I didn't sleep well the night before. Thunderstorms rolled in to Wautoma, and, after hours of looking at the clock, I got up. I know what rain can do and was anxious to see for myself.
I noticed loose dirt had turned into paste. During my previous walk, I examined stones and root placement. Now everything had changed.
Ken with Trek had my loaner bike. I knew I was early; I hoped he was, too. I was in luck. My EX 9.9 carbon beauty was waiting.
It started to drizzle. Pros termed the course "greasy," something I hadn't encountered. I was used to sinking mud.
During the next 30 minutes, I attempted to feel comfortable with protruding roots, even off camber. I checked drop-off levels, because you never know when somebody may go down in front. In spite of preparation, things still can go wrong; the possibility of crashing is always present.
We were grouped for a mass start. For 30 seconds, we were united. This is commonality in its purest form.
There are two races: the physical race and the mental race -- where your head keeps tabs on your body.
Once I was out of the chaos, the panic subsided and I began to focus and believe this was my race to ride.
After the first shock of adrenaline moves into my fingertips, a quick assessment is made. How do I feel? Remember to drink and drink some more. Breathe. Settle down. Get going up this grassy climb! C'mon Lee, there are rocks coming; attack those rocks! Okay, here comes the ledge. Wow, that IS steep. Okay, you can hike it here for a second, now get back onto your bike! Settle in for an easy rolling stretch. Make up some time here and shift.
I am able to glimpse how sweet the trails are with the leaves and sun combining on a strobe-like effect. The first descent and the tingle of the "fear factor" kicks in. Do the straight shot down the middle. Keep your speed up. Do not hit the brakes! Phew! Clean and done. I know how to do it for the second lap.
The mud splashes up my legs. I don't mind, and at least I am sweating. Keep hydrated. For a few seconds, I joke with myself and wish I were 20 years younger so I could see the trail better. Maybe it's better that I can't!
It's time for an energy shot. I pop a chewy block of black cherry power in my mouth. My mind gives my body a rest. I am tired but feel great. I switch to the big chain ring and force my legs to gain time on the easier stuff before I begin the second lap.
More thoughts come. Am I strong enough to do another lap? You are going to have to dig and dig some more to get up those grassy hills again with all its mud sucking … wait … I feel somebody behind me.
"Hey, how ya doin'?" she asks. "Ha! Great. Thanks. Good job," I reply. I can do this … I know I can. I can't go back and tell the pros that I didn't finish. No way! It spurs me on to do another lap.
I finished in one hour and one minute. I marveled in appreciation at the thrill, the chance to ride a super bike, and having completed the race.one hour and one minute. I marveled in appreciation at the thrill, the chance to ride a super bike, and having completed the race.