If nothing else, the race this weekend put into perspective some definite gray areas for me. Lucky you, the reader, I'm going to put them down in no particular order and let you sort them out.
1) If you're aware of the weather conditions and start the race when its ugly, be prepared to suffer long and hard for your foolishness. I'm sure most of us racers heard from someone this weekend that we were a bunch of crazy fockers to be out there racing (let alone riding) on a day like Sunday. I thought I was pretty well prepared, but the weather gave me a hard kick in the junk that I won't soon forget.
2) Waterproof/resistant shoes can just as easily turn into watertight containers. I didn't think much about water running down into my shoes other than knowing it would happen and trying to keep it from happening for at least a little while. I didn't realize once it entered, it wouldn't be able to escape due to lack of venting on the bottoms of my winter shoes. Luckily I didn't end up like this. Granted it was nowhere near as cold down here as up in Alaska, but cold extremities for extended periods of time are no joke.
3) My gloves even when sopping wet kept my hands from going numb. Even though I was planning on them resisting the water more than they did (going to treat them to some water repellent soon), my gloves did a good job of keeping my hands from going past the point of just being cold and were actually relatively speaking "warm" or at least not as cold at a few points even after they were soaked to the bone.
4) A waterproof shell is an amazing thing. I was soaked over roughly 75% of my body. However, my core was toasty and sweaty (but not overly so) and my head was dry thanks to a couple great pieces of equipment. The main piece was my Pearl Izumi jacket/shell that cost me way too much when I bought it, but has repaid itself in numerous conditions. The 2nd piece was my choice to go with a wind/waterproof fleece balaclava versus just a hat. The sleet on course really drove this point home as I was able to pull it up covering almost my entire face during the nasty descents where ice pellets ricocheted off us at 30+ mph.
5) My amfib bibs did a great job of keeping my legs warm, but seem to have gone beyond their usefulness in the water repellent role. I might try hitting them with some water repellent spray, but for the most part, I think they're used up in that area. They still do a great job of keeping me warm enough even in extra nasty conditions. I've ridden them down to zero degree windchill with just bib shorts underneath and still been comfortable enough that I didn't think about needing another layer.
6) Be prepared for your bike gear to turn into a crappy mess when done and possibly using up some of the parts. Upon tear down and inspection last night I noted both my bottom bracket and rear derailleur were pretty trashed (moreso than the rest of the bike). The derailleur can be cleaned and greased enough to remain in service, but I think the bearing on the BB are too toast to do anything other than limp along so it will be getting replaced. Additionally, the shifter cables were coated inside the housings in a fine layer of wet gravel dust. My right hand still has a charlie horse from the amount of effort it took to upshift as the race wore on. I thought it was just my hands getting cold at the time. Other than that, the bike was covered in a fine layer of crap, but nothing a good washing couldn't cure. The chain and cassette will both need worked over in the solvent take and I might eyeball the chain for replacement too pending how it looks once cleaned and lubed.
7) Be prepared for the conditions as much as possible when selecting your ride. In my case, it was unprepared with my bike choice. Had I been home on Saturday, I would have had the opportunity to check out the gravel conditions first hand and would probably have brought the cross bike. I think I could have knocked a solid 20-30 minutes off my time on the cross bike with the condition of the gravel. As I was guessing, I opted for the safe choice and missed the mark. Better safe than sorry, but in this instance I should have been able to put home field advantage to use. I rode gravel 4 days before the race including some of the race course. I knew how concrete the base was before the rain, I just didn't know how much softening the rain had done.
8) If you're going to listen to music during a race like this, at least have the forethought to put together a long ass playlist that won't need to be repeated multiple times to get you through the course. As I couldn't reach the IPOD on my arm other than to hit play or skip, I had no way of moving to another playlist unless I wanted to stop and strip off my jacket and that wasn't happening.
9) If racing in weather where nutrition is going to be needed to finish the race, make sure it's easily accessed. I eschewed putting a bento bag on my top tube due to the ridicule I've received in the past from several other racers. Granted, in some cases its definitely a bit overkill, but Sunday it would have shined. As it were, I ended up spending precious energy and time stopping to get nutrition and additionally not spreading it out as much as I should have. I bonked and recovered a couple times during the race and all I really needed was a gel or shot of something a little sooner than I took it on, but I didn't want to stop and get it out of my jersey pocket which would involve stripping a glove off, rummaging under my shell, and probably stopping or slowing to a near crawl.
I think that's probably enough lessons for now, but it covers pretty much everything that I vividly remembering being a point to think about during or shortly after the race.