This past weekend I made the trip to Boise for my first XC race of the year. Though I’ve been nursing busted ribs for the past 5 weeks and my training has been limited, I felt ready to give it a go at the Wild Rockies Series opener, the Barking Spider. It’s a pretty mellow course- mostly sandy double track with some fast, smooth singletrack with a few long climbs mixed in. It requires far more pedaling than handling, so it was a conservative place to test the ribs and let my Cannondale F29 with Stan’s Race Golds and Kenda Kosmik Lite II tires rip for the first time this season.
The pros raced 3, 9-mile laps. The first 2 laps were great. My legs felt pretty good, my ribs were behaving and because the men and women pros, cat. 1s and singlespeeds all started together, there was constant action.
Then came the rain. As we headed out for lap 3 it started pouring, the temps dropped dramatically and the mud started accumulating on anything with a surface. The mud stuck so aggressively that tires wouldn’t – and couldn’t – roll. Racers’ 20lb bikes became 40-70lb burdens. Though I was definitely at an advantage having a Lefty fork (which allowed my front tire to roll with 4 inch thick layer of mud stuck to it), the majority of my last lap was spent with my bike hooked on my shoulder, struggling to stay upright even while walking! My first 2 laps were around 40 min. each. My last lap took over 1:20. Uff.
I am a seasoned cyclocross racer. I’ve completed 100-mile event in hurricanes with tornadoes in the vicinity. I LOVE racing cross in the mud and up until Saturday, I thought I had seen the worst of the worst mud possible. However, when I splayed out face first into Barking Spider mud attempting to push my bike up the first hill once the rain hit, I was introduced to a substance I had never encountered. I can only describe it as clay and sand infused quick-dry cement.
Only 2 pros (both men and women) finished the race. I was one of them (and yes, I won!) Although my body is now covered in dark bruises and cuts more reminiscent of cross season than MTB season (right shoulder, hip and bicep and pedal marks on the backs of the calves), and despite the fact that I was borderline hypothermic and that schlepping a stupid-heavy mud covered bike on the broken ribbed-side didn’t exactly promote healing, I’m glad I raced and proud that I finished. It’s true what they say about quitting races. Once you quit it just makes it easier to quit the next one. Quitting is always a choice. It’s almost always not the right one.
Some days at the office are more challenging than others, but no matter how bad it gets, I always have fun and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing!
Hopefully I’ve paid my bad racing conditions dues for the year. All it took was a lot of Pro Gold, some power washing at the car wash and a few rounds of Oxi Clean to get my clothes stain-free and I’m ready to roll again. I’ll be heading to the Santa Ynez US Cup this weekend en route to Sea Otter. I’m hoping for some sun!