Weather conditions day of were actually great surprisingly, unfortunately it rained for about 20hrs straight the day before. My day started off to driving down the hill from the house only to find our road completely washed out and impassable. Immediately had the classic "Here we goooooooooooo" thought in my head and threw it in reverse and went around the long way. Passed two National Guard convoys on 93 on the way down south. Probably headed to some even bigger washout somewhere.
Arrived at the venue shortly before the Novices were heading out and chatted it up a bit before suiting up for business time. Lined up with about 10(?) singlespeeder's or so. Fields were fairly light with another Root66 race on the same day not that far away and weather conditions probably kept some of the folks who sit on the fence until the last second at home. Got off the line decent enough, no one was really hammering because there is a giant mudhole about 5ft into the woods after the little parade loop they send you on. I was sitting fourth as we all immediately got covered in shit. Things were going fairly well early. I was feeling good and riding well enough and keeping 3rd, although not super close, at least in sight.
I got stuck in a bit of traffic and was joined by Taylor Clark (who will probably be this years 'nemesis'). I bested him at Willowdale by a little over a minute but hes built a bit more like someone who would like a course like the Grind a bit more than me. He got by me after I dabbed in a tricky spot and I spent rest of lap 1 stalking him. He was riding most of the techy stuff just a tad smoother than I was. I was forced to chase back on several times after some of the technical mud bogs and as some of the Expert traffic started to catch us it got a bit more complicated. We were caught by a group of 4 Vet I's, Bully included and I was able to hang amongst their wheels until the end of the first lap. At that point I was feeling great. Fairly certain I could hang with those guys at least through the first half of the second lap...hopefully they would drag me back to Taylor and then we could slug it out the second half of the race.
I believe this is near the lap point when I was still with the Vet I's
(many thanks to teammate Chris Taylor for sticking around after his race to take some pics and cheer us on)
Unfortunately about a mile or so into the second lap things started coming unglued or I guess unskewered would be more accurate. Riding through one of the many puzzle-like rock gardens I heard a god awful sound come from the back of my bike. Started with the rotor screeching/grinding, followed by a really loud thunk and then rattling as the chain came off. Luckily I wasn't really moving all that fast when it happened because I hoped off to take a look and my rear wheel had pulled completely out of the dropouts and was just kind of flopping there in between my stays. I did a quick inspection, fully expecting there to be something bent or screwed up...it sounded horrible when it happened. Luckily everything seemed fine and I spent a minute or two trying to get it back seated but eventually had to flip the bike over to get it in and clamped down. No idea how I pulled that off. I guess it just loosened up and took one last final shot from a rock or something and popped out.
That 3-4min setback couldn't have come at a worse time though because I lost my wheels I was chasing and Taylor now had a nice cushion. I tried to push the pace the rest of that lap but I think in the back of my head I was worried the wheel was gonna fall off again and I was holding back. That and when you are riding really technical terrain at a frantic pace you just end up messing up more and I was loosing my rhythm a bit. The mud was also starting to dry out a bit in spots with the nice weather which made it stickier and heavier which didn't help things. There were a few spots where shortly after a particularly muddy bog you are dumped out onto short fire road sections where the increased speed would throw hamburger patty sized chunks of mud off your tires right into your face. I LOVE THAT.
see how much I love it!?
Coming into lap 3 I was hoping I was making ground and trying to just continue with the forward momentum. At the very least I was still in 5th so I at least wanted to seal that up. But the day had decided it was going to challenge me and shortly into the third lap while I was running through a mud bog I slipped on a root and planted my foot hard. I felt my shoe get really loose all of a sudden and upon looking down I realized the top two velcro straps on my shoe had snapped off and were now useless. Well, this worked for Run DMC through most of the 80's and 90's so its gonna have to work for me for the rest of this lap. Trying to keep my shoe on running through deep muck was pretty funny, I was really worried I was gonna lose it and have to finish in a sock (which I totally would have done). There was really hardly anything holding my foot in the shoe so getting a full power stroke with that foot was out of the question. So lap 3 was basically clipped in with the left foot, flat pedal with the right foot. Made for some interesting riding. A few times when trying to actually click out my right pedal I just twisted my foot out of my shoe.
I somehow managed to avoid complete catastrophe and actually put together a lap only about 6-7mins slower than my first lap. Fitness wise I still felt great, a lot of the mud and tech had kept me from pushing full bore so I still had some gas late. I think I ended up about 3-4mins behind Taylor so the wheel drop was crucial. No one caught me one footed so I held on for 5th. Happy with that but bummed I missed out on some great racing and a chance for 4th. Ready to get after it at the Pinnacle...got new shoes on order already (Mavic Rush) and gave the rear wheel/dropouts a thorough inspection and its all good, ready to slay.