I raced it as my second ever mountain bike race, and I had just moved from Junior Beginner to Junior Expert (there was no Junior Sport at the time). For those of you who have raced this race in years past, you probably remember the course: 10 miles with 1800 or so feet of climbing per lap. And I had to ride 3 laps (the same number of laps I later rode as a Pro). And I had barely ridden and had only raced one other race. I survived it. That's about all I can say. That, and that I finished 3rd, only because I was one of the few racers who didn't quit.
The race started off fast. I was able to get myself a front row start (finally) so I was in the mix right from the gun. After about 10 minutes, I had moved into 2nd place behind Andy Schultz, and was jockeying for position with Cameron Brenneman. When we hit the descent, I was able to put some time on Cameron, but then I hit a rock and partially rolled my front tire. Luckily, it had not punctured, so I was able to pull it back onto the wheel and inflate it with a BigAir, but I lost 3 places in the process. I caught back up to the guys who had passed me, but had to stop at the tech zone to get a now CO2 (I thought that I had used most of the BigAir) and to close my valve (I had forgotten to in the frenzy of re-inflating my tire). At that point, I was starting my 2nd lap of 3 and was in 5th place.
I remember very little of the 2nd lap except that it started raining and I was able to catch up to a few of the guys ahead of me on the muddy descent. As we started our last lap, I had moved up 2 spots (into 3rd) and was in a group with Jay Henry, Travis (not sure of his last name), and Cameron Brenneman, working to catch Andy Schultz, the race leader.
Jay Henry passed me part way through the third lap and put a bit of a gap on me, but once we hit the descent, I was able to catch him, and together we caught Andy.
The rest of the descent reminded me more of a cyclocross race than a mountain bike race. The descent was so muddy that all three of us had to run with our bikes on certain sections and ended up completely coated in mud. Fortunately, my Squirt lube held up beautifully in the inclement weather and my shifting stayed for the whole race.