On Saturday before the Rock Cut Race - I had Megadeth on the headphones - listening to Symphony of Destruction on repeat for a few hours. I had ‘High Speed Dirt’ on repeat the most. It’s Dave Mustaine’s homage to the dirt bikers digging big air - “kissing the air!”. I got picked up by Joshua Peters the next morning at 7:15AM and he had the Misfits blaring already - this was a most welcome morning outing. The bikes were loaded, Josh and I grabbed the D&D boost and off we were to the highway to hell.

We caught up with fellow teammates along the way and all arrived relatively at the same time - Norton, Soupy, Stiggity, Graves, Ken, Ortiz, Heck, Grohman, and Francois - the xXx brethren were on task to destroy the trails and have as much fun doing it - and boy did we, even after seeking our own death wish on the mud trail. We all kitted up, we got spanky with it, and gave ourselves a 5 minute warmup - it was truly an MTBers arena to be in. There are no strategy talks, there are no trainers out, there aren’t even cold stares looking at other teams - that ain’t MTB. We were the jovial crew ready to kick your ass or have ours happily served back to us - we can take a licking as much as we love to give the kicking - and kick our teammates did.

The start line was a nervous air filled with some great guys to boot - the LaLalonde brothers were there and they were ready stomp goofy asses, we paid them no mind other than the joshful handshakes and finger pointings of ‘you go with your bad selves!’ - the Killjoy crew rocked out with Matt and Ben - and they were the shizzle to be hanging with. Half Acre had their crew rocking it out. Flatlandia lent a rider to the cause - it was crazy town in Rockford on April 20th! The start was counted off and I found myself right behind my bestest friend Dave Norton who was squashed at the beginning and cause us to make a slight backup - but then we hammered down the hill to the singletrack section - and there she was - the 1st mud bog. We hit it at 20mph at least - and the crap that flew when we hit it was simply, beautiful. Mud flew to the back of my throat, and I heard people gasp as they swallowed the darktastic earth as we all spun threw the mud to get hammering to the next climb. It took a match from my set as I couldn’t believe I was hammering in that lead group at this initial sprint. I saw all my teammates and nothing but a smile could emerge from my face - xXx was there hammering it up the hills and loving every minute of the hurt.

The mud was not peanut butter - it was soupy like my mama’s mole - thick and syrupy and sucked you in to soak with the chicken. It was craptastic. I rode through the next bog - only to inadvertenly burn another match I couldn’t afford to have done in the 1st place. I continued the wild eyed hammering - lungs screaming for reprieve, and my legs just pumping as if I bitched them out to do so under penalty of something more heinous - as if there was anything more heinous than how I pulled up those climbs trying to keep my sanity behind the likes of Ben, Parker, Norton, and oh, the LaLonde crew. I finished the 1st lap invigorated by Flatlandia rider Jason Meshberg - just cruised on his wheel and his kind push from when we jetted out from the singletrack onto the road leading to the lap mark - and it was there that I made a brutal mistake. I reached for my 2nd water bottle handout and instead - I batted it out of Steve’s hand (Alex Grohman’s dad!) and instead of doing the smart thing of turning back for it, I hammered on like the ghost fiend I was aiming to be.

Sooo…banking on the fact that the checkpoints would have water was a bad idea. Not knocking the awesome trail crew that were present to marshal the course (after all how can I be upset at them for my bad judgement!) - but there was no water present at the 1st two checkpoints I passed and I started to get really hot and even worse, I felt the legs start the twinge of ‘get liquid in your tummy, or we will rip ourselves off from your ass’ - so I calmed the pace, in the fear that I was going to seriously need to pace it to make it… a few riders caught up and two of them were teammates doing the 2 lapper - they rocked - great motivation to keep hammering - so I did, and then I felt the bonking cycle begin. I asked the next small group of 2-3 riders if they could spare some water - they did, small amount mind you and I’m ever so grateful they gave it to me. It was enough to help out and I was able to dissuade the delirium that was beginning to steep in my mind - my daughter was on my brain and she kept me calm and i churned that damned gear all the way back in through lap 3.

This lap I got my go juice - and I felt its great effect on the entire 1/4 of the beginning of the 3rd lap. I started picking up the pace again and feeling renewed again. Gulps of gel went down and some more water, and I was feeling like a new man again - unfortunately - the mud just kept burning my matches - and I found myself in the 3rd lap with an empty case of matches - all burnt out to the bottom of the pack - nothing but the smell of burnt cardboard and ash remained - and I felt the bonk hit. The lesson always learned too late, and one where we all know better - you can’t abstain from the bonk - it comes after you when you’re unprepared….I felt the back half of the 3rd lap just creep away as I my heart thumped calmly but the legs pumped weakly - when i exerted the effort, they cramped back with the reminder that they were in control and any faster spinning or energy output they would remind me with a painful twist to the inside of my thigh. But yet - somehow, the strength, the stamina and the energy converge - to finish my sorry ass across the line.

Muddied, blown up, and excrutiatingly rocked out of my mind - it was a relief to finish and know that I rocked the 3 lap against the cream of the crop - it was a great start to the season. And to ride back weakly to the car - you get greeted by your friends, the MTB hooligans, all with a beer in hand to tell you did awesome - we all did awesome, we are all rockstars.

Thanks to the Bonebell crew, friends, xXxers, Killjoy demons, and Half Acre Cycling for providing one helluva a reward for the rest of us. Mud and beer - sweet heavens.