Sunday was a day of realizations at the Cranky Monkey race at Wakefield Park. Warming up a little around the parking lots before the race, I couldn't tell how my legs were feeling, but thought I'd be okay. I had done an easy lap around Rosaryville the day before and was feeling pretty strong, and I was hoping Sunday would be no different. After feeling so tired during the previous Sunday's 90 mile road ride, however, I still wasn't too sure I was completely recovered after doing so well at the Iron Mountain 100K two weeks earlier. My mental state was somewhat of a wait-and-see at the starting line. My first realization of the day occurred about a 1/4 mile into the single track, as I was constantly braking so I didn't run into the guy in front of me. Realization: be more aggressive at the start and avoid being slowed down by riders less able to carry momentum through the turns and technical sections. After another 7 or 8 minutes behind this guy, I finally called out, "I've _got_ to get around you guy. Can I get a pass?" He was very kind and immediately pulled to the left to let me go around on the right. After that I was pretty quickly able to make it back up to some faster guys ahead of me.
The temperature in the woods wasn't too bad, but every time we came out into the open and the sunshine my core temperature quickly climbed to uncomfortable levels. The water stations then became not so much opportunities to hydrate as to douse my neck, back, and front with cold water. I was able to pass one or two competitors at the water stations on the second and third laps, as they slowed way down to collect themselves. The trail itself was in really good shape, with just a few slippery roots in some turns that had stayed damp. Except for those turns, I was able to rail everything pretty hard.
Starting the second lap I was surprised to see in the distance Evan going back into the singletrack at the end of the road section. I was doing better than I thought if I was able to catch even a glimpse of Evan. I also had my second realization about that time: yogurt, even if eaten 2 1/2 hours before the start of a race, doesn't make a good race day breakfast. Oh well. In the tight singletrack on the second lap I could tell I wasn't as fast as on the first lap, but my legs were holding up fairly well and I was able to keep close to the three faster guys in front of me, who I was later to learn were 4th, 5th, and 6th on that lap. I saw Tom Mackay had pulled out at one of the water stations, so that brought me closer to the front, and I also passed one of the guys I'd been chasing as he nearly stopped to take some fluids. It was then that I believe I moved into 5th place. John Claman bobbled the big (but shrinking) log-over in the woods, and I was able to slip by him for a while. But he had just been pacing the guy in 3rd, and at the first opportunity he went by to reclaim 4th, and shortly after that, 3rd.
Passing the timing tent to begin the 3rd lap I had another realization. I was getting beat up by the roots, and the core muscles around my middle were fatigued. I had chosen to use the rigid fork for this race, but I'm so much faster with the suspension fork, I really should just keep it on the bike during the racing season. I also soon realized that my gear choice was a little tall, as I wasn't really spinning out anywhere, and my legs were becoming fatigued from using more strength than a smaller gear ratio would have required. If I do this race again, it'll be with a suspension fork, and 34x20 or 32x18 gears. At this point in the race I decided that my goal now was to keep my current position. I was able to keep 4th place in sight, and we'd been passing the tail end of the expert classes fairly continuously since about halfway through the 2nd lap, so I new I hadn't slowed too significantly, and I couldn't detect anyone coming up behind me except for the 3 or 4 "sport" class racers that would pass me during the 3rd lap. So the 3rd lap was all about keeping it together and just keeping a good pace without blowing up. I succeeded in that, and finished the race in the same 5th position I'd held for most of the 2nd and 3rd laps.
All in all a fun race, and I had a good time. Next up, the Wilderness 101!