Having achieved a little success the prior Sunday, I had some hope for a good result at Pats Peak. That was my first mistake, expectations. I watched the weather all week, as always. I anticipated that the course would be muddy. I knew the single track could be slippery. I figured the race would be a long steady slog. But expecting a heavy course and excelling on it are two different things.
The Pats Peak XC race was my 4th time riding my mountain bike this year, Yes, 4th time, All year. My sprained wrist has kept me entirely off the mtb bike until a week ago. So my single track skills, which are never great, are pretty rusty this season. No worries, its just going to be a race of attrition, and I'll just plan to run a bunch. I run pretty well with a bike. So it'll be fine, right?
I lined up on the front row to try and defend my podium finish last year. I told myself not to take the hole shot, but just follow wheels for the first half lap. Letting the hole shot was no problem. Even getting a solid clip in the best I managed was 4th wheel heading past the tech zone. Into the woods I felt pretty solid. Then on the first slippery exit the rider ahead of me biffed and I came off. I remounted and slotted in three more spots down. In the next single track section, the same thing happened. Only now I am at the back of a line of a dozen riders and feeling angry. I was not happy to be tail gunning a muddy xc race. For the rest of the lap I lost my cool. I ran around guys every time it got slippery. I burned up extra energy chasing up the hill. I managed to work my way up to 5th spot or so by the middle of the 2nd lap. But I just about used all my mental energy to do it.
And then the wheels came off. The single track on the far side of the course was slippery after 24 hours of rain. I managed to slip off rock wall crossings twice. Each time I jammed my sprained wrist and howled in pain. I only lost one spot, but felt less than confident about racing hard the rest of the course. I should not have worried. Just as I was about to start the fast dry-ish descent to the finish my front wheel popped. I had torn a hole in the side wall on a small rock. I tried to air it up and get the sealant to hold. No luck. The valve stem was stuck in the rim as well. So I started running, I mean how many spots could I loose in a 1.5 miles to the finish? The answer is 7. Yes, 7 guys cruised past me while I was hoofing it to the line. I finished, one off of DFL, but I finished.
So the leasons are, 1) don't race injured if you have a choice. I'm sure I set the healing of my wrist back three weeks. 2) don't race angry and waste energy. 3) don't race slippery singletrack when you haven't been riding any single track. There is always another race, another day.