Yesterday, I wasn't sure I'd be up for racing. I'd had some cargo-hauling rides at work the previous week, had not ridden at all last weekend and was feeling strangely unexcited about my race. That all changed when I unloaded my bike at the Washington County fairgrounds and saw the mud.
Instead of a blow-by-blow, I'll just share some key points from the day:
1. The mud began as a sort of paste, similar in texture to Nutella (which was being offered folded into waffles at one of the booths). I watched as several races preceding mine degraded the mud bit by bit, and then a gloriously heavy shower did the rest of the job, turning the mud into snot-slick happiness, punctuated here and there by several sections of soupy goop several inches deep.
2. Race Organizers listened and brought out the famous Cross Crusade Six-Pack; all six orange barriers lined up in succession on one of the straightaways near the sheep barns. I hate running, and I hate barriers, but I ran or at least jogged them on every lap, all six, every time. They sucked.
3a. The course, which was flat, should have been fast, and on a drier day it would've been (in which case my race would have completely sucked). But the mud was the great equalizer. On flat, long stretches without too much mud, the roadies passed me handily and basically ruled the roost. But -- joy of joys -- as soon as we hit the deep mud, quite a few of them suffered, and I found I could just power through the mess and keep going.
3b. Once again, I had the unbelievable and exquisite experience of passing other riders. In a race. In most cases, it was a roadie-turned-crosser who would get ahead of me, then get bogged down in the mud, then fishtail or almost endo over her bars because something jammed up and she panicked on the brakes or otherwise lost control of her bike; meanwhile, I would politely call out which side I was passing her on, stand up and stomp on my pedals, and push through the mud. It wasn't pretty and it certainly wasn't fast, but it was fun.
3c. Best moment of the race was when I politely passed a rider who almost endo'd in the thick, gloppy mud, and I managed to not only avoid tripping over her but stayed upright through the slippery part and saved myself from fishtailing out. A guy on his still-filthy bike looked on and shouted out, "Niiiice! Way to maneuver, singlespeed!" It was my last lap and I was pooped, but I glowed all the same.
4. Another Hillsboro race, another five broken derailleurs and a dozen dropped chains. It happens. So far it hasn't happened to me. (I am spitting superstitiously on the Evil Eye as I type this...) In one case, the derailleur snapped so hard it bent a friend's derailleur hanger, and she will need to take her frame in for some work. Yikes. I should mention that the combination of mud, water and -- get this -- sawdust (laid down through one of the barns to reduce slippage on the wet concrete underneath) was probably to blame for most of the mechanicals. Honestly, with this much mud, I don't now why anyone would race with a multi-geared bike. And I was thrilled at how many women I saw racing on singlespeeds in various categories.
5. The final lap finished with a chute, into which riders were directed two at a time, so that those whose numbers were completely obliterated by the mud could have the number squirted down with a water bottle for the officials to record.
6. The line for the free hose was simply too long. I was too cheap to pay someone to carefully and professionally power-wash my bike (and he had a line for his services as well). Twenty yards away was a nice deep muddy puddle. Five of us decided to skip the hoses and the line, and we all gently dropped our bikes into the puddle and splashed off the worst of the mud before heading out. It was cold, wet, hilarious and surprisingly effective of you took your time.
Inyo, the Wonder-Dog and his person Joel were gracious hosts and lovely company for the carpool trip to and from Hillsboro.
I do not have results yet but there were at least thirty women in Master 45's alone today and easily over 1,000 racers in all categories; so probably results won't be up until tomorrow afternoon at least. I managed three tough laps (each lap was a little over 2 miles long) and finished strong -- and crash-free. I will assume that I finished last in my category. The key is that I finished, and I am satisfied customer.
I am hopeful that someone got pictures of the womens' race. Inyo had had enough of the sensory overload (and the frustration of all that beautiful open field space and not being able to run amok), so we left as soon as I was cleaned up and I didn't stay for the end of the A's race.
I did manage to get some photos of the Master C's, Master B's and Juniors which show parts of the course pretty well. They can be found here. (Scroll down to the seventh row from the bottom of the set for the beginning of the Hillsboro pictures.)
Tonight I am tired in that really excellent way, the way of having exerted myself and powered through to a strong, satisfying finish. The racing was hard but it felt so good. And I was thrilled to discover that, when the conditions degrade, I seem to have more fun, even if I'm not any faster.