Watching a race like this surely got my adrenaline levels high, but I had to focus on what laid ahead. A short approach on the Valley trail put me on a tight but not overly scary singletrack called Cut Yer Bars, where I did just squeeze my old-fashioned 680mm narrow handlebars between the trees. A quick pause at the trail head for the (in)famous black diamond trail A River Runs Through It, just enough to drink some water, wipe my sweaty palms on the shorts then diving in thinking "what the heck". The change from valley streets and manicured bike paths full of casual tourists to the green hell of the forest and its trails, that would qualify for "almost impassable" anywhere else, was kind of a shock. The first section of the trail was rocky, technical to the point of last seconds saves, where you just think "Shit!" but have to handle the next obstacle, but rideable. Then came the swamps and bridges.
After another trail head close to Alta Lake road, the trail became less extreme, or I should rather say offered less extreme ways around extremely difficult stunts. I pushed with all my strength over logs and roots and even experienced brief moments when I surprised myself: while my legs kept torquing the pedals in the large chainring, my body automatically leaned and balanced, my arms pulled up or pushed forward and my mind somehow managed to stay ahead of what was happening below my wheels.
This is not to say there were many situations that rudely interrupted these rare moments of flow. Front wheel stuck suddenly between rocks, fork bottomed, liver and other internal organs hitting my lungs. Or a nice approach to a feature where I could not see the back side of it followed by panicky nononono! unclip! look where your foot goes! damn this was close! how the hell do I get down from this thing! I'm exaggerating of course, I was just couple of feet off the ground, yet the brain cells amplified the danger signals.
But as most exams last just under an hour, fifty minutes later I could relax, take off my helmet, massage blisters on my palms and chew on an energy bar on the shore of the beautiful Alta Lake.
At the end, I managed to more or less ride the trail, stay unhurt, I did not break a rear derailleur off, did not snap a chain and actually enjoyed the ride despite its terrors. What degree did I earn? PhD? Now way, not even close to Masters, I would gladly accept a BS/BA from the most accredited biking institution in North America. Here is my unofficial diploma.