Monday, May 20, 2013

Rumble in the Jungle Race

With nice weather forecasted for Sunday’s race, I was a bit surprised when I woke up to the gentle sound of rain. I checked the radar and did not see too much green or orange and thought it was a passing shower. Well I was wrong, as it rained all day. I suppose the rain was so close to the ground, it was under the radar. We certainly do need the rain, but racing in the rain can completely change the game plan.

This may seem odd, but seeing the rain on Sunday gave me a feeling of relief. A dry race would mean a full effort the whole race for me and everyone else. Rain meant slippery conditions and a slightly backed off pace, flirting right under loss of control and flailing about. While some racers may have been intimidated by the conditions, I felt confident backing things down a notch and trusting that my skills would dictate my race. Staying within my control and riding smooth, efficient and consistent were my plans for the day.

The start went well. I’m not sure if the ladies were being cautious or I was having a good day, but I found myself as 3rd wheel with ease. As soon as things opened up, I moved up to second, which was ideal going into the first long stretch of single-track. Once we began to snake our way through this slimy, slippery intestine of a trail, I found my “keep it upright” speed. With the twisty trail, riders were spotted in front and behind, but not much changed. The conditions dictated the pace for all, and I was happy with it, as it was very workable, leaving some in the tanks for the technical climb ahead.

Much to my surprise, the climb and all the rocky sections were in pretty good shape, which enabled me to ride the entire course, and made my race so much more fun. I can honestly say that this was the most fun race to date this year. It was somewhat challenging technically, but nothing seemed overwhelming for me. It just came together like a fun ride.

By my third lap, the Cat 3 racers had been released onto the course. This is not the usual way races are run, but the weather had thrown lap times off and the promoter chose to stay on schedule regardless. I got a little panicky when I heard the distant whistle, thinking that I was going to be swarmed by energetic Cat 3 men, some with no wet racing experience, but that never happened. ...they were all in front of me. My third lap became an exercise in polite passing etiquette, and trying not to ruin anyone’s race or terrorize any 10 year olds.

By the time I reached the slimy intestine trail, it was almost futile to try and pass as the conga line went on for as far as I could see. One by one, I worked through trying not to make anyone pullover and stop. I received some unexpected cheering at the stream from spectators. You got to love Cat 3 spectators! So, although my last lap was slower than I hoped, I knew that all the women behind me were in the same situation. Dealing with passing is part of racing and I got my practice on Sunday. Racing in with the Cat 3's also reminded me how far I have come as a racer. It was an awesome day and well spent!

After my race I spent hours removing a half inch of caked mud from my bike, my clothes and me. ...and yes, I did remember to wash behind and in my ears.

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