Today's Coburn stage [number 4 of the Trans-Sylvania Epic] started under drizzly skies after a night of rain. We all knew we were in for a treat (read: sloppy, wet mudfest). Interestingly, this same stage went off in similar conditions last year. Also interestingly, the race played out very differently - on the women's side anyway.
Last year, the start was difficult but not manic and the top seven women all rode together pretty much the whole day. This year, the race seemed to take off with guns blazing from the start. This stage is known as the road stage of Trans-Sylvania and is heaviest on the road mileage of all the days here. It sounds like the front of the men's race did stick together in roadie-style fashion but the women blew apart pretty fast. (Though I understand that Mary and Cheryl at the very pointy end of the front did ride much of the day together).
Due to a variety of circumstances this year (some that are awesome, some that are sub-awesome), I have not done as much road riding as I did prior to the Trans-Sylvania Epic last year. But my singletrack skills seem to have improved. Go figure - I brought a knife to a gunfight yesterday and landed third on the enduro stage on my hardtail. Well today I had a gun at the gunfight and I wound up fifth.
But the truth is, I am totally happy with my ride. Did I want to finish higher than fifth? Yes. But I left it all out there and I stayed motivated and hungry the whole day. On the stage I was dreading the most, that is a satisfying feeling. I dangled behind my teammate Vicki [Barclay] for the first 15 miles and even though the splits I was hearing weren't far to the lead women, without anyone in sight, it would have been easy to throw in the towel.
For me to stay motivated, I need to be happy. That's hard on a stage that didn't exactly excite me. I know some people need to get angry to race their best. Anger completely shuts me down. I had a chat with a guy here who goes by the name "The Angry Singlespeeder". I asked him why he's so angry. We were both suffering up a dirt road climb about 10 miles into the 40 mile day - both covered in mud with lots more to come. He said it's because he rides a singlespeed, so he's always angry. Fair enough.
I didn't feel particularly sparkly happy at the moment, but it did get me thinking about what motivates us to do these crazy things. I'm sitting here after I've showered and cleaned up. I'm slightly nauseous but know I need to force-feed myself more food. Every muscle hurts. My back and neck feel like they have been tightened with a vice. I have a toenail that might fall off. I won't even discuss saddle sores. And I'm sure pretty much everyone here at the Trans-Sylvania Epic can relate. But I'm still kind of excited about tomorrow. Whether you are fueled by happiness and smiles or anger and rage there is something about these torture fests that keeps us coming back for more. At the end of the day, the suffering fuels us all.