I admit I’m still thinking about Unbound Gravel and that controversial mud:
Maybe it would help to think of it as liquid gravel instead.
As far as the question of whether or not it was “fair” of the organizers to leave it in, I can’t help but relate it to my own experience–not with cycling, but with going to see hardcore shows. (Music, not pornography.)
When I was a teenager, I used to go to lots of hardcore shows and the like, which were very much like bike races. They were intense, you’d find out about them through a network of fellow weirdos, and once you were there you’d spend much of your time in an anaerobic state while attempting to survive in a melee of your peers. Then you’d go home feeling both elated and depleted, and you’d wake up the next day feeling really, really sore. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say the differences between a hardcore show and, say, a cyclocross race are almost entirely superficial–like, you wouldn’t have worn a skinsuit to the hardcore show, though in retrospect it probably would have been a good choice. Not only would it have afforded you greater mobility, but it also would have made it more difficult for the bouncer to grab you by your clothing and thwart your stagediving attempts. (I was once hurled from the stage in such a fashion by a bouncer and broke my arm as a result. It’s ironic that he threw me off the stage to prevent me from leaping off the stage. I suppose he was throwing me in order to save me.)
Also like hardcore shows, bike races seem risky, though in reality some are more dangerous than others. Over time, in both cases, experience teaches you to identify certain risk factors, and you act accordingly. Sometimes you know a show or a race is going to be dangerous because of the venue, or because of who will be there, or because it’s going to attract a lot of people in too small a space, which always adds up to a shitshow. At first you do dumb stuff that will almost certainly result in injury, like trying to jump off a stage manned by an extremely aggressive bouncer (see above), or sprinting for 30th place. Eventually though you know when an event is going to, for example, attract a bunch of skinheads, or Rock Racing as the case may be. You learn when to attack, and when to hang back, and when to just skip the whole thing altogether and stay home. It’s about knowing the subculture in which you’re participating, but it’s also about knowing yourself–your preferences, your fears, your strengths, and your limitations. All of this can be summed up as your “woosie quotient,” and it’s the point at which we know we’re better off skipping something instead of trying to prove ourselves in vain to people who don’t really care anyway.
In any case, around the time I used to go to hardcore shows there was this guy, GG Allin, and every so often you’d hear that he was playing somewhere. If you know who he is you’re probably rightfully afraid to click on that link. (Don’t worry, it’s just his Wikipedia page.) If you don’t know, he was a “musician” who used to do stuff like physically attack audience members and fling his own feces at them. Absolutely nobody was crazier or more disgusting than GG Allin. Yet incredibly, people used to go to his shows–not despite the fact that he was liable to take a shit on stage and throw it at you, but because of it! Now, as an adrenaline-addled teen, as far as I as concerned the more punishingly unlistenable and audience-unfriendly and generally offensive the band was the better. But never, ever, ever–even when my cravings for the extreme were at their most intense–would I have considered going to see GG Allin, or indeed gone anyplace where I might have come into contact with him. This is because he MIGHT THROW HIS OWN SHIT IN YOUR FACE–an outcome that is very much at odds with my own personal woosie quotient.
All of this is to say that I can’t help thinking that going to Unbound Gravel and saying it was unfair that the mud kept you from finishing or broke your bike or whatever is like going to see GG Allin and complaining that he pinned you to the floor and administered a Cleveland steamer. I mean if that’s what you’re into that’s totally cool. But if you’re indignant about it that seems unreasonable to me. In both cases, if you were paying even the slightest bit of attention, you had to know that there was a pretty decent chance that something like this was going to happen.
They say “go big or go home.,” and you’re supposed to be ashamed to choose the second option. But there’s no shame in going home without someone’s shit all over your face. You pays your money after all.