I only went over my bars once today. I know, so disappointing. We did, however, see a rattlesnake.
Stage 3 is about patiently climbing for 20 minutes, then waiting in line to wet your pants for 4 minutes. The stages were about the same as last year - in (at least my opinion) ascending order of "man, I wish I ordered that dropper post last week."
The first is smooth, fast, and corneriffic. Until you hit the bottom, at which point you will suffer greatly if you remain overgeared. I was rolling with fellow New Englanders PJ and Noah, and we all had about the same plan for the day - go slow up the hill, don't die on the way down.
Of course, on our first run, both PJ and I forgot that our glasses were still on our helmets, resulting in a fair amount of cursing and one-handed corner-blowing.
The second section is more or less a straight run down the mountain, the first half being almost dead straight and rutted, the second half (following a hard left turn) almost dead straight and rocky.
I was really starting to enjoy this. I even tried to throw a little flavor over a wheel-height log jump. Which, to my lasting relief, had no witnesses.
The third enduro is my favorite. Super technical, turny, rocky, steep - but all manageable on a 100mm travel XC weenie bike.
So of course that would be the one that suplexes me through a table.
I was following PJ (he takes good lines) at a reasonable distance, confidently boosting through rocky corners and avoiding the occasional jettisoned waterbottle. PJ went hard through a corner, laying his bike down to hook up and carry speed. I followed suit, except I caught the edge of a barely visible, head-sized rock.
It isn't every day that you have enough time in the air to think about how much it's going to hurt when you land. I sailed over the trail like a cinderblock shot out of a cannon, ragdolling into another patch of Pennsylvanias pointiest rocks.
Barely registering my species-defying moment of flight, I was back on my bike before Noah passed me. I assessed the damage at the bottom of the trail: a few bumps and scrapes, and one fingernail unlikely to make it through the week.
Bike was, somehow, ok.
Off to the next one. Which is appropriately named "Wildcat."
Though it might be more appropriate to name it, "A wildcat high on angel dust, wearing an activated shock collar and zipped into your sleeping bag."
The trail is - more or less - two near-vertical fall lines peppered with large rocks that occasionally move. And, somewhat more worryingly, fellow racers who don't.
Once you commit, all you can do is hang on and offer tentative suggestions to your handlebars. You are in a constant mathematical war, with gravity, friction, inertia, and reaction time all simultaneously trying to divide by zero.
I passed another rider in an impossible space, my blank-eyed panic wormholing me through their bike and body. I was deposited on a line that I can only describe as "crushingly incorrect" causing a combination of reflexive braking and oversteer that tossed my rear wheel high in the air.
There is no good reason why I shouldn't need a mouthful of new teeth.
But I pulled out of it. Somehow, with all the grace of a cruise ship running aground, I made it to the bottom intact.
One to go.
I approached my last task by making sure my glasses were off my helmet, my shocks were not locked out, my dropper post was - uh - dropped, and my head was safely nestled between the cheeks of my ass.
Because I managed to bungle just about every possible inch of that trail. I was an avalanche of badly-directed body movements, a human flood of molasses.
Worse, I had "Panama" stuck in my head. Again.
Truth be told, I'm never too excited to race on that stuff. I love riding it, especially on a more practical bike (or someone elses bike), but in the context of a seven day race, I use today as recovery and fun hang-out time. That's one of the great things about this race: you got different strokes for different folks. Also, watching Cody blitz down Wildcat wide-open and butter smooth is impressive - a comical contrast to me wandering down like a toddler lost in a ball pit.
Today went well enough: I'm mostly whole, my bike is functional, and my legs feel good.
Which is fortunate, because tomorrow is going to be haaaard.