RACE REPORT: 2013 Greenbrier Challenge

Photo by A. E. Landes
it is all a blur... I should have started my race report the night of the race while the pleasure and pain of the day was still fresh in my mind
but starting this now as my focus has already moved to the future instead of the past... well... it makes it tough
I will try to dredge up what I can

photos and the results may help bring some things to the surface
but not sure what I can dredge up this late in the game

hopefully I can recall some of the details of the day

RACE REPORT: 2013 Greenbrier Challenge the Clydesdale Challenge

Although I knew I wanted to race the Greenbrier Challenge I did not pre-register

Pre-registering is a good way to start getting the head right. It is so easy to back down. Always so many reasons to not do something versus the short list of reasons to actually do something. Things can get in the way... obligations of life or something as simple as the weather can act to rob me of my momentum and keep me from taking the line.

and then of course... there are the demons
got to beat back the demons
those little voices in our heads that offer question of our capabilities
those little voices in our heads that nip at us trying to have us back down from a challenge
I have these voices... don't you? well... I do.

Photo by Carlo
Pre-registering also helps to answer that quesiton, "are you racing this weekend?"
I knew the answer was, "YES!"
but since I had not registered... when asked... I gave a sheepish... "yes... I think so... "

to give a firm "YES! I am racing this weekend!" definitely aids in getting the head right
always got to have the head right
so much in sport is mental
well... preparation of the body and then the preparation of the mind

a few days before the race I stopped by my friend Chris Merriam's house to pick up my geared bike
Chris was good enough to set up the tubeless that had long since gone flat and was holding tubes and give the bike a good look
it had been too long since I had ridden my Niner Rip Nine

in fact... it had been too long since I had done any mountain biking to speak of
okay... not entirely true
the week prior I was in Colorado for The New Belgium Bike Summit
another AE Landes image
that trip involved a few afternoons on the Single Speed at Valmont Park in Boulder and then a "epic" group ride with people from the New Belgium Brewery and people in town for the New Belgium Bike Summit who leaned towards the way of bikes on dirt

so... although I had not been "training" 
I had been riding my bike
in fact... "training" is not my thing... "training is the T WORD"
but the fact that DC had a virtually snowless winter had me at a better level of fitness than I often have at this time of year

I was feeling good
my head was not entirely right
but my body was feeling good

which should have fed into my head feeling right
yet... somehow there was a disconnect

I was just not as psyched up as I should have been

the week went through its motions and then the weekend arrived
I offered up the option to race at Greenbrier for 9 year old Grant and 11 year old Dean
they had their hesitations
and well... so did I 
as it is an extra about of mental energy to the kids to the race and to get them to the line
I already felt as if it would be chore to get myself to the line

when the boys offered up hesitation when I asked them if they wanted to race
I accepted their resistence and opted to head out to the event sans kids
in the end rationalizing my decision with the thought that it is a tough course and it would be difficult for them to do a lap under the race format
pre-riding the course is helpful to anyone
not knowing how long a climb is... or how much longer in the lap
well... all that can be mentally defeating

I did not want to put the boys through that... they should definitely ride this course before they race this course

back to me...

so much about sport is mental
gotta have your head right
there needs to be a certain level of self confidence
there needs to be a certain level of focus

I felt good about my bike
I felt good about my body... not my weight, but my fitness
yet my head was not right
I was distracted... my mind was not race ready

as race day approached I avoided pre-race anxiety by not thinking about the event
the eve before the event I haphazardly I packed gear for race day
basically tossed an assortment of gear in a duffle bag
double checking that I had gear for head to toe
or toe to head

shoes... sock... shorts... jersey... gloves... helmet... glasses
check... double check
then some overlap of more gear incase the weather were to be cool

a last glance at the PVC page for the Greenbrier Challenge had me realize my start time was 11:30 and not 2
this changed things
this altered my morning

good catch
that would have SUCKED!
would have hated to arrive at the race site after my race had already finished

morning came...
Greenbrier State Park is roughly an hour from downtown Washington, DC
so I did not have to get up early
nor did I have to drive too far

this allowed for a mellow start to the day

so I woke... made some bacon and eggs
wrapped up a sandwich to be eaten on the drive up
then walked the dog
gave each of the boys a kiss on the forehead as I waited for them to wish me luck
they did not... they were too engrossed in their "screens"

halfway to Greenbrier State Park I was still in a haze
it occurred to me that I had not yet had my morning coffee

the drive outside the city was virtually painless
I arrived at the race location and parked in the first open space then went to register and get a number
again... my head was not entirely in the game
at the registration table I asked to see the Clydesdale registrants... but they did not have a list available
so, I just shrugged my shoulders and accepted I would see who I was racing with soon enough when I took the line

then I migrated the area 
pointing towards the DCMTB team tent... which I could not find... as the team gathered sans tent
it was good to catch up with people
exchanging hellos with fellow racers and friends
then drifted back to the car where I suited up
it was colder than I anticipated
well... I guess not not entirely unanticipated
as I had brought a variety of clothing

knickers and long sleeves seemed like the apparel for the day
then an additional base layer
it was a bit nipple as I did a short spin around before taking the line
oddly enough... by the time the race was ready to start... it warmed up and shorts and jersey would have been sufficient 

ah... the 11:30 start
tough for the Clydesdale to start so close to meal time
my breakfast was long since forgotten and I was already starting to get hungry
this sent me around scanning the area for food
all those episode of Man Vs Wild had me wondering if I could find some grub under a rock
but instead I checked the registration area for some hand outs
NOTHING!... but to my luck I got an orange from a guy at The Bike Lane bus
and then ..
I ran into Libby Sheldon and was able to mooch a couple of energy gel packs

BONUS! food and caffeine... still needed to wake up!

I had Chris Merriam working as my mechanic days prior
then I have his wife Libby running support on race day
good to have this family in my corner

people were all lined up in the cattle call
I zipped around a little more
trying to break the anxiety 
and trying to warm up
I had not done any sufficient warming up of the legs

in the line with the Clydesdales there was some small talk with familiar faces
then there was the measure as to who was there
there were some new faces
it is always difficult to access the caliber of the rider in the Clydesdale Class

as I spoke with another racer I mentioned that I hoped to make the podium
top three would be good
ah... an error
shooting for top three is different that shooting for the number one slot
my head was not right
my approach was lack luster

I should have been in it to win it
but... my head was not in it
the bike and body were ready
the mind... well... the mind was not as it should have been

the officials released the classes
in front of us packs of men and women took to the course on their bikes

when it was our turn to go race organizer Jim Carlson made a joke about following me if you did not know the course
I must admit... I am sheepish about the notion of my dominance in the Clydesdale Class
especially with all the unfamiliar faces at the line

there was the countdown... and I had no race day strategy
well... I had the usual strategy.. "ride my bike... just ride my bike... try to ride it fast... try to ride it hard"
but foolishly... I did not let that mantra echo in my head
instead I just waited for the release
with no real plan

often my race plan is to RED LINE AT THE START!
hammer forward... put in a fast first lap and then see what is left in the tank
but not on this day
maybe it was the lack of knowing what I was up against
maybe it was the lack of focus 

but I had a shrug of the shoulders and thought... I will see how things unfold

there was the release and I bobbled with the pedals
it was not a fast start
it was not a fluid start
but I felt good about entering the single track in second place

I had no desire to try and challenge any of the other Clydesdales so early in the race
having not ridden much lately
I was not sure what to expect of my body
there was some fear about going out too hard and blowing up

I did not want to bust nut on the first climb of the first lap of a three lap race

up the first climb... down the first downhill
then into the rock garden in second

and then... a young Clydesdale passed just as we exited the rock garden

onto the jeep double track I was sitting in third
which was fine
I figured I could just sit in and see how things unfolded
as I felt good about my fitness but was not too sure about my racing top end

I thought I would hang in the shadows and let them control the pace for now and then bring in the challenge later
I did not want to exhaust myself by starting a cat and mouse game so early on

training is not my thing
I do not use a power meter
heck... I do not even use a bicycle computer
Map My Ride? Strava?
I give a glance at my watch and estimate my duration when I ride
but I seldom do any analytical measure of my effort
instead... I just ride my bike

I try to ride my bike regularly
I try to ride my bike hard

but it is hard to gage my fitness without any analytic measure

on the second climb I walked behind the two other Clydesdales as they pushed the pedals
I did not hustle to match their pace... yet it was pretty close
I felt that their being an additional bike distance ahead of me after this climb could be made up elsewhere on the course

by the time we were on the technical rock garden climb I was in second
again I dismounted and started walking early
while the 18 year old Clydesdale kid pedaled through it all
I kept his jersey in sight

never panicked I rode steadily behind him
not trying to challenge him too early
part of me thinking that I could keep pace and he would drift back to me
but no... he was not slowing down

lap one finished... the bike and body felt good
my energy level felt strong
there was no cramping or complaints from the body

lap one finished and I was in second
then lap two started and I continued to pace myself off the Clydesdale leader
he was not to far ahead
we were close... not close enough for wheels to touch
but close enough that I knew where he was

although I had not evolved a race strategy
as lap two started to wind down I knew that if I was going to make a move
it would be best to make it sooner rather than later
I thought that a strong effort on the climb at the start of the final lap would be a good place to try and make a move

this meant I had to not have to be in sight of the lead racer
but I had to be close to his rear wheel
you can not pass a cyclist unless you are on top of that cyclist

so... I picked up my intensity
made some aggressive passes and tried to make up some ground

at one point I was passing my friend Anne Mader of The Bike Lane
as I passed on the right of her just off trail I kicked my body back and I went over a hump of earth
when my back end made contact with my seat I heard a metallic crack
in my mind's eye I thought I had broken the clasp that adjusts the angle of the saddle

things seemed fine so I kept rolling

and I worked my way through the muddy section that winds down each lap I heard some noises from my saddle and I felt it change position
then it happened
my saddle dropped onto the trail behind me

still moving... I got a warning from a rider behind me to be careful of the remaining rails
so... as I exited the woods onto the dam and I made a decision
I stopped the bike and removed the seat post 
the seatless seat post with its metal rails seemed potentially dangerous

I decided to ride the final lap sans seat and sans seat post
thinking that riding without the seat post would be better than impaling myself on the seatless seat post or having the sharp metal rails tear into the flesh of my ass

well... it was not long that I realized how hard it is to ride a bicycle out of the saddle

I saw the Clydesdale leader as we each looped the grass section at the start finish
he had me by a hundred yards or so at this point
I thought I could catch him
but I would be proven wrong

out of the saddle I muscled the first climb... no issue... I would have more than likely taken that climb out of the saddle
then on the slight downhill I coasted
my body position was uncomfortable
my legs were burning... there was no time to rest
my arms that had complaints of tennis elbow were sore
my forearms were already burning

this course offers little time for rest and recovery
remove your seat... and that diminishes time for rest and recovery entirely

fatigue to my legs and arms started to set in early into the third and final lap

my pace dropped... it was not possible to ride with the same intensity without a saddle

then into the rock garden I was reminded how much control comes from the saddle between the thighs on technical sections
I was not able to clear the entire rock garden
I was slower... and I had to walk the final 10 yards of rocks
then on the flats... well... rather than sitting and spinning I was forced to mash a big gear

spinning and standing sucks
I pushed a bigger gear so I would have to do fewer rotations

hammer... coast... hammer.... coast...
neither pedaling or coasting were comfortable

it hurt
I hurt

my pace dropped
it hurt... my body was not enjoying things
yet I was determined to finish
there was a new assessment of my situation

my goal went from an effort to catch the leader.... to an effort to finish the race

before the next climb it happened
I got bumped from second place to third
the rider who lead out at the start approached on my right
it was the Clydesdale in the yellow jersey

a short exchange about the absence of the seat and seat post and I told him that the leader was not far ahead
that it would take some work
but if he worked hard enough... he could catch the kid in the lead

ah... off the bike early into the climb and I was marching
it felt good to get off the bike
walking felt better than riding
at the top of the hill I remounted my bike
then was unable to ride sections that never give me any issue before

off the bike... back on the bike... off the bike
time being wasted by inefficient riding and inefficient walking
one or the other!
but going back and forth like that was sucking up time and energy

on the flat and then onto the downhill
I knocked out the downhill with a bit of a burn in my legs but a smile on my face
it was at this point I realized I would finish the race
finishing the race is always primary

winning would have been great... but that was no longer an option
finishing the race at this point would be an achievement 
after all... you can not have one without the other
and DNF is not an option
I viewed finishing the race as a potential victory
accepting... if I were to get caught by any more Clydesdales... I would have to let them go

there was no fight left in this dog
this dog was dog tired

again... on the climb I dismounted and walked earlier than I would usually dismount and walk
which was fine
there were plenty of people moving slowly
in fact... there were riders grinding at a rate on the bike at a pace similar to my walking

I would not be able to ride that slowly even if I had a seat to sit on
the Clydesdale needs momentum or else they can not get over even the smallest rock

the race ran its course
I could almost see the finish
there was a certain level of satisfaction in the thought that it would soon be over
although it was not easy to get to the line

a seat post that is too low can cause pain and discomfort
but now seat or seat post at all?

as I crossed the line 
I was done...
the race was done and I was done

I went and put my bike down and then got ready to retrieve my seat and seat post
to my pleasure an elite racer warming up grabbed my saddle and threw it by my seat post less bike
then as I made small talk with the people at the Start-Finish I saw that someone brought in my seat post and the attached seat pack

WOW! good thing I saw that... as it would have been a long walk to the woods and a longer walk as I searched the brush along side the trail for my seat post that was no longer there

it was a good day...
good times... good racing
nice to see more talent in the Clydesdale Class
more bad luck at Greenbrier

I have had more flats... more broken chains... more bike malfunctions at Greenbrier than any other race venue
and I still enjoy it!

those that beat me won it fair and square
they wanted it more
no "but if" or "what if"
yes... I just told this story... but really
blah... blah... blah...
I was never in that kids shadow
I never challenged him
the kid rode a time trial from start to finish!


the tale of the tape below
and a podium shot!

Mention of Valmont Park in Boulder
Mention of New Belgium on the Gwadzilla Page
mention of Greenbrier on the Gwadzilla Page

some great photos of me and others by 
A.E. Landes Photography
AE Landes mention on the Gwadzilla Page

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