Brittany tried a few tactics to get through the mud as cleanly as possible this weekend, but there was no escaping it whether you ran, rode or did a combination of both. She still managed a 5th place spot! Read more about the muck and fun!
Try it and see what happens.
I’ve said that two weeks in a row with very different results.
I’m typically very conservative during races. The old rule of “don’t try new things on race day” extends to technical obstacles and even so far as not deviating from a line or approach that seems to have been at least OK the previous lap.
Every year that I can remember Primalpalooza has had a section of baby barriers. Lots (if not most) people ride right over them. I’d never been brave enough to attempt it before, but this year I tried it in my warm-up. Not only was it doable, I found it remarkably easy! That little move saved me a ton of time in the race and ultimately helped me land a spot on the podium. I know I wouldn’t have been able to ride those barriers in years past, so it’s nice to have a tangible marker of skill progression.
This week at Cross of the North race 2 however, I had a slightly different experience. No barrier experimentation, but I changed up my approach mid-race. The race featured a long, slightly turn-y stretch of deep, sloppy, thick clay mud. During my warm-up, I’d muscled through the first corner without needing to dismount and was able to again power through the last bad corner. I wasn’t racing at that point—I was mostly just trying to keep mud out of my cleats and pedals before the race started. It was hard and I didn’t ride through it quickly. But I rode at least part of it, and for the rest of my warm-up I stewed on whether to try it during the race. Would it be faster than running or would it be better to carry my bike and not add twenty pounds of mud to the rims right before I try to accelerate up a climb?
The first lap, the woman in front of me dismounted and I was forced to brake, dismount and run. I passed at least one person and was closing down the gap on 3rd place, so running the entire long stretch seemed to be at least OK. I still felt slower than I wanted to be. By the time we came to that stretch on the 2nd lap, I was sitting in 3rd with a 12-year old close behind me. I again dismounted and ran the entire stretch. I opened up the gap a bit more, but was worried I was working too hard trying to sprint through the over-the-ankle deep mud.
The 3rd time through the mud pit I decide to change my tactic. I had a solid hold on 3rd place at this point, and it looked like 2nd place was fading a bit. My race-addled brain kept saying, “It’s rideable! Ride it! The sun is out, it’s warm—the mud is drying up and you can ride through it faster than you can run with twenty pounds of mud on your feet!” So I rode…until my bike just stopped moving and stuck in place. I awkwardly bailed off, un-suctioned the wheels from the slop, and clumsily dropped a twenty-pound heavier bike on my perpetually bruised shoulder. Then, I “ran” through the mud, gaining another several pounds on my feet. Back on the bike, and the mud-covered wheels refused to get up the hill without considerably more effort on my part. The 12-year old in 4th place had closed down the gap between us. I managed to stay in front for the remainder of that lap, but she and another rider came around me on the final lap (on which I reverted to my previous tactic of running the entire mud stretch), knocking me from 3rd to 5th.
I can’t say I that if I’d consistently run the mud I would have—without question—won a podium spot, but trying to ride it clearly and certainly did not help me hang on to that 3rd position. So, I guess you take chances and sometimes they pan out and sometimes they don’t.
Photo Credits: Ilavee Jones