If you were to poll every teenage boy as to what a "dream mountain bike race course" would be like, and you discounted all mentions of bikini-clad cheerleaders and trees made of marshmallows, they'd describe for you exactly the <a href="http://www.qcforc.org/races/sis/SIS_Course_2009.jpg">crazy course</a> of the Sylvan Island Stampede.
Instead of going to bed for some much needed rest before a 4:30AM wake up call, I researched the trail a bit, <a href="http://www.flickr.com/search/?ss=2&w=all&q=sylvan+island+stampede&m=text">flickr-style.</a> I learned very quickly that this race was not only on a very cool island in the middle of the mighty Mississipi, but one that once housed a <a href="http://qconline.com/progress2007/stories.php?id=327128">steel mill</a> and was littered with various concrete structures and bricks. But on Sunday morning, the sky opened up and spit down. This made the very technical course not only shiny and slippery, but basically covered in a sheet of instant diarrhea.
Sign me up for the novice race! Two laps? Four miles? Did someone say diarrhea? Oh yeah, that was me. After the lot being called "instant hardcores" by an official at the start, we were off! To be honest I was in no hurry. Sure, this was a race, but it is the first of the season, on a very technical single-track course, and indeed it was raining. I was going into this with the mentality of a Sunday ride. Hey, it IS Sunday. I just hopped into a space and kept the pedals turning.
Naturally the first lap of any single-track race is the hardest. There's always a group of people in front of you who underestimate the grade and terrain of the first steep hill, which will lead to a bit of a back-logged traffic jam. People are in a panic to un-clip and not fall over on to the jagged-rock grade.
This is when the downpour turned on. I was glad I wore my city-riding safety glasses as an attempt to deflect muddy splashes from blinding me. The course rolled over lumps and bumps and dumps and concrete and logs and branches and holes and gave birth to you by spitting you out between trees no more than 20-inches apart. It swooped and dipped and jutted and turned. Are you sick yet? I learned very fast to keep my muddy mouth shut and attempted to close my nostrils. I happened to be behind another lady, and she wasn't that great at climbs. The climbs on this course were short and abrupt and demanded 170 degree turns immediately afterward. The lady ahead of me had urged at least 3 times to "go on ahead!" but I told her my day's motto - "hey, I'm just out for a ride!" - and the line of men behind me apparently agreed.
We continued on. By about 3/4th of the first lap, the lady gave up and wiped out. The line of men and I lumbered on. There was no point at which you even got out of breath during this course. It was more of a mental challenge, with a side dish of a forearm workout - brakes were VERY necessary. I passed a few guys, some more passed me, we continued this and kept trading places and splattering mud on each other as if it were some friendly hug.
As soon as I was more alone and rolling through the 2nd half of the race, it went much, much easier. Now it was getting more fun. I kept an eye out for those marshmallow trees and just kept rolling. I was plowing over things that looked closer and closer to the end, and turned on about a matchstick's worth of heat. By that point we were finally out of the woods and on the homestretch to the finish line. WHEEEEEEEEEE!!!! I barked out my race number as I was instructed to do, and then skidded to a stop to blow some muddy snot rockets. Klassy.
So guess what a casual Sunday ride out on a cool historical island will get your pal Audrey? A quality "Novice 1st Place" medal. I somehow am good at being a beginner; a true muddy champion of being a novice.