I wasn't supposed to do this race. I was supposed to do the Battle the Bear in early May on the trails that I ride a million times a year. However, half the race course is underwater, along with the parking lots, bathrooms, and fishing docs. Due to unusually heavy rainfall the engineers at Bear Creek Lake Park have allowed the lake to double in size again, after all that is what is there for. So last Wednesday I got an email from the lovely folks at RME stating that the race was rescheduled for Oct. October is a long way away and I just wanted to race my bike. They also offered the opportunity to transfer registration to the PV Cycle Derby. I checked the calendar, Jeremy was actually off work, the team shop was having a demo day but the race started early and was only 22 miles, so I made the decision 3 days before the race to just do it.
The night before the race I made the mistake of getting on Facebook. There were reports of lots of mud and even unfinished trails. Had I been committed to this race for a while (and registered) I would have ignored them completely and just raced but I did struggle with the decision a bit, but ultimately I decided to go. As we drove down there everything looked good, nice and dry.
Another racer from the team, the super fast Mark Wallace, was also doing this race (he's doing the whole series actually). So we met he and his wife (and dogs) down there. Everything still looked pretty good. For this race everyone starts in the morning, the Endurance (60mi), the XC (36mi), and the Appitizer (24mi).
The start was nice and sunny and bright with a beautiful blue sky. I started at the back of the pack, passed a few ladies on the road up, a few passed me back. We turned a corner and started on a much less travel road, and that's where we hit the first big mud bog. Lot of mud. I knew I was supposed to go right threw it. I made it through the first one, but not the second. Two miles into the race and my entire left side was now caked in mud. I'm awesome. We swung back around toward the base, Jeremy was there with the kids cheering me on and taking my pictures. The best was when A, age 6, asked me for a hug while I was racing. I had to tell her no, and that I'd hug her next time. After that the race course kind of goes back and forth along a creek bed, crossing it several times, lots of rocks and yes, more mud, but not the like the big road bogs. This was when the pros from the Endurance race started passing me. Last year when this happened at the Battle the Bear I became really annoyed. This year I expected it, accepted it and just went with it. It's just part of this race, just like it's part of their race to pace me, it's part of my race to be passed. It's a "feature" just like any rock or switchback. The day was beautiful, the trees, the creek, it was actually really great. I allowed myself to walk some technical I could have ridden because I didn't feel comfortable doing it with all those people coming up behind me, but I did ride some and did fine. After a few more large mud bogs, we hit some road-ish sections, which were fast and fun (where Mark lapped me) followed by another short technical climb that I didn't see anyone clear.
And then we went into the base camp before round two. The kids were adorable. D has my 2nd bottle up in the air waiting for me, and then told me my face was dirty before giving me a hug. The girls had picked flowers for me. Jeremy gave me lots of encouragement. I was tired but headed out for lap 2 in a good mood.
I came up on a girl walking her bike up a hill. The hill was an old road where the two tire tracks had become big ravines and basically the only line was straight up the middle where she was. She didn't step out of the way, of course I didn't say anything, either. I tried to upclip but didn't make it and just tipped right over on the rocks. She apologized and I was she was 18 and wearing Chuck Taylors for shoes which was interesting. I talked to her for a while and she said that it was the hardest thing she had ever done, and her first race. I told her she was doing great (and she had been in front of me the entire day). At this time I think we were lapped for the 2nd time by the lead pros, and again she didn't move out of the way until I suggested she do so, but she's new. She went in front of me after the hill and then we hit a bit of a technical down hill and I was close behind her, until I wasn't. I crashed, came off the back of the bike basically as I lost control (I figure this is better than going over the front, right?). It hurt. My left leg was caught between the bike and lot of rocks. Riders were coming immediately so I grabbed the bike and jumped off trail. The first to pass was a woman who after asking if I was okay, told me to "spin it off" which sounds curt but was awesome. And so I did. I jumped back on my bike and kept going. I walked more this 2nd lap, fell at least once more (again on my left side). My quads started to cramp really bad about mile 18.
But I finished it up, 3:43:59. The 18 year old beat me by 30 seconds which is great for her (I heard her talking to who I think was her mom at the finish). I was 5th out of 6 in my age category, only 16 minutes off 3rd place, but 1:04 from 1st. Out of all the people who did the Appetizer only 3 finished behind me. Better than completely last I suppose. I wish I were faster, but I had fun and I'm pretty sure I pushed as hard as possible. Big thanks to all our team sponsors. I still really like my Scott Spark 920 and was sad to get my nice pretty Primal Wear kit, and Swiftwick Socks all muddy.