Race Report: 2012 Greenbrier Challenge

it has been over a week since the race
it has been over a week since I started this report
I fear that the details of the day are far from my brain
the "play by play" is not an option, unless I decide to get fictitious about things

luckily I started this a day or so after the event... then never finished it... at least there is something down to cover some of the day

part of me feels that no one wants to hear my rant about how shitty I felt followed by.... I WON!
but really... I was hurting out there
my fitness was good in the winter
then around the kids' spring break things dropped off

a trip to Florida has me off the bike for a week and the days before and the days following
then the kids started soccer
Saturday games stole my Saturday Ride
the bike lost priority... I lost my fitness

let me take a glance and then hit PUBLISH AND POST!

words on the Greenbrier Challenge...

this is a great race
the course is amazing in its own 5.7 mile way
the race itself draws lots of talent
the course offers up a list of challenges

being a qualifier for the nationals really ramps up the level of talent
being the Maryland State Championships also thickens the depth of the competition

well...unless you are a Clydesdale...
Clydesdales are not recognized by the US Cycling Federation (USCF)
the Clydesdale Class is not a class in National Off Road Bicycle Association (NORBA)
which means... there is no Clydesdale Competition at the Nationals
as there is no Clydesdale Class at the Mountain Bike Nationals
the winning Clydesdale is just the winning Clydesdale... there is no state champion for the Clydesdale Class
the Clydesdale Class gets no respect

no state championship and not a clydesdale class at the nationals... still... the Clydesdales line up and race their Clydesdale best at this event
often starting last.... often getting their prizes last
often being looked at as a non-class

yet... the Clydesdale Class is its own class
and its own cast of characters
it has its own challenges
there are a number of strong Clydesdales who are fast and competitive for any class
most of all... having their own class give them a playing field where they have an opportunity to be competitive

I guess this is not PC
this is starting to sound like the Clydesdale Class is the Special Olympics
it is not that.... it is that the notion of weight and strength to weight ratios is such a factor
that it is absurd that someone like me at 225 could be competitive against racers who are seldom over 180 lbs
the top racers may be closer to 155 pounds

RACE REPORT: Greenbrier Challenge 2012
it is hard to recall the details
it is all nothing more than a blur
yet I will try to pull something up

the play by play usually helps with the recall
the details of the omelets I made the boys for breakfast and the details about the poop coming out of my dogs ass on his morning walk, all these insignificant details typed down help for me to relive and then retell things
that is why I usually talk about the drive out of the city

I guess I could type this stuff down and then delete it
but instead... I will jump forward in time
sparing the few readers who have made it this far the slog through the text telling of the tale of Interstate 270 on to Interstate 70 just west of Frederick Maryland

at the race sight I was beyond stoked to see that there was a vacant spot in the area I was looking to park
that spot happened to be next to the Merriam-Sheldon Monster Van
the van that transported not only their wonderful family... but also my bike
Chris Merriam was good enough to throw my Niner Rip Nine into the stand to assure me that it would be race worthy!

thanks Chris! thanks for being a friend... thanks for being my mechanic!

I had not driven up early enough... I had not pre-registered... I thought it was a shorter drive.... I thought... I thought... I thought... okay... I did not really think it through

this always ads to the stress of the moment...
after registering... hanging my number... kitting up... there was not much time for a warm up
warm up is not really my thing... yet I do have something in my routine before each race... 
when I went to "warm up" everyone was already queuing at the line
usually I do ride around a bit and socialize as other people warm up their legs
there was no one to socialize with... it was too close to the start

I stopped to say hey to Charles Buki to talk Cattle Dogs when Scott Young of Black Water Bikes tapped me on the shoulder and said hello
until this moment I had not given that much thought about who I would be lining up against
seeing Scott Young kicked up my heart rate and raise my anxiety
I was reminded about the race about to unfold in front of me

a friendly exchange with a my rival and friend Scott Young and then a quick goodbye-talk to ya later with Charles Buki
then back on the bike so I could pedal around and warm up

I took a glance at the Startline and anxiety set in
I rode the grass into the woods... onto the gravel... onto the base of the fire-road climb
it was fast and dry
there seemed to be a decent hard packed line to the right

the body was not feeling particularly spry...
I wanted to warm up... but there was no time

a stop by the DCMTB tent to say hello to some fellow DCMTBERS
no time to hear about other racers earlier adventures
just enough time to say hello to Paula and her fast growing son Chase who confused everyone in a DCMTB kit as his father Kent was still on the course

a piss in the woods... some swoosh of water in the mouth spat to the ground... 
a sprint down a gravel road that ran adjacent to the start line 
then rode to the line
at the line I was late... no wonder there was no one to warm up with
everyone was already at the line

I approached... stopped... and looked at everyone straddling their bikes
sheepishly asked if i could squeeze into the front row
graciously people pinched in and gave me some space
then the ribbing started
some flattering jokes about racing for second and this and that
I was amused that other people had a stronger opinion of me than I have of myself

at the line there was the usual small talk as I tried to get an idea of what was about to unfold
a number of people have trimmed down and moved onto different classes
Greg P. is not only thinner.... but ULTIMATELY FASTER! JR Petsco is also thinner and faster!
my old friend Chris Redlack has put aside the bikes and is racing cars... had Robert Georgatus raced the enduro? he was missing from the line and what about Brian Fults? Brian has dropped some serious pounds due to the aggressive treatment he went through to beat cancer.... Brian is racing again... more than likely faster than me... but no longer Clydesdale
so.... a number of people were missing
but plenty of people were present
but I was not certain of any serious competition other than Scott Young
but that would be enough

Scott Young
my West Virginia buddy whom I have been battling it out on various courses over the last few years
I took a slot on the front line
Scott Young sat comfortably on the second row... it was clear that Scott was eyeballing me... sizing me up... trying to get a measure of my potential for the day

I admitted my aim was to "go for it"
but I also had to admit that I was not feeling bullet proof
lots of unknowns..... lots of question marks
I was not sure how my body was going to respond and I was not sure who was going to be fast on this day

as I tried to measure the opposition I alerted people to watch out for Scott Young as I guessed about what sort of racers surrounded me

stronger... faster.... lighter... racers were released in front of us
then finally with no wall of lycra clad men and women straddling fat tired bicycles we awaited the officials call for our release
then their was the warning and then the countdown
a warning at thirty seconds
a warning at 15 seconds
and a release anywhere after 15 seconds

tension building
focus lost on my nasal breathing
I try to pull back my left foot to raise it on the clock
it is at the 9 O Clock position
when I would rather be at the 11 O CLock Position

there is no click... there is no ratcheting of the chain on the rear cassette
I tried again
I pull my left foot back
I wonder about my gear selection for the start

did they call the start?
are they about to call the start?
when is the start going to happen?
will I lock handlebars with the racers to my left and my right when we are finally released

the race had not even started and I already felt like my heart was going to explode

then finally... after what may have been an oxygen deprived eternity the USCF official released the Clydesdales

on the grass straight away feeding into the woods at the base of this shallow mountain just outside of Frederick Maryland I was pedaling fast
trying to find a groove
trying to breath
trying to get an idea how my bike and body were going to respond to the course and the other Clydesdales

I was in the front of a pack of Clydesdales
there was no space between my rear wheel and the next set of racers

off the grass onto the gravel Scott Young was by my side
well... not quite by my side... Scott's 26 inch wheel was a few inches in front of my 29 inch wheel
not in front of me... more like side by side I asked Scott not to fade into me as we hit the gravel
I looked down at the basic area where I heard a noise that no one would want to hear when they are trying to tork the cranks
Scott Young's chain was dancing around his rear cluster... trying to decide between one gear or another

on the right hand side of the corner feeding onto that opening climb I was stoked that things were dry
but I was not feeling that fast

I was in the middle ring spinning pretty good
but not feeling that great

in the front.... but not feeling dominant
too tired to even glance back to see how far back the nearest Clydesdale was following
huffing and puffing I worked really hard to go not so fast

up the hill then down the hill
just like that Sammy Davis Junior song
what goes up... must go down
spinning wheels.... etc. etc. etc.

I was cautious on the downhill
trying to flow fast
but not feeling fluid... knowing that the race is long I tried to be smart with my speed
having not pre-ridden the course I was getting the sensation that the course was faster than the turns would allow
this had me flowing cautiously forward
braking hard in an effort not to over cook any turns

the downhill fed into the rock garden
although I had not pre-riden the course
I have raced here enough times that I know the basic breakdown of the course
the Rip Nine is pretty good at absorbing things

I selected what I believed to be a decent line
then when I went wide... almost too wide... I had to clip out of the right foot and do a balancing act
managed to stay on track
the words "nice recovery" revealed that I had some racers in my shadow

I had passed a few racers from the previous classes
and I knew that that voice was not theirs.... it had to be a Clydesdale's
it sounded like Scott Young... but it could have been anybody

off the rocks and a swooping left hand turn onto a gravel jeep road
I tried to hammer forward
there was no GET UP AND JUMP in my legs
it hurt to pedal the gear and the cadence I was pushing

I tried to put my wheels on the line of the least resistance
through the creek and then onto slight grade downhill I tried to get some momentum
I was sucking wind and not finding my legs
it felt as if I had a rear flat

a sharp turn onto a moderate climb
I pedaled for a bit in the middle ring and dismounted early
a parade of marching single speeders in front of me had me believing that hiking was a good way to go
it seemed like a good moment to work a different set of muscles
I did not want to burn out the pedal and spin muscles that I would need to complete this race

up the climb the legs were marching awkwardly forward
at the top of the climb after the right hand turn I remounted the bike
by this time I think I may have been joined by a fellow Clydesdale in a black with red polka dot  Race for the Cure Jersey
when he passed me was the first time I saw that he was large enough to be a Clydesdale
at the line by my side he was looking pretty normal

not sure how things happened... maybe I dipped past on the next little climb before things hooked left on the flats before the downhill
but it was not long before I was out of second and back into first

on the downhill I focused on recovering
it made me anxious that I was subjected to the pace of a rigid single speed in front of me
yet accepted that it was not vital to make an aggressive obnoxious pass
instead I rode safe, smart, and smooth... recovering and getting ready to climb again

I rode in the middle ring as the course weaved slowing up through a moderately technical but totally ride-able rock garden
then again I dismounted early
way early... I was off the bike awkwardly marching up the hill

already fatigued... and the first lap was not yet over

at the top of the rock garden I heard a voice... a rider riding.... looking to pass
I cringed as I made sure I was not blocking the ride-able line
but no... it was not a trailing Clydesdale.... it was the rigid single speeder on a bike that may have been older than its rider
so I maintained the lead and felt a bit of a rush as I reached a point in the that had me knowing that lap one may not be over.... but it was pretty much all downhill to the finish
giving me some pleasure that I more than likely would be starting lap two in the lead 

onto the dam I could feel the start line.....
if felt good to be in first at the finish of lap one into a three lap race

passing the start finish heading back into the woods I saw that I had a Clydesdale trailing close behind
it was the black with Red Polka Dot Race for the Cure dude

on the open section before the woods I spun fast and looked forward
voices cheered and it made me smile to hear people call my name
at the base of the hill I had it in the second ring
wanting to use this climb as a spot where I could try and gain ground on the chasing riders

I spun fast in the middle ring... my chain was riding high in the pie plate in the rear
so big a gear I debated if I could have a more efficient gear in the small ring

lap two when past similar to lap one
feeling the drag as if my rear tire was flat
climbing with a great amount of effort but not a lot of speed
exhaustion and fatigue

the battle to fight off the chase

the course to the finish gave me pleasure
even if I rode the obstacles with an excess of caution
I still enjoyed things
the reroute down by the lake has morphed from a muddy dung heap to a nice little technical section

some good flow and some nice challenges

with an excess of effort I ignored the desire to drop things into the granny gear and stayed in the middle ring as I worked very hard to go not very fast
over the top and looping down I took the trail with the same sort of fast with hesitation
then in the rock garden I repeated the exact same line of going too wide and then not finding a good line
only to unclip the right foot and do that awkward balancing act

out of the rock garden and back onto the gravel jeep road
still feeling that I had a rear flat I reared in my jersey pocket and pulled  a hammer gel flask filled with Gator-Rage-Gatorade and Red Bull

not feeling spry I was starting to crack
considering if I would still make the podium if I let up
trying to guess my success if I pulled over and got off the bike and elevated my legs on the trailside
but no... not an option

I coach my children to compete with spirit
I instruct my children to play with heart
it was too early for me to give into the pain
so I maintained..... not feeling particularly spry I did my best to hand tough and give it my best

still in the lead I tried to factor how I felt
trying to figure what it would take to finish first

I rode the first climb in the middle ring and hit the second climb in the middle ring
this time not dismounting as early
I rode further
perhaps wrong yet confident I could continue to ride the entire climb I dismounted to maintain my energy
marching again... yet less awkward and uncomfortable
I had found my groove

riding harder and marching faster
yet... all under the conditions of a certain amount of pain

again on the downhill I have a rider in front of me
I accept the pace of the rider in front of me because they prevent me from rolling off the brakes which could have me rolling off the trail into the woods of connecting with a rock that throws me off the bike off the trail and out of the race

accepting my less than aggressive race approach as smart racing

I closed the second lap with pedaling longer up the rock garden climb and a repeat of the cautious descent to the finish

at the start of lap three I looked over my shoulder... I glanced behind me looking for trailing Clydesdales
nothing was visible
this should have assisted me mentally but it did not

into the woods and pointed up the hill in the middle ring I felt the drag of everything
the drag of too many beers, the drag of insufficient air in the rear tire, the drag of climbing in the middle ring out of the saddle on a full suspension bike
I wanted to drop my gear
but I accepted the pain and tried to push the pace up the hill because I did not feel I was doing anything impressive on the downhills or even the flats

lap three offers a wide variety of emotions
last lap!
ah... last lap!
then of course... familiarity with the course

robotic-ally I pointed the bike down the same lines as the laps before
even if that line failed me on lap one and lap two I directed myself down that same path on lap three
the tires rolled over the same rocks and roots as the laps prior
I splashed into the stream at the same spot
and I rolled through the rock gardens with the same route

on the climbs I was determined to ride further....
not further than the last lap
but at least further than the last
the first climb was fine but on the second climb I went for the granny gear

over spinning I went at a slow pace up the hill
I cursed myself knowing I should be in better conditioning

I was feeling tired... I was over heating... I felt hot
I unzipped my jersey and drank the last sip of warm water from my bottle
tired I awkwardly fought to put the bottle back in its cage before my steering would require two hands
the next chance I got I pulled a small Hammer Gel flask from my jersey pocket
man... I could have used some more that water
the flask was filled with GATOR-RAGE... a Red Bull-Gatorade mix

I needed water... my body did not need any more Red Bull

but no...
my body did not care
my body had ingested as much caffeine as it wanted
no amount of caffeine would compensate for my lack of fitness

I hung on as best I could
more and more tired
by this time I really hurt
the climbs were painful in the saddle or on foot

but... as I crested the last climb I got a breath of fresh air
the knowledge that "it is pretty much all down hill from here" gave me a boost of energy
I tried to get some comfortable speed as I worked my way to the finish

in my shadow I could see a racer... I called out asking his class
fearing that the large frame rider may be a Clydesdale.... but no... a Single Speeder

no more looking back I focused forward and kept my attention on the finish
painfully pushing the pedals
unable to get things to flow I hammered on
smiling intermittently as I cleared the rocks in the reroute before the dam

on the grass feeding into the finish a Wasp or maybe a Hornet landed on my left forarm
I laughed to myself as I thought that the venom of this winged beast would be enough to stop me from rolling another foot forward
I pulled my right hand and went to swipe this creature from my forearm

my effort occurred too late
I got stung once... maybe twice 
a brush from my glove was enough to get the wasp? hornet? on its way
then I crossed the line

tired and thirsty
too tired to get myself to the water jugs to get water I made small talk with other finisher
ten seconds behind me the second place Clydesdale rolled in
not Scott Young... not the Race for the Cure dude... but some guy from PA
the top five racers all finished within five minutes of me

had I sneezed I would have lost the first place spot on the podium

I was pleased with my effort
but not so happy with how I felt

glad I got out and raced
but wished it had not been such a painful slog

a few videos of the start by JR


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