I lined up in the second row, behind some Sport 19-29 guys. At the whistle, the two guys in front of me went out really fast, and I went right with them. The course starts out through some fields and wide open trail before it goes to singletrack. This year, the sledding hill was not part of the course, so there weren't any trail features to string the pack out before we hit the singletrack. I found out later that somebody locked up his brakes in the field section (!?!?) and that did spread the group out a little as people were trying to avoid him. I did wonder at the time why no one was coming around me; I'm not usually that fast at the start.
From then on, I just kept plugging away (and hoping for a mechanical to put me out of my misery). I felt pretty bad for most of the race, but I rode OK. My technical skills have definitely improved. Last year, there were some sections of this trail that tripped me up, but I didn't have any real problems this year. I did crash once on my last lap. My front tire just washed out in a sandy corner and down I went.
From about the halfway point until the end, I was basically riding with just one other guy. I wasn't sure if he was in my age group or not, but I decided to assume that he was to make sure I kept going hard enough. He was a little quicker on the tight singletrack, but I was faster on the climbs and open sections, so we kept switching positions. As we were heading back to the cricket field for the finish, I put in a last gasp effort and dropped him. (I talked to him after the race, and, no, he wasn't in my age group.)
I ended up finishing 4th out of 11. I was really shocked by the result. For as bad as I felt during the race, I expected my result to be a lot worse. That being said, I wasn't very close to the 3rd place rider; I was almost 6 minutes back! There was a decent gap behind me, another 3 minutes or so to the 5th place guy. I suppose it was a good race, given my current fitness and that it was only my 4th time out on a trail this year.
(Photo from John O's blog.)