RACE REPORT: The Cranky Monkey at Schaeffer Farms

the further away from the race day the less likely for me to recall the details
it is Tuesday... I tried to start the report this Sunday... but I did not get very far
trying not to let this Race Report end like the race it self went

RACE REPORT: The Cranky Monkey at Schaeffer Farms

the morning came... the alarm went off and the opening of my eyes erased any chance of recalling the wonderful dream world I had been caught up in
no time to hit the snooze bar I was under the gun
I had to load up the car and head out to Germantown, Maryland for The Cranky Monkey at Schaeffer Farms

out of bed and down the stairs I put a bagel in the toaster and waited for the coffee to brew
no time for eggs
no time for bacon
it was time to move
in fact I did eat the bagel then and there

the bagel got a little more than a smear of onion and chives green cream cheese then was packed in a bag along with some fruit salad and a whole banana
and of course... more coffee

dressed and ready to drive a little ways out west I made a quick stop at the home office to get on the computer
no... not a quick visit to Red Tube... race registration for the cyclocross season opener
although the Revenge of the Rattlesnake is on the brain I registered for Charm City just the same
cyclocross racing lends itself better to family than mountainbiking
especially ultra endurance races in West Virginia

making good time I loaded up the Honda Element putting the Jamis Nova Single Speed inside the car as I have been slacking about ordering the parts to repair the roof rack... yes... slacking
need to stop slacking and start getting things done

already registered and ready to race I drove out of downtown DC and headed to the Maryland suburbs
the city streets were vacant
then onto the interstate I was greeted with very much the same void
a standard hour and a half ride was completed in less than an hour
no speeding... just no traffic


it was amusing getting to the race site with so much time
it was relaxing... while also being confusing... I was not quite sure what to do with my time
sure I could socialize... but really I wanted to sleep
actually.... all I wanted to do was get on my bike and race
it was too early... I would have to wait

as it would turn out a tragedy in the morning's race delayed the 9:45 Start
causing us to wait some more
erasing anything that may have resembled a warm up
I ate half of a banana fearing that the fuel of the morning would not carry me through the day

the specifics were not known at the the time... but there was a hush going around that a racer had collapsed on the course
although the word was not official... talk was that it was an apparent heart attack
an ambulance came and they were given CPR then taken to the hospital
presently the word on the mountain bike forums is that this man died on the race course

that is a sad set of words to type
I did not know that person but I can only imagine that he was a person much like the rest of us at the race
someone with family... someone with friends... someone who had a love for mountain biking
someone who loved life and had no expectation to die on this day

there are no words to lessen the pain of those who loved him
this day has changed their lives
while to us... it was little more than a delay to our race
some shared sadness... but nothing like changing
it is sad... very sad

fast forward to the line....
it was a large Clydesdale Class... and I am not talking about the size of the racers
the category was more then 20 racers thick... and yes... 20 plus thick racers
the size of the class did not give me much anxiety
the caliber of the racers did

on the start list was Robert Gargantua, Chris Redlack, and Timmy Koch
three racers I knew could race fast
then to be fair to the unfamiliar faces
it is important to respect that there could be some hidden unknown talent among us

a number of classes were released before us then it was our turn
Robert, Chris, and I had a pleasant exchange.. Timmy was not visible on the line
not only was I anxious about the competition around me
I was also nervous how the single speed would match the gears on the racers around me
there was a road start that could disadvantage me for being slow on the road and for being under geared

each category was released with two minute gaps
we waited for our start... the last category to start their race at 9:45

at the Start there was the usual mad dash forward
I am in no position to mock anyone for going hard at the onset of the race
hammering forward on the words GO is the way I like to play it
sure enough... that is not an original thought

my main objective was to hang on the wheel of Robert Gargantua
Robert and I had raced against each other a number of times before and I knew he has speed and handling
on top of that... Robert lives a ten minute bike ride from Schaeffer Farms... home court advantage

as it turns out... Robert was not the only wheel to chase
there was a muscle of a man with arms the size of most men's legs and quads the size of most men's mid sections who was fast off the front

off the road and into the woods and I was comfortable on Robert's rear wheel
I was content sitting in Robert's shadow
the road start and the single speed had not disadvantaged me as I had feared

as comfortable as I was in Robert's shadow
I was not so comfortable to see this stranger with all the muscles and a Gettysburg Jersey off in the lead
I feared that if he got a few turns ahead that we might lose him

so... instead of foolishly trying to control the race from the third place slot I thought it would make sense to try to catch this muscly man in the lead
there was some talk with Robert then we were off
Robert and I Chased... there could have been other another Clydesdale in Robert's shadow... I do not know
both Robert and I caught this muscly man who kindly let us pass on some tight singletrack about half way through lap one

leading the race felt more comfortable than sitting in third

I tried to ride smart
my intensity was high but I tried to avoid over cooking the turns
there were many tight turns
many of which were soft and sandy just asking racers to slide out

the course at Schaeffer Farms offered no surprises
I had not only a pretty good idea of the characteristics of the the trails
years of trips to ride here made me pretty confident about what to expect
even if I did not know the lay out of the race course itself

the morning had been cool and clear
the delayed start had us racing in the heat with a build up of humidity
the multiple Aid Stations along the course were taken full advantage of
only having one bottle filled with water and a hammer gel flask with GATOR RAGE... a mixture of Gatorade and Red Bull I knew that I would have to take water when ever it was offered

a drink of gatorade or water in the hand and some water on the back... that was the routine for each aid station
it felt good

the bike and body felt good
I was hammering along
nothing too dramatic
trying to be fast and fluid
not trying to do anything stupid

always working for smart racing

at the tail end of the open corn field I noticed that Robert had dropped out of my shadow
he was still in view... but not exactly close
back into the woods I tried to step it up a notch
the trails are tight and passing was sometimes an issue
but for the most part everyone I caught was more than willing to allow the pass
a few times I caught packs of riders who were tough to pass
but that is just the nature of the game

getting in front of the singletrack caterpillar takes work... especially on the single speed
I managed to make it happen

the bike and body felt good
on the moderately steep double track climb up from the creek crossing I felt a hint of cramping
so I tried to alter my position on the bike and modify my pedal stroke
on the single speed there is not much option to alter the pace
especially on a climb... I did not want to break pace... I did not want to cramp

at the top of the climb I tried to access my fitness for the day
I knew I would be glad when the lap was over and I could do a head to toe assessment then start thinking about gas in the tank as I fought to get to the finish first

across the line under the clock and starting lap two I felt pretty good
although I had no idea where the other Clydesdales were
I felt confident that I could race them and pace with them if they were to catch and pass me

in and out of the woods then back into the singletrack
around a turn then on a little dip-pity do up and down that went through a dry stream bed I heard something
I heard a loud thick metallic crunch
it was a tad disconcerting

the sound echoed in my brain but was not repeated on the bike
as I pedaled I tried to diagnose things
was it the frame? was it the fork?
it sounded like it came from the front of the bike
not the back or the bottom bracket

in my head I immediately recalled that RickyD had broken the same frame some years ago
I considered stopping to check things out
but decided to hammer on
just figuring that the bike would be creaking more if it were cracked and ready to fail

I heard no more loud metallic cracking or creaking

I hammered... I hammered fast and forward trying to be light on the bike
a Clydesdale light on the bike?

that metallic cracking sound played around my head
I wondered if I felt a change in the angle of the front end of the bike
then I recalled that I had raised the stem and altered the steering with the swap of the fork with a longer steer tube
I dismissed all these thoughts as demons in my head trying to get me from racing in the heat

the miles rolled past under my knobby tires
there was no sign of anyone on my tail
it was me catching other racers
no racers were catching me

I was enjoying this dynamic
I was enjoying the twists and turns of Schaeffer Farms
I was enjoying a day on the bike

late in lap two I started to get that feeling of pleasure that I was going to finish the race
late in lap two I started to get that feeling that I was going to win my category

ah... the pleasure... I day dreamed about how I was going to win a 1st Place Pint Glass that would match the glass that my nine year old son Dean had won at the Wakefield Cranky Monkey a few weeks prior
in my mind I thought about how I would script the race report on my blog

ah... the final miles and the body was feeling good
I crossed that stream and got out of the saddle to muscle this short steep leg burner of a climb one last time
the legs could feel the climb
there was a hint that if I went too too hard I could painfully cramp up
but there was nothing stopping me from muscling the climb
there were a number of riders just ahead and I thought that I would try to catch them before the top

up the first section of this climb then past the XXX sign and down the rolling hill only to muscle up the second stage of this climb

then it happened... the incident that everyone asked about... the failure of my frame
without any audible warning it happened
as I tried to accelerate over the crest of the climb before turning into the woods for the last miles of single track it happened
the bike buckled underneath me

the front end raked out
the downtube broke free of the head tube and the top tube bent like a wet noodle
impulsively I threw myself from the bike as I went over the handlebars
I slammed... it hurt... but I did not seem to be injured

I grabbed my bike and looked at things
the bike was not ride-able
so... I started what would be an effort to jog to the finish
the bike was not pushable

the bike had to be carried
I lifted the bike trying to support it as one mass and marched
I marched and bicycles passed me
so many bicycles that I had passed were passing me

I tried all sorts of different carrying options
it was awkward carrying the broken bike

rolling the bike on the rear wheel worked for a little bit
then the frame would buckle upon itself and I would have to gather things
I tried carrying the bike on my shoulder
but I was really traveling too far for that to be fun
the crimped top tube pinched my new first time being worn DCMTB jersey
I stopped and got on the ground and I tried to get it free without tearing it

it was frustrating... the race victory was slipping through my fingers

in my mind I worked to figure how much further I had to walk
I had remembered the 7 mile sign
oh man... a two mile run would be a painful finish
a two mile walk with this broken bike was torture

the math was in my head
it was unlikely that I would have such a lead to be able to walk to the finish and still stand tall on the podium
yet I walked the course rather than short cutting things

hiking in cycling shoes is no great pleasure
add the awkwardness of this flexy frame and well... well... a total headache
to add insult to injury.... the passing racers started to have magic marker Number 12s on their calves

12 was the number of the Clydesdale Class

to my surprise Robert Gargantua was not the first of the Clydesdales to catch me
that muscly man with the Gettysburg Jersey was the first to pass
I cheered him on as he passed... telling him that the finish was not far away
in a pleasant way he refused my cheers as he did not find it sporting to achieve victory under these circumstances
I cheered him on and told him to enjoy it and that I would see him at the finish
he made it clear that he did not want to win like that
he applauded my efforts and pedaled on

one by one it happened... more and more racers with the Number 12 on their calf caught and passed me
more and more racers pushed my finishing slot back in the queue.... I sat and relaxed
I had really thought I could still podium
perched on a log I drank the final contents of my water bottle then got up and marched again

it was no longer about anything but getting back to the car
the race was over for me... the race was long over
I still needed to get back to the car

the top four passed me and then did a few more
I was so far out of the running that I was not a consideration
all those that passed offered assistance then condolences
none of them had a replacement frame on hand

eventually my cracked and crimped frame became two pieces
it was easier to walk the two pieces then the awkwardly connected one piece
like rolling two unicycles I walked the final mile to the finish
across the line I gave my number and a smile
people were all amused by the site in front of them
I tried to be a good sport.... but I was not so amused

the race was a wash and the frame was fucked
my day had not gone the way that I had intended it
yet I smiled... and tried to be pleasant to each and every person who wanted to know what had happened
to most of them I admitted my true feelings

I was elated that I was not hurt
I knew that I could have been seriously hurt
for my frame to fail and buckle at the moment it did was about as generous as the bike could have been
there were definitely moments of greater stress and greater tork that would have offered a greater potential for danger

in the parking lot I told my tale of woe and congratulated those around me
it had been a good day on the bike until the 16th mile
I had put a solid lead on my fellow Clydesdales and had raced a good race... except for one thing
not knowing that my frame was ready for failure

apparently unbeknown-st to me the crack on the frame had been there for a while
there was some rust and some dirt on part of the break
which means that this defect had gone unnoticed
this catastrophic failure could have happened at a worse time
it could have happened on the city streets
it could have happened at one of the Wakefield races

yes... I was pleased that the frame failed when it did

the tale of the tape
there is no knowing how fast my second lap was
I am guessing that the second lap minus the prologue and without all the passing was faster than the first
but that speculation will go into the big "what ifs" category

it was a good day of racing
after the race I got to meet the Clydesdale winner Brian Futts
Brian being the muscly man with the Gettysburg jersey
a colorful character with enough metal in him to call him a cyborg
great racing with him and the others
I look forward to seeing him and the others again

Photos by Kevin Dillard


Photos from The Cranky Monkey at Schaeffer Farms yet to come
I had my camera in the car.... but there was no reason to do anything but head for home once I finally completed that long march with bike in hand

the tale of the tape
my first lap was solid... not sure if anyone will take my word for it
but my second lap was stronger than the first
alas... that is all for not
it is a bit of a pleasure to finish and not DNF
one DNF this season is enough


Rob said...

Sorry I didn't stop and chat with you last night, I was the guy who blew past as you were unloading your boys bikes for the race at WF. (At least I'm fairly certain it was you).

Did they have a good time/race?

So what are your replacement plans?

gwadzilla said...

the boys had a great time and a solid race!

not sure of my replacement plans

more than likely put those part on my Karate Monkey frame and ride that