3.22.2004

RACE REPORT: Fitness Concepts Greenbrier Challenge
In many cases arriving underdressed may be better than showing up
overdressed, sorta like choosing not to wear a costume to a costume
party is better than wearing a costume to a none costume party event.
At least that is how I am calling it now after racing yesterday on
the second day of spring, which played itself out more like one of
the last days of winter. By the end of my sport race there was a
strong cold wind blowing over the lake with intermident snow
flurries, at the Expert/Pro starts there was plenty of cold wind, not
enough snow to effect visibility but snow just the same, with a
course that was pretty well beaten to hell from the morning and early
afternoon racers. This day was scripted more for Cyclocross racers
than for Mountainbikers. My guess is that the day's High of 44
degrees was achieved before I arrived at Greenbriar. I was wearing
knickers and just basic socks, sure I had a few layers on top, but I
was cold and that stream crossing on each lap did not help to warm me
up!

My race went well.
NORBA not offering a Clydesdale Class forced me to enter as a 35+
Men's Master Sport. I can use the excuse of them not offering a one
day NORBA license for why I did not race Expert, but the reality is
that I have not been doing much riding/training and may try to make
that leap from front of the Sport to the tail of the Experts later in
the season when I get some legs and lungs. My intention on this day
was to go out and race/ride hard, no intention to win, no expectation
of a top finish. As we gathered at the starting line I reviewed my
fellow racers and dealt with the prerace jitters. A fellow
Clydesdale, Don Watkins and I looked around and counted Clydesdales,
there were enough in the various fields to have a good size
Clydesdale Class. Weighing in at 240lbs I feel that my size is a
greater factor than my age. Having not done much mountain biking I
felt that I was going to just slide into a groove and see where I fit
into the queue. But when the whistle went off and the pack took off
it looked like no one was going for the "hole shot," so rather than
getting stuck in the bottle neck I took the initiative. I stepped out
of the saddle and stepped up the pace. Having spent my prerace time
catching up with old friends and making new ones, I had not done any
warm up and had not done any scoping out of the course. Having raced
here before I figured that they would follow a similar route to the
prior races. Needless to say, I was wrong, the course turned right up
hill, while in the fall race hosted by a different promoter it
dropped down left.

For the first couple of miles I was in the lead of my category, after
a little time I was passed by a long lean roadie type on a double
banger. I took a look at him and thought that my old school
clydesdale technique could balance his superior strength, speed, and
stamina. I hung to his back wheel, soon learn that I was out
classed. Then on one of the climbs I opted to stay in the middle
ring rather than the granny and reached for one more cog in the back,
got all spokes, that was already my largest cog. Had to dismount and
pull the chain free from the cassette and the spokes. Many
riders/racers passed me and the leader rolled off into the distance.
So I hopped back into a queue far off the leaders of the pack. In no
time I was trying to find my groove and rolling past some of other
racers, maybe some from my class and maybe some from the other
classes. Soon I felt I had passed enough racers that I felt I was
back into the top 5. It is a tough balance racing and pacing. Not
feeling particularly fit or fast I rode in what I thought to be a
good race pace. Water in the Camelback, Hammer Gel tucked under my
shorts trying to sneak out under the elastic band at my quad, and a
mixture of Gatorade and Red Bull in a water bottle cage on the frame,
there were no excues. It is never good when my mind is wondering
when each lap is going to end, getting distracted or spacing out in a
race is bad. When focused I am fast, when I space out, it means I am
going slow. I tried to regain focus, I held pace and was maintaining
a good pace and halfway through the second lap I felt that I was
withing sight with what I believed to be the 4th place rider. Rather
than fight to catch him now, I figured I would wait until the third
and final lap to make a pass. No need to over exert myself and be
left burnt out on the side of the trail. The third lap came around
soon enough, as I rolled towards the START/FINISH, the riders in
front of me headed the other way back into the trail after a hairpin
turnaround just after the START/FINISH LINE. I gave a nod to the 4th
place racer in front of me, he smiled and nodded back. He knew I was
coming for him, it was a healthy friendly feel to the competition.
Not too far into the lap I passed him. He cheered me on and admitted
that it was early season and he was not feeling his best. He spoke
about how he knew I was going to catch him, he just was not sure
when. That gave me added energy and so did my home made rocket fuel
concoction of RED BULL and GATORADE (GATOR-RAGE!) With three hammer
Gels in my belly and three racers in front of me I tried to pick up
the pace. Then just up the hill I saw the Red and White of an NCVCer
who had passed with great speed on one of the technical downhills, he
was the 3rd place rider in my Class. He was just finishing pumping up
his rear tire. I hustled past him on foot with my bike at my side.
Mounted up and started to pedal. Made no effort to check on his
status, figured that if he was going to pass he was going to pass. I
felt strong, not particularly fast, but not entirely exhausted. The
soft sections were really gripping my tires. The sloppy sections were
giving hint to me the level of exhaustion that was present, obstacles
that were not difficult were demanding more attention and perhaps a
little more decrease in speed than I would normally require with with
greater freshness. Being familiar with the course after the two
prior laps I was able to anticipate what was around each bend and
judge better how long I can maintain speed on the downhills before a
sharp bend or turn. Soon enough the familiar last mile started to
unwind. It seemed clear that the racers behind me had settled into
their finishing positions and that I was going to finish in Third
Place. I was pleased with my performance and shocked by my placement.
It was a great event. Awesome to get out so early in the Spring and
start my season. It was good to gather with old friends and to make
new ones. This was an easy race for me to do as my wife had headed
south to Florida with our two kids. There was no need to ask for
permission, no need to arrange for a babysitter, no need to rush home
after the race finish, it was a day of rest and I made the best of
it.

Drove home feeling pretty good, sipping the remainder of my Red Bull.
Got home to a very excited Roscoe and Brutus. Took them for a quick
hike in the woods and did pretty much nothing with the rest of my day!

Not a bad way to spend the weekend or a Sunday. Makes it a great deal
easier to head into work on a Monday morning knowing that my weekend
was well spent.

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