It rained the night before. I fully expected the event to be a complete mudfest. But, because it’s a little further up the mountain than my house, there was still a fair amount of snow on the ground.
That is to say, a fair amount of snow that had just spent the night in a rain shower and mostly turned to a kind of heavy, creamy slush.
But we lined up anyway.
It was a LeMans-style start with a 100 meter dash around a loop and onto your bike. Since I’m still struggling with my awesome hip injury and thought it best not to risk it with a run.
Me, run? That’s just crazy.
I lined up with the other gimps and waited for the second horn to be blown. When it did, we went calmly over to where the other 10,000 riders had clogged the entrance to the single track. We proceeded to wait—days, I think—to get onto the trail.
People were still pretty thick once we actually got onto the trail and we found ourselves in a long procession of other riders—all pushing their bikes.
There were maybe 15 of us in our little group, with some poor sap (I’ll call him Skippy) at the head who didn’t realize that, if he’d only step aside, we’d be able to finally mount our bikes and leave him in the proverbial dust.
But he didn’t, and nobody was calling him on it. Finally (!) someone picked up their bike and simply cut across a switchback to pass him.
Once out front, our new leader promptly mounted, gave his crank a half-turn, slipped, dismounted, and started running again.
That’s when I realized that even if Skippy had moved, nobody could ride. This was confirmed a moment later when we came to an open spot on the trail system and saw dozens of people further up the trail and everyone—everyone—was pushing their bikes.
And suddenly my idea of skipping the running start was a bit of a joke.
I spend five of the seven miles running. In the snow. In my biking cleats, pushing a bike through frosting-textured snow. My hip did not thank me.
When the trail went from single- to double-track and headed down hill, we finally mounted and rode—slipping and sliding and screaming like little girls—down a treacherous mess of slop until we found ourselves at the bottom. The uphill was better—it had been packed down by multiple vehicles and was the only place anyone could ride. My base training kicked in and I passed several other riders.
Given the cold and slushy conditions, my fan base was less than enthused to wait around for me.
When I finally did finish, I found that I’d come in second-to-last in my category. Due to the fact that I had only passed a couple of riders, and been passed by roughly the same number—none of which were in my class—I can only chalk this up to skipping out on the running start.
If, at the beginning, I’d found myself at the front of the clogged mass, I would have likely placed.