Sometimes a word can sum up a race.
That sums it up pretty well. Michael D'Addetta and I had decided to do the race and despite the rain and the lack of warmth. We'd talked about waiting to decide to see if it was going to be nasty, on the idea that we wouldn't go if it was.
And we each drove there anyway. Michael earlier than me thankfully, as I got lost on the way there.
It was a mess. I ran some of the bike course as a warm-up and it was wet and muddy. I had no idea how wet and how muddy, or what I was in for. Not that I would have been able to do anything about it. I was as ready to go as I was going to get, but warmed up would have been an exaggeration...
We lined up for the start on the grass by the pavilion that served as the staging area. It was a two loop run, a mile loop, and there was nothing fancy. There was a little conversation ahead of the start and then we were off. It was still raining, and damned wet as we headed across the grass.
It didn't take long for the first fall, but ironically in a race that was filled with ups and downs and mud and puddles, the fall came on almost the only section of pavement on the course. One guy, wearing a lake placid marathon and half-marathon t-shirt, had gone off like a bomb at the starting line, running like he could win the race in the first few hundred yards. He roared down the pavement, which was a sharp downhill. At the bottom was a 90-degree right-hand turn. He successfully completed 0 degrees of the turn and went down.
He scrambled back up and was right back in the mix. In fact, I admired his attitude, which was 'did you see that ? I really took a fall, huh ?' In fact, it was a little too much in the excited vein. He was bleeding, but nothing too severe. I was in third place pretty quickly, and running very steady, so I started to move up, finally passing everyone and getting to the front. I went back by the pavilion in first and opened the lead up, running steady, but not too hard.
While I'd tried to stay on dry ground the first loop, I gave up the second loop and just went through puddles with no concern.
I got back to my my bike, jumped on, and worked my ass up the first hill, which was not too steep to force me to get off. It was quite a little climb but then you went down and around, over some planks covering a stream, and back to a bigger hill.
This hill was not worth climbing on a mountain bike with fat tires. It was so slick that any attempt to climb with authority immediately rewarded you with wheel slip, so I leapt off the bike and ran up the hill. I climbed back on and hopped back on the bike, still in first. The wooded section dumped you out on a long wide 'trail' that was rutted from some (past?) life as a vehicle road. I'd lost first place coming out onto here, and as the guy went by me on an Allez with drop handlebars and skinny grey tires. It would be charitable to even call it a cyclocross bike. It was a bike with 25s for tires, nowhere near fat.
This part of the course was an out and back and after the guy that had passed me got to the turn he went back the other way, he asked me if he'd got the turn right. I was tempted to say no, but of course I said yes. I was really struggling. The trail was basically packed mud, wet mud, and puddles, with a lot of skull-sized rocks mixed in just to make sure maintaining a straight line was impossible. I was losing ground fast to this guy. As I went by one of the two race directors I said 'Hey, they let someone on a cyclocross bike onto the course.' I was trying to be cavalier about it but let's face it. I went out on the bike course in first and now I wasn't. Grrr.
After we left this track, the really technical section of the course started. It was a sharp downhill, a 90 degree turn, uphill, another sharp downhill.
Og course, you can never lock your wheels on the trails. The split second you lock a wheel it takes a sideways vector. So I was going too fast and hit a root with my front wheel. the wheel turned sideways, and eventually completely backwards, knocking my front derailleur out of service. I went right over the handbars, landed on my right arm and shoulder and hip. I saw rocks- more skull-sized rocks- all around me, but I hit nothing but dirt. I scrambled back onto the bike again and I was still in second.
Before I knew it I was on the second lap. I climbed the first hill out of transition and got to the top and my heart rate from the climb was somewhere it hasn't been in- who knows ? What I do know is that as I keep moving I started to think I was going to throw upThat never happens during a race. I got back to the hill you have to run up (one of two actually, the second being right after where I fell) and I ran up it. I was slipping even on foot.
The guy on the cyclocross bike- yes, the application said 'fat tire'- was kicking my ass. He hit the turn around on the out and back way before I did. I had two guys breathing down on me and this was enough to get me to stop trying to find dry ground to ride on and go right through the puddles.
I was in third when we got to the back section and as we went at one of the big downhills I did something I never do. I told the guy in fourth right behind me to go around on the left.
Trust me, it wasn't altruism. I calculated the odds- what would happen if I went down and he went into me, how much time would I instead lose by letting him by. The truth is, he and the guy right in front of me in second I wasn't worried about. I had beat them both on the first run, and I would beat them on the second run.
I told him to go around left and he went around left. I did not fall on the downhill that had claimed me as a victim the first time. I then climbed the resulting uphill on foot while they rode it. They didn't pick up any time on me.
They were leaving transition together when I got into it. I used toe clips in the race, so it was easy out and I started to close on the pair. The leader was nowhere to be found. We went down around the killer turn that had eaten the race's first leader and I quickly passed the pair, exchanging pleasantries and moving into second. For the second straight duathlon, I ran really well on my second run. The guys I passed were gapped right away. The race leader was nowhere to be seen.
I continued to pick the run up, came through the back section, passed a volunteer at a 90 degree right hand turn saying to be careful as people had fallen down. I mad e it through, finished the loop and was out on my second. I was spent, but I ran hard, plowing through puddles and mud- it was not an easy run. The ground was soft in lots of places, there was mud in most places. Every step that was not on pavement was hard. But I felt good and before I knew it, I was on final approach. The same guy was at the corner warning me to watch the turn.
He also told me I was in fourth. 4th ? WTF ?
I was in second. I crossed the line and I did go right to the race director and ask about the bike. She said it was a mistake that the race winner had been allowed to race on it. It would turn out the only award was for the male and female race winner.
Oh well. I didn't give her grief. I just pointed out it was the only cyclo-cross bike in the race. She agreed. I wasn't asking her to do anything, and I didn't push it. I even said 'Hey, he still beat me.' But...
I waited for Michael D'Addetta to finish, then I hosed off my bike, changed my clothes, talked to the guys that finished 3rd (lake placid half-marathon/big fall guy) and 4th, and headed home.
Let's face it. I am not a mountain bike rider. I know that. But I had fun, I finished second, and I raced really hard on a crappy cold and rainy day. Normally a race does not replace a long run, but this one was much better.
I'm glad I went, and hopefully I can go back again some time.