I had thought about doing the Muddy Onion over the winter, but I got scared off by the 3,324 feet of elevation gain over 35 miles. Then last week the GRVL-XX Project still had some codes left for the ride, so I decided to do it anyway. I took a half day and headed up Friday afternoon. Packet pickup was fast and easy. I stayed at Betsy’s Bed & Breakfast. I’m not a huge bed and breakfast fan, but it was walking distance to Onion River Sports, and we could ride to the start without thinking about parking. There was a nice big porch to relax on, and the bed was comfortable. Best of all the orange pancakes they had for breakfast were fantastic. There was also a resident cat and dog, and an adorable tuxedo cat mooching attention outside. Outside cat was hard to photograph because they where too interested in rubbing against my legs and bike.
This was my first non-race/non-shop ride bike event. I really didn’t know what to expect. The first thing I noticed was the huge variety of bike’s and body shapes present. I also noticed by the way everyone racked their bikes that there weren’t many triathletes in the crowd. (Top tip… you can fit more bikes on a rack of you alternate which way the bikes face. The racks got much fuller as people started showing up, and again after the ride.
I had started the morning out with arm warmers and clear lenses in my glasses. Of course being spring in New England the sun promptly came out and I got too warm, so I rode back up to the B&B and ditched the arm warmers and went to darker glasses. Coincidentally the hill was on E. State Street along the route. I actually felt slightly less anxious after riding up it once because it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.
I seeded myself at the back of the starting area and anxiously awaited the start. I’m not sure if there was any pre-race talk because I couldn’t hear it back in my spot.
The ride starts uphill. Going uphill with 400 of your closest friends is an interesting experience. People where generally well behaved, and I didn’t see anything too sketchy. Things started to break up more slowly then I expected, probably because there were just so many people around. After a short stint on pavement we got into the dirt roads. The roads where in really great shape. I’m definitely glad I went with the Vittoria Cross XN Pro II file treads vs my knobby Challenge Griffos. There were a couple of rougher loser freshly graveled section, but mostly well packed smooth surfaced dirt. There where some rollers along the road( like mini pump tracks?), one or two ruts, and a couple of muddy spots. I was pretty cautious defending since I didn’t know the roads, and things were pretty steep. My hands got tired on a couple of the longer descents from riding my breaks. The organizers did a good job putting up reminders to stay on the right side of the road, and caution signs if the road conditions warranted it. The course was marked with little orange signs with arrows on sticks. I was never really alone and I’m not sure I payed much attention to the signs. The only place where things could have been improved was a downhill leading in to a left hand turn. I would have missed the turn if I didn’t see people turning up ahead of me, and some folks behind me did miss the turn. Their friends had to yell to try and get them back. Looking on the route map I think it was the turn from Marshfield Rd to E. Hill Rd.
I didn’t have any real goals for this ride, but I was kind of hoping to do the whole thing without walking up the hills. I didn’t succeed at this goal. The first hill I walked was a silly mistake. I didn’t realize I was in the big ring. I walked a couple others because my hips and back where not too happy with life. I had packed my Ridley Crossbow, which I love, but I’m staring to realize its not too comfy on long rides. I probably should have gone with my heavy Surly Cross Trek. It would have been more comfortable, and it has a triple. I haven’t been riding the Surly much, so I was hesitant to take it. Another fun fact, I recently played with my saddle position on the cross bow. A couple of rides ago I wound up with a hole in my bibs after a ride. (I fell in my last race of the season and knocked the saddle out of whack and never fixed it satisfactorily.) I thought it was from my saddle bag and I fixed the problem. Turns out it was actually from my seat post clamp and I put another hole in another very expensive pair of bike shorts on this ride.
The aid stations had the promised bacon and maple syrup shots. Plus there where pickles, cliff bars, and vermont meat sticks… think high quality slim jim. I had bacon and maple syrup at the first stop. I should have also eatten one of the rice cakes in my jersey pocket. My stomach wasn’t supper happy with me for a little bit after this stop. Not really GI issues, just not happy.
I went back and forth with Oscar and the Cookie monster for much of the ride.
The second aid station actually had grilled PBJ sandwiches along with most of the items from the first station. I was pretty beat by this aid station. I sat down for a longer then I intended and had a bit of a rest while I enjoyed my PBJ and pickles. Everyone said there was really only one more hill after this aid station, but I knew they where lying.
There were a few impromptu rest stops in the last 10 miles. Some water and snacks in the back of a pickup truck. Probably leftovers from the first aid station. After two more steep hills and a few less step hills I finally hit the long downhill into town. I didnt’ stick around for two much of the post race fun. I had some food. I think I had some chips, coleslaw and a veggie burger. I already took and topped up a bun before I realized the options were veggie burger or grilled chicken thighs and legs. I had a can of generic coke too. I didn’t notice any deserts, which is often the case at these things. I was also quite slow, so it could be any sweets were gone by the time I finished. Luckily there was a donut cart near by.
I’m glad I went up. Before the event I was worried about doing the entire ride by myself because I’m not very fast. I was actually with people the entire time. I went back and forth with about 10 people for most of the time. I was not well trained for this event. The distance would have been no problem, but the 3K+ of elevation killed me. I wish I had done some more hill work and some much longer rides to get a better base for the event.