on our way down we got the email from Darren saying he wouldn't be making it after all. I'll just say the near mid-night phone call from the 4 of us at the cabin was well justified in our eyes, especially when the rain started on race morning.
Going into this race I was feeling pretty good, though overall I was unsure of where I stood. I knew my fitness was good from all the running but I've done very little biking so far this year, especially on the trails. Still though I thought if the power from running transfered as well as I hoped to the SS, I'd be in good shape and might even be able to keep pace with Jonathon; or at least stay near him.
We started off the race second, behind the expert/pros and along with the sport class racers and high schoolers and cruised across the grass fields to the start of the single track. Being on the SS was a bit of a bear here since it put me solidly in the mid-pack range which in turn led me to be stuck behind a large number of people bobbling and stopping on some pretty rideable technical stuff up to the first climb. Once things sorted out a bit I settled in and started working the climbs.
Overall I felt I was riding well to begin with and I was catching and passing lots of riders. I was rocking up the climbing sections including the first which the RD referred to as a punishing climb
but in general I began having a bit too much trouble on the rocky and technical sections of the trail. It got worse as I got tired naturally so after Jonathon had passed me fairly early on he only continued to put time between us, riding strong and likely clearing the obstacles with ease.
The downhills on the course were mush more choppy then I expected so while the additional of the front suspension was a tremendous help, I didn't feel like I was able to bomb the downhills quite as much as I'd been hoping to. The somewhat muddy trail conditions combined with near constant switchbacks led to a lack in sustained downhill speed and almost no ability to hold downhill momentum on the SS.
I ended up somewhere around 5th place SS on the day with Jonathon in 4th, though probably 10 minutes ahead of me. The garmin reported 3500' feet of elevation gain in just over 14 miles too so I feel pretty good about my climbing performance and overall power on the SS. Leland had some issues with his grips slipping off leading to some major issues on the climbing intensive and technical course (hence lots of wrenching and hard gripping on the handle bars). MK came into view a couple of times for me, pacing himself for the extra lap for expert/pro racers, but the rain, mud and cold got to him late in the race and he decided to pull out after 2 laps. Thank goodness too since we all would have been waiting around shivering for him to finish before we could leave.
Throughout most of the first lap and seemingly all of the second there was one person sticking to me that I just could not drop. They would catch up to me on a bunch of the more technical climbs and then I would drop them on some of the descents, always thinking I'd rid myself of them for good only to have them pop back up a few hundred meters down the trail. Towards the end of the second they were gaining steadily on me and then as I fumbled and stumbled over a particularly technical downhill/flat section they caught me.
Turned out it was a woman also on a single speed (whoops I'd said something to her earlier, referring to her as "man"! In my defense I didn't get much of a look at her at all so I was just assuming it was a dude since I hadn't seen many women out there in general). I let her pass quickly and then went to chasing her the remainder of the downhill, catching her on the brief road section with about a 1/4 of a mile to go.
I pulled up next to her and complimented her on her riding and catch in the technical junk. She let me lead into the short pine section before the final grassy section where she insisted we sprint for the line. I wasn't going to sprint but at her insistence I picked it up and spun in with her, not really wanting to beat her but not really wanting to "lose" either. In the end I think our wheels crossed essentially together, though likely she got the edge on me there. She was actually racing the open SS so technically in the "official" results I was likely 6th, but I'm going to say I was next after Jonathon anyway.
In the car on the way home I found out that women was actually ex-pro and mountain biking legend Sue Haywood! Wow! I know she's retired and all but still, in 2007 she set a course record at the SM100 en route to at least her 3rd consecutive win (8:11, 2nd place was 9:01) plus plenty more. I'd say its pretty awesome that I got the opportunity to ride with her in general. Good thing I didn't know who she was during the race or I probably would have been star struck and gotten overly self conscious and sucked up the technical stuff even more!