They haven't run this race since '08 when this happened. I really liked this course and I was bummed when it got destroyed in '08 due to a huge thunderstorm the day before and the trails not drying out in time before we turned them into so much mud soup.
Unfortunately in its first year back an almost identical scenario played out with a very wet week prior to race day and the trails not having time to drain. Aaaaaand then this happened.
It's hard to remember back to '08 but I think this year might have been worse. Temps warmed up a bit today just enough to dry some of the mud out and make it that lovely heavy peanut butter glue, with some really soupy spots here and there.
Smaller SS field today, only 6 of us got started after the Elites. Got off to a decent start, riding 3rd around the parade lap and into the woods. Held that position about halfway through the first lap and then got passed by Mark Tucker. Things were hashing out exactly how I had guessed based on the names I saw pre-registered. I was behind who I thought I would be behind and in front of who I thought I would be in front of. So I just got down to ticking things out. And by that I mean walking a good portion of the course, riding where I could. My brakes weren't really functioning all that well which made things pretty interesting. Rear brakes were 100% gone and front brakes could only stop me if I was going pretty slow. You could use the mud to slow yourself down a bit but that was unpredictable and didn't always work as expected. Surprisingly I didn't have one epic crash though. Kept things upright all day.
Got to ride off an on with the Ride Bully. He had some tire issues on lap one and then probably just gave up the ghost and was just going for a cruise otherwise I don't think I would have caught him on the last lap. We chatted a bit, mostly about how much fun we were having. Then a singlespeeder had to go and catch me while Shawn and I were enjoying a nice discussion. I've been beating this guy this year but not by all that much and I knew he would be back there lurking but I thought I had enough of a buffer to be able to just keep on trucking home without really needing to push too hard. Wrong. The three of us trudged through the mud through one of the walky sections. Little did he know (or probably care) I was secretly gauging his condition while we made small talk.
We were walking the same speed and when we got to a short rideable section I let him come through and I noticed his riding style was a bit "loose" and he almost crashed twice. That's what happens when you are pretty tired. Shortly after the rideable section I gave a short burst of running a try to see how quickly he would try and stay with me. He stayed on but he didn't rush to close the small gap I created. This made me think he wasn't quite game for a full on slug fest and if I actually gave it some gas on the uphill rideable section coming up I might get away. That was the plan and when we got out onto the first section of doubletrack I 'put the hammer down'. It wasn't quite as impressive as that terminology but it was effective. The gap opened up quickly and by the big switchback that allowed a peek back he was nowhere in sight. I was hoping the out of sight out of mind would kick in and he would give it up but I didn't want to risk it so I kept it on until the Gravity Cavity and then I just went into slowly but surely mode and tried to keep moving without cramping.
I probably put way too much thought into those tactics but thats what its all about at the amateur level. Taking little race scenarios and blowing them way out of proportion so as to increase you're own personal GNAR. Crossed the line with a hilarious time of about 2h41mins. Then I proceeded to just stand around not knowing what to do because I was covered in so much mud.
I held my position and came in for 4th of 6. Bike is fairly annihilated and I will probably have to strip it down and build it back up this week. Probably going to need new brake pads and some fresh applications of grease in the appropriate areas. Lots of teammates were taking pics on course, I'm hoping I'll be able to share some here once they make it online.
Shaun demanded data. Forgot to press the lap button coming through on lap 3 and scored myself a negative split from laps 1 to 2 but I think thats more due to inaccuracies in the track data and me hitting the lap button a tad earlier the second time through.