I survived. That's the best way to start this report. Probably the worst conditions I've dealt with since I started mt biking last year. This was only my second race ever.

Arriving at 9 am, I had plenty of time to pick up my number and pre-ride the course. After picking up my registration stuff, I headed back to the car to kit up. To my surprise I heard my name being called and met two other xXx members behind me. They introduced themselves to me as Mark and John. Great guys! Very encouraging and made me feel like part of the team already!

The three of us headed out to check out the course. The trails were a little slick but firm. Not bad at all. My legs were getting warmed up and my nerves calmed a bit. Also, made me feel good to hear the nice compliments from the guys behind me on my riding style. Thanks, guys!

So, we went to line up for the CAT-3 race when the heavens decided to open up. Heavy downpours with pretty intense lightning postponed the start for about a half hour. We all huddled under one of the picnic shelters until the rain let up. They called us to the start. Seriously? After all of that rain? Anyway, in my haste, I left my riding glasses and gloves on the picnic table. Stupid. I realized it about 30 seconds before the women's division started. Oh well, live an learn.

There were about 10 women total, all over 30 years old. We started behind the men's Cat 3s. All I kept thinking was how bad the trails were going to be. I was right.

The first lap consisted of a lot of stops as people were piling up in the corners and walking the hills. I got past the slower mens riders (who started a minute ahead of us) and finally got some open space. Man, was it slick out there! I caught the first two girls ahead of me and stayed on their wheels for the first half of the race.

Then lap 2 happened. As I was descending into the rock garden across the creek, my wheel slipped to the left and I nailed a log and performed a lovely dismount over the bars. After pulling the weeds out of my bike and myself, I realized my bars were twisted to the left. I yanked the bars back in place and tried to get up the hill but my drivetrain was so caked in mud, I couldn't shift! Great. Meanwhile the number 4 rider passed me. After slipping and sliding on foot up the hill, I attempted to clean out the mess that was my drivetrain. I managed to finally get it shifting and it cleared out a bit. Lap 2 almost complete and I was thinking "I have to do that again???"

I sucked it up and pushed on to the grass flats near the start, passing the rider who had passed me earlier. One more lap. I can do this. By this time, the field had spread out and I had clear riding ahead and behind me. My goal at that point was to make it through without another wipeout. Smooth and steady was tough with 6" ruts and roots and rocks slippery as ice. I made the turn out of the singletrack and saw the finish line. Hallelujah. I pushed forward, keeping a steady pace as I noticed there wasn't anyone around me. Finish line. Yay. What a mess!

Mud was caked into every part of my bike and me as well! Mark told me I finished 3rd which made my day. Found out later that only 5 of us finished on the lead lap. Several DNFs and the other riders who were almost a lap down completed only 2 laps.

This was a race that taught me to persevere and not give up. I so wanted to stop after that second lap but I think wearing the xXx kit gave me that extra incentive to finish.

All in all, I'm very happy with my 3rd place result!

I'm not sure if the mud is ever going to come out of my kit, but we'll see.

Special thanks to Ken, Mark and John! Glad to meet some teammates!

Brenda Culver