Saturday, April 07, 2012


Well, after a great winter with very little rain, Oregon opened up with a March that had nearly double the normal rainfall.  The trails are wet, the ground saturated, and trees are falling over for very little reason.

My first MTB race was to be the Mudslinger, and the team had a pre-ride two weeks before the actual race.  Nearly 20 people showed up and we rode the course, through a little rain, snow, and even sun.  It was my first time in the Starker forest, and it was pretty.  The Starkers (a big logging family) are open to folks using it for recreation, and big props to them for that.

The Mudslinger course is two loops (a figure-8), and at the end of the first loop there's a downhill called Panama Canal.  Why do I point this out?

Turns out, I chose a really poor line on that trail, corrected late, and did a slow-motion somersault, with my bike.  Somehow I bust my lip:

 Luckily this happened pretty much at the end of the first loop, so I just rode out.  I'd car-pooled with a friend, and he took me to the ER to get stitched up.  Not an hour later, I walk out sporting 3 stitches:

Five days later, Mary removed the stitches (we were not near the hospital to get them taken out - yay Mary!)  It's all healed up now, and I had the actual Mudslinger ride on the 1st (the day after my 40th).

I chose to ride as a Clydesdale so I could do the full 22 miles (4000' elevation gain), and ride down Panama Canal two times.  Game time!!!!

I didn't hear the call for Clydesdales to start, so I got about a 30 second late start and had to catch up to the rest of the Clydesdales.  I rode the first 6 miles pretty well, passing people on the up, mostly holding my own on the easy downhills.  Just before the only singletrack uphill my chain dropped off the small chain-ring and got stuck in the bottom bracket.  I was very frustrated, and flipped my bike over and yanked on the chain for several minutes, swearing as all the people I'd passed slowly passed me.  And to make things worse, I knew I'd figured out a way to fix the problem but I couldn't remember it (even more frustrating).

I took a few breaths and finally remembered I have a Z-link and could just disassemble the chain, pull it out, and re-assemble.

Some 5-7 minutes after the chain became stuck, I flipped the bike over and began pedaling up the muddy singletrack.

I was cold and frustrated at this point.

But I continued and changed my attitude from racing to just checking out the course.  You see, I'd been racing from the back of the Cat 2/Clydesdale pack, and the chain fiasco put me right between all the slow Cat 2 climbers and the Cat 3 folks (who only do the 11 mile loop), and people were pretty spread out at this point - kinda lonely.

I finished the climb and began the descent.  About 1/3 of the way down Collarbone Alley I drop my seat way down so that I feel like I'm 10 and riding my BMX bike with my knees running up to my armpits, and that is what finally lets me feel fairly comfortable going down the crazy-muddy trail.  Then a little road, and down the single track that is Panama Canal - full of long puddles and brown mud through a mossy carpeted forest.  I get passed, but I'm cool, no crashes, no more stitches.

Before I know it, I'm done with Panama, I raise my seat, and I begin the long climb to the top of the 2nd loop.  It's real long and I pass the few people I see on the road.  One section (First Trail) has a 30' long puddle that is nearly a foot deep.  Wheee!

There's an "aid" station at the top of the climb, which consists of a tent and some people standing there handing out cups of water and Heed.  Rather disappointing - I was hoping for food.  I down a Builder's Bar, some Heed, and finish the climb and begin the scary-steep descent.

The trails that follow, Root Down and Super Tree are scary steep.  They would be fun if the trail were dry, a little hairy, but doable.  But, with the mud, they're just no fun for me, so I jog down about half of it.

At this point we're back on the first loop, climb up the single track where I lost my chain, over to Collar Bone and Panama Canal.  I drop the seat, ride a little more confidently (but just as slowly) down the singletrack - vowing to catch all the folks who just passed me on the road.  Sure enough, we get to the road and have <2 miles to go (a chunk of it up hill), and I catch a number of people.

I finish in just over 3 hours, 6th out of 7 Clydesdales, I'm all in one piece, and evidently I'm happy b/c the photo of me at the finish line shows me smiling.

I clean up, change, hose down my bike, get some food in me, and head home.

I came in only 9m30sec behind 4th place, so had the chain not broken, I might have gotten 4th.  If I'd raced in Cat 2, my time would have placed me 28th out of 33 - not exactly impressive, but easily not last.

Next year I will try for the podium (that's 15 minutes faster than 4th place this year, so not an easy task).  This was the wettest year in history, so the mud shouldn't be as bad in the future, and hopefully I'll have a little better idea how to ride mud.

One thing that came to me is that if I upgrade my bottom bracket to the new style, there won't be space for the chain to get stuck.  Hmmmm...

So, a successful first race this year.  All my goals were accomplished: finish in one piece, have fun, and not come in last in my group.

Next year: the podium.

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