RACE REPORT: The 2010 Greenbrier Challenge

it has been many days since Sunday's race
the events of the day and the week leading up to the race are a distant memory

I had intended getting some words down sooner
but the tasks of life interfered
perhaps I will get something down and tweak it later
lets see what comes to surface as I type

RACE REPORT: The 2010 Greenbrier Challenge
this Sunday past was the 2010 Greenbrier Challenge just outside of Frederick Maryland

this event hosted by The Potomac Velo Club brings in an impressive draw
as the Maryland State Championship this race acts as the qualifier for the Mountain Bike Nationals so people come out to race their best

the week leading into the race I was confronted with an assortment of demons
this "in between jobs" state of affairs has me off the bike more than on the bike
having a job offered me a commute... my commute may be short... but I would use the post work opportunity of being suited up and on the bike as a chance to get in a quick ride nearly every day
I am not riding every day
I am not riding much at all

this had me worried

the Sunday before Greenbrier DCMTB teammate Big Daddy Mike and I went ride at Patapsco State Park
I did not want to go... again... I was battling my demons
not riding had me worried about my fitness, my control, and my ability to chase MikeK's rear wheel

the weight of the world had me feeling such that I just wanted to crawl back into bed
MikeK lured me out to the trails

I dove out to Patapsco wishing I had forgotten my shoes or better yet my bike
but once on the bike... I was excited to be there
once on the bike... I knew I was exactly where I needed to be

the ride at Patapsco with MikeK was just what my body and mind needed
dirt is good for the soul

pushing the pedals and breaking a sweat chased away some of the demons that had been swirling about my brain
it had been months since I had ridden the Niner Rip Nine... it made perfect sense to get out on this unfamiliar machine before I tried to race it the next weekend
it was good to get out a longer than normal ride through the wide variety of terrain that exists within Rockburn and Patapsco

the day after riding at Patapsco I felt all sorts of sore
there was some intense soreness in both my wrists
I was confident that the Ergon Grips were not working for me
it was my contention that this would be the only modification I would need to make before racing the following Sunday

the week started and there was not much riding to speak of

over the DCMTB list server I heard all sorts of people verbalizing their fears of the weather for the approaching race day
I hesitated on pre-registering for the race... perhaps leaving an escape route... allowing the weather to be another excuse not to race

demons started to return
I started to become less sure about racing
on Wednesday I pulled up the PVC site... then decided to let things slide until race day

I think I got on the bike once that week... correction... I rode with my kids on three occasions
while getting out on the road only once
on top of that... I pulled a muscle playing soccer.... playing soccer with my son's U6 team
nothing serious... it really only hurts when I try to kick a soccer ball with my right foot
or when I try to run

those issues are really nothing
more attacks from the demons
sure... my quad is sore... but I am not going out to play soccer
this is a mountain bike ride... different set of muscles

it was not until Saturday that I fought back the demons and told myself that I was going to race
I told myself I was going to race no matter the weather conditions
in the basement I packed my gear and gathered my stuff
threw the bike in the stand and put some lube on the chain

with the bike ready and my bags packed I was ready to go out on the town
Lisa and I had plans to attend a school function that was being hosted in Chinatown
the night did not go too late and I did not drink too much wine
by a racer's strategy I had drank too much and stayed up too late
I felt I would be fine

the 2PM start gave me plenty of time to double check my gear the following morning
as I drove from downtown DC to Greenbrier State Park in Western Maryland I drank lots of coffee and drank lots of water
a banana and a bagel with eggs and bacon would eaten along with some Hammer Gel
I arrived at the race site with plenty of time to register, warm up, and say some hellos

there had been butterflies in my stomach and some additional anxiety about this day for pretty much the whole week
just thinking the words BIKE RACE gave me anxiety
saying the words BIKE RACE were near crippling

I had thought about my fitness and the other competitors on the line

last year a man from the mountains of West Virginia had taken the podium... I had him in my sites
I had also spoken to Timmy Koch of Gripped Films and knew that he would be fighting for the first spot... he too was in my sites
when I registered I noticed that there were going to be 12 or 13 racers
I knew this day would not be easy
it was clear that there would be a handful of people fighting for the number one slot

more to break the tension and kill time than anything else I did some warm ups on the bike
the 2PM start had the Pros and the Super Cats lining up at the same time as the Clydesdale
not the best confidence builder to have the fast and fit folks smoking past you as you warm up
sort of like peppering the goalie with hard shots low and in the corner before the big soccer game
it just does not help

time passed and I got so distracted with hellos that I did not hear the call to line up
at the line I took a slot in the front row
here I saw a familiar face... a guy named Robert who races for Joe's Bike Shop or some sorts
he is fast... he had beaten me here on this course before
I knew he was a racer to look out for... he was definitely in my sites
then I alerted both JR and Timmy Koch to watch the weeks of Robert in the blue and white jersey

there was playful banter between the big boys in the Clydesdale Class
the usual mind play... "sure you are a clydesdale? maybe I should pull out the scale?"
"you been riding? no? me neither" all that stuff

as people got their heads right I chatted over a few people with a guy from Joe's Bike Shop... Robert tried to tell me he had not been riding... then I reminded him about his boasting about all of his riding when I saw him at National Geographic for the Banff Film Festival... he laughed
in front of us they started to release the classes
our conversations all stopped
my focus returned back to me

my breathing changed along with my heart rate
with one foot clicked in I waited

there was not much talk from the official
a few words and then the information that we would go at his whistle after counting back down from five
looking at the ground I listened to the count and waited for the whistle

fighting the false start

at the sound of the whistle I pushed the pedals

around me people were sprinting fast
I tried to keep my head right

before the race I had agreed to myself to go hard, but to race my own race
not to get caught up in the actions of a jack rabbit

between the tape on the grass leading into the woods I rode just behind four or five racers in the Clydesdale Class

in the background I could hear voices cheer
familiar tones called out my name as I passed

we hit the gravel into the woods
people worked to fall into place
things happened such that people faded in behind me
at race pace I pedaled up this first hill in the middle ring

then rolling down hill at a good pace I was pleased to find myself in control of the race... or at least in the lead of the race
I started to catch people who had been released in the Single Speed Category before us

trying to race fast but smart I stayed in control
trying to not get bogged down by the racers in front of me

knowing that the only race won on the downhill is a downhill race
trying to hold my ground I picked a fast smart line through the rocks
again... finding more racers to pass early on in my race
the body felt pretty good
my breathing was heavy... but that is my way

I was pedaling hard
there was lots of work and not much pleasure
3/4 of the way through the first lap I was in the lead
pushing up the rock garden climb I saw that Robert of Joe's Bike Shop was not far behind me in his blue and white jersey

I toned things down
the first lap was taken at a healthy pace
nothing that would blow me up... but something that I had hoped would blow other people up

I thought that maybe I could pull ahead and steal the race on the first lap


by the wet rocky section before the new section of trail that bypasses the fisherman's lane down by the lake Roberto was right on my tail and we were talking
on the dam road we were side by side
approaching the finish I made mention of the threat of cancellation
Robert sprinted ahead to have the number one spot in the case of lightning storms causing cancellation

this was fine... I let Robert of Joe's Bike Shop take the lead
I had tried to control the race from the Number One Seat... I thought I would see if I could relax and try to control the race from the second spot
I race the next lap pretty much at Robert's pace... there may have been some cat and mouse passing
but not much... neither of us altered the pace for the other

we just changed positions to suit the sections of the course that favored the other

I finished the second lap and started the third and last lap 20 yards behind this same racer in blue and white
in my head I tried to think about where I would want to pass him
I did not want to try to start a sprint to the finish too early in the race
I did not want to try to start a sprint to the finish too late in the race
but when?

I stayed twenty yards in his shadow
the course had grown more familiar
fatigue outweighed familiarity
my body was starting to grow tired and it was hard to find a flow
ahead of me I saw that Robert was working just as hard to stay ahead of me as I was working to keep up with him

at the base of the second and more serious climb I made my move
in the granny gear I made a silent pass on his right
then 20 or 30 yards later I dismounted and marched up the hill

I never looked back
never knowing if Robert decided to ride at my pace on bike or march as well
all I knew... I was in the front and he was behind me
at the crest of the hill I got on the bike
in the middle ring I took the next lesser hill at a good pace
on the flat I tried to maintain a strong pace

again... never looking back... trying to focus forward
not trying to be overly concerned with anything but riding hard
on the downhill I tried to race smart
fast but not furious

a flat tire at this point in the game could take away all that I had worked for
a crash... well... a crash could do the same or more
so... I tried to float downhill in a calm calculated fashion

as I rode through the slight grade up hill rock garden I dismounted and walked where I had ridden the past two laps
it was not that I could not ride it
it just did not seem energy efficient

I feared cramping and thought that a long legged march would be a better way to travel

at the crest of the hill when I mounted back up was the first time that I really looked back
there had been a glance over the shoulder when I ended the downhill and took a left towards the rock gardens
but this was the first time I actually looked for that familiar Blue and White Joe's Bike Shop jersey

there was nothing
there was nobody
I was riding along

by this time the flats felt like climbs
I worked hard to maintain pace
there was no time to celebrate

if I go a little slower and he goes a little faster... well... you do the math
and well... what about JR... Timmy... or some of the other people on the line
any one of them may come thrusting forward with a fast lap

I pressed on
trying to maintain pace
trying to race smart

sure enough... I finally gets some speed
sure enough... I over cook that turn

tic tac toe... three laps in a row
I over cooked the same turns on every lap pretty much the same way
none of these skids to a near stop sent me to the woods
but a slower speed would have floated me through faster and more efficiently
braking so hard brought my speed down thus forcing me to use more energy that I did not have to get back up to speed

at a good pace but not a suicide pace I noodled my way
through the somewhat muddy stream bed of a trail
then over the dam
at speed I took the last turn before the grass
on the grass I felt the joy of the day
the pleasure of achievement

I rolled through the finish without any recognition or any cheering
but I knew that I had won my class
seeing that there was no line at the bike wash I went straight to spray my bike down

with the bike washed I waited and watched the other Clydesdales come across the line
after the race we shared some tails of the trail along with some congratulations
it was a good day on the bike
I was pleased with my efforts

I manage not only to finish first in my class but I was able to beat back my demons
I did not give into my fears
I did not cave into the anxiety

my body was worked
I was sore... not that good sore that people talk about
just sore... a little beaten and a little tired

it was a good day

Results for the Greenbrier Challenge

Photos by Gary Ryan
Photos by Joe Foley
Photos by Kevin Dillard

I wanted to proof this... but I need to focus on getting ready for Lodi Farms!

1 comment:

Fat-Boy said...

Really nice recap.. Maybe someday we can do it again! Course I would be happy just to join you all for a Friday night alley party..