Thursday, November 06, 2008

Muddy Day in Hell

Last Sunday's race was cold, wet and ridiculously fun.  I did all my pre-race stuff properly - I got there in time to pre-ride, warm up, etc., and I turned in a pretty decent race.  I was 52 out of 66 finishers, although there were another four guys who didn't finish.  As far as pack placement, that puts me about where I've been, which is fine, and I'm going to tell myself that last weekend's race had fewer of the slow guys and so I had to beat more fast guys.  Or something.  In any case, it was definitely a race to remember.

It'd been raining most of the week and continued to rain on the day of the race, so the mud was unbelievable.  The course varied from dryer, stickier mud that generated a ton of rolling resistance to wetter mud that my bike had to sink through before finding traction.  There were even a couple puddles deep enough for me to submerge my rims in.  Despite all that, I managed to keep the rubber side down for most of my race.  I went down once in the infield, descending a tricky series of off-camber turns on a hillside, and then again near the end of the race.

The trail section was so saturated that at times it seemed like I was riding my bike through a giant milk shake.  I had to be extremely conscious of keeping my weight back any time the course went even a little uphill during that portion or I spun my rear wheel, and the rolling resistance was so high that even though the trails were mostly level, I was all the way in my lowest gear.  At the end of the race, I'd find myself trying to downshift and then remembering that I didn't have any more down to shift.  My second fall of the race came during this portion.  Because of how slick the mud was, if I wasn't pedalling evenly, I fishtailed.  Since I was tired and out of gears, my pedalling was not the smoothest it's even been.  So I was going around a little bit of a bend and lost traction in my rear wheel and fell.  The fun part of that was that I found the one thorn bush on the course to fall into.  I wasn't badly hurt, but it was enough to bleed a little bit.

While I was trying to get out of the bush I got passed by another racer.  He asked if I was alright, which is a nice courtesy, and I yelled at him to go ahead.  He shouted back (he was opening a gap by this point) that I'd catch him soon - he only had one gear.  It looked like a multispeed bike and I'm not sure what he meant.  Maybe he broke some of his drivetrain?  After I got back under way, I tried to catch him but I couldn't close the gap.  When the trail opened up again and got to the final straight, some other guy blazed past me.  I'm not sure how he still had the energy to do that at that point in the race, but he certainly earned the spot he took from me.  I managed a little bit of a sprint myself once the course got onto concrete, and now that I have the results in front of me, I can see that it's a good thing I did - some other dude was just a second behind me when I crossed the line.  That's close enough that if I hadn't sprinted when I got onto the pavement, he would probably have caught me.  At the time, I thought I was just sprinting because it's good training to cap a race with one last effort.

Anyway, I'm not racing up front with the really fast guys yet, but I've had to fight for my final position in my last two races and it's getting to be really fun.  I feel like I'm starting to race at a level where I'm really racing, if only with the other guys at the back, and not just slogging around a course for four laps and getting a time.

This coming race should be fun too.  Since I don't have one on the 16th, I've been training lightly this week on the theory that it's really the race a week out that my training is for.  It'll be interesting to see if I do much differently with a softer week behind me.

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