This report is neither clever nor cute. There are not any anecdotes about me running into Yoda thumb wrestling Jesus along side the trail on one of my night laps nor do I get abducted by aliens at the start line and returned to the finish causing me to have a slow night lap. At no point in this report to I get all ramped up and get graphic about jamming down the powerline a mach speed over rocks splashing through mud with beer bellied rednecks cheering and trying to make me crash nor will you read about me hammering up the climbs in hyperspeed passing anyone and everyone that stood in my way (although that did happen.) The use of Red Bull in implied, Gator-rage was in a water bottle for all laps. The Karate Monkey with gears and shock was the bike of choice, the rigid single speed Monkey came off the bike upon arrival and returned to the roof rack for departure…never did this bike get to see the rocks, roots, or mud that makes this race what it is. Read on or hit delete, I may try to comprise a Readers Digest version that is more intense and more graphic. But as this has been typed out I might as well hit send (well, only after I do a little Control-C; Control-V and Publish and Post on my Blog www.gwadzilla.blogspot.com)
Race Report: 2004's 24 hours of Snowshoe
There was no need to wait for the dust to settle before I wrote this report, but I did give it time for the mud to dry...
I had watched the reports at WEATHER.COM on and off for weeks leading up to the race, then finally resigned myself that I was racing either way. After some talk with Kemler (Brian Kemler) it was decided that the healthiest outlook would be to expect the course to be wet and get totally psyched if it were dry, thus not allowing ourselves to get depressed if the course were wet and muddy when we raced. The race weekend approached, each member of the team took off Friday from work, my brother Marc, former City Bikes Mountain Bike team captain Brian aka Kemler, and I shuttled down from DC in two cars as the scooterless British Mod Dave Wotton came up from the south, Charlottesville, VA. Our two car convoy headed from clear skies in the metropolitan area into heavy rain clouds in the Shenandoahs. We drove through heavy patches of rain through Harrisonburg and we arrived at Snowshoe only to be greeted by rain, cold, and a well relaxed Dave Wotton. The DC team members were nearly 3 hours later than scheduled; Dave did not say a word about our late arrival. At this point I was pleased with the team's decision to take a condo; we checked in and accepted that it is just as well that we don't preride, as we knew that we would each ride the course plenty before noon on Sunday.
There was potential drama....there was confusion on the actual departure time from my Mount Pleasant home, the directions to Luigi's Pizza in Harrisonburg were not only vague, but turned out to be completely inaccurate, and our two rented rooms were minutes away from each other rather than side by side as promised by reservations. We adapted....with little hassle we drove down in tandem (yet there were miles and miles between each car), had our late lunch when we finally found he hippie dippie pizza parlor, and we managed to have our rooms changed to rooms along side of each other, with a room upgrade at no extra cost. Rather than scrambling to set up our tents, we were making pasta and accessing our rain and cold weather gear. Kemler and I each purchased some roadie leg warmers (basically cycling tights legs that when worn with shorts, they make any shorts act as long tights) and I purchased a windstopper gortex jacket. There was a flurry of activity as unprepared racers swarmed around these tents selling a variety of cycling apparel.
It was a mellow evening, outside it rained, while inside it was cool and dry. We ate our pasta and plotted our race strategy. My brother Marc had already decided our race order and explained that the race order dictated who would be bunk mates. It was all well thought out and completely logical as most of Marc’s thoughts and actions are. After few Mike’s Hard Lemonades (also known as Mike’s Headache Lemonade) I was ready for bed. The next day started slowly. Everyone even rider number one, Brian Kemler, of the Gwadzilla squad was meandering about with no real agenda. The race order was verbalized and we all got estimates of our schedule. Brian was headed out first on the run, then Marc, then me, and rider number 4 Dave. We had estimated hour long laps which made for easy estimation for rendezvous times in the START/FINISH tent.
Noon arrived and with the sound of a canon the racers were off and running in the classic Lemans style to their bikes. The race had started and the rhythm had begun, butterflies took flight in my stomach. Each racer set out onto the course unsure what to expect. Each lap was the same loop, but each lap was very different. The combination of the rain days prior and the changing climate of the day and the racers pounding the course changed the contours each lap, making no lap anything like the one prior. While the moisture or the heat altered the texture of the land and the consistency of the earth.
The mud and slick roots were the greatest issue. The wet roots and slick rocks made certain sections of the course unridable. The thick deep mud changed consistency at different points in the race. At some points it was thick and peanut butterlike, clinging to the bike and stacking up on the V-brake and front derailleur. The use of non-stick Pam was helpful to a degree, but the mud was stubborn. Making already heavy bikes painfully heavy and forcing racers to stop and clear the mud so that the wheels could rotate again. There was clearly a disc brake advantage with the mud pile up issues. The sections in the woods that were ridable could not be taken too fast, as there were still more roots and rocks to cross. A fast crash can be far more brutal than a slow one. Crashing is part of the game, but in a 24 hour multi-lap event like this it is more important to be safe and consistent, than reckless and speedy. Damage to the bike or body can not only slow a lap but could take a racer out of the game. Racing smart is definitely different than riding fast and having fun.
The absence of a preride proved not to be a factor, especially since I have raced here several times before, and many laps at each race. The course had been shortened since my last attendance two years ago, but very little was added or changed. I knew the climbs well enough to know that the middle ring was more important then the granny, and I also knew that in the hike-a-bike sections it was more effective to walk/carry the bike than to try and mount up and ride. So much time can be wasted by trying to mount up and pedal only to be forced to dismount and carry the bike again 5 yards later. Memorizing the unridable sections is vital. It can be a bummer to be off the bike rather than on the bike, but it is more important to have a fast lap than to have the glory of claiming that you rode the whole course. This after all was a Cross Country event, not a trials course.
Our team worked well together. Everyone was operating efficiently; I was the only member of our squad who was late to the tent for an exchange. Dave and I battled it out for the title of our team’s fastest rider. Dave’s first lap was faster than mine by ten seconds, I set out on my second lap shooting to break 60 minutes, I returned to discover that my second lap was slower than my first. On the laps to follow I would resign myself to go out hard and accept the time that I achieved. This way I was never disappointed by my time, okay, I was a little disappointed, but I had to accept that the absence of fresh legs was more of an issue than I had thought.
It was an exciting race. For the most part I was disattached from the team standings. Not racing as a Clydesdale I had not thought that our team was going to be competitive within our class. But as the morning laps were added to the tally we accessed our position. We were solidly in third place of the Men’s Vet (35+), we had no chance of beating the number one Vet team, All American. The All American team proved to be a powerhouse that finished not just first in our class, but number one over all. We rode fast and consistent, but not fast enough to threaten the number two spot, but we did have to be aware of the number 4 team that was fast on our heels. They were sending their fastest rider out every other lap as we got closer to noon, and they removed their slowest rider from the rotation. It started to become more of an issue as one of their racers started to get a tad annoying. At one point he even gave misleading information to Brian Kemler on his 6th and final lap that he could slow down….seems that getting third place ranks higher than ethics in Richard Felicianos mind. And once the race was over we all got to hear Rich and his One Thousand and One excuses as to why he and his team did not finish in front of us.
The whole event is a blur. It is hard to distinguish one lap from the next. The event was an awesome experience. It was a pleasure racing with Brain, Marc, and Dave. We all got along really well and everyone had very similar lap times. On a course like this there is always great pleasure when it is over. For me there is also great pleasure in walking away from the event unharmed. My laps had a fair number of crashes, but nothing that injured my body or my bike. The powerline was a hoot, a holler, and a scream. I rode it three of my five laps, and took the grass ‘cheat’ line that developed after the water from the bike wash took the powerline to a dangerous level.
The rumor that Laird Knight is moving his West Virginia 24 hour event from its Snowshoe location is a great relief. During one of my night laps I promised myself that I would not race this course again.
Team Gwadzilla managed to finish 3rd in Men’s Vet out of 11 teams and tied for 16th overall in a field of roughly 170 teams. I have not had the time to play with the numbers and test the fate of the JOEL CLONE, but as our team did more laps then the winning Clydesdales and I had the fastest average one could then infer that the JOEL CLONES (aka GWADZILLA-GWADZILLA-GWADZILLA-GWADZILLA) would have won the Clydesdales. But honestly, those guys that won the Clydesdales were smoking fast, but they had one slow guy that altered their fate and their final lap tally, so it is a waste of energy crunching those numbers and toying with that non-existing hypothetical.
Perhaps I can draw up a more interesting and less lengthy synopsis of my race this afternoon
Men’s Vet Standings
Creator of the 24Hour Mountainbike race format in the Mountainbike Hall of Fame; Laird Knight