Pushed. Elbowed. Sworn at. Buzzed. And this wasn't even WalMart at 4 am on Black Friday - there wasn't a 50" plasma TV waiting for the low, low price of $2.50, just a medal and bragging rights.
In all seriousness, EFTA's Pinnacle was the most un-sportsman-like race I have done - EVER. Despite a decent start in my field (the Cat 1 women, Master Men and Juniors all went off together), as soon as the Cat 2 men (who started a mere 30 seconds behind us) starting catching, all h*ll broke loose. We climbed on a tight trail filled with wet, slimy roots and rocks. There wasn't a good place to pass a single person, never mind having 50 testosterone-laden men racing for 20th place breathing down your neck. And once ONE person flubbed anything, it caused a chain reaction of people off bikes. Getting back on the bike, and into the conga line was near impossible. Within the first mile and a half, after all of the pushing, elbowing, swearing and having my tires buzzed multiple times by one rider, I literally gave up racing.
As I continued to climb, I thought about quitting. The course didn't suit me at all - there was a lot of climbing, the roots were wet and slick, and there were bridges (did I mention the wet part?). It wasn't fun. And then I even got yelled at by some of the WOMEN riders for riding down the left side of the Plummet - "Left is for walking, right is for riding" they chided as they dismounted and I rode. Oh well - I rode the left line every time down. I crossed through the start/finish after the first lap, STILL thinking about quitting. Then one of the women, who was literally in tears, said that she just didn't want to DNF. And I worried about what Mike would say if I quit. So, I kept going.
In lap 2, the Elites and some of the Cat 1 men started lapping me. This wasn't as bad, as I could get out of the way of most of them without having to get off the bike, or being pushed ;). In fact, many of them were downright pleasant, with one apologizing to me after he passed, and I slid on a root. Quite a difference in attitudes, and these guys were racing for more than just a medal!
At the end of lap 2, I looked directly at my friend Meg (who was cheering wildly) and said "This sucks" to which she replied, "But at least you're finishing". I gritted my teeth and said, "I have ONE MORE LAP TO GO". Ugh. But, off I went. And partway through the final lap, Keith caught me (cue angelic music from above here). It was nice to see a friendly face after all of that time - especially one with a halo circling his helmet. I tried to move out of Keith's way to let him pass, but he literally decided to ride the entire last lap WITH me. That was my saving grace. Being able to ride the remainder of the race with someone, and following good lines was the only thing that got me through the rest of the race.
Keith and I literally crossed the finish line within seconds of each other, both excited to finally be done. So, DFL for me (and in more than one category...), but I finished.
That is it for me for mass start MTB races though - never again after what I experienced at this race. Yes, you're racing and yes, you may be faster than me. BUT, I was racing, too. I paid the same amount to race as you did. Let's all get along out there - we're all doing it for fun, right?