Over the past decade+ I have had little consistency in my yearly race calendar. I have raced all kinds of races all over but rarely do I get to make it back time and again to races, or the races no longer exist. The exception to that is my Dad's race at Lake Wilson State Park. I believe that I have participated in a race at Lake Wilson every year since I was in middle school. Adding on to that, I have ridden more miles in the dirt at Lake Wilson than probably any other trail in my personal singletracking quest. The memories stretch out in an endless string of endorphin charged euphoric bliss. Stomping out the initial trail with my Dad and a group of friends hopping up and down in a single file line, attempting to smooth out the ground. Cold winter rides that had to be prematurely finished to make it back to high school basketball practice. Riding deep into the night on my first 29er singlespeed, scraping out the remnants of peanut butter in a jar that I found in the back of my ragged out Toyota Camry, to power one more lap. My Dad and Bob Behrens staying up all night, feeding me food and encouraging me as I prepared for my first 24 hour race. Innumerable ticks, countless poison ivy breakouts, many too many snake avoidance bunny hops, one humongous wildcat sighting, the list could go on and on.
2009's event only brought more of the same good times. The Saturday afternoon hill climb was the usual painful affair. We all lined up at the big rock at the bottom and my good friend Herb Phillips sent us all off in one minute intervals. I had the brain dialed all the way down and my fork locked out with the bike shifted into the big chainring. I dropped the hammer for all I was worth and I believe my 2:16 was my best posted time since the addition of the S curves right after the road crossing. I had closer competition than some years with Bill Klinesmith running a 2:26 and a handful of other racers including my Uncle Chris, and Mike Maurchin just seconds behind him. Saturday afternoon we rode some more of the course and I enjoyed greatly the new sections of trail, I was pretty psyched to let one uncork the next day. My Dad put our lot up in a sweet little B-n-B in Wilson, where we got a good nights sleep and had a stellar breakfast. Simple Haven Bed and Breakfast is a wonderful little spot that if anyone is ever looking for a unique and relaxing MTB weekend this would make a perfect package. Even though it drizzled all night the trails were not affected, in fact they were probably better than they would have been bone dry. Racing mate Travis Donn and I took a little warm up before the race, four miles in he had got a feel for what the trail was like and decided that was warmed up enough, this trail will do that to you. I had decided that this race needed to be a real hard workout day for me, being that it is a tough 24 miles, and West Virgina is now only a month away, I wanted to whip myself silly by the end. I got out and was pushing a big gear and really trying to ride hard, I was having so much fun the positive sensations kept snowballing the whole race until the end was just a blur of trail and happiness. Since the course has been changing every year lately I cannot really compare my times, but I felt better than ever before.
Steve and Elizabeth Heal graced us with their presence coming down from Denver for the race. It was wonderful to see them again, and Liz won the women's Expert race convincingly. Travis Donn has now progressed onto his 3rd MTB race and was once again 2nd in his Sport division. The Singlespeeders were raging, they went 1, 2, 3, in the one lap race. Salina Jon, took top honors with Great Benders in the next two places. Morgan Stevens was the sole women's SS'er, she crushed the course. Their was also a host of youngster's that was quite impressive. The Smith Family from Hays, Kansas had two boys that had an enthusiasm for mountain biking like I have never witnessed, another little tike from Lawerence shredded the kids course, and in true kids course winner fashion continued to ride his BMX bike all day long up and down the gravel piles in the parking lot. Dodge Nily is the rising star in Great Bend. Although he qualifies yet for the kids race he took on the adults and smoked out an insanely fast time for I kid who I doubt weighs 70 lbs. Even his light weight bike is like me racing on a 40+ lb machine. Props to everyone who came out, signed up, and went as hard as they could. That takes courage and is a honorable endeavor.
Another year in the books, another successful Kansas Fat Tire Festival.