Race Report: WAW #1 2006
As to be expected the drive from downtown Washington DC to Northern Virginia at RUSH HOUR was a pain in the ass!
It took forty five minutes for me to get 15 minutes from my house.
As I was prepared for this car congested nightmare I did not let my heart rate go up. Instead I focused on the music in my car and the various fuels I brought along with me; water, banana, gatorade, and GU.
In some ways I enjoyed the drive. I enjoyed knowing that I do not exist in this world of the car commuter. Car commuting sucks! As a bicycle commuter I am more highly evolved. I hope that I never suffer the fate of having to ride in a cage in bumper to bumper traffic to and from work each day. It is important that I realize how fortunate I am to live and work in the city.
My arrival to Wakefield Park was early. Got there early enough to see some of the single speeders flashing past on the course. Had my camera in the car, but like an idiot I did not have it on my person. After a fast first lap went past I saw friend and rival, still a Clydesdale for another pound or two, Chris Redlack. Chris was walking his bike out of the woods. A mechanical on the first lap took him out of the game. I was torn when he told me he was not racing the back to back Single Speed and Clydesdale Classes. It is always good fun to duke it out with old Redlack. But this was not going to happen today. Not on this day.... which is fine as I hate to approach the line thinking the best I could do is finish second as Chris had gotten faster and faster over the years. It is not certain but I think my friend is now faster than me.
After registration, some minor adjustments to the rigid Karate Monkey Single Speed I rolled down to the starting area. There was a bit of a buzz going around the area. Everyone gets a little excited at the start line, but there is something slightly more exciting about this race as it is such a local thing that there are a number of personal competitions other than just finishing first in a class. Many people are fighting to finish ahead of their buddies and riding partners.
Every class in the later race was sent off before the Clydesdales other than the Women's Sport racers. In the woman's experts on this day was Sue Haywood; a Trek East Coast Factory Team racer from Davis West Virginia. Her presence added some extra fun to the arena. At Scott Scudamore's signal the Clydesdales were off. Not sure if I was being challenged by any other Clydesdales on the first climb as I struggled to find a hard packed line on the loose gravel climb, but I know i was fighting to get ahead of whatever competition there may be. In the distance I could hear PVC promoter Scott Scudamore cheer for me. Not 30 yards into the race and I was already struggling behind some of the Sport racers. Wakefield Park is an awesome little network of singletrack trails, awesome tight winding single track trails. There are very few places to pass. I was not a minute into the race and I was already huffing and puffing with frustration about the inability to pass and my being forced to move my bike at another racer's pace.
Into the woods I found myself in the classic singletrack catepillar. With 4 racers in front of me I tried to be polite in my efforts to pass. At some points I could pick off one or two racers, then when the trail opened up I was able to pass more. The routine was the same... break free of one singletrack catepillar only to become the last segment of another. My heart, legs, and lungs pumped. I fought as hard as I could to get past each and every rider in front of me. Tried to be polite... but I need my lungs for the bike... no time to use the brain and the mouth for pleasntries.
The "passing game" is not always a fun one. More times than not when approaching a the rear wheel of a rider that ride hears the action behind them and then picks up the pace. It can be so... aggravating. I understand that we are all racing. I get passed as well... I know what it is to be passed. But, these sport guys were not aiding me at all. Most of the racers were fighting me. So much energy wasted on trying to work the pass. So many times I gave polite requests on the open sections for the racer ahead of me to allow me to pass before the re-entry into the woods. Seldomly did it happen.
The course was a joy. As frustrating as being stuck slowing to another racer's pace until I could muscle a pass may be... I accepted that this was the fate of the game. Accepted that this is a fun little local race and that there are always skills to be developed. In addition to working on my off trail passing.... I could also work on my patience. I also worked on just enjoying being on the bike.
The course layout in the first third of the course was very similar to years prior, then the course moved onto some new trail. WOW! The folks at PVC really out did themselves. They really have taken advantage of this space and built some great trail for mountain biking. There was a time when Wakefield was a set of hiking trails that permitted mountain bikes... now Wakefield has a set of mountain bike trails built for mountain biking. There were all sorts of great switchbacks with bermed walls as well as some dippity doos that would be good for someone who likes to be surrounded by air. I kept it on the ground.
The third lap came and the trails were a little more open. There were still points where I got stuck at another racer's pace. My greatest issue was not with the racers in front of me. I had really gone out hard. I think I busted nut a little early. In all the excitement I put in some fast laps on lap on and lap two... well... lap one was fast. I am not sure that I had saved enough energy to really knock out lap three in the appropriate fashion. It was not that I was tired or winded. It was more a matter of starting to ride sloppy, like my head was not in the game. Towards the end of the course I raced along with a Sport Racer on a rigid 29er single speed. Even though it was a race I tried to keep up a converation. Maybe I should have focused on the race. Guess being soaked in sweat and not having anything to quench my throat did not help either.
I rolled through the Finishline releaved to be a Clydesdale doing three laps rather than an Expert doing 4 laps. In the end I felt pretty good with my efforts, even if my times dropped significantly on each lap. Racing a lap just above 17 minutes on lap one, just below ninteen minutes on lap two, and dropping to nineteen and a half minutes on lap three. It was awesome to be out testing my limits on the bike. The rigid old body did well on that not so old rigid bike.
After the race ended I mixed and mingled with so many people I do not get to see often enough.
Hung around for some awards. Scored a sweet Camelback for my Clydesdale efforts then drove across the way to join a group of people from the race for dinner. The event is one big experience. Everyone was all smiles. Those that flatted and those that finished. Those that missed their desired efforts... everyone was smile. This is week one.... there are three more Wednesday Nights of this stuff. People can fix their bikes and prove themselves at the next Wakefield event... or maybe this Sunday at the same park on a different layout of the course for the Cranky Monkey.
I will miss the Cranky Monkey for a bachelor party in West Virginia.
I will miss the next WAW race to work late....
I will try to be out there at least one more time this summer for the full WAW experience
which involves not just riding and racing.... but includes catching up with friends
photos by gary