I like riding in rain and mud. Is that weird? My favorite mountain bike race last season took place during a thunderstorm. Of course, there were various elements that made it great, but it would not have nearly as good without the rain. At the end of the first lap, I was lollygagging around in what I believed to be the same no-man's-land I'd been racing in all season. Every race was just another interpretation of being 10 minutes back from the next place up and 15 minutes ahead of the next place back. It was the sixth race of the season and I was actually singing, "Fourth place is just another word for nothing left to lose..." in my head during my warm-up. However, at the end of the first lap I was caught by a girl who I'd only raced against once and a battle ensued as we headed into a barren rock quarry wasteland. Then thunder errupted and the sky let loose. It was all very primal: rocks, rain, epic battle with a worthy opponent, the kind of moment one races bikes to experience. In the end I was muddy, victorious (in fifth/sixth place battle at least), and one of the very few people not bleeding at the end of the race.
Yesterday's training ride was another rainy, muddy battle and I loved (mostly) every minute of it. I made another attempt at my 45 mile dirt road route and was much more successful this time. It was nearly 60 degrees and had rained all morning and about the first 90 minutes of the ride. This insured the roads were no longer icy, but I did have to hike-a-bike to avoid the flooded to section of road that I fell into on my first McGowan road ride. The hills were even more difficult without the ice, as the ground was so soft it made for major pedaling resistance. I did learn some lesson about choosing lines though: DON'T ride through the water on the flats and DO ride through the water on the hills. Meaning that the more eroded lines tend be firmer. Except the ones that run through foot-deep washouts, but you can see those coming from pretty far away.
After the McGowan hills, I headed into new territory that I really liked. It was really muddy. Grit in your teeth muddy. But it was a good time and good scenery riding through the Yellowwood State Forest. For a little while, I could see a stretch of singletrack running parallel to the road and it was very tempting to veer over and take it for a spin. Bad Lindsay! That's for the hikers! Don't worry, I kept to the road.
So the forested dirt road portions of the ride count as the good and the muddy. The bad is when I had to return to pavement. As the afternoon wore on, the temperature dropped and the already high wind picked up. The last third or so of the ride involves a lot of riding on unforested pavement. Once I got to that part, I was already at around 3 hours and decided to skip the last few dirt sections in favor of the fastest way home. It still was not very fast riding a mud encrusted mountain bike with a skipping chain into one of the strongest headwinds I've experienced in a long time. I finally made it home tired and cold, but very satified with my effort.