I was not sure that I would even be able to make it to this race. But I am glad I did, if for nothing else than the experience it gave me with dealing with awful conditions. And the t-shirt was nice. (and my size. three huzzahs for that.)
The start was, well, FUBAR. At the tinkle of the race promoters little bell we shot across the flat gravel road. I was spinning fast and making good time "Hurrah!" I thought. "I finally have a good start!" Then we ran into some cation tape.
The tape stretched the whole way across the road. The lead guys rode through it, a few of us turned left, and the rest of the pack came to a screeching halt. A string of expletives were loosed from 30 mouths.
After a minute or so of fierce debate, we decided to go left. We took off across a field and I started to work my way to the front again. "Hurrah! Still a good start for meee!" I thought. Then we ran into some cation tape.
This time the tape was at the end of the trail, in the shape of a box. We come to a dead end right next to the start. This time the expletives were directed at the befuddled race promoter.
"Where the f**k do we go mr. director?"
take note of the riders in the left corner, off their bikes, just standing. we were five minutes into a race.
We lined up again at the start line, and did a half assed restart, I say the start was only worth half of an ass because we were all still moving. We took off in the same direction we had gone four minutes previously. Apparently, we should have busted through the first tape line and headed straight. By this time, the sport and beginner classes had already started, so we had about 75 extra people to try to get by before the road ended and the single track began.
I wish that I could say the start set the tone for the rest of the race, but the remaining three hours (yes three hours. for a 21 mile race. oi.) sucked even more.
When I hit the single track, it immediately became a battle to keep my bike upright. The mud was the constancy of peanut butter, and half as palatable. I know this because I had the distinct pleasure of eating a good quantity of it. We were still crammed behind a bunch of sport riders, and I tried to stay near Benji, but he kept passing, and I did not. My passing skills leave something to be desired.
I traded places with two other SS guys a few times before we hit the road again. On the pavement I hit it hard and made up a ton of places, and even passed a few geared fools. When we went back into the woods, we started climbing. The course kept going uphill for a long time. I was riding decently, but running better. And there was a ton of running. Even this early in the race, most of the the climbs had become to slippery to ride. Emergency dismounts decimated the ranks. Every time someone came off in front of me, I smiled inwardly and got off to run by them.
The course was incredibly demanding with the mud. It was cut into the side of a ridge, so there was a steep drop off on one side, and a tree laden hill on the other. Add a smattering of wet roots and rocks, and it became an interesting experience. At this point I was only averaging about eight mph.
We crossed the top of a cliff, and it became downright scary. The drop off was about 15 feet, with a steep ridge below that. If someone would have fallen off there, I dare say their race would have been finished. After the cliff, the trail descended in a stream complete with running water and three foot drops. I have ridden across streams before, but I must admit this was the first time I have ridden down one. I was slowly changing my speed setting from race to 'oh god I hope I don't crash and break something.'
I continued to swap places with another SS. He would blow by me on the descents and flat twisty sections, but I always caught up to him on the run ups. Slowly but surely we were climbing out of the creek.
Finally we hit the peak, and the trail dried out and widened into a fire road. I put the hammer down and flew by my SS amigo and a geared guy. I tried to eat a cliff mojo bar (not my best idea. self, bring a gel next time.) I made was keeping it close to 17 mph on that fire road. When I went back into the woods, there was no one around.
About 15 minutes later, the SS (i think it was aron, but I really can't remember) went by me. I don't think I caught him again for the rest of the race.
At some point I think I was passed by a guy riding in a bathing suit, but I may have been delirious at that point.
Eventually I exited the woods and went by the start/finish area. I had already hit two hours, and I still had a lap to go. Every other WVMBA race so far had ended by the two hour mark. It was slightly discouraging.
I reentered the woods for the second lap, and the mud had become even more slippery than the first time I was there. I was still passing beginners and sport riders pushing their bikes who had completely given up riding. I didn't blame them, there were points that I wanted to drop my bike and just jog the rest of the race. By this point my tires resembled 29 inch donuts. They were so packed full of stinky mud that they were effectively slicks.
Thankfully, the trail turned off and I did not have to climb to the top of the ridge again. But the final section of trail was the worst. Standing water and mud almost a foot deep covered the last two miles of the race. When I finally rolled into the finish I was so glad to be done. And I was even more glad that there was a bike wash.
1/6 of the expert field did not finish. I was the 5th SS. (out of 7. not so hot, I know)