We took off in the Grumbler for the rainy, three hour drive to Mountwood, and Don bitched about the lack of lumbar support the whole way. I actually thought my seats were rather comfy.
About 50 minutes from the park, I had a debilitating stomach cramp, and realized I needed a bathroom. Immediately. There were signs for "downtown" Salem that showed some forks, a shopping bag, and a hotel, so I figured that such a bustling metropolis would have to have a restroom area.
I pulled off the highway and went down the ramp into town to find one tiny dirt covered gas station and a few demo derby cars. I turned around and decided to hold it.
By the time we arrived to the park, Don was extremely disgruntled. We went over to register, and the cheery girl handing out forms tried to wish him luck, but he just looked away and scowled. She recoiled and rolled her eyes, and I laughed heartily.
I spent the rest of my time before the race attaching my fender with zip ties and wire (I left the mount at home.) Some people (who indecently brought umbrellas, a la Mary Poppins) made fun of my fender because it was "gay." However, they fail to realize that blinking grit out of their eyes every time they hit a mud puddle (or the entire Mountwood course) is far "gayer." And besides, I spray painted my fender purple to match my wheels. It looked too good not to use.
The rain was still coming down heavily, so I hung out in the back of the grumbler for a while and wished it was warmer. Near 12 I decided it was time to warm up. As I rode, my glasses made it seem like I was driving a submarine, so I ditched them and decided to rely on my fender for eye protection.
After the pre-race meeting, we rolled down to the pavement start. I do a couple of sprints to get the legs warmed up, then go over and stand next to Dustin Dorkieka in the steady rain. We're given a few seconds, then the promoter yells and we mash up the hill. The WV nightclub guys take the early lead as usual, but soon we reel them in. I'm surprised at how good I feel since Don, Mahokey, and I did a 43 mile mountain ride the day before.
We turn into the trail, and I make some quick passes to get up with Jeremy Rowand and Jason Cyr. Jason is leading and setting a good pace, and we're pulling away from the rest of the group. I'm glad for the distance I'm putting between me and the other single speeders.
Jeremy yells "Turtle!" and I swerve to avoid a little shelled critter. We hit a little rise and I pass Jeremy. A few seconds later I get around Jason. I'm leading the race now. Holy shit. I've never been in the lead of a mountain bike race. I'll see how long I can keep it up. At the least I should be able to drop the other single speeders.
The course is sloppy, but my Ignitors are predictable and don't pack up, and I'm super comfortable sliding around on my bike. People think I'm nuts for running a 38x20, but I'm able to stay on top of it and carry enough momentum to get over all the hills.
I can't see Jeremy or Jason anymore. The only indication that there are other riders out there is the occasional squeal of wet brakes. I could win this thing. No. Shut up. The race isn't over yet.
There are two turtles screwing each other in the middle of the trail. One is on it's back. "Oh hell man. Do you have to do that right here?" I yell as I ride by and splash some mud on them.
I'm not slowing down at all. The trail is fast and flowing, even with all the mud. I clean a technical rocky climb, and a guy compliments my wheels.
When I reach the dam, I recognize the place as the spot I caught Gerry Pflug last year. He was riding without a seat post, and still dropped me shortly afterwards. This year I'm winning the race. I tell myself to shut up again and sing louder in my head. (weird song to sing when I'm racing? a little.)
The second lap is way muddier than the first. All the sport and beginner riders have gone through and ripped up the soft course. Now I can hardly turn the big gear over. I'm making no progress. I get off and start to run. I'm afraid that one of the geared guys are just going to spin past me. But there is no way I'm going to let myself lose this race now. I've come too far.
The course becomes a little more ridable, and I hop back on my bike and start riding again. I pass a spectator.
"How many miles to go?"
Ok. I've got this. I keep hammering and sliding around the turns. I look down at my watch. It's been about 25 minutes since I passed the spectator. It's gotta be almost over.
Suddenly I exit the woods and hit a road. There's a few guys cheering. I sprint across the grass, then cross a raging brown stream. I almost fall off my bike and into the torrent. I laugh and run through the water. The finish is in sight. I'm going to win this thing.
I almost blow right passt the finishing tent, and lock up my back brake to slide in. I go through.
I won the whole damn race, gears and single speeds be damned. I'm so stoked. Jeremy rolls through a little over a minute later and we congratulate each other.
Results and photos should be up here later today.
Don won the Expert Vet, and was paid $10 more than me for his victory, and I'm sure that Jeremy got a lot more than that for winning Expert. But I won a Surly flask in addition to my pay out (I'll use it for espresso or warm milk.) Such is the nature of single speeding. Wouldn't have it any other way.