Seeing as Sunday was my first true "mud" race, I finally got to experience first hand the different types of mud, and why they are important to racing in inclement conditions. Saturday was raining for a great majority of the day, thus it was a runnier form of mud. That's ok. It just gets things dirty, but doesn't collect and clog.
Sunday on the other hand, was peanut butter mud. It had started drying out, and if you rode some of the high lines on the course, you were instantly slowed down by this. And then you'd go on to a grassy stretch, and your sticky, muddy tires would rip the grass out and put it everywhere, your drivetrain, and those tight spots around your brakes and bottom bracket. So it'd create little grass huts all over your bike, and SIGNIFICANTLY increase drivetrain drag as well as cause rear derailleurs to seize, and then snap. Fortunately I didn't run into this, but quite a few people in the later races did.
So it was interesting experiencing something I've only read about.
I finally got my bike cleaned off last night. I hosed it off in the car wash for about 7 minutes, and then last night I chipped a bunch of stuff out and cleared tons of grass out of my drivetrain. Everything looked trashed, but after an hour or so, I got it working again. What a mess. Racing in the mud is awesome until you stop. Then the clean up begins.
As for the race, I almost pulled out before it even started. I go to air up my tires, and my rear is completely flat. I thought that was weird, so I aired it up again and started getting changed. I come back to the bike, and it's flat again. I can hear air leaking by the valve stem, but the valve is tight. I figured that I had a hole in my tubeless strip on the rim, and later I found out I was correct. I only had about 20 minutes before the race, and wasn't sure how I'd even fix it. I went to go get my money back and the promoters hooked me up with a spare SRAM rear wheel. Super generous of them, and they are definitely the best race promoters around. I kinda thought that before that nice gesture...
So I get the rear wheels swapped out, and my friend Ryan Mulbery shows up to cheer me on. Very cool of him, and I know he's going to get to witness quite a spectacle. People are coming back from a single lap of pre-ride just caked in mud.
So I start pre-riding, and end up hanging out at the start line with ample time to line up. That's a first. I think everyone trashed their bikes the day before, because the Master's 30+ and 35+ classes are very small. I lined up with JP Brocket, Chuong, Jon Sink, and me. So I knew from the get go, that it'd be a battle for the last podium spot between Jon and I. Last year we were pretty close in results, but this year I've been not quite as competitive. I figured it'd be a good goal to keep him close and try and finish strong.
The whistle blows, and as expected, JP blows the doors off. He's a fast dude, with fast spawn as well (his daughter Karen is pretty phenom at just 16). I can't remember if I got ahead of Chuong, but it didn't matter, as about half a lap in, I'm flying down this super thick muddy down hill and start edging my way off to the side of the track, hit a big rut, and end up Tango Uniform. Looked like a had a blow out. Chuong got by me at some point, and I hustle it up, and about 3/4's of a lap in, Jon squeaks by me. I'm having a tough time hanging on to my left shifter as it's coated in mud, as is my glove. So there were some difficulties going on.
I keep Jon pretty close, and let him out a bit, then reel him back on the flat soupy parts. I think we raced maybe 6 laps (?), and by lap 4 or so I started to fade and he started getting further and further away. This is why they say base training is so important, right? On the final lap, JP laps me, sitting up riding on the tops of his bar. He is one fast dude. I don't get mad because I realize that I've been pretty deficient in my training.
So at the end of the day, I finish 4th out of 4, but have a smile on my face because the race was super hard, yet fun. It was a real cross race. I had to hustle home to get errands done, so I couldn't stay and watch. I cleaned off my borrowed wheel as best as I could, pulled some long underwear over my muddy legs, and headed back to cupcake land to trash my shower. ;-)
I'm looking forward to KS State on Sunday. I don't have any gigantic aspirations, just to race stronger and harder than I did last week. The weather is looking to be around 40*, so that should be a bit warmer than last Sunday. Now I just gotta watch what I eat with my birthday on Friday, and get some decent training in still.