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Turkeys and rabbits and mud - oh my!

I have to wonder, what the large flock of turkeys was thinking Wednesday night. After all, it was wet out and still spitting rain at times. What on earth were these mountain bikers doing? Usually the trails would have been deserted at that time of day under those conditions. It would have been safe for them to take the easy route - aka the trail - to their destination.

But this was no ordinary Wednesday night. This was July 8th, and it was the night of the Ascent Cycling Series Short Course at CMSP. Andy had spent all afternoon updating the anxious riders as to trail and race conditions and those who opted to show up for the race were in for a treat. Not because the trail was challenging and rocky and technical - far from it. The course we used for this race was about the easiest course we could do in CMSP. But that turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it was also (surprisingly!) the course that handled the moisture from earlier in the day the best. Instead of loose, gravely off cambered corners, it was tight and tacky. There were only a few spots of really bad mud and the number of riders that showed up turned the muddy spots into smooth pavement.  We had two mandatory dismounts - one right at the start of the lap for the crossing of the Sundance river and one near the end of the lap at the Zook creek. Nick tried to ride the both on his pre-ride and almost made it. Not I. I'd worn my wool socks for a reason - I just hadn't know what it was at the time!

Small starting fields did not mean the competition was any less fierce. As the lone women in the race, I started with the singlespeed men - with Nick. Of course, my goal has always been to one day beat him in a race. Perhaps today? Not with the kind of start I had... a little slow off the line and completely in the wrong gear. I was in dead last at the first mandatory dismount river crossing, but slowly starting to work my way up into the tail end of the singlespeed racers. Nick's orange helmet was just head of me and I set my sights on trying to catch it. The good news was that if I tried and failed and blew spectacularly there would be no risk involved. Just pride. I'd moved up well in the race as we hit Zook. Of all the trails we rode during the race, Zook was the only one that didn't hold the rain well and there were some definitely muddy spots. Two ridable creek crossing and the one dismount zone. Roland was back - at the dismount and it was great hearing him cheering everyone on.

Just before the exit of Zook on that first lap, with no one separating Nick from me. At least that's what I thought! I came around one corner and a big fat rabbit was sitting in the middle of the trail. He slowly, leisurely hopped away, giving me a look of disgust. Rabbits... And then I cleared the next blind corner. Right into huge turkey, surrounded by 7 little chicks! Just strolling up the middle of the trail, not in a hurry at all. It would have been hilarious and there would have been plenty of photos had I not been racing. As it was, I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting one of the little ones. When I saw the second adult and her chicks on the next pedal stroke, I couldn't help but squeal and start giggling like a fool. They were just so danged cute! Cute didn't help with moving off the trail though....

I must have squealed pretty loudly because both the USAC officials were laughing at me when I started my second lap. The turkey delay was enough to wrest me from full-fledged race mode. I was still riding hard, but being a little more cautious about sliding around the slick corners. The trails were still in really good shape, but the mud was getting slick. Add in another rain squall threatening to unleash upon the park and it was getting dodgy. I was fully expecting to get pulled when I came through to start my third lap because of the increasing rain. But we had as a group deciced to race three laps and so out I went again. Many of the Cat 2 racers had stuck around and had congarated at the Sundance river to heckle. It was a great place for it! Either take the slow way and try to keep feet dry or run right through the middle. I opted for right through the middle all three laps. Wool socks...

Lap three was tricky in spots for sure. The added moisture from the rain was almost enough to take the sticky mud and turn it to soup. Not quite though and we were still riding a thin strip of now wet pavement in the middle of the soft trail. You didn't want to get off that strip of packed in trail though - to do so would be to invite disaster! Zook was the worst of the wet trails as I knew it would be and there was a nice little stream running through the middle of the trail just before where Roland was still standing. On my third lap, I finally got the cyclocross maneuver down to make that stream crossing look pretty. Of the entire race course, the only spot that was bad at all was that short little section between the creek crossing and the east end of Med Wheel on Zook. There were a few more ruts then I would have liked in that section.

I never did catch Nick.  I did have my closest finish behind him this time though - only three minutes off his time. Not bad , but that means I still have some work to do! One of these days.....

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