Anybody that lives in Iowa is painfully aware of all of the rain that we had received over the late spring and early summer. Seven Oaks got hit pretty hard on a number of occasions and a lot of the trail got washed down the side of the hill, literally. My bro Sea Biscuit and the rest of the Singletrack Promotions crew put in countless hours to get the place back into race ready condition. It was not unusual for them to spend a weekend up there doing trail work, only to have a rain storm blow through and undo most of what they did.
Persistence paid off for them and they produced the most technical version of the Seven Oaks course to date. I got a phone call from Squirrel the day before the race and he described the course as ‘gnarly’. Those of you that know Squirrel will know that when he calls a certain trail gnarly, you can pretty much figure that there will be several sections throughout the trail that will make you think pretty hard about whether you should hike or ride it.
Andy showed up in my driveway around 8, we threw all of our junk into my car, loaded up our coffee mugs and hit the road for Seven Oaks. We arrived in plenty of time to do a little BS’n and a course recon. Squirrel wasn’t kidding, the course had a couple of sections that were quickly dubbed ‘north shore’ sections. There were several bridges that were made of logs that might have measured 18” in width, some of which were on an incline or decline. There were a lot of new sections and reroutes, most of which was off camber and / or bench cut. There were also several tight switch backs and put ones balance to test.
The North Shore style found its' way to Iowa
Well, not quite North Shore style... if you fall off this bridge, the consequences aren't quite as severe as they would be in BC.
Trail re-route, the old trail fell into the drink.
Singletrack, Seven Oaks style.
Kinda reminds me a little of Colorado!
Despite the mostly dry conditions, the turnout was disappointingly low. I’m guessing the sunny, balmy 95 degree weather probably kept all of the fair weather racers at bay. That’s OK because there was still some good competition in attendance, WWJ, Andy, Padawan Gammell and even Kevin Limpach came over from Omahole.
I knew going into the race that I wasn’t going to be able to produce my ‘A’ game. I was at the end of the first of three consecutive 20+ hour weeks and had a pair of pretty tired legs. I have some big goals towards the end of the season and need to train through all of the August races. The race started, and sure enough, my legs were not firing on all four cylinders. I still got the hole shot going into the singletrack with Kevin firmly attached to my wheel. We hit the bottom of the hill and started going upwards and I could tell that I was already starting to create a small gap between myself and the rest of the field. So about halfway through the first of three laps, I decided to put it into cruise control and put in just enough effort to keep 2nd place a comfortable distance behind me.
Lot's of climbing at Seven Oaks, 2,550 total feet for the race. Thankfully there was also a lot of shade.
The course doubles back on itself in several locations, so I was able to keep my good eye on the competition and could see that WWJ had a pretty firm lock on 2nd. I could also get a pretty good idea on how far back he was and was able to gage my efforts accordingly. At one point during the race, my pedal clipped a phantom rock on one of the new sections. I was so close to saving it, but during the course of my ‘save’, my front wheel began to point itself down a very steep rock and tree infested hill. Yep… it was definitely time to bail. I laid my steed down and was able to minimize the damage to myself. I was able to get back up pretty quickly and resume the battle.
There's typically a pretty nice breeze when going downhill, today it felt like I was being blown in the face by a giant hair dryer.
The remainder of the race was pretty uneventful, at least as far as I could tell. Apparently Squirrel had a mechanical issue with either his bike or himself and decided to pull the plug early near one of the bridge crossings. It was pretty hot out and I guess he thought the do-do brown stream beneath the bridge looked pretty inviting. He stripped his Rassy kit off and jumped in for some skinny dippin’ fun. He told me that he saw me coming and thought he’d jump out of the water offer me some encouragement. However, his better judgment told him that if he were to jump out of the water, in the buff, and start yellin’, he’d likely scare me more than encourage me… He was right. I probably would have screamed like a little girl and involuntarily altered my course off the side of the bridge.
Despite my tired legs, I was fortunate enough to win the race with a time of 1:53:51, WWJ held on for 2nd with a time of 1:59:41 and Iowa City native Kevin McConnell rounded out the top three with a time of 2:04:11. It was a tough, but fun day on the bike. The heat didn’t really bother me all that much. I did a pretty good job of hydrating the day before and also during the race. I had an absolute blast riding the course and am really looking forward to the 24 Hours of Seven Oaks race coming up on Labor Day weekend.
Next up is IMBCS #7 at Lake Ahquabi State Park, just south of Indianola. It’s a brand new venue to the IMBCS and race director Bruce Brown has pretty much dubbed the race as Iowa’s version of the Chequamegon 40. Sounds like it will be a great tune up for the Chequamegon 40, which happens to be one of my biggest goals of the season. The forecast for this weekend is looking really good and a lot of peeps have been talking about doing the race. Should be a great turnout!
Thanks for reading,