Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Winding Trails of Mud...

I know many Mtb riders/racers who complain about the Winding Trails (WT) race.  "Not techy enough", or "you can ride w/ a cross bike", and "it's a roadie course & all the roadies show up".  All of these are true, but despite that, I have always liked WT.  After most winters, my tech skills are barely out of hibernation and still need lots of stretching, so it's a nice way to start out the season as I can concentrate on just fitness (or lack thereof!).  And it is a fitness course! A fast course that you need to pedal all the way around w/ no recovery what so ever.  They have over the years worked hard to address some of the above complaints and have done as well as can be, given the terrain that is there.  This year was no different.  My biggest complaint of WT is that after racing it for ten years, it was getting too repetitive.  The race course had basically the same year in year out.  So I was glad this year they mixed it up a bit more w/ some 'still new' sections.

And the rain is coming down!
The real news this year for the Cat 1 race was of course the rain.  Hoped for by many, including me, as racing in a sandy dust bowl would just sucks ass! But there is a difference between a little rain and a lot.  It started right when we were getting close to the venue, and was drizzling steadily during warm up.  Before the race started I decided to take a peek at the weather radar on my phone and it did not look good.  So I decided to keep my long sleeve jersey on and my vest for the race since I thought it would be easier to remove it if I overheated, rather than having to put it back on once it started to really rain. Glad I did! I lined up next to racers in their summer bibs/jersey, and thought they were nuts.   First lap was indeed a little warmish, but once the rain started to come down in earnest, it became very cold out!  I have to give VERMAC some props here for making a great freaking vest that kept me toasty throughout the race!

Start of lap two...still clean
I tried to stay out of the rain as long as possible at the start but at some point you have to line up.  The worse two times for a race in the rain are: lining up and waiting for the race to start, and at the finish when you have to peal the layers of muddy wet clothes off when it's still pouring and cold out. A little bit more on that later...

Stacey showing the mud who's boss!
I lined up at the back cause I am a slow starter and also had not shown great form this year. The race started up a very sandy fire road and it was immediately a mess.  A guy almost went down in front of me which seemed like it slowed 1/2 field down but I went wide around them.  I did not dare turn around as I didn't want to go down, but again, could have sworn I was mid pack when I took the turn onto the off camber single track.  Tires were still rubbing so I could not confirm this. The course was very fast and I focused on trying to stay attached to the two guys in front of me. I got passed by two guys on the next long section of the fire road but positions seemed to settle down once we entered the longer section of single track w/ the stretched climb.

I had realized on Friday that my saddle had slid ALL the way back in the seatpost rails and that I had been riding it like that for a while.  A full 2 1/2 inches back, which also made it 1 inch too high from the BB. It certainly explains why I have been feeling so stretched out on this bike! I moved the seat back to it's original position but it was feeling way too low. To make up for it, I tried to climb by pushing a slow heavy gear while standing and found my legs were willing to give the power I was asking for (WT isn't that steep!), and motored right along holding pace.  A gap seemed to have formed w/ riders behind. The first lap was over very quickly, timed at under 26 min, as the course was nice and tacky.

On lap two, I was still with the same two guys but decided to pass, but could not find the effort to create a significant gap.  So I dangled out there as a carrot for the remainder of the lap.   Things were starting to get sloppy and I knew I was riding the slick stuff way to conservatively.

Stacey post race:  Freezing and tired !
On the thirds lap, Charlie came by and I grabbed his wheel as long as I could.  It certainly made me less cautious and helped me to finally brake the string to the guy who was chasing me.  I had created a big enough gap that I could no longer see him.   WT is one of those mtb courses where you can actually draft.  It's painful though to draft in the mud.  At one point it took me a couple of minutes before I could open my left eye again after a big clump went  flying in from the wheel I was chasing. I finished lap three riding by myself.  Conditions were as soupy as they get by then.  The newly cut and soft single track had turned into really slick mud.

At the beginning of lap 4 Pj caught up and I let him pass.  I stayed w/ him as long as I could, but he was too fast.  I did catch back up w/ him after he hit the deck pretty hard slipping out on a mud section on the fast fire road.  He got up and was fine, but it pointed out how slippery things had gotten.  As Pj got away, I did spot someone in distance ahead.  This gave me a little boost and finally caught him right 3/4 through the lap, after the paved section.  He was someone from my class!  I made sure I passed him "authority" to let him know I mean to keep him back. About 1/2 mile from the finish, I caught a wide grin growing on my face.  I was smiling ear to ear because I was coming to realization that I was almost done; that this mud fest was almost over, that this pain would soon stop, that I had not wrapped myself around a tree and still had all my teeth (well at least the same amount I started w/)!

I never really got a good reading on where I had been in the pack at the start but thought I should place towards the end of the middle of pack.   I thought I had defended my position well and had raced smartly by going hard on the fire roads, and riding the slick singletrack safely, and as recovery.  I also felt that the legs had been willing to give more than what they had during the previous races this year.  Perhaps even a top 10!  Sadly, I again sucked big monkey butt and finished beyond the mid pack...  Post race data analysis showed my hr pretty high for lap 1 but then dropping off for the rest of the laps.  Guess I played it too safe.  I need to somehow figure out where the sustainable maximum suffer point is.

After the race I realized how drenched I was and listening to how cold people had gotten, was glad I played it safe by keeping on my vest.  The pictures show how muddy we had all gotten.  Changing was going suck!

As I started to change, I was trying to not drag all that mud into the van so decided to sit on the rear bumper w/ the back open to protect me from the rain. I had gotten almost everything off but was working on peeling off my bib leggings which had clogged zippers at my ankles.  I had put on a towel for privacy/modesty while I was fighting w/ the zippers.  Suddenly my calf completely cramped up.  I sat on the bumper for 5 seconds panicking on what to do but the muscle was tightening so much and the pain was getting intense enough that I knew I had to move to stretch out the calf.  Not an easy thing to do w/ your bibs tied around your ankles, mud all around, and a small towel between you and indecent exposure.  As I stood up, I, of course tripped on the bibs, making me drop the towel.  Also at that point the pain was so intense that the only thing I really cared about was to just stretch my calf muscle.  Yup, I was in that parking lot, butt naked, hopping around, screaming, with my bibs around the ankles!  Thankfully, a little voice told me to just jump into the van, which I did, and sitting my muddy naked ass on the seat, to stretch my leg.  Thankfully again, the heavy rains had kept people from being out in the lot!   But just in case: If you see pictures online or my mug shot on the six o clock news, you now know the "real story"!

Mike racing in dry weather!


  1. Great pics Syl! I guess it was not completely my fault it rained... sounds like you wanted it too! HA!

  2. I was happy to finish before the rain. Then seeing you guys coming around after the first lap and the rain picking up I was glad I was out there. Good to see you didn't suffer from one of the many crash and break your bike incidents that seem to happened later in the day.

    1. I corrected the was to wasn't on the glad I wasn't out there because that was some mean mud out there.

      I was happy to finish before the rain. Then seeing you guys coming around after the first lap and the rain picking up I was glad I wasn't out there. Good to see you didn't suffer from one of the many crash and break your bike incidents that seem to happened later in the day.

  3. It could've been snow.
    Cramps are like babies...they come when come.