RACE REPORT: 2009 Fairhill Classic

RACE REPORT: The 2009 Fairhill Classic
going to a Sunday MASS event can be invigorating
going to a Sunday MASS event can be a refreshing injection of life
it had been a long time since I had attended a Sunday MASS EVENT
The Fair Hill Classic is a Sunday MASS Event!

it had been a few years since I had raced at Fair Hill
I was looking forward to getting to ride\race there
MASS is the Mid Atlantic Super Series
The Fair Hill Classic is a Mid Atlantic Super Series Event!
over the past two weeks at the local mid week post work summer classic Wednesday at Wakefield I have had the pleasure of racing to the finish in the Clydesdale Class against a new face on the local Clydesdale scene Timmy Koch of Gripped Racing
it is fun to ride the bike
it is often more fun to race the bike
there is a pleasure in the hard work it takes to attain a particular goal
it feels better to have to work for something than to have things come easy
it is a joy to fight for the finish line
crossing the finish line after working hard for a personal best feels good
it feels good to put forward your best effort
at the 2009 Fair Hill Classic I put forward my best effort

it is not so interesting for me to babble on about driving out the night before and sharing a hotel room in Newark Delaware with two team members of the DCMTB Squad
although I did have a good time drinking a few beers and watching Jackass II with Alex and Tyler there is nothing anecdotal to share

no it is not that interesting for me to recount that I drove from the hotel to the race site refusing t
o use either the directions that Tyler of DCMTB pulled up on his iTouch or the directions printed off by the concierge at the Embassy Suites
no for some reason I decided to modify things and to take my own route
this was all very interesting since I was not only completely unfamiliar with the area but I also lacked any sort of map to guide the way

surprisingly enough I arrived without any actual panic
the Spidey Senses were tingling and there were some well placed official brown signs posted by the state pointing the way to the Fairhill Resource Center
there was some worries about the Fairhill race taking place at the Fairhill Resource Center
but all worries were removed when on my approach I started to see other cars with fancy mountain bikes attached to the tops of their cars

I arrived to the Fair Hill grounds and parked on the grass in one of the last rows of cars far away from the pavilion as directed by official volunteers in safety orange vest with safety orange flags
the area swarmed with high priced two wheeled machines zipping out and back on the road
the parked all had a flurry of activity of activity around them
people stretching and people were dressing and undressing
people were fueling up and making last minute adjustments to their bikes
I signed my waiver, put a number on my bike, wrapped a micro chip on my ankle, and rolled over to the Start Line... there was no real time for warm up... the waiting time at the Start Line often erases anything that resembles a warm up
the Start Line was a cluster of lycra starting with Expert Men and Ending with the Clydesdale with an assortment of SPORT CATEGORIES in between
the double track jeep road trail that the race was starting on was pointing in a direction dissimilar to the various race starts I had experienced at this location years prior
the ground was dry showing no signs of rain the night prior

at the line I listened to the Clydesdales around me take part in a variety of conversations
friends and familiar faces were catching up...
some people were talking about Lance and the le Tour...
other people were discussing the mountain bike events of weekends past
and of course people talked about the race to come

I shared some small talk with a few others at the line
some people were more chatty than others
while I am often chatty... I am not always so chatty at the line
I scanned the crowd for familiar faces... not one familiar face... not one familiar form... nothing but strangers... lots of over sized strangers... some strangers in familiar kits but no familiar racers

as I looked around I tried to make a guess at who would be the strongest racers in the pack
then after a short assessment I decided that it would take more than a measure of BMI to get an idea of who would be the fastest Clydesdale on this day
it is hard to identify a fast cyclists from examination of their body type
it is even more difficult to identify a fast Clydesdale

as we waited for our release I played through my head the usual questions
was I properly fueled? would my water bottle and hammer gel be all that I need to complete this race? should I have brought a Camelbak...
I thought about my fitness and my being off the bike for so much of the season
I thought about my lack of training and my lack of understanding how to pace things properly
those questions and more rattled through my brain... all questions received the same answer
we need to go with what we have got
it is too late to make any changes
things will sort themselves out on the course

some pre-race words were shared from one of the volunteers from The Delaware Trail Spinners
it pleased me to hear that there would be several water stops on the course
this relieved a little tension... at least the option to ride bare back would not shoot myself in the foot
even after learning of the water stops I was still feeling all that pre-race anxiety of how my bike and body were going to perform on the course today
as well as the anxiety of the unknown variables of the course ahead and the challengers around me

each class was sent off with a staggered start
at the release of the Clydesdales I pushed the pedals heading out on the double track jeep road in the lead
the body was not feeling particularly spry
I was neither warmed up nor fueled with Red Bull
the legs went around propelling the bike forward without any great speed there was nothing that resembled ease or easily attained speed
sure I could have gone harder/faster
but rather than make a foolish effort and burn out in the first mile I accepted that racers were going to catch me and pass me... I knew it was a long race and the race would not be decided in the first mile
when each over sized racer passed me I did not alter my pace
instead I maintained my pace and tried to let my body warm up
I tried to find a groove
I tried not to burn out

as an assortment of over sized riders passed I made a mental note of their jerseys and body type... the first two Clydesdale started to disappear into the distance

way ahead in the lead pulling away from the pack was a quite muscular racer in an orange jersey and then another large dude with massive tattoos on massive biceps in a white jersey
these two images were committed to memory so that I could key in on them to help guide my pace
as the leaders pulled into the woods I tried to zip past a few Clydesdales to begin my chase and then to start my race
the transition from the road into woods was tighter and quicker than I had anticipated
the ground was also looser than I had anticipated

fast tight turns are not entirely my style

as I tried to enter the woods from this double track jeep road my bike slid off trail into some green brush that I feared was filled with thorns
it would have been tragic had I flatted out in the first mile of the race
with no effort to check things I tried to right things
back onto the trail and back into the queue
I pedaled in line with the other members of my class
into the woods the faster more hungry Clydesdales picked off the trailing sport women and the trailing sport men as well as some racers who may have been racing in the 50 Mile Enduro Category

the trail was classic east coast single track
tight turns in between trees over roots and some rocks
the course was moderately technical.... only not as technical under the tires as it was a course that involved maintaining speed on corners and the ability to make quick fast adjustments on short steep roller coaster ascents and descents

the course did a weave in and out of the woods
out of the woods and into wide open fields
it was hot in the open fields... even though it was still early morning
I dreaded each section in the open fields

on a loose gravel climb outside of the woods in a large field I passed the the muscular clydesdale in the Orange Jersey which turned out to be the Spuds Racing kit
as this beast of a man matched my pace I tried to exchange pleasantries
this racer in orange did not offer so much as a grunt back
no worries... not everyone cares to get chatty on the bike... especially when this conversation comes from their competition
so I turned my focus from the man in orange to the racer ahead in white

the leader in the Clydesdale Class was no where to be seen
in this open pasture there was a long line of sight
yet still... the leader of our class was no where to be seen

where possible I tried to take advantage of the Rip Nine and its many gears and its long travel fork
sadly most of my efforts had me testing my brakes and their ability to bring down my speed at a rapid rate so I would not run straight off the course
that first tight turn with the loose gravel leading into the singletrack was foreshadowing of the events to follow through the course of the day
as there were to be many times where I would be forced to brake hard into a tight turn on loose earth

it was difficult for me to find a flow
I hammered as hard as I could only to be forced to slam on the brakes and skid... lots of skidding and panic stopping... well not stopping... but slowing to a near crawl

the course at Fairhill is classic East Coast Singletrack with lots of tight turns
I thought about how nice it would have been had it rained the night prior
a little less dust and less loose stuff on the turns would have made for a faster day on the bike
but then I thought... rain could have had the race canceled
so I guess fast and dry with some dust and loose turns was actually a nice way for things to play out

somewhere in the early stages of the first lap I saw the Clydesdale in white a turn or two ahead
I thought about where we were in the race... I thought about when I would like to catch him... I thought about the intensity of the pace now and where the intensity would go if I were to catch him
I continued my chase and decided to see how things played out
a few passes later than a few more turns after that and this Clydesdale in the white jersey got stuck behind a line of racers
ah... the Singletrack Caterpillar was working to my advantage
I lined up behind him

this large racer was having success getting past the group
this last blockage of racers had aided in my reeling him in
on his tail we raced forward

there is no racing stealth in the Clydesdale Class
not sure if he saw my over sized form or heard my Darth Vader style breathing
but he knew I was there
he asked what class I was in
too tired to be clever I admitted to be in his class racing with him
we each chimed in together to the racers in front of us to let us slide by so that we could continue our race

there was not much chatter
we did not have the energy or the oxygen for conversation
I did make mention that we best keep moving because there was a guy in an orange jersey who more than likely was not too far behind us
the Clydesdale in the white jersey said that the guy in the orange racing jersey was the guy who usually wins these things
not trying to be cocky I said...
not on this day... he is not going to win it on this day
because at this point the race was a two man race and I did not expect for the pace to drop and I was not so sure that anyone was going to reel us in
I felt that we would push each other and that the third place rider unless significantly more fast and more fit would not have the intensity that we had fighting for the top slot

we raced
no one caught and tried to pass us
which makes sense... the Clydesdales were the last released group
and we are the Clydesdales
so we reeled in an assortment of races from a variety of classes
finding some fortunate opportunities to pass in the open fields
while of course finding it difficult to pass in the fast tight winding east coast singletrack

for miles I chased this man in white jersey's rear wheel
in between tight trees and over roots
I matched his efforts on each short climb and rolled along with him on each roller coaster descent
it was exhausting... there was no time to relax... there was not a second to grab my water bottle and refuel
it was a battle... we were racing...
I could not risk exiting his shadow for a second

rather than let the slower racers ahead change our pace we tried to roll past fast and efficient
for the most part the racers ahead of us were good about allowing the pass
we tried to be considerate
we tried not to be that obnoxious asshole on the bike

I thought about my conditioning and the current state of the race
I thought about the fuel in my body and how my body was responding to the heat of the day
I thought about the remainder of the race and how things were going to play out
I thought about how I was going to get around this racer

on a short technical climb riders ahead of us bobbled
someone must have crashed and is slowing people down I thought...
so... I jumped off my bike thinking that these racers would block our passage and that I could make my move on foot
the Clydesdale in white blocked my efforts... then bobbled himself... perhaps the bobble was part of the block
as he leaned into me I put my hand on his back and gave him a push forward and then got on my bike and got back into his shadow

this racing in his shadow continued for the majority of the first half of the race
then when we exited the woods onto a winding path beaten in a wide open field I saw what appeared to be an opportunity
as much as I wanted a slug of Gatorade from my water bottle I thought that I could take this opportunity to try to take control of the race

as the Clydesdale in white drank from his water bottle I got some speed and I made a fast fluid pass
as I passed I saw him trying to return his water bottle to the cage
I managed to pass a few racers and get a few spots on him as we re-entered the singletrack itno the woods
but then... twenty yards ahead was a long queue of racers off their bike marching up a short steep climb
I tried to run by the line of racers... but these racers would not grant me this space
they were in line and they wanted to keep their order
the Clydesdale in white got on my rear wheel

the trails did not entirely flatter me
the whole race I over cooked the turns

the effort to achieve speed and to have to brake foolishly hard into the turns was recurring theme throughout the whole race
I would hammer hard and brake hard
I would hammer hard and then brake hard
all the while with the Clydesdale in white dipping in and out of my shadow
there was no way for me to put a gap on him

this was a race and I was moving at race pace
my legs burned as I tried to move up the short roller coaster climbs as fast as I could
I was hesitant about getting too much speed on the descents as I had come to know that each of these descents would end with a tight turn with loose earth under my tires

there was no time for glancing back... but every know and then I would get a glimpse of this same over sized racer in the white jersey inches from my back tire
I found it difficult to find that moment of calm to refuel... so I had to force that moment
a few times I was riding with water bottle in hand while that same hand also gripped the handlebars and pulled the brake
the hammer gel flask stayed un-used in my jersey pocket for the duration of the race
I did not get to drink as much as I would have liked the remaining Gatorade in my bottle would have done nicely to be transferred to my mouth
there did not seem to be an opportunity

there were points in both the first half and then also the second half of the racer where my spirit waned and my mind wandered
this was not a race that allowed for day dreaming and fantasy
this was a race where I had to focus on the task at hand
yet there were times where I felt it would be good to let up a bit and relax
there were times when I thought that finishing top three would be good enough
during these times I fought for inspiration to move forward faster

at one point I reflected up on the good by kiss from my wife and two children
I thought about the smiles on their faces and the strength of their hugs
then I thought about the imaginary good luck coins that my boys had given me when I left the night prior
I put my hand to my chest where an imaginary pouch held these imaginary coins
this day dream gave me enough energy to regain my focus and stay in the game and continue racing

on one gravel road section that dropped down and then climbed up I was passed by the Clydesdale in second place... I considered letting up and letting him go
three quarters of the way up I was neck and neck with the Clydesdale in white
he matched my pace... I did not try to match his... I just maintained
ideas that had drifted in and out of my head returned
I thought about the notion of finishing second
the notion of letting up a bit felt good... real good
but then I realized... if I slowed down now... I risked slowing down for good
getting passed by the Clydesdale in White could also mean drifting back and then getting passed by the Clydesdale in orange
so.... as we moved closer to the apex of this short climb my legs went from a slow stroke similar to walking up stairs to smooth strong rhythmic circles
I accelerated forward and took back control of my mind and my body and also took back control of the cat and mouse game that can so often be the race to the podium

I had come to race... not so much to finish first... but to try and race my hardest... to fight to finish... to race for first if possible...
a first place finish was within my grasp
quitting sounded like a comfortable option
my body hurt
I wanted the hurting to stop
there was no sign of my dropping the Clydesdale in white
I tried to maintain strength and focus
I fought the demons that called out for me to quit

I thought about this massive competitor with his gargantuan arms
in my exhausted state the Popeye song started playing in my head
I thought about how Popeye fights to the finish because he eats his spinach
and I knew I had to fight to the finish as well... even if I do not care for spinach!

at the last water stop I was pleased to hear that there were only three miles to the end of the race
I reached for a water bottle from one of the race volunteers
her head was turned and she was focused on something else
the grab was as sloppy as the hand off
I was unable to get his water bottle... an awkward effort to grab the water bottle that sent the water bottle bouncing to the ground with me rolling forward having expended attention and energy on water that I would not taste
sure there was gatorade in my bottle... but I wanted the easier option
an easier option that was more than likely clean and crisp cold water
enough water that could have not only moistened my dry and dusty throat
but enough water that I could have cooled my head by pouring the remaining water on myself
but no

I was forced to power on without that water

they say that the last mile is the hardest mile...
well... these last three miles were very hard... every pedal stroke of this last three miles was very hard
racing without computer on a course that lacked mile markers I had no concept of distance or time
I hammered each hundred yards thinking that the Finish was going to be right around the corner
I tried to recall the finish of years past and where the Finish would be this year
then I remembered that the Finish would be at the pavilion
from there I tried to recall how the trail feeds back onto the road leading towards the pavilion at The Fair Hill Resource Center
I knew that there would be a stretch of road leading to the finish

I pushed hard in an effort to make sure that the decision of who would finish first on this day in the Clydesdale Class would not be decided on a road sprint
I wanted to arrive alone
so I hammered alone
somewhere in this last set of miles I lost that Clydesdale in white from my shadow
unable to look back I raced forward fast on dirt to try to avoid any sort of sprint to the dirt on pavement
the race needed to be decided before the Finish Line came into site

I raced all the way across the line and then nearly collapsed in an overly dramatic way
but instead I rolled forward thirty yards past the finish and laid my bike and my body beneath the shade of a tree
here I pulled my gloves and helmet off and unzipped my jersey
my legs were fried and my body was soaked in sweat
I had left it all on the course
the second place Clydesdale came across the line... as expected it was the Clydesdale in white
not sure of the time... but it was more than seconds
and then a little more time passed... again more than mere seconds... as expected it was the Clydesdale in the orange jersey

I had just had a good day on the bike
the events of the day played out such that I was the fastest of the Clydesdales at The Fair hill Classic in 2009

I spoke with the Clydesdale in white for a few moments... we shook hands and went our separate ways... no contact was made with the Clydesdale in Orange...not sure if I was on his radar... figured we could all share some friendly words at the awards
once I had the strength to stand I waled over and washed myself down with a hose and filled my body with a few gallons of water
water is precious...

in street clothes I milled about the grounds making small talk with other racers
I spoke with a promoter about the podium award time and decided that I would hit the road
by the scheduled On Forty Five Awards I was exiting Interstate 495 headed towards my dad's house in Bethesda to go swimming with my wife, kids, and four other kids from our block downtown
in between diving contests and sessions of Marco Polo (which we play Marco Island) I got a call from Tyler of DCMTB
Tyler and Alex were hanging out after the enduro race and willing to grab a prize for me
I was pleased to be poolside rather than hours away on the Delaware/Maryland border

a good weekend that involved some very exciting racing

The Fairhill Classic brought to you by Delaware Trail Spinners!
I really need to go to Sunday MASS more often

it is super cool that there is a Clydesdale Class
it is unlikely that I would race that hard to get top ten in my age category
which means I would race a slower less intense race
racing within the Clydesdale Class is an interesting level playing field
weighing in at 221 these days... would love to see the weight drop
I would love to not qualify as a Clydesdale
but I do not think I would love that as much as my beer and snacks after the kids go to bed
will get back to this
need to focus on beer and snacks

    Place    Name                    Team               Bib No Age      Time      Pace     Time Back
1 Joel Gwadz Dcmtb\City Bikes\Me 130 41 1:47:32.60 10.6MPH
2 Reed Keller D&Q Racing 165 34 1:49:16.10 10.4MPH 01:43.50
3 Rob Scroggin Spud Racing 293 33 1:51:04.35 10.3MPH 03:31.75
4 Joel Kelly 502 1:51:07.65 10.3MPH 03:35.05
5 Joe Luby Classic Gt Luby Rac 188 24 1:53:08.15 10.1MPH 05:35.55
6 Ian Gallagher 483 1:57:00.20 9.74MPH 09:27.60

*the top six get listed because the guy in sixth suffered a flat, was involved in a crash, and
was wearing a Dead Kennedys t-shirt

BPP Photography in the collage at the top by Tim Mullen
collage tossed together by me
more photos of the 2009 Fair Hill Classic on link bellow
then the self portraits are of course... by the may with the camera


Chris said...

great job bro!
nice report, but don't hate on spinach. that stuff is like rocket fuel. ;-)

Ian said...

The guy in sixth fell victim to one of the thorns of which you spoke. At least you'll remember me for the shirt though.

gwadzilla said...

my tire was flat by the time I got home

I pulled a single thorn out of the tire

it was a super slow leak
not enough to really effect things

I sensed it
but thought it was a combination of fatigue and rear suspension