Sloppy Kisser- Blind Date Finale’ 10/24/12

Ready for wet weather!

Rain, rain, rain….The wet has returned to Portland, OR and I’m ready for my last night out at Alpenrose Dairy. Tonight I dressed up special, wearing hot pink skull knee highs to match the hot pink leaders jersey that was gifted to me from race promoters Joe Field and Tony Kic on the first race of the series.

Double trouble warming up, Amy Rice and Mielle

Even though I had not earned the jersey by winning the series last year, they wanted me to have it as a token of appreciation for my support of their races. I was truly touched by this gesture and I wore it proudly.

The rain came down in buckets for the junior race and our once fast, dry course was transformed into a grease rink of danger as the last grey strands of daylight faded by the minute.

The view from Heather’s boot-muddy and wet

Racer turnout was a little smaller overall which is surprising considering how many people were complaining about our lack of rain as of late. Not this girl. I LOVE the dry, fast courses. But tonight would test my bike handling in a way I had not experienced since early summer mountain bike racing. The die hard racers showed up to battle for final points for a series podium. I camped out under the snack shack awning with my trainer, head tucked warmly under my new furry hat, and did my best to stay dry and warm. Toe spikes were required for my shoes this evening and walking the course I witnessed many racers slipping and sliding on what had previously been ridable realestate. Hey Beginners, invest in toe spikes. It will make your muddy run-up less frustrating.

Slippery when wet

Eight A women braved the unpredictable weather for one last dirty deed. Waiting in line up, a rider rolls up next to me in the darkness. Smallish with very short hair, unfamiliar face and kit, I did a double take to make sure it wasn’t just a guy in the wrong line. Then I hear a British accent escape from her lips as her friend comes to take her jacket.  Visiting UK pro mtn bike/cross racer Louise Robinson(Louise went to the Olympics in 2000 for mtn Biking) was indeed in the house and going to race with us. On holiday with her bike in tow, she was visiting from England. She also raced at the Cross Crusade race at Portland International Raceway (PIR) just days before, flying under the radar in the A women for a win and beat both of my teammates Alice Pennington(Kona) and Beth Ann Orton. Even at 47 yrs of age, this lady is an amazing racer. I had been pre-warned of this visit tonight by Beth Ann, otherwise I wouldn’t have known who she was.  Louise is racing royalty and I did my best to chat her up before go time. She did admit to no pre ride but I figured that was only going to help me out for about a lap and then I would never see her again. You know, because she is totally pro.

As we roll up to the orange cones and wait for the whistle, a dog runs in front of the group and everyone gasps knowing we are seconds away from the start. Having escaped her dog sitter, the hound has a seat in front of her racer owner, Heather VanValkenburg(Upper Echelon) in the front row. Race official Brian pulls the dog off course by the collar and then casually says, “Go”…. Wait, what!? Was that..? Uhh, Crap! Amy Rice (Lazy Tarantualas) and I start to sprint, but hesitate because we didn’t get a whistle. Then we just went. Amy went charging around the backstop into the gravel with me right behind her, Louise hanging close and the remaining ladies in a line behind us. The rain is slight as we round the sandy left hander and get out of the saddle over the chunky mud to the next turn. We went to the bottom of the parking lot and around the extra grassy, wheel sucking turns added to lengthen the course (avg. laps when dry 7). Rounding the corner and heading back up the road along the tree line to the off camber, Louise has pulled around me as we hit the side slope. It is so muddy that many have run this section. I slipped and hit the ground but popped right back up in my pursuit. Through the trees, our little bumps and punchy climbs require more effort in the wet but I am able to climb the short hill. Same downhill, off camber to the run up as in previous weeks. Still behind Amy and Louise, my toe spikes gave me extra traction charging up the hill.  The transition from mud to pavement next to the velodrome is treacherous and has already sent one rider to the hospital. Ride half way and run the rest where the path slopes up. Pavement to a muddy snot covered downhill and Louise goes down at the bottom just behind Amy. The gap is opening but I am just trying to manage my bike in this mess. No lap inside the velodrome tonight so I climb out of the saddle with my rear wheel kicking sideways to get up the slope to the barriers. Riding around the tree preceding the barriers was too sketchy so I ran it every time along with most of the men from other groups. After the gravel barriers, it’s pavement, out of the saddle through the old town and I can see my dirty daters on the infield as I enter. The S turns leading to the second set of barriers are very slick and I am trying to manage them without going down in the well worn ruts.

With each lap the gap opens a little bit more even though I have plenty of legs for the night, I feel like I am holding back in my cornering trying to stay upright. I am out running my other competitors with no one in sight behind me and the name of the game has become management. Fast boys are passing me but I can’t seem to hang on to any wheels. They simply take the sloppy corners at speeds I cannot. Laps are taking forever. Some racers decided this slop was not worth the effort and opted to cheer from the sidelines instead. Random voices call out to me in the dark, “Go Mielle!!”, “Good Job Mielle, Keep it up!” but I can’t make out any faces. The rain has stopped but I hardly noticed. Riding the off camber next to the parking lot each lap seems to be saving me time and taking the downhill before the monster run up with more speed feels like it is making up for my crappy cornering. I can hear Luciano over the loud speaker announcing where Louise and Amy are and by lap 3 Louise has taken off to ride her way up into the A men’s group, leaving Amy behind and me to chase. Coming into the soggy infield, I washed out in a corner, landing on my hip but no damage.

Downhill slip n slide after the velodrome two guys wipe out and crash into each other at the bottom, partially tangling up their bikes and leaving them to run the hill. I skirted around them but they were still able to run faster than I was managing to ride in the sticky stuff.

Chasing the boys after they crashed

DING, DING, DING!!!! One lap to go bell has sounded and I know I have one more sloppy mess of a lap in me. A guy passes me in before the descent to the parking lot and then slows down in the corner and I pass him back. I actually took this rocky, muddy section way faster and more aggressively than this guy and laughed to myself that I was “out riding” another dude. Once he got onto more level ground he passed me but I was happy at least some of my technical skills worked for me tonight. The leaders have only passed me once, which is another minor victory.

Amy Rice, UK Pro racer Louise Robinson and Mielle-PODIUM SHOT

Coming through the finish, soaking wet and covered in mud, I took 3rd, finishing my 5 laps (I told you it was a slow night) in 49:48. Amy crushed me with 2nd place at 46:57 and Louise won with a time of 44:14. I’m actually happy she only beat my by a little over 5 minutes. Amy and I tried to get Louise to extend her stay in Oregon through the weekend so she could race Halloween weekend in Bend but alas, she had to return home on Friday for work. She said the race was a lot of fun and she had been truly overwhelmed by the enormity of the PIR Cross Crusade race. She had never raced with so many people before. She also posed for a photo with Amy and I before bidding us good night and returning to her hotel room to destroy it with muddy bike and clothes.

If you have been tuned into my Blind Dating life for the 6 week duration, you will know that I have enjoyed dance parties, bad dates, dating related injuries, and even won some money. Now I can say I had a blind date with a famous person with a British accent. In the end, Amy won the series, I took 2nd overall and teammate Kim Matheson came in 3rd.

Even though my final Blind Date was a sloppy kisser, I still went home feeling satisfied. 

Photo credit: Scott Heinz

Thank you the Joe, Tony and all of your crew. And special thanks to Alpenrose Dairy for supporting this race series. 

Mielle, and Kim with promoters Tony and Joe

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