Gary Meador, Chris from Borah Teamwear, and the ever fabulous Pete- owner of Bluedog Cycles. I even got to chat a little with the fastest man at the PertNear, Josh Shively! My nerves grew as I stood and waited for the event to start. Last year Steph and I mainly rode together- this year I was doing my own ride and I had no idea how it would go or how I would measure up. I told myself I didn't care- the main focus points: finish, not bonk, not get lost, and find my way back into the woods near the start line.

Photo by Raina Hatfield
My plan was simple- with the mass start, I wanted to get myself as up front as possible knowing that I would get passed on the road to the trails and then some. This way I would be in my "middle" sooner rather than later with potentially less passing on my end. I will never feel as ballsy as I look with this strategy, however, getting out of my comfort zone seems to work best.

When we got to the trails, there was a pile up right away that I had to steer around to avoid. I was stoked to be in the woods on dirt. At first it seemed trails might be a little greasy, but I was adequately prepared with my air pressure even tho it may be a disadvantage on the road segments.

I said it last year and I'll say it again, the folks who attend this event are fantastic. Everyone is out for a good time and people are so nice! When it came to passing and being passed I had nothing to worry about. Folks were great at announcing which side, people were obliging if you needed to pass, and I was surprised by folks that said they didn't need to pass.
The offer was always there "Just let me know if and when you need to get by."
What I feel make events great- the hosts, the volunteers, and the folks who participate- PertNear 20 ticks all those boxes and more.

The trails were leaf-blown and absolutely a joy to ride and the further in you got the less greasy spots were; Sidie was glorious! I had forgotten how fun the trails could be since it had been over a year that I had ridden them! I feel I enjoyed them more this year than last because I had a sense of familiarity with them. I was happy to make it over more logs this year and make it up thru the rock garden climb that I spun out on last year.

This year I did a better job of keeping myself hydrated and eating snacks; having opened packages of chews were extremely helpful. I had them stowed away in my jersey pocket, which gave me issues once (I stopped for a moment to situate everything.) Next time I'll try the trick of shoving them under my shorts leg.
Photo Credit- Lone Wolf Studios
On the "Double Black Diamond" section (can't remember a trail name), I still have not made it down over the rock outcropping. One of these days I'll make a trip to Viroqua simply so I can try it in a non-race setting. I saw the fellow ahead of me not ride down it and I decided that I should not worry about "proving myself" and do it on a day where it wouldn't matter if I caused myself a ruckus in the woods.

As I came out of Sidie and headed towards the road, Raina and Steph were at the corner taking photos. I heard "You're the first female!" and I'll admit, I was in disbelief! I didn't want to focus on it, so I tucked it away. There was still several more miles to go and anything could happen between them.

I made my way up the paved road, it was a substantial climb back to level, but gloriously smooth due to being repaved. I was behind the fellow I had tailed thru portions of Sidie and another who had passed me earlier when we were heading towards Sidie who was on a Salsa Beargrease (black with pink/purple accent if I remember correctly.)

Eventually my plugging away at the climb had me side-by-side with the first, and then with the fatbike rider. I got a nod of acknowledgement from the fatbiker and gave a smile as I continued up and forward. I was happy to see two riders ahead of me in the distance, that meant I had someone to follow so long as I could see them. My only objective on the road was to keep sipping water, eat some chews, and not run over the fuzzy caterpillars.

Soon it came to hitting trail again- game ON! I had caught up with the two riders and was directly behind one. For awhile the pace was fine, I wanted to make sure I didn't blow myself up for the last bit of climbing that would need to be done. Once we got out to the prairie double-track, I announced my passing and continued on. This time I felt confident I wouldn't get confused at the finish as I had someone ahead of me. Another complement was given to me about my attire as I made my way up the switchbacks- I've never been one for patterns, but this year I thought "why not?" and the shorts/arm sleeves were fun touches for the most awesome jersey I have in my closet. I look at it as it's the one time I can have some fun and be bold when I'm otherwise shy!

Thanks, Lucas!
I heard Lucas whooping encouragement as I came closer to the finish line. I was so incredibly stoked!
I made my goal of not getting lost, not bonking, and not falling over in front of everyone at the finish line (like I did last year.) I was super pleased with my time and average speed as well; all icing on the metaphorical cake. I was still in disbelief that I was first for women!

We waited for Curtis to cross, cheering him on as he entered the woods to do the final stretch. Before we went back to Bluedog Cycles, I chatted a bit with the second place women's finisher, Diane. I learned she almost didn't participate due to having hurt her eye; I was incredibly impressed that she did the race under the circumstance. So awesome! I was inspired and impressed by her determination and gumption!

Back at the bike shop we waited for awards to start, enjoying pizza and beer, sharing photos, and started the recovery process of biking almost 20 miles.
I think I was most excited about supper later, having banked on fried pickles, I had a single beer for my post-race "treat." You know, I'm somewhat good at that whole moderation stuff.

Photo by Raina Hatfield
Eventually awards got underway and I couldn't help but have the goofiest smile on my face as I was called up! Not one for expecting wins, I'm still surprised by what I accomplish. I'm humbled and grateful for discovering mountain biking and how it's done so much to improve my physical and mental health. I'm also stoked for the opportunity to connect with other riders and get on different trails- it's so much fun!

Racing isn't about winning but about the experience as a whole. Meeting folks, riding in different areas, and seeing what one can accomplish under circumstances beyond the norm. I am so appreciative of these experiences, they mean the world to me!

If you don't live too far from Viroqua, I highly encourage you to check out their off-road trails and the town in general- there is something for everyone!