The forecast on my iphone for Jericho changed from rain & lightning, clouds, sunny, and back to sunny with rain in the lead up to the Nor’Easter Fest ‘Cross race, on Lake Champlain in Burlington, about 30 min from my dad’s in Jericho. Although mud is apparently what this sport is all about, I was a bit worried what formula of mud would greet us come 3:30pm on Saturday. All my equipment is waiting for me in Europe, so from Vegas I traveled with a simple 1 bike with 1 set of wheels. Fortunately Simon had the foresight to send some mud tires with me which Gene at Village Bicycles in Richmond stuck on. With the rain we received Friday evening paired with continual cloud cover Saturday, the course remained fairly soupy. The mud was certainly heavy in many sections but there were also a few puddles to ride through in attempt to wash the heavy chunks off. Sure it would have been nice to have a back-up bike, but that was my poor planning and sunny outlook.
My week leading into this weekend was mainly spent with my eyes closed, sleeping copious amounts, evidently still knackered from the busy lead in to Vegas and the show itself. So legs coming into the race were ambiguous. But it was refreshing to be slip sliding around a beautiful venue on the beach in Burlington. Fortunately for us, the clouds opened up following our race to show the gorgeous lake…not so fortunate for the men as the mud turned to sticky peanut butter.
Helen quickly opened a gap on the entire field from the start whistle, a rocket whose reaction – foot to pedal I winced at. Gabby and myself were on the chase but we weren’t as smooth and powerful as Wyman in white. The race separated itself quickly as Helen had the gap on me, I had the gap on Gabby and so forth. Eventually Lea D and her mud skills moved forward and into third, and at the finish into 2nd. It became a game of remaining relaxed, smooth and flawless as possible while making your efforts count as the mud sucked any life out of entire body. I was chasing Helen but the gap remained and Lea was chasing me but the gap remained; the zapping nature of the course made it difficult to make up time and keep momentum moving forward.
On the final lap, with about one-half lap remaining I was caught in course tape, for the second time in the race. The first time I dismounted to untangle myself, but this time it felt like I would be able to break free of it, as I pedaled a couple strokes it felt like I was free of the monster, a couple more pedal strokes and I felt it’s resistance again and then a clunk when my rear derailleur broke from the hanger and lodged itself into my rear wheel. So I heaved the mud clad bike onto my shoulder and set off running, swinging round trees, sinking in mud holes, over the enormous barriers, through puddles, around and around, sinking and cursing and heaving and choking on my curses; setting the bike down to run beside it because it felt as though my shoulder was falling off, then lofting it back up. One by one the girls passed me as my second place turned into eighth place; I was gutted and I wanted the finish line so badly that I contemplated just stopping and burying myself in a puddle. But the cheering and yelling and heckling kept my tree stump legs moving and I finally made it to the finish line.
From there I walked straight into Lake Champlain, said hello to Champ and wiped away my muddy sorrows. Yes, I was pissed, gutted, frustrated, saddened, but then I remembered my race schedule and I still have 31 races to go…