What a muddy mess it was. And that was just in the Start/Finish area.
The race started at 11 am on Saturday under cloudy skies. It wasn't raining then, but there had been some rain overnight which, combined with all of the rains over the last few weeks, meant that the trails were fairly saturated.
I was in the field where the race started, and just after that I headed out to walk the route backwards. I walked up Saddle trail to the top of the ridge. I noted that it wasn't muddy there, but that the leaf cover on the trail was still intact at that point. It wouldn't take too many tires going by to change that, and reportedly, it didn't.
I stood at the top of Saddle for a long time, waiting for everyone on their first lap to go by. There were a couple of guys out there who were riding one lap on a tandem, so I had to make sure I saw that. I'd planned on getting a lot of photos, but light scattered light rains came along, and MG called me and wanted to talk for about 10 minutes, so I didn't end up getting a whole lot of shots up there. I did see the guys on the tandem, though.
After that, I continued on walking the route in reverse, policing the trail a bit as I went along (straightening out some markings, picking up a front fender, finding someone's race number...). I stopped once in a while to try a shot or two, but it just wasn't working out with the occasional light rain and the poor lighting conditions in the woods (and I don't think it's a good idea to hit racers with a flash in their eyes - unlike at least one other guy I heard about).
I ended up following the course all the way to the top of the Hill of Truth, which was maybe about half of the way around, and then turned and headed back to the Start/Finish area to hang out with everybody instead of wandering around with a camera and not taking very many pictures.
I had originally planned to head back out into the woods to try taking some long-exposure shots to get some light trails from the racer's headlamps, but by the time it got dark enough the rains started up a little harder than before, so I just stayed put. I did end up giving Jay a couple of breaks by taking over the scoring briefly.
The race itself ended up looking a lot like a war of attrition. Several teams ended up dropping out early, even before dark. By the time it had been dark for an hour I would guess that only half of the racers were still going. It had to be miserable out there. It was wet, it was muddy, and it was getting colder. Sometime around 9:30 or 10 pm the clouds parted and the moon came out. The bad thing was that the clouds had helped keep the temperature from dropping very fast. So it got cold quickly then, though I was at least prepared for that.
I saw riders come in with so much mud you couldn't tell what color their clothes or bikes were supposed to be. One guy came in with mud, grass and leaves trailing from his rear derailleur almost touching the ground. As people started leaving across the evening the camp area around the Start/Finish began to resemble dark brown peanut butter. Several cars and trucks lost traction and had to be pushed out. I saw ruts about 8" deep out there. I was happy that I had parked over in a gravel lot further up the road.
The race ends at 11 pm, but that only means that racers aren't allowed to start a new lap after that time. The last rider out had left at about 10:50 pm, so we had to wait until she got back near midnight before giving out the prizes (since the team she was on did place in the top three in their division). I helped with that, then helped break down the PA system, and then left.
I had planned way back in September that I would camp out with everybody else that night, and had left enough gear in my truck in Knoxville to do it. If it hadn't rained so much, I would have. Instead, I headed back to my truck, got out with no problem (and no mud), and went back to the house to sleep in a warm, dry bed.
In 11 years of the 12 Hours of the Hill of Truth, they had never had rain fall during the race before last night. I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. Let's hope next year the race can be 'in the dry'.