This is the second year I’ve participated in the Cruise The Blues mountain bike event. Cruise The Blues is held on the Palen Family Farms, near the town of Tipton in North Central Kansas. Doug and Tracey Palen own and operate Palen Family Farms. Doug is a mountain bike enthusiast and has established 13 miles of private trails winding through the creeks, pastures, native grass, and croplands of the farm. On Saturday, August 27th, 2011, the Palens hosted their 8th annual Cruise the Blues festival. There are two different categories of races……..Joy and Glory. The Joy course is for riders who are riding for fun and good sport. The Glory course is for more competitive riders and cash prizes are given for the top finishers. Racers can compete in solo, men’s and women’s teams, and coed teams. The categories are further broken down by age groups. This year the Joy course was approximately 4 miles long and the Glory was 9 miles. The race starts at 11:00 am and continues until 4:00 pm. After each lap, you must ride through the timing area and have the barcode scanned on your number plate. Basically you just ride as many laps as you can for five hours. You are allowed to rest between laps in the pit area, but your time continues to run. You may ride after 4:00 pm as long as you have gone through the timing area and started your last lap before the 4:00 pm cut off. Last year I took first place in the Joy Women’s Solo (age 31 – 50) category.
Deb went with me to keep me company and be my pit support person. We drove up to Beloit, Kansas Friday night before the race. There were storm clouds in the area and we got into some light rain but luckily it was not enough to affect the race course. We arrived at Palen Farms about 9:00 am; I got registered and got my bike ready to go. We secured a shady spot for Deb to relax in a lawn chair while I raced. The weather forecast was for sun and a high temperature of 94 degrees. The race started promptly at 11:00am with the Glory riders at the front of the pack. The first lap is kind of tricky because all the riders are bunched up until they get spread out a bit. This year most of the Joy course was in the trees with only a couple of sections out in full sun. The course is mostly smooth flowing single track and it’s not too terribly technical. There were a few tight spots between trees, roots and rocks, but mostly it’s just a really fun course to ride. There were three bridges on the Joy course this year. I felt like I pushed myself more this year than I did last year. I tried to keep my rest breaks at a minimum. Deb kept me supplied with drinks, energy bars and gels, pickles and a hamburger at about 2:00 pm. She also kept my Camelbak filled with cold water. I had one lap that I didn’t feel very good……was too hot and stomach bothered me. My quads felt like they were on the verge of cramping. Even though I didn’t feel like eating, I ate the hamburger and I felt better afterwards. I came into the timing area after my 7th lap at 3:55 pm, so I got to get out on the course for one more lap after that. I finished my 8th and final lap at about 4:45 pm. I ended up riding just over 30 miles and finished in second place in the Joy Women’s Solo (age 31 – 50) category. The first place finisher rode 10 laps and the third place finisher rode 4 laps. I rode 5 more miles this year than I did last year, so I guess I improved a little.
I relaxed after the race and drank an ice cold Diet Coke. I headed to the “primitive showers” and took a cold shower that never felt better. While I cleaned up, my pit crew loaded my bike and re-organized the gear in the van. They held kid’s races on a very short track around the main farm before dinner. They have some very young kids participate and it’s pretty fun to watch. We ate a barbeque dinner and then they had the awards ceremony. A local band was going to play, but we decided to head home after the awards were given out. We arrived home at about 10:30 pm and were greeted by two very happy dogs!