Race preparation: in the season leading up to the race I was only able to bike approximately 450 miles. In the month before the race I was traveling seemingly incessantly, moving across most of the length of Britain, and getting ready to fly an infant across the Atlantic (went better than expected). My training could be best summarized as 'haphazard verging on poor'. Onward!
My ride: my father in law took (at my request) my oldish Gary Fisher hardtail and stripped it of most of its gears, leaving the middle ring and the rear derailleur. Despite its age (someone yelled "let's go, old school!" at me during the race. Not wild about that) I like this bike. I liked the 1x9 setup- I think I'll convert the single speed I ride now to 1x9 when we move back the the US. I dropped the chain to the outside about 5 times during the race (we appropriated the front derailleur cage to keep things in place), so more care is needed for a permanent setup. With more fitness a slightly bigger chainring might be needed, but I was happy with the gearing range. For Wisconsin, anyway- Colorado would be different story I think.
The race: The Chequamegon Fat Tire race is a 40 mile race in Wisconsin, parts of it on the famous Birkebeiner ski trail. This was its 27th year. It starts out with three miles of high speed roll out on roads, hits the Birke trail for a while rolling over hills, cruises along a fire road for a bit, more Birke, more fire road, a huge hill, more hills, and then beer at the finish. We headed to the family compound on Friday and tested out the bike on the course, and Saturday was go-time.
This was my first mountain bike race, my previous racing on wheels had only been triathlons. I prefer mountain biking, so this was more fun. I had my eye on the family record (around 3:15) and was sort-of-on pace through the half way point, and then on a fire road I started feeling a bit ominous about things. I moved into a 'spin on the downhills' mode, grabbed a shot of rum from some guys dressed as pirates, and tried to maintain what I could of my pace. By the last few miles I was waiting for death and the smallest uphill would send me scrambling for my lowest gear, but I made it across in 3:26.
The verdict: not awesome, but given my lack of training I feel pretty ok about it. I was in better cardio shape than climbing-leg shape, if that makes any sense. I think if I'd been able to race last year after my much-more-intensive summer season I could make a run at 3:00, so that's my goal for the future. I didn't leave a whole lot out on the course, which was a nice feeling after not racing (not even a 5k run or something, lame) at all for over a year.
A couple pictures from the pros on the course: