race report: greenbriar challenge

here is something I started the night of the race
will post it
and if I feel like getting more into detail I will later
the tale of the tape reveals that all the Clydesdales were fast and competitive
my flat, another's broken chain
and chris' being fast all effected the outcome of the day
the results

a day out on the bike

out there trying to fight my demons
the dragons are never slayed
maybe kept at bay
maybe tamed for a day
but never slayed
the demons and dragons remain only to attack again another day

today I danced with my demons
and wrestled with my dragons
the battle was not without its hardships
battles on the bike and battles in my head

the days preparation went moderately well
as a matter of fact the schedule for the day got me to the race earlier than I had been to a race in a long time
it was not to arrived crazed and rushed
it was good to catch up with familiar faces
it was good not to waste an excess of energy running aorund like a chicken with it head cut off
so I arrvied not in a rush
and only slightly crazed
crazed with a smile on my face

as it had been a long time since I had been on any serious dirt for any serious distance
it would be the first time I raced since I dislocated my shoulder in the fall
lack of riding would definitely be part of my low self confidence
there may have been one or two less than technical dirt rides leading into this race

races can always carry a certain amount of anxiety
there are the questions of preparedness
that is a list of questions too long to list
there there is the pressure of performance
then there is the anxiety of the challenge of the race
the race promoters have been good enough to have a wide variety of classes for the various style of racing along side the normal sanctioned breakdown... junior, beginner, sport, expert, and pro along with the breakdown of the ages... masters and such....
there are so many reasons for there to be a breakdown of classes
it is good for spreading out the racers on the course
it is good to foster competition on a more personal level
racing in the clydesdale class offers a small number of racers all reaching for the brass ring
even it that brass ring is a personal goal

off the carousel and onto the race...

the clydesdale class was small
small in numbers not in size
the class was maybe six deep
with only one familar face, chris redlack
chris was the racer I was choosing as a favorite for the day
then a number of less than standard looking clydesdales
not sure who they were but they all looked strong

I knew my old riding buddy redlack was building off what was a very strong season last year

I know he has been building on last year as I see him riding down Beach Drive as I am skipping stones for my dogs
another person I have seen on that stretch of road in rock creek park is bill davis, ncvc's bill davis
bill has reinvented himself
not just the shaving of the mustache
but bill has redesigned his body
an already strong and fast technical rider
bill dropped a few extra un-needed pounds
and well
bill is faster than the once bigger bill

upon seeing bill I got anxious
not only will I have to chase redlack
but I will have to try and follow the wheel of bill davis
in a scared teasing sort of weight I question bill's weight
as he is looking very muscular but not 200 pounds
bill tells me that he weighed himself that morning
telling me that he weighed just over 200 pounds that morning
I tell him I should have brought a scale
the ribbing continued
I left not realizing that bill was pulling my leg
the idea that there have been sandbaggers in the clydesdale class not just amuses me
it aggravates me
bill was jerking my chain
as I discovered 15 minutes later as he was showing me his new car
it was good for a laugh
only extending my already crazed smile

I suited up and rolled around
it has been months since I have been to anything like this
not just months for me, but it has been months for a lot of these people
it is good to see some old friends
I do some up and back on the bike with an assortment of friends
the riding is more social than warm up
it is good to see everyone
everyone is feeling the buzz of the day
the day was cool and dry
a great day for riding or racing

redlack and I caught up
there was talk about the race to come, the wife and kids (kid for chris... only one child as of now) and the fast approaching lodi farms race that we are teaming up for in a week
a three man team that currently only has two riders

the riding up and back was really more me riding then stopping to say hey to someone
standing around
then riding around till I see another old friend only to stop and stand around rather than pedal around

the race started a little late
late starting races is nothing new to mountain bike races

I stood in the shade waiting for our group to be released
as our group's release time approached I lined up along side of chris redlack
feeling cramped between chris and the tape I rolled around behind the 5 or 6 other clydesdales and took pole position at the other end of the line
chris joked across the line of racers
something about body odor or breath
there was a pleasant exchange with the unknown rider by my side
then it was time to go
a very official race official took our numbers then blew a whistle for our release
the day had begun
all clad in lycra we charged for the single track
like a group of school boys rushing for the diving board after the lifeguard signals the end of adult swim

chris and I pushed ahead of the groups from the sound of the whistle
only looking forward no time to look back I am not sure of the pace of any other rider other than chris who is sprinting along side of me
we shared a few words and I accelerated for the hole shot into the woods just in front of chris
jokingly trying to wave chris off
foolishly inviting a challenge

the grass sprint funneled into loose gravel then turned into a hard packed climb
I tried to muscle things in the middle ring
my heart and lungs pumped
my legs tried to pump
it was good to be racing
that crazed smile settled into a wide grin

the first lap started well
my demons had me surrounded
the three lap distance is hard to pace when I know nothing about my fitness or pacing things in general
going out hard and hanging on tends to be my style
go out hard and hang on that is what I did
hanging on means painfully creeping forward

chris and I did a little cat and mouse
chris being a more technical rider passed me on some of the rock gardens
I took advantage of the climbs as best I could
not that I am a good climber
but... for a clydesdale I do my best

the lap is repeated three times
the first lap involes a bit of first time discovery
some voyage into the unkown
some mild recollection of sections of trails from riding and racing here in the previous years
the fear of crashing was present
on a few occassions I was clearing my way through a rock garden or rolling down a techincal section when the anxiety of my injuries crept up
a dislocated and broken index finger which now has 6 pins and a plate
then a dislocated shoulder that is still getting physical therapy
the fears kept up
nothing more than a reality of a sport that can offer great pleasure and potential injury
an occassional speed check
neccessary or unneccessary?
it is all part of the day

on the last technical descent of the first lap I was feeling pretty okay
starting to get warmed up to the bike
starting to get a little more of confidence and a little more rhythm
also recognizing this section as the tail end of lap one I felt a bit of a rush
riding behind Cargo Mike on his surly 1x1 then a quick pass
I take the lead into on a downhill
things feel a little squirrelly
on a hard right hand turn from a fireroad descent into some wooded singletrack I got sloppy
most certainly cargo mike was wondering... can this guy move so I can ride this shit
we cleared some more fast rocks and then moved towards some dinosaur shit style mud and roots
the demons and dragons love to lurk in this type of slop
the off camber roots
the mystery depth to the mud slop puddles
the question of what is on the other side of that rock drop or that fallen log

as I pass a group of cheering spectators I ask if I have a flat
the control of my bike is feeling weird
the handling is so off that i think I have a flat in the rear
with cargo mike looking to make a pass
I offer him a clear pass on the right as I stick to the left

we each go over a fallen log
is it a flat or my shock
my front end lands bad
the thud makes me think that my shock had bottomed out
the slam in the front exaggerates my lifting of my rear wheel in the back
like a drunken clown I ride a polish wheelie off trail down into a leaf filled gulley
ugly as it was
certainly entertaining for anyone who may have been around to look
I get lucky and correct things
have both wheels on the ground
feet still in the clips
only to pedal may way back onto the trail only for mike to pull off ahead as I watch my pancake front tire get all squrirelly on a sharp right hand turn where the trail transitions from the mud and muck to very hard packed small sandlike gray gravel

the tire is flat
so is the trail
I make a decision to ride to the finish and make my repair there
more room
and the measure of my first lap time
my bag with a second 29er tube is at the Start/Finishline
as I make the tube replacement I am being cheered on by my city bikes team mates
a check for needs
an exchange
it is all a bit of a rush
the wire bead tire gets sloppy on the rim
on and off and on and off
I seed the tube in the tire and try to feed the tire back into the rim
chris passes me
I am not far along my repair
I focus on my replacement
turns out chris is not the only clydesdale fast on my trail
the rest of the clydesdale class passes me as well

the friendly clydesdale at the line cheers me on as I finish my repair
I thank him and let him know I will be seeing him in a few minutes
a bit cocky
but I am pumped

the flat fixed
my camelback on my back
back on the bike
start of lap two
back down then grass, up the gravel, back onto the hard packed brown earth climb
the second lap involved all that is fun about a chase
the chase is not as fun as cat and mouse
but the blind chase has its fun as well
how far was chris redlack ahead of me?
what will it take to catch him?
do I have what it takes to catch him?

lap two has the benefits of a warm up
the knowledge of a very recent lap acts as a preride
so I know the descents and feel more comfortable with my speed
my warm up allows me to clear rock gardens that were not cleared without dab or dismount on the previous lap
then there is the knowledge that it is okay to dismount and march rather than ridea at one point and another

lap two went by with a great deal of racing pleasure
mountainbiking is a rush
the sensations of mountainbiking are for all the senses
not just eye hand coordination
there is the flavor of the dry dust or deep dark mud
there is the taste of cotton mouth
the smells are also awesome
dry pines and dry earth
there is a wonderful scent to a light dust in the woods on a warm day

at the end of lap two I was right behind that same clydesdale from the standing line
again the exchange was friendly
he was moving strong
I was looking to pass
I was still looking for redlack
I make a pass on the first climb of lap three... the final lap

when I see the results I will know this racers name
and know to look out for him at the line as he is strong and a threat himself
we did a little cat and mouse
well, more like an accordian as I pulled away and he pulled up behind me
I would shake him and he would reel me in
it was humbling to be reminded that chris redlack was not the only clydesdale to watch on the course
my fitness showed its weakness
walking the climbs in that clumsy march not thinking clearly of the best place to re-mount and ride again
lots of energy wasted trying to think

two thirds of the way through the third lap I passed another clydesdale
this one suffering a broken chain
I had not even thought of this guy
this guy was kicking my ass while I was looking for redlack
as I pass the guy with the broken chain I start to realize that I am running out of course
time to use what fuel is left in the tank
lap three the last and final lap has the disadvantage of fatigue from the prior laps
but the knowledge of the obstacles of the course and the personal limitations of the day

so I let the 29 inch wheels do what they do
I let them roll
the final miles were ridden with that same crazed smile that I arrived with
the satisfaction of riding my bike on such a glorious day was a rush
there was no sign of redlack
I pictured him with a pint glass in hand already cleaned and dressed with his car packed
a day dream pretty close to the reality
as I roll in I past the finishline I turn my head and listen to the mecee/MC tell my name, my class, and my finishing time
I am pleased with day on the bike and a second place finish
the two minute and 39 second differencial brought a smile to my face
with a shake of my head I say to myself
fucking redlack

chris redlack greets me moments later
we laugh about the race and how things played out
both bummed that there was a flat tire that prevent us from having a a more accurate head to head

the post race parking lot exchanges were many
everyone had a tale from the day
there were hand shakes and smiles
racing is often the closest I ever come to a group ride

the parking lot moved to the awards
then after the awards I got to ride home
with a silver medal around my neck I drove home to see my family and show my kids my cool new medal
with a quick unload of the car I head up the block to dave and anna's house
dave, a city bikes mountainbike team member as well, raced earler in the sport category
as I turn up their sidewalk with my medal hidden under my shirt
I get that a small hint of that crazed smile as I see that my boys rode their bikes across the neighborhood rather than driving or walking

there were some burgers left from a grilling session that I missed
we talked about the race and the drunken night out on the town the night prior
the kids played in the basement
then rode their bikes home
in the alley behind the house the boys continued to ride their bikes
fighting my requests to go in
ignoring my demands to go in
so I gave in
as I known exactly what they are feeling
today was a good day to be on the bike

dean and grant made loops up and back down the alley
making an occassional exchange of the medal
the focus goes from my race earlier that day to the race up and down the alley that my boys are having


Graham said...

Congrats on the finish! Great write-up...love that day in the life style. With two kids myself I can totally relate to the old "oh...daddy's back...you placed in a race...cool...no...no...awww...dad...yeah!" at least that's how it goes down in my place when I accomplish something to be triumphant about. Always a little anti-climatic. The reward is in the big picture.

Redlack said...

Nice job on Sunday! Happy to see I'll have a speedy teammate for Lodi.

Anonymous said...

good report.
nice result for a first race.

Chris said...

excellent write-up and nice job on the bike too.

i'll look for you at Lodi.

Anonymous said...

I am that other clydesdale.

Nice recovery from that mechanical.

Ill be racing duo at Lodi.

See you there.

gwadzilla said...

other clydesdale-
see you at lodi
great race
we all raced a great race
next year one of us has to stop redlack for taking that number one podium spot three times in a row