I haven't "raced" in a very long time. I can't remember when I last lined up in a start pen surrounded by hundreds of other riders but Sunday was the day. I received a complimentary entry to the Honda Mountain Trophy Adventure race. A whole 45km! But remember, I haven't been on my bike for several weeks and almost all of my riding over the last year has been at coffee ride pace. The rain had bucketed down in the night and the going was wet and muddy. But I had a secret weapon. Left over from the MTN Panorama Tour were some sachets of USN's Anabolic Nitro. These are guaranteed to give you explosive energy and going by what the riders in the Tour's time trial said, it works. So it was with a bit of trepidation, I glugged down some of the stuff 30 minutes before starting. We stood around in the pen chatting and reminiscing and eventually we were off. I felt good. I passed people. Then we hit the jeep track and I passed people on the left (I don't why they were all in a polite line on the right). Then I started passing the people from the stage race who had started 5 mins before us. Then I hit mud and grass and I heard my rear wheel start to whine as it all jammed solid. At the top of each steep rise (which was a quick push), I tried to poke out the solid mixture but was hurrying to keep my place which I think was at least the first woman. I was conscious of the need to free the wheel else my legs would take more of a hammering than they were already. Eventually I was crawling up a hill feeling like I was in my big ring and I realised I would have to take the time to do it properly. So with a lot of prodding, digging in of fingers, I eventually got rid of the mess but by now I had lost interest. Returning the same way we left, I made the silly error of changing lines on a rocky, muddy downhill trying to pass a "girl in pink". Thump - I hit the deck. Luckily it was more damage to the ego but I have a beaut bruise on my thigh. It was now 12km into the race and I was bored. I was sore and the guys dressed warmly on the other side of fence made for far more interesting conversation than the slog. But "girl in pink" remained just in front and, I reasoned, I had a comp entry so should at least respect that. On we went. Bumpy grass firebreaks along the fence and a few brown buck in the distance. Not the most inspiring. Then we turned out the reserve and had a quick downhill. I had lost sight of the "girl in pink" when I stopped at the waterpoint but I figured she wouldnt be far. A quick downhill section on a blessedly smooth dirt road and we hit another dirt road which was all too familiar. It was a section that we had ridden often on our Magaliesberg rides when preparing for Freedom Challenge and also for years before that. I knew where we were and what to expect. Against the odds, I had good rhythm going up the hill and encouraged some riders explaining about the long downhill to come. Big Ring finally. I put my head down and cranked up the speed. Everytime I looked back, I could see a train of riders behind me. Didn't they know I was a long slow rider?? Clearly not. We blew past "girl in pink" like she was looking for parking and eventually, I left my train behind as well. Bizarre. But now it was slog time again and I was mega hungry. Being out of race and long distance practice, I had no bars or snacks. Eish - what a mission to get home with slurpy mud which hugged your wheels and slowed your speed dramatically. I caught up with another girl (this one I knew) so I shamelessly sat on her wheel recovering although the effort of riding in the soft squelch was a killer. Eventually I chose a better line and also left her behind. Now I was tired. But I could see the entrance to Maropeng and the finish. No, no, and again, no! Do race organisers not realise what a mistake it is to bring the riders close to the finish and then send them on an arbitrary loop around crap grassy riding for no other reason than to add distance! It is such as basic mistake. The extra loop around the perimeter fence was bloody awful and added no value at all. I was seriously grumpy and sore when I finished. A very respectable 3rd lady and with my stoppages for mud, not that far behind in riding time. I was suitably impressed but also very surprised. Apparently I was fairly hyper when I got home (several hours after the event as I was socialising) and the conclusion was the unbelievable performance of the USN Anabolic Nitro. Because it can't me be me - I just haven't got that kind of talent nor fitness! Hmmmm. Looking back, I really enjoyed riding hard and pushing. So I reckon a few more shorter races had better be on the cards but with a bit more training inbetween.