My Sunday began at 6 am with the soothing sound of raindrops that did little to sooth the groggy hangover, I knew full well that the morning ahead was not going to be anywhere near as fun as the night before. We had gone to dinner with Mike, Dejay and some of Mike’s friends, stayed up a bit late, and drank a couple too many beers, and then there was the Patron… but I don’t get to see these guys very often. You just sort of end up making up for lost time.
Race registration was at 8:30, so we had some time to pack up and forage for breakfast. The rain was coming down pretty steadily, neither Mandy or myself felt motivated to rush through our breakfast that we found at some corporate box patisserie. Once fed and caffined up, we set out for the venue. Not only was it raining, it was cold as well. I had remembered to bring just about every possible warm woolie thing I owned, except for one leg warmer that has gone missing.
We sat at the start line for what seemed like forever. Aaron had also come down to the race, and we were sitting there making jokes, picking on each other, and trying to keep the mood light. The rain had tapered off to a steady drizzle, which wasn’t much better. Once the go horn had sounded, there was an explosion of cleats snapping into their pedals and the squelch of soft wet gravel crunching under tires. It was on.
Our group had around 70 riders in it that started at the same time. The first part of the course was a slightly downhill forrest road. I couldn’t get up to speed as I would be bumping into the riders blocking the road ahead of me. I think I was somewhere mid pack when we turned in to the woods. I had to sit back and wait for my passing opportunities, which came sooner than I thought. Seems some folks freak out when it rains. Can’t blame them really, it isn’t much fun to ride in these conditions.
I managed to get by about 4 or 5 people in the first singletrack section mostly because they screwed up. Hey, I’ll take it. Once back out on the road, we had the big climb of the race. Not steep, but long and visually demoralizing (unless you ride stuff like the Grinder all the time). I got past a few others here. Then it was back into the woods, on a new section of trail that was just torn up from the previous heats that had left in front of us. This section was muddy, rocky, rooty and off camber. It was challenging to ride cleanly the day before when it was dry, and now it was downright sketchy and almost impossible to ride. I had to hop off the bike when I noticed that my Awesome Strap was no longer actually holding on to my spare tube and inflator. Meh.
Taken after the race
I managed to get past a few of them in this section before it opened up again, but got stuck again behind some slower and not so wet weather savvy riders. Davey passed me in a spot where I knew I should have been paying more attention to opportunity. At least now I had a rabbit to chase. Davey was riding well, so I tried to sit on his wheel from 3 riders back. Eventually we got back out to a forrest road, and I could spin that Rotor up. I passed everyone on my way up to Dave like they were standing still, and got the holeshot on him headed back onto the trail.
I think I had the most fun here, Dave and I formed a 2 car locomotive that powered past a lot of riders. It was in this part that one of the punchy technical climbs appeared where I think I may have secured my finish time ahead of Dave. We blazed to the top of the climb, passing a couple more riders, when I snagged my front wheel in the rock we were scaling and came to a dead stop. Dave ran into me and fell off his bike just shy of the summit. I remounted quickly, apologized and kept going. Rubbin is racin’ Davey! That was the last time I saw him until the end of the second lap.
I kept forging ahead, picking off riders one by one. I was definitely in some sort of a zone. While I wasn’t using headphones, I had some good music stuck in my head, parts of Dio’s Holy Diver, random parts of random Maiden songs mixed in with commercials for POWERTHIRST! Weird I know, but it keeps me amused. By this point, the traffic was much thinner, and passing was a little easier. I have a nasty habbit of tailgating riders ahead of me, but I can relax and sit on their wheel and recover. Some people are OK with this, others freak out and crash. I’m sorry if I made anyone reading this crash (except Dave).
It went like that for the rest of the race. My first lap was my best. I’m bummed I didn’t bring my Garmin, because I’d have loved to see the splits. Course conditions vs traffic and all that jazz. I saw very few people on lap 2, but the damage to the course was taking it’s toll on me. My bike was weighing probably 50 pounds at times with all the mud stuck to it. I felt every incline. I had no food. My legs felt like lead. I was cold. I had to pee. The ipod in my head was playing music not suitable for ruling wet muddy singletrack on my bike.
I traded places with a couple of folks in the woods until I finally beat them out on the flat roads, when I was able to get the spin on and pull away. These were also the only times I could get to my bottles. First they had to be cleaned of mud, then opened, then held away from my mouth because they weren’t clean, and then hope I could get my NUUN water blend (cola and lemon/lime) into my mouth and not all over my face. I barley drank one bottle the whole race.
I was happy to cross the finish line, but did not have my finish line “act” together. I wanted to proudly hold high my invisible sword before slowly replacing it in it’s invisible hilt, like that Russian figure skating chick from the Olympics. I was too cold, too tired, and letting go of the handlebars would have led to a very embarrassing DNF.
There was a pretty solid crew from VT that came down to the race the ‘Palooza.
Here are the results of those rockin the B29 jersey:
Travis Voyer, 15th Open Men
Mike Maggs, 23rd Open Men
Me, 19th Sport Men
Dave Anderson, 21st Sport Men
and clinching the W for Sport Women is Mandy, who came home with a cool trophy and a ton of swag.
Again, I have to thank George and Mike from Dark Horse. They put on a hell of an event. There was lots of beer thanks to Niner Mike and Terrapin, hot dogs cooked up by the Dark Horse crew, and a party atmosphere that more than made up for the rain and the mud. I’m thinking I might have to return for the Dark Horse 40!