Sunday I headed out to Columbia to ride the Marathon event in Cosmo Park. I rode this race last year under very different conditions. Even though it rained most of the morning before the race last year the trail was not muddy at all. Not so Sunday!
I rode the ol' hardtail, mainly because I was too lazy to do the the equipment changes I needed to do to run the tubed setup on the Genius. I think I would have been a bit faster had I done so. I haven't ridden the hardtail for a long time and I have gotten pretty used to the position and suspension on the Genius. Also I went down one time because I clipped my bars on a tree, this wouldn't have happened on the Scott as the bars are a few centimeters narrower. Oh well, lesson learned.
As for the race, I got through without any major issues. On the last couple laps the rear brake was making an awful racket and was dragging pretty badly. After I cleaned the bike, I could see some pieces were not where they are supposed to be. But, other than that, the gears were working and the air stayed in the tires.
The Marathon group was pretty small. Zach Brace and Zdenek were there and a few others I didn't know. I took the holeshot uncontested and tried to put the hammer down. I need the highend work so I was ready to sacrifice optimal pacing. I had a gap pretty quickly and just tried to keep the gas on. Unfortunately, towards the end of the lap I misinterpreted the course markings and did an extra bit of singletrack instead of gravel road. I probably added 30 secs to a minute on this little detour. After that the laps ticked off without incident, and I got in 7 laps when it was all said and done.
The course conditions changed throughout the race. The first lap offered the most traction, mainly because the trail hadn't been churned up yet. After the first lap, the uphills became considerably more slick although the rest of the trail held steady. The mud bog along the powerline got worse with each lap and required a ton of brute power to churn through. About halfway through my race it started to rain and the conditions changed again. The traction on the hills improved, but I think the course got slower as a larger percentage of the trail had a layer of mud that sapped speed.
For me tire selection was the key. The Maxxis Medusas were nothing short of magic. I am definitely going to try to find something equivalent for the muddiest CX races. If I had something like this at the muddy St. Mary's race I would have been considerably faster through some key sections.
For some other perspectives: Aaron Elwell, Dave Breslin, & Jon Schottler.