Race Report: Fall 2012 Crystal City Diamond Derby

last spring Sheba Farrin and company hosted the first Diamond Derby in Crystal City

Diamond Derby?
no one knew what it was...
no one knew what to expect...
no one knew...  

at its first incarnation people showed up and were fully stoked to discover the Diamond Derby is an all day bicycle event with a social bicycle ride, bicycle races, and then also friends, fun, fashion, and food and drinks
basically a bicycle themed party in a parking garage... 
of course!

in short...
The Diamond Derby is an all day bicycle event
a bicycle race in a parking garage that caters kids as well as to the intense racer crowd and the bicycle enthusiasts
also a bicycle social ride
it is a day of bicycle themed entertainment 

a bicycle themed party with food, drinks, music in a temporary lounge in the parking garage created for this day 
there would be art hung on the walls and fashion shows mixed in with the events of the day 
the lounge being surrounded by various legs of the race course
thus giving spectators a nice vantage point as they sip cocktails or feast on catered food
in some ways... bringing in the racers just to entertain the spectators!
which... the racers do not seem to mind

Gwadzilla Mention of the Diamond Derby

article in GRIST on the Diamond Derby last Spring

Smaller Images Photo Credit to Andy Zalan for most of the photos presented here, thanks AZ!
Larger Images of me going over the hay barriers by Mark Blacknell, thanks Mark!

and... if anyone snapped any shots of me racing... PLEASE SHARE!!

RACE REPORT: Fall 2012 Crystal City Diamond Derby
this weekend past was the 2012 Fall incarnation of the Diamond Derby in Crystal City
in the spring no one really knew what to expect
people showed up and were shown a bicycle good time
those who showed up to race understood... oh... a turning twisting course the through a parking garage

anytime there is a start line and someone saying "on your mark get set go"
you have a race
and well
the Diamond Derby most definitely has a race
in fact... there are a multitude of races at the Diamond Derby
races and a social ride

there is a social ride from downtown Washington DC to the Diamond Derby Crystal City location
and on site there are a series of races through the day

the event starts when the Social Ride arrives...
when the Social Ride arrives people are allowed to "ride the course"
then... once the Social Riders have settled in the games begin
starting with the KIDS RACE!

as with the first Diamond Derby last spring
I am involved with the event
just as with the first Diamond Derby... the Kids' Race is my domain
I am the "race director" of the kid event

kid course design... kid course set up... and kid race coordination
this is my domain
kids and bikes!
as a big kid who loves bikes... as a father with two bike riding kids... I have some insight into this situation

as social riders arrived I hustled around the interior and the exterior of the garage rounding up munchkins
directing parents to take their children to registration and then meet at the kid course
when I saw kids with numbers... I directed them to the course where they were instructed to do some laps on the small course set up for the kids

the kids were all looping the one direction mini course
it was a pleasure to see the smiles on the young cyclists faces
there were a few tight turns... which brought on a few crashes
with crashes there were some tears

but the tears were wiped away and the kids all got back on their bikes

once it seemed I had corralled all of the kids to the kids course I tried to herd the cats on the course
my directions were not clear... I sent the kids off into a no man's land... my wife was able to bring them back
thanks Lisa!

once the kids had registered and gathered at the start line I got a sense of what to expect of  this pack of young racers
it was determined that the younger kids will do multiple laps on the mini course
while the older and more confident/comfortable kid racers will do multiple laps on an abbreviated section of the adult course
it is fun... it is exciting... IT IS AWESOME!


removing the element of danger of car traffic and bringing on a race

well... that is really something special
it was a beautiful fall day in the district... if this event was not so awesome I could not justify being indoors on such a nice day
I know that I dig the Diamond Derby parking garage race venue
and well... it is apparent that the kids totally dig the parking garage race venue as well


the little kids took their fast laps on the small course and were then awarded a prize bag of SWAG for their efforts
then given the go ahead to ride more... and they did... kids looped the small course all day
while the older kids were taken to the START FINISH of the adult course
there was a parade lap... which I may have run faster than I should have
but feel it is best for them to ride the course at something more than a snail pace so they do not risk hitting it too hot during their race and crash and burn

(check out this VIDEO of little Michael cornering!)
we did our parade lap and then with a little pre-race meeting I told each age group how many laps to to complete... then ON YOUR MARK GET SET and GO! 

4 laps for the first group.... 3 laps for the next... and then 2 for the smaller ones

it was dizzying! it was hard for me to keep track of the kids and their laps... I am sure it was hard for the kids to keep track of their laps

in fact... I had to pull kids off the course... they were either confused of how many laps they had done or wanting to do more laps
but our time on the course was finished... we needed to clear the course for the next event!
I directed racers as they finished to head back to the mini course for prizes
again... awards for everyone
as it is a "just for fun" event and not a 1-2-3 Podium event

with the kid event done I was able to alter my focus to the fast approaching relay race
but before that I gathered my wife and kids for the OPEN RACE
yes... my two boys had just finished the kid race and now they were lining up with the adults in the Open Race? yeppers. 

A cluster of racers and riders on an assortment of bikes gathered at the Start Line
without any discussion there was a chaotic release
like the bulls in Pamplona the racers attacked the course
putting in fast laps and rushing to each and every one of the check points
only one problem... they did not have the manifests!
the race had not begun... intentional or unintentional the racers had been sent of onto the course without full instructions

after a multitude of laps I instructed my boys to gather at the Start Line, catch their breath, and wait for a manifest and instructions

once all the racers were back at the Start Finish Sean Bega explained the OPEN Race format
with its "messenger alleycat-esque" design
the use of a manifest and the measure of points not just from laps... but from points earned from each check points
what were the check points? well... I am not sure
but I think there was a check point with a game of BlackJack... another check point with a tire toss... and then a check point where the racer had to get into a CAR 2 Go car and honk the horn... but not sure what else
as I did not race the Open Race

when the Open race finished my family was all smiles
my wife Lisa enjoyed the race as much as my boys Dean and Grant
Lisa handed in her manifest and landed 5th in the women
while Dean and Grant had been enthused about scoring points... they were less concerned with tallying the points
they left the main course and returned to the kid course to ride more laps!

after the Open Course Race finished I think there was a Fashion Show.... not sure if it was an actual fashion show or scoring points to racers and riders who rode their bikes in costume
my focus was on getting ready for the team relay
so... after suiting up I tried to find my team
or to be more specific... I needed to finalize building my team!

it was my aim and my intention to create an all DCMTB team
but... the team list serve did not give me the interest that I had intended
at this point less than an hour before the race start it was me and Kate Shrock
only two people on a four person relay team
Kate and I are both on DCMTB and Kate and I raced the relay together in the spring
Kate is a solid racer! and pretty much rad all around!
but... as solid as Kate may be... she is only one person.... and we needed four!

so... I was trying to sort things out
I scanned the crowd for my potential "maybes"

there had been three way conversations between me and some messenger contacts
text and phone exchanges
DC Messengers Andy Zalan and Bruce were both strong maybes that I thought had evolved into "yeses"
but neither was in sight... AZ was on site... but not in sight
I had seen Andy involved in some of the race activities... but was not sure if he was ready to race
and Bruce... I had not seen Bruce

Andy Zalan mention on the Gwadzilla Page
Bruce mention on the Gwadzilla Page
I located AZ... he was in... but needed to find a helmet
I go to the phone and started a text to locate Bruce to see if I needed a last minute replacement
but before I could hit send Bruce surfaced in front of me
I was at the registration table and in seconds my immediate problems were resolved
my relay team was on site... ready to race... and getting registered


it is not clear to me how much time we had
but I was certain that I needed to get some idea about the course
so... we took to the course
we all run a few laps informally together
but nothing close to "race pace"
fast and fluid... but not testing the turns

having watched the "Open Category" event I knew that there were some spots on the course to exhibit caution
each turn held the potential for danger
there were places to get speed
but the turns were not to be taken too fast

I had seen a good number of people crash
I did not want to crash
I hate crashing
I live the saying "the bigger they are the harder they fall"
I do not want to fall

we did our warm ups then gathered at the start line to discuss relay order

without hesitation we agreed that Kate would be a good racer to send out first
she has a good start... fast acceleration... and Kate is good at taking advantage of her size so that she can make the pass in tight spaces
but what about the other three slots

there was some thought that the fourth racer may have to do 2 Laps... which has us trying to measure which of us would serve the team best
AZ and I were thinking Bruce had the best engine for the job
Bruce was thinking that I was the right person for the task
no one knowing what would work out best... I accepted the slot as anchor

the relay
the one lap effort by each racer
building into the team effort
so much for that last racer bonus lap... 
no complaints from me
each relay racer would only do one lap

warm ups were done... the course was closed
we listened to Sean Bega tell the racers the format of the race
then we sent Kate Shrock to the line
then there was the start... no Leman's style start this time... no breaking up the mass of racers into two heats
just one mad rush on the bikes to the "hole shot"

"the hole shot" is the point in the race where the course goes from a wide section of race course to a more narrow section of race course
things funnel together... much like in a car... there can be a traffic jam as people compete to be the next merging vehicle
here the racers need to go two by two or single file
the better placement early on in the race often dictates the position at the end of the race
Kate got a good start

Kate took off fast and was right on the rear wheel of the Mario Kart character Luigi on his mountain bike
which was impressive... as the man in the Luigi costume was none other than Bike Arlington's Executive Director Chris Eatough... a retired pro-mountain biker!

it was a fast first lap... all the laps would prove to be fast
Kate came in with the lead group
it was a cluster of 1-2-3 coming around the final turns with Chris Eatough in the lead
Kate passed off the baton to Andy Zalan...

a few days have passed since the event proper
the details are now a blur
but it would seem by the tail end of AZ's lap it had become a three team race
Crosshairs-DCMTB-and a costume clad group of road cyclists

AZ finished his lap... passed his baton to Bruce
as Bruce took to the course I got my bike and got into the staging area
throat dry and feeling a little nervous I got ready for the passing of the baton
by the time I was in the staging area all of the relay teams had their third rider on the course
what happened out of sight was a mystery to us

would the Crosshairs pull ahead? would there be a crash?
would there be any changes in the finishing position
we all waited eagerly for the passing of the baton
then it happened...
the first... second... and third place racers made the turn within view and then the final turns towards the hay bale clustered START FINISH LINE

it was Crosshairs in 1st... DCMTB in 2nd... and the costume wearing cyclists in third...

Kate, Andy, and Bruce are all well seasoned DC Bicycle Messengers... riding fast and cornering hard is part of their everyday routine
even if Andy did recently retire and is pursuing other non-bike related careers
this had our team coming in at a close second at the last and final lap

the lead team was a team also comprised of a Messenger based team... but not only is the CROSSHAIRS team built with a cluster of bicycle messengers... these are messengers who are also at their peak performance for the cyclocross season
which has their intensity rolling along at their personal best

the first place team was on the bike and headed up the garage ramp that sent races spiraling up before spiraling down
I received the baton and grabbed my bike
with a few fast footsteps I had my bike body moving forward
then did a flying hop onto the bike in the classic cyclocross style

by the top of the spiral ramp the first place racer was in sight
in sight but hardly within reach
it is a difficult thing trying to catch the racer in front of you
the spots where I was able to gain speed were the same spots where this racer was also able to gain speed

when I accelerated he accelerated
at various points in the course I watched as he looked over his shoulder to be sure that I was not getting too close
I tried to balance racing hard with smart racing
this relay was in fact a "qualifier" for the relay finals
it made more sense to race smart and finish second
than to put too much out there and risk crashing and losing that second place slot

the cat and mouse was hardly cat and mouse
both of us were racing fast... but no one was racing fast and foolish
my position was never close enough to threaten that number one slot
just enough to maintain second

our effort in the qualifier gave us some time to rest as they had another qualifying heat
we discussed our game plan
we would maintain our race rotation feeling that Kate had done really well as the lead out racer and that the rest of us managed to do well enough in our slots
then we discussed the passing of the baton
questioning whether we could shave seconds with a more fluid exchange and getting moving on the bike more quickly

the relay finals took the center stage
Kate lined up with "the big boys"
hammering up the spiral climb in second right behind Luigi aka Chris Eatough... again!
the first lap played out quite similarly to the qualifier
in fact... I think the whole race was a similar race to the qualifier

it was a two team race... The Crosshairs squad and then my DCMTB team... which was really some meld of DCMTB and DC Messengers

when my turn came I let the Red Bull and adrenalin take control
I used hustle and I used muscle
trying to corner smarter rather than faster
fearing the crash on every turn
respecting the dangers of racing on a concrete surface with concrete cushion all around

I hammered hard but never was I fast enough to bridge the gap with the first place team
my effort was enough to make them fight to keep me out of their shadow
but there was never ever any real threat
I had hoped that the lead rider might slip out to let me gain some ground
but they raced fast and fluid... making the turns smart and safe instead of agro and out of control!

Second Place... Second Place would have to be good enough
the first place team was faster... we would race for second...
again... I raced fast and smart... never did the third place come anywhere near my shadow
I saw them once... but never again
and then again... I never made it into the shadow of my Crosshairs opponent

we took second... it was as solid effort
we raced well and landed where we belonged!
we can all try to think what we could have done differently... 
but in the end... if we had gone a little harder and moved a little faster
our Crosshairs opponents in the front would have also gone a little harder and moved a little faster

after the relay there was some playful banter between competitors
the Diamond Diamond moved its focus from the racers to a fashion show
which gave the racers some time to rest, recover, refuel, and hang out until the next race event fell under the spotlight of this bike centric three ring circus

I already had Red Bull coursing through my veins 
but I added multiple Capri Suns and some of the gel candies I had bought for the kids at the kids race
water... water was also vital...
I fueled up with water, Capri Suns, and fruit jelly candies

the final race of the day was starting to line up so I joined in with the cattle call
seeing some familiar faces  took a slot on the front line
there was some pleasant exchanges between friends, but my focus was about getting on the bike
getting this race started

before the race started Sean O'Donnell took the slot to my right
I made space... Sean had earned Pole Position

just as with the previous races Sean Bega... another bicycle racing Sean... only this one having no association with the Crosshairs Racing Team was running some officiating as well as the duties as MC
Sean did a good job of holding "mini call ups"
bringing a few bodies to the front to thin the herd
to try and break up some of the cluster fuck madness that was sure to ensue at the release of the bicycle riding hounds

in the Open Category Sean called up my boys Dean and Grant
which made it easier for the more intense racers to make a fast safe logical pass
rather than having people crash out my young and perhaps less experience small children 
we all know it is an "every man for himself" situation when it comes to the race for the hole shot
no "women and children first" here
well... almost no

just as the children got a little hand up in the start of the open race
Sean Bega called up a few of the more competitive women 
Kate Shrock, Anna Kelso, and a few others were called up to a slot about 5 yards in front of the hungry pack of racers
just as soon as the women were comfortable with their new slots Sean gave a casual release of the racers
all the racers?

it was confusing... but the race was on its way

not the start I was looking for
but I was on the bike and hammering up the spiral parking garage ramp
by the crest of the ramp I was on the rear wheel of Anna Kelso wondering where it would be good to pass

passing is not so easy... especially on the first lap
the pace was fast and the intensity was high
I had ridden the course a few times prior
but was still not confident about the corners at speed
I did not want to attempt a pass and cause a crash
but... I did not want "The Seans" to get too far ahead 

the first lap had its smooth fluid moving caterpillar
I was in line with a group of racers who were artfully picking apart the course
when I saw the chance to pass... I tried to take it
not always passing as soon in the lap as I desired
often forced to roll at the rate of the racers in front of me

all of this time as a segment of the cyclist caterpillar allowed for the lead racers to build a greater gap

but after a few laps things thinned out a bit
managed to get in front of a few people
then found myself chasing the wheel of Sean O'Donnell
it was a pleasure trying to match pace Sean

Sean's intensity is only matched by his speed, power, and control
as fun as it was to chase Sean around the course for a handful of laps
I was starting to get dizzy
so I had to slow down

Sean got ahead of me by one turn... then another turn... not to be seen again from that angle again for the rest of the race

with Sean O'Donnell gone... and Sean Campell no where in site I had a hard time keeping pace
I tried to hammer fast fluid laps
the laps felt good... but riding alone and questioning the placement and the duration of the race my mind wandered
I know that my pace was dropping... chasing Sean O'Donnel was fun... but it took some of the gas out of my tank
as I worked the twists and turns of each laps I would loop back and see chasing racers

Kate Shrock and Bruce were in hot pursuit
seeing the chasing racers helped to fuel me to fight to stay fast and move forward
I knew it was unlikely for my fight to catch "The Seans"
so I fought to keep Kate and Bruce from catching me

yes... my pace dropped
it seemed never ending
I felt like I was in day one of a six day race
it did not seem like I had another five days in me
I wanted to hear the call for LAST LAP
I wanted the BELL LAP

but no...
more laps... more and more laps
my intensity on the straights dropped...
my ability to corner fast was gone
my effort on the slow twisty turns was no effortless or clean
the end was near... if not the end of my race, but the end of my effort

on so may of the early laps I enjoyed catching air on the humps in the FUN ROOM
but on the later laps I was sloppy... unintentionally catching air while hammering pedal strokes

then it happened...
I heard it
the call for ONE LAST LAP!
just the words I was looking for

this was the wake up call that I needed 
the realization that my effort was soon to be over
just put a little more in and cross the finishline
a little more fight to try and catch the race leaders
a little more fight to keep the chasing racers behind me

but no...
what happened...
it was not Bruce or Kate that would catch my rear wheel

on the straight before the FUN ROOM Sean Campbell came up along side of me fiercely over spinning his single speed cross bike
I tried to match his effort
but my effort was seconds late
instead of being side by side
I was behind him
not sure of his line on the turn into the FUN ROOM I fought hard while having to contain myself
no need to cause a crash


fighting the pass was all for ego
not for finishing position
yes...  screamed a long audible scream as Sean passed
cheering my friend on and accepting defeat
enjoying the moment

through the fun room we arced a fast hard turn into the final stretch
with the finish in site I got passed by the second Sean... Sean O'Donnell would recover from his crashes and also lap the entire field and finish second

it was good...
it was a good effort and a great race
I was pleased with how things played out
no shame in where I landed!
finished behind faster racers... no shame in that
held off some fast racers... there is pride in that

had a blast racing an amazing course with friends and strangers
good time for sure

across the line I was pleased to think that there was beer at the bar
I congratulated the Crosshairs Racing crew and went to the bar for a recovery drink
a can of something from New Belgium tasted good
tasted good and felt good... just what the body needed
or maybe what the mind needed

moments later back at the Finish Line I gathered with the top five finishers of the 4X
we created our own impromptu podium
where we "shotgunned" beers
it had been decades since I had shotgunned a beer

funny... I had to relearn how to shotgun a beer
thus proving I had in face forgotten everything I learned in college
luckily this was the first time that adult life asked me to perform anything that I had learned in college

so many people are already asking...

When is the next Diamond Derby?

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