Or perhaps a better blog title post would have been "All carbed up and nowhere to ride..."
The forecast for the weekend in Mankato did not look good the last few days. Eventually, the forecast altered my plans to cut out the camping trip Tara and I were going to do. Neither of us were too excited to set up camp and get dumped on for 24 hours. So we changed our original plans from camping to driving up the morning of the race on Sunday. The forecast continued to look grim for what would promise to be a muddy race.
Minnesota and Wisconsin series both utilize a "race rain or shine" policy with possible course route alterations, and delays for safety in the event of lightening and severe weather. So I knew the race would be on and I knew that some sort of course would be utilized no matter what Ma Nature through at them.
In fact, I've raced Mt. Kata before in mud (as well as quite a few Minnesota events). Here I am racing in mud at Mt. Kato in 2010...
I was a bit shocked that day from the choice that we actually were racing in such slop when I saw it, but most of it was confined to the upper portions of the ski area where water had pooled. The sun was out, and the rest of the trail was able to be ridden and was not sloppy. And I've raced the Bone Bender in thick mud (had to DNF). Sugarbottom in terrbile mud (had to DNF). Duluth, Red Wing, and a couple of muddy slogfests in Wisconsin as well over the years. So I know mud and what it can do to the drivetrain, a racer's spirit, and turn an event into a survival of the fittest situation.
Back to this past weekend. I watched the weather radar with great interest and saw that Saturday, Saturday night, and early Sunday morning had nothing but rain hitting the Mankato area due to a cold front moving through the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. Having a nasty case of poison ivy that I got on Saturday doing trail work at Banner Pits left me with a swollen face, and arms that certainly gave me an additional itch. Pardon the pun, but I was itching to race to the point that I decided not to stay home on Sunday in spite of what I saw on the radar.
The experience at Red Wing last year where I drove up, sampled a great dry singletrack trail, spent the night, and then raced on a very muddy rain-altered route had me make the choice of saying "never again" for me. It's just too much work to try to clean the bike and do the maintenance to get it going again as the mud really can damage things. And the race itself is always a fight to keep balance and find a line with one muttering "why am I doing this" the entire time.
Here I was slogging it out at Red Wing in the mud last summer...
Here's my bike post Red Wing last year...
So it was that I packed the car on Saturday night, and left with my wife and daughter on Sunday morning for the drive to Mankato. It was beautiful driving up I-35 in Iowa with nothing but blue sky. That changed as we approached the border of Minnesota and hit the edge of the cold front. We discussed turning around at that point, but I consulted the radar and the MMBS Facebook page that said the race was indeed on! The rain started, and didn't stop until we pulled into the parking lot of Mt. Kato. In fact, there was lightening in the area just north of Mankato as we were approaching. It was raining, and racing was taking place with marathoners and CAT III's out on the course.
The parking lot at Mt. Kato ski area is usually full for this event at this time in the morning. However, it was barely 1/3rd full. Hmmmm.....had all of the wiser racers stayed home?
We walked over to the registration area and my wife and I discussed making an intelligent decision. I saw some racers stop and flip their bikes over at the lap turn area to clear mud out of their drivetrains in hopes of improving their mud clogged bikes. I saw racers struggling on the lower flat section with rear wheels spinning out (on flat ground no less!!!). I saw racers hiking the opening climb, veering off into the grass to find some traction and looking miserable. I saw racers standing around who had finished, pulled the plug, DNF'd, etc... .
I went over and talked to a marathoner in his pit who was taking a short break between laps. He and his bike were caked with mud. I asked how it was out there and he said terrible. Claimed he had to walk every hill it was so muddy. His advice: "avoid the mud". Too funny! His drivetrain, wheels, brake arch, chainstay were caked in mud preventing his bike from functioning very well. And it was sprinkling and raining with what seemed like no end in sight.
Even the racers in my category who were getting suited up and warming up on the paved bike path, gravel roads, parking lot, etc... were getting caked in mud and grit.
OK - that was enough information. I wish I would have judged better from a afar simply by combining my past racing experience and reading the weather radar, but c'est la vie. We were there and I had made the drive. The gals didn't really want to stand around in the rain for 2 - 3 hours waiting for me to slogfest myself and my bike through the mud.
I'm not really in favor of tearing up trails by riding in that kind of mud which is always the discussion for these race or rain or shine events that Minnesota and Wisconsin host - especially for all of us who work on trails and follow the IMBA Trail Rules which clearly has Rule #2 state:
Leave No Trace: Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Wet and
muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones. When the trail
is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on
existing trails and not creating new ones. Don't cut switchbacks. Be
sure to pack out at least as much as you pack in.
Well, people were leaving more than a trace. I snagged a couple of photos from the Facebook page of MMBS to show you the trace being left...
And a post race rider covered in mud...
My decision was made. I pulled the plug on suiting up to race.
We made a family decision to head over to the Mall of America and REI so that at least the trip was not entirely in vain. Much shopping was done, and consumption of food. Then we drove all the way home as the front with tornadoes, heavy winds, and rain of up to 6" moved through. Luckily, we were on the front edge of that and because it was at an angle to I-35, we stayed right at the front edge of it as it moved east 40 mph all the way home to Indianola. We felt like storm chasers watching the impressive mass of darkness move at us for several hours as we raced to stay in front of it.
Bike acing wise, I'll live to fight another day on the mountain bike with more favorable trail and racing conditions. I feel I made the right decision.
That's my "no MMBS#2 race report"...