I've been to a few of these now, and it's kind of funny to see the deer-in-headlights reactions of people who are there for the first time. You really have to just roll with whatever happens. And the day-of folks shouldn't have missed out on anything because day-of registration ended at 9 am, so if they didn't know that the roll-out was at 10, they should have.
I think the "rules" for getting the most out of the ride at SSUSA come down to a few basic principles:
(1) You can ride fast at SSUSA if you want, but don't expect it to matter. All it really means is that you will reach the beer stops faster than everyone else. (But I suppose there is merit in that.)
(2) If you come to a fork in the trail that isn't well-marked, just hang out a bit until other riders come through and make your decision by committee, because if one idiot on a SS makes a decision it's probably a bad one. But if many idiots on SS's make the same decision together ... that's much better ... ???
(3) The course is really more of a suggestion than a rule. If you want to "win", cheat. Cut the course. Get back to the campground quicker. In all seriousness, I was ready to do that after I started the short loop 3 because I had a splitting heat headache. (Fuck, it was hot Saturday!) Instead, I stopped on one of the ridges and just drank water while I stared down at the city from a few hundred feet above it for a while. That gave me enough to rally to the finish where I could properly re-hydrate with a few Dale's.
I think all of these points are most succinctly summed up by a conversation I had with @David Taylor in the parking lot before we rode over to the fountain. I can't recall the exact words, but he mentioned something about racing, and my reply was "Yeah ... don't do that." In his defense, though, he was already downing his first beer at Ducky Daycare before I got there, and he probably made it through the bee gauntlet before they started stinging everything whereas I did not make it through the bee gauntlet unscathed.
Instead, I stopped on one of the ridges and just drank water while I stared down at the city from a few hundred feet above it for a while. That gave me enough to rally to the finish where I could properly re-hydrate with a few Dale's.