Sunday morning we drove to the course and see that it is very, very wet. If the mud was peanut butter Saturday it had morphed into thick clam chowder Sunday. The ruts were gone, just about everything is a bog with some deeper than others. That downhill spot from the day before where you slowed to a stop was now a hub-deep watering hole. The course was laid out a bit differently, but not radically so, and the rain was much steadier. The thick mud from the day before was pulverized by the rain and racing, leaving a soupy but strangely fast course. Tires sunk straight through the mud to the hard pack ground below, providing much better traction and speed despite the deep slop. I coined the term "mud crit" and will be collecting royalties on its future use.
Shino had been declaring his season over the day previously, but did show up to race the Cs again on Sunday. Zank nearly bailed on his race but with some encouragement he was in the grid and ready to go despite the cold heavy rain. The preferred warm up for the day was to sit in the heated car until 5 minutes before the race started and then ride right to the staging area. Zank's race was great fun, and rather than sitting in the car to watch we got out there and cheered like lunatics for all the NE guys. I lined up on the right this time with Terry just behind for the master's race. The first lap was cold, wet, fast and absolutely great. This was a real race... where fitness and technique were equal contributors to one's success. The FMBs hooked up and the legs responded when asked. PNW guys seem to rest on the pavement sections, something I noticed on Saturday, so I took the opportunity to hammer there to create gaps. I saw Brant Hornberger just ahead doing the same: gapping guys on the pavement. The rain and wind picked up and the crowd was going nuts. My senses were firing like crazy: sounds, taste, smell and what little vision and touch I had left were taking in this whirlwind of information all while my CV system and legs were working overtime to keep me plowing through it all. Just then, a drum line started playing really loudly.... like I didn't feel I was on a battlefield already. At that moment this became an epic race. The drums were the coolest thing ever at a cross race and perfect given the conditions. This heightened the experience, and I was able to dig deeper into my personal pain cave to summon some more speed. Let me say that Chris Milliman knows how to cheer on a tired cross racer. Bravo and thank you Chris! This was the sort of race where you were either "all in" or justifiably unhappy and uncomfortable to be outside in this mess. With a lap to go I told the guy riding near me that we had a good gap over the next guy and that we shouldn't do anything stupid to take eachother out. I got ahead of him and stayed there for 24th overall, a good result in my book.
It took quite a while to warm up and get dry but we stayed to watch the elites as the weather got worse with really high wind gusts and more (you guessed it) rain. We had some beer with us but Chris and Tia brough more (yea!) and we had fun talking shop and playing in the mud. We ended the evening with a nice dinner out and flew home the next morning having left none of the PDX cross scene experience on the table.