This is my personal account of this year's Rowdy Dawg (for some race history and course info check here
Before I begin let me start with a hearty thank you to special people.
XC racing is such a beautiful experience. Grace, power, speed, pain. But there aren't many opportunities these days within reasonable driving distance to XC race. And for someone with limited time to train/travel it is so nice to have the opportunity to participate in events like this.
-T. for taking on the duties of promoting this event. Thank you
so much for the opportunity to come out here and race.
for running registration in the cold
-Nancy for coordinating volunteers
-Amateur Ham Radio group
-All the volunteers and marshals who came out to keep everyone going in the right direction. Especially the two at the top of the horse trail who were full on clapping each time I went by.
-The sponsors who provided support and prizes for grassroots racing.Oury GripHammer NutritionEastCoastersBicycling MagazineTrek BicyclesSole Footbeds
-My wife and kids who encourage and put up with all that accompanies being an amateur racer.
The day before: I was getting sick. Seriously, my throat was hurting, I had chills, I was wrapped up in a blanket on the couch. My head wasn't too into the race, which is ironic because it's all I've been thinking about since last October. My legs were shocked out of rest mode by a trip up/down Old Farm that morning so they felt slightly soar but that was a good thing before a race.
Morning of: Felt better. That tingle of fear and nervousness started to develop in anticipation of the race. I drove out with John which was nice to get my head into the race as we bantered about bike setup and what we were going to eat. Though he mentioned a letter in a magazine about the potential for overdosing on Sportlegs. Let's see, I'd counted out 3+5+5 that I'd be taking today. Visions of kidney failure on Brush mountain isn't the best visualization.
It was cold. The staging is in a field that butts up against Brush Mountain. So it was shady and windy. It's not like sub 40s is really all that cold, but we've had no transition from 70s-80s so it felt really cold. We were fully shivering changing clothes.
It was a pretty small turnout because we were unable to double up with the Collegiate race this year. But I saw Sandy the beginner woman who I gave a racing clinic
to the week before. She was all excited to do her first race. This is how you rebuild mountain biking. One convert at a time.
The guy that parked next to us was also doing his first race. He'd read my BLOG entry
on the race and said that's why he came. That made me feel good. Though he was doing the sport course for his first time. That is a rough introduction but he survived and loved it.
I tried my standard pre-race warmup and waited for the start. The experts went off first, and then Vet X and Masters went off together. There were 3 of us in Vet X. Bill (I think) had driven down from Arlington because he loves this race so much. He took off and I followed trying to keep myself in control.
The thing about this race course, is that until you are done, there is always, always SO MUCH MORE to go. This course will eat you alive if you go out too hard which is exactly what I've done for the past 15 years. NOT THIS TIME. I was going to go out in control, and hold steady and finish strong. That is the plan.
Bill and I have been racing together the last 3 races. He schooled me at Douthat
on the Downhills but I took it at the Poor Mountain Hill Climb
. We are a pretty close match. Though he outweighs me by at least 50lbs.
He took off from the line and I kept him in site but was able to ramp up intensity slowly and in control. 5 minutes in I hear rattling from my second bottle on the underside of the down tube. I thought it was falling out and I tried it to push it back in but the whole cage was moving. The cage had snapped.
Luckily I didn't lose the bottle as that was my food. I stuffed it into my jersey pocket.
The first part of the course went by faster than I thought. I finally caught him on the Gap side rock gardens.
He looked like he was struggling. It's really easy to blow up this early in the race. I know because I did it last year. I passed hard through this rock garden section in the hopes of opening up a gap. But Bill is such a better downhiller he caught back up on the Royale downhill. We were cruising down the S turns at the bottom and I rode right off the trail. The newly fallen leaves threw me off. My home course that I've ridden hundreds of times and I rode right off.
On the Poverty Creek trail
he just follwed behind me and we turned onto Joe Pye and started up the horse trail. I'm light, he is a former clydedale. He was breathing like a freight train. Man this guy is going to blow sky high. All I have to do is hold a steady pace and he'll fall off the back.
NOT. I can't believe his mental strength. It sounded like he was giving it everything he had but he stayed right on my wheel all the way to the top. The two volunteers were cheering for us like we were in a grand tour, it was awesome. So I basically gave him a free tow to the top and had nothing to show for it.
On the ridge rollers, I slowed almost to a complete stop to change bottles in my cage, and take my sport legs. He put the hammer down and was gone out of site in seconds. I'd saved a pair of Pink Oury
grips for his daughter's bike but that wasn't going to buy me any slack today. No problem. Like I said earlier there is still a long long way to go. I'll catch him on the second time around.
We went down sidewinder/snakeroot and as I also mentioned he is a much better downhiller than me. So I didn't think I'd see him till the climb. It took much shorter than I thought to start climbing again. Ok, mantra time....He's right around the corner...He's right around the corner.....If he's not right around the corner I am screwed....
All the way to the top, didn't see him. Didn't see anyone for that matter. The two marshalls at the top clapped and cheered me a second time. Thanks. At the turn to the Beast, Kirk gave me the heads up that he was like 30seconds up. But I knew that Bill was going to blow doors on the Beast so that meant I'd only have the gap trails to catch him.
Going down the Beast went pretty well even with the 80mm fork on there. I saw Bill at the mid point and he was just crawling, so I knew something was wrong. I asked if he was ok and he said yeah and go get em.
This trail is easy to stack hard on but thankfully I was able to ride well and not yardsale for the photographer at the bottom.
Now it was onto Queene Anne and back on the gaps. 5miles one marshall said. A long long 5 miles. Steady as she goes. Keep the songs going through the head. Don't think about winning or anything except keeping forward progression.
I started to catch a few sport riders which helped to motivate. On the turn up the gravel road of the Interstate I passed two sport riders much harder than I should have. I almost paid a hefty price of cramping but the twinges went away. After I was out of earshot of them I was starting to talk to myself.
Come on sucka. My own episode of Mr. T's new reality TV show
combined with Rocky III was taking place.
We're gonna motiVATE, accelerATE.
The fight scene of Rocky and Clubber Lang
Was playing in my mind. C'mon, my mother hits harder than that. Is that all you got.....Clubber swinging and missing...Aaaaahhh.
My face was contorted into this Joker like grin that one might mistake for happiness but it is pure pain. The first part of the race was ridden with my head, in control. Now it was time to finish on heart.
Still more to go. and more. Finally the last few stretches. Don't crash, don't cramp just go. The last turn on the road and I was still going strong. There is one last small pitch on the road before the finish stretch. It is a tiny little rise, but my gosh does it hurt.
Finally crossed the line into the arms of Brian and Bob. Oh man I felt bad. I mean I'm going to puke bad. But also bad is good. Bad as in I'm BAAAAAAD!. Irregardless of where I finished, I was ecstatic to ride consistently and finish strong. But I was most proud of the pain. The pain you deal with on a bicycle is self created. The ability to create pain and tolerate pain is what it's all about. I'm most proud that I was able to hurt.
I got first in Vet X. Within minutes of crossing the line. Theresa handed me a check for $30. Brian handed me a beer. I'm sorry but I could only handle a few sips. Even the chips Brian had didn't go down well and I love chips. For about 30 minutes I almost puked but the Joker smile slowly faded
and I started to feel better.
It was a really low key event. Prizes were handed out right when people crossed the line so no one had to wait hours in order to get back on the road. Some people came from as far away as 4.5 hours because this course is so awesome.
With the exception of the flat monster gobbling up tubes(John, Brian, Sam, Billx2...) everyone loved the course. Prizes for all who stuck around.
This is grassroots. Why XC racing has fallen out of favor, I still can't figure out especially with events like this. But I'm hopefull that people like Sandy had a good time and will tell two friends who will tell two friends...
Thanks to all for coming out.