Friday, November 16, 2012

Playing in the Mud

Yes, that's Plymouth Rock in the background
 With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it's always a good time to visit Plymouth. OK - so typically all we get to see is the race venue, but it's still fun to go and visit!

The Mayflower II
To this point in the season, Mike had already done 10 weekends of double races (I skipped Providence, so had 9), and we were getting a bit race weary. Thus, we decided on just one day of racing at Plymouth this year.

Due to construction, the race course was starting from the Middle School instead of the usual high school. I liked the new venue - it afforded better viewing opportunities for spectators, and easier access to the course. I was also excited about the weather - it was sunny, not too warm or cold, and dry. Or was it? When we arrived, we got the lowdown on the race from some friends, including a warning about the "ankle deep" mud run. "How bad could it be?", I wondered... BAD is the answer!

Ankle deep, shoe sucking mud
I went out for a pre-ride and LOVED the course. Complete sections were redesigned from years past, and the course was more of a technical challenge with lots of off camber ups and downs, a nerve-wracking downhill into a VERY sharp, sandy corner and lots of power sections sprinkled throughout. And of course, the mud. I opted not to pre-ride that section of the course, but did get a look at the entry - just not a close enough look at the actual run up.

I had another infamously BAD start. I think there are two reasons for this: 1 - I have two pairs of shoes and I believe the cleats need repositioning on the mud pair; 2 - I am afraid. Yup - fear. The start at Plymouth was a long straight into a reasonably tight and fast corner, into another straight before a dog leg off the pavement to the left, and the entire thing was lined on both sides with metal fencing. I do not want to crash, and I have determined that I let this fear get the best of me...

Once we were onto the more challenging part of the course, however, I started to move ahead, first avoiding the pile up on the first uphill. Unlike some of the women in the field, I was able to cleanly ride all of the off camber up and downs (some were actually running these sections). Going into the mud section for the first time, I managed to enter with some pretty good speed, and carry my momentum all the way to the bottom of the hill - where it was a soup bowl. Literally ankle deep mud at the bottom, and every step up the hill had me worried about losing a shoe. It was definitely a slog.

I managed to progress pretty well through the race by keeping steady power. In the fourth lap, I caught and passed Melissa L - one of my main nemeses this season. I was pretty psyched about this, and given the gap I could see, knew that just riding clean would keep me ahead for the final lap of the race.

Once in the final lap, I also started catching Jessie D. She went into the mud pit, and I followed right on her wheel, but keeping the same line I had used the entire race - all the way to the right, where the branches were smacking me in the face. Suddenly, I heard the sound no one EVER wants to hear - a stick - in my bike. I stopped immediately, not wanting to rip my derailleur off. I quickly got off the bike and pulled the stick, and nothing. Then the panic set in - Jessie was going clear, and here came Melissa. Thankfully, I heard Gewilli calling out instructions, "Stay calm", "Get it clear, you have time." "Good. Now pick up the bike and RUN!". I am so grateful to him for keeping me calm in what was a pretty panicked situation!

Unfortunately, I was now chasing Melissa again, and given the gap, was unable to catch her before the finish. Still happy with the race though - except for the start and that darned stick :). I later told Bill S (the promoter) that this was the hardest Plymouth course I had raced - and we've been racing Plymouth for seven years now.

Sunday was a fun day of riding with the boys and eating WAY too much lasagna! It was nice not to have to pack up, get in the car, and travel somewhere to ride the bikes. At this point in the season though, a 3+ hour road ride just about killed me!

Looking forward to some more solid racing this weekend. Back to two days of fun on two wheels.

1 comment:

gewilli said...

I just happened to be there checking the mud section, saw the stick, saw you get off and try and take it out. And then when it didn't come out I saw the body language change, the rest was just instinct.

Plymouth day 1 was indeed my favorite ever, and yeah I've been there for a few years too. Favorite day of the weekend.