Most of us in the Madison area know the trails at the southern unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The John Muir trail, connector trail and the Emma Carlin trails make for a nice day one a mountain bike. The WEMS race uses all of the Emma Carlin green loop plus a bit of the connector to create a loop which is about 8 miles in all.
I've been doing the long-solo race at these events as part of my preparation for the Leadville 100. Not expecting to ever place, I've been surprised by a 3rd at Alpine Valley, 2nd place in Wausau and another 2nd at Emma. These fields, however, are so small on one occasion I was both 2nd and last (Wausau). At the Southern Kettles race I earned 2nd in a field of three where the third person dropped out after one lap -- it being more technical than he was expecting.
It took 9 hours and 4 Camelbacks of drink to complete 10 laps on this hot Saturday. The dramatic increase in consumption of sports drink was a good lesson for Leadville and made me realize my plan for that day could be insufficient. It was during lap 8 that two thoughts popped into my head, first "it's so hot do I really want to keep going" which was immediately followed by, "it's perfect being so hot, this is just what I need to be prepared for Leadville."
Lap 8 was not the worst. It was laps during 6 and 7 that the heat seemed to impact me the greatest. I became completely disorientated. I wasn't sure where I was on the lap, how many laps I've completed or even how many laps the race was. Is this a 9 lap race or 10, I kept asking myself. Asking others on trail was worthless since nearly everyone else was riding the mid-distance race or part of a duo. When I asked duo-rider I know how many laps they completed all he could tell me was how many he completed. Asking to add his partners laps was just too much. To make matters worse when I asked the scorer to call out my lap count, he shouted out 5 when in fact I had completed 6. How I manage to rebound from this crazy mental mayhem I'll never know.
I felt great about cleaning the long loose gravel climb 8 times out of 10 attempts. On only two occasions did I clean an extremely tight uphill switchback, however. That limited success has me wanting to return for more. Not today though.