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Saturday, August 9, 2003 - Sunday, August 10, 2003 -- Massanutten, VA
Massanutten HOO HA! - Va Pts #4 (iPO Event Id#: 5327)
Story and photos by Dana Harshberger

[Details] [Coverage]
[Downhill Results] [XC Results]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6] [Set 7] [Set 8]
[2000 Coverage] [2001 Coverage] [2002 Coverage]

Starting the weekend off with a stormy downhill
Typically during a day at a race, someone is bound to tell me, just how wonderful my 'job' is. Which, I suppose is good to hear, but I don't have the heart to tell these people, "well it's really not my job".

You see, I have another job, the one that pays the bills. This iPlayOutside thing is more of a lifestyle job, more for fun. But now, for those of you who always ask, and for those of you who have never asked, here it is: a day at the races with Dana. Or in this case, a weekend at the races with Dana. So bear with me, as, in a departure from my normal race recap, you have a view of the races from my perspective.


My weekend actually starts on Friday, trying to decide whether or not to head up to the 'Nut to check out any riders pre-riding the downhill course. I decide not to, after spending the morning on the phone trying to figure out a travel plan for my friend John MacInnis.

He is flying down with his flight instructor (by flying, I mean flying the plane, a little 4 seater with 2 seats removed for bikes), and somehow needs to be picked up at the local airport on Saturday afternoon. Which is pretty much the time when I'll either be at my job-job, or up taking pics of the DH.

After numerous calls to numerous people, I decide to leave my car at the airport for him, unlocked and with the keys in it. And then try to decide how lucky I can be driving my truck with the rejected inspection sticker. Luckily, my friend Erin, who drives me to the airport, allows me to drive her car, while she drives her boyfriend's.

DAY 1 - SATURDAY - The Down Hill Event

I head into work. See the clients I usually see on Saturday and then bust on out of there in Erin's little Turcel. I get to Massanutten Resort in good time, and hike to the World Cup DH course. It's been raining a bit on the drive, but as luck would have it, the drizzle turns into a complete downpour. Of course I have no umbrella, since it's pretty much impossible to take pictures while holding an umbrella. So, since I know my house is only 20 minutes away, get used to the idea of being wet, and attempt to take pictures.

DH Pic
The camera adds a fog to go with the rain
Now for those of you who dabble in photography, you probably understanding some of the dilemmas I'm now facing. It's dark due to the rain, and the fact that I'm in the woods. I also am trying to focus on fast moving objects. I decide to use my flash, to 'freeze' the flying bikers, even though that sucks down the batteries, and takes extra time for the camera to record the image. Oh well.

Well! The flash captures the rain drops. The auto focus, focuses on the rain drops, and I'm getting sucky pictures, with blurry riders. I re-vamp, walk around to find better lighting, try to keep the camera dry, and fiddle with the settings. Attempt more shots, with varying success. And now it's really raining. The camera is pretty wet, but no wetter than it's been before. As I hit the shutter, sometimes the camera takes the picture, sometime it's doesn't.

About this time I see that there is a lot of water in the lens of the camera. I've only taken about 20 pictures. About this time the camera starts doing some funky stuff, like beeping randomly, the lens starts going in and out. And in and out. With more beeping and flashing of the LCD screen.

DH Pic
Fun for some, but not for everyone
At this point I see Tim Richardson and Dylan Johnson, who have just finished their runs, and think it would be better to talk to them, than take pictures. I try to walk up the very rocky, and yet somehow, muddy course, to where they are standing. I listen in on the conversations they are having with other riders, and think I should be writing stuff down and realize "Man, I'm soaked! And so is my pad of paper". But then realize that I should be happy that I'm not suited up in DH armor with a muddy ass. Nor have I fallen off my bike into a tree, or rocks, or worse, in front of people. And with the rain making the course pretty slick, it's not so bad for me to be standing at the side of the trail just plain wet. But it's fun to hear the war stories and who took what line. And which line is the line to take.

By now, most of the riders have done their runs, and the rain is tapering off. I head to the timing area and wait for the awards ceremony, which is wonderfully prompt in happening! I check in with race coordinator George Willets, and explain my camera dilemma. He had told me on Friday that he'd like more of a write-up and less pics this year. Unintentionally he got what he asked for!

The camera is now less watery and more steamy looking, but if I rub the lens it allows me to take some moderate podium shots. I still can't get the pen to work on the wet paper and have given up any kind of interview with anyone. I hang around and soak up the ambiance of the race scene. The Red Bull finish line arch. The handing out of cash or swag to the winners. Folks checking and comparing their times on the board. Muddy bikes in random patterns on the grass. And I head on home to check and see if my company has arrived.

DAY 2 (PART 1) - SUNDAY - The Kids Race

It's Sunday, and time for the 15th annual running of the cross country race. At 9 am the hard core XXCer's started their day. I decide to go out for breakfast with my company instead, getting to the western, non-resort side of the mountain in time for the Kid's Race. The sun has started to burn off what had started out as a foggy looking day.

As is typical with any race, I wander around looking for the race promoter, just to check in, say 'hey' and ask questions about the course. George Willets is the guy I'm looking for and easy to find suited up in motocross attire. After waiting to speak to him, since everyone wants to speak to him, he very kindly agrees to moto me around on the four-wheeler.

These kids are tough
On our way to the start of the kid's race, we come across the first injury of the day. While Kenny Hess was parading the kids to the start line, an excited racer takes out Nicole, the lone girl. She landed in a mud puddle and was none too happy. She is also bleeding but with all the mud it's hard to tell exactly where. Her brother is there doling out helpful brotherly words. Brothers being what they are, the words are along the lines of "get up", "stop crying", and "don't be such a baby"! The Elkton Rescue Squad is on its way and we continue to the start, where a gaggle of amped up kids are pushing the line.

George takes me to the first turn off, where I stand to get shots of everyone entering the woods. He continues on to make sure the course is still marked, as the job of a race coordinator is never done! I hike into the woods to get varied shots and come across a small group of racers at an unmarked intersection. They are off their bikes pondering the way, and ask me! Since I'm more-or-less familiar with the area, I make a decision that I hope is right, and send them off.

After all the kids have gone through, I jump on the back of Kenny's four-wheeler and we start to sweep. We tail a little guy on a one speed (future Hugh Jass'er?) and then Kenny runs me further up the trail for more pics. I then run in ahead of the kids, thinking it's pretty neat I can get ahead of them by just running! This is not the case for a regular XC race!

I get to a stream crossing and setup my shot. The first guy through looks a little tentative, and I then realize I will have to coax him over the stream. It's cheerleader time and I yell for him to pedal across. He looks at me like I'm crazy, and tells me "it's a stream!", and I respond, "yeah, pedal through it!".

A look of happiness crosses his face and he forges across with gusto. It then occurs to me that his mom probably tells him to not do such things, all in the sake of staying dry and relatively clean. Sorry mom!

Kids Race
Taking on the stream crossing
More racers come to the stream, and some just listen to me telling them to pedal and they do, some are not so sure they should listen to me and get off and push across. One guy gets off his bike, backs it up the hill, then gets on and really pedals hard. When he doesn't make it up the other side of the stream bed, he goes back and tries again. Like 5 times! At this point it's all I can do not to laugh at the seriousness of his effort.

Kenny comes by with the last guy, I hop on the back of the four wheeler, and off we go. Soon after, we come across another group, this time all looking at a guy who ran off the trail and got the wind knocked out of him. Kenny stays with him, I run along and yell for the 'spectators' to keep racing.

Looks of 'oh yeah, that's right, this is a race' cross little faces, and on they go. At the top of a small hill, the same guy who attempted the stream five times is now trying to get the hill right. It's late in the race, he's tired and I yank him up the incline. I wonder if that's too much "aid and assistance" when I'm finding myself doing the same for the next few riders.

I run with them, trying to get them to the finish line. Some of them are looking a little ragged, and I'm not too sure if they will make it. One little guy has me pushing his bike, while he's ambling along behind. No amount of me trying to get him motivated makes him move any faster! He won't even get on his bike for the last down hill of the race! At this point I make a decision that we will cut the course.

After telling him that this is normally not what one does in a race, we hack into some underbrush and see the finish line chute. His mom is there screaming like a banshee, and he has now found some energy to get on his bike and pedal across the finish line, under the huge inflatable Red Bull banner. He looks like a different child now, beaming with the endorphins of effort. His mom thanks me for helping out, and I smile thinking that this is listed no where at all in my 10 page booklet called a 'job description'.

Kids Race
Cruising into the finish
I wander over to the tent, where the other finishers are sitting and drinking Le Blue sports beverages, to do a little interviewing. Ten year old Nick got first in his category and had a lot of fun. His favorite part of the course was the creek crossing. Alex, agrees with him and also added that this year's course was better than last years. Patrick, who is nine and the brother of the injured Nicole, really likes racing, even though this is his first race.

Nicole has been bandaged up from her little scuffle and is happy to report that she is the trophy girl, and will get to hand out the awards! She is no worse for wear and is proud of her wrapped up hands and knees. Even the little guys who I thought wouldn't be able to finish are smiling proudly while chugging down their drinks.

These little guys are sitting around talking about their race to each other and their parents, and it occurs to me just how like the 'big' race this is, but perhaps without the excuses of chain issues, bonking, flats or just having a bad day. It's just plain having fun while riding your bike. I wished there were more spectators to witness the fun. I am happy that I'm 'obligated' by my 'job' to report on this event, as I would probably miss out on all this excitement if I were just a 'regular' spectator.

DAY 2 (PART 2) - SUNDAY - The Cross Country Event

And now it's time for the 'big' race. The sun was really out by this point, and I'm regretting my clothing choice. I position my car at the staging area, so that I can take off ahead of the pack. There is a definite buzz in the crowd, as the pro men's field has a bunch of big guns on the line.

Chris Eatough has driven down from the Baltimore area, and eavesdropping on the conversations when racers saw his Trek van arrive is always something to hear. Tri guy Justin Thomas was also on the line and the cause of talk as well.

Somehow I've managed to gain 7 spectators that will somehow have to fit into my car. I also have a water bottle from Kevin Wetzel, and will somehow have to figure out the best place for a handoff, as well as find picture spots.

Race Pic
Catching the races as they head into the woods
So before the start we cram in the car and take off to where the race heads into the woods. After all the racers are through, it's back in car, racing up the access road to the next spot. And then again, but this time we are at the top of the mountain and will be hiking on Kaylor's Knob. This is the "hurry up and wait" part of the day, since the race is running backwards this year, I can't figure out when to expect riders.

Lead hiker, Erin North, picks a brisk pace, and we 'death march' along talking. It's an unusual thing for me to have company, kind of a party atmosphere on the ridge, and the view is spectacular. And of course, someone mentions my wonderful job, "So Dana, you're working now aren't you?" Which it's hardly work: hiking, being outside, taking pictures. What a job! But then again it's a sunny day, not a downpour!

Pretty soon, Chris Eatough is riding along the trail. We all start yelling which I think surprises him. He motors through, making all the rocks look like pavement. Then Clay Evans and then Justin, or was it Justin then Clay? When I don't personally know the riders it's always hard for me to see who's who in a helmet.

Harlan Price is picking through the rocks and manages to say hi as well stay on his bike. Jeff Herrick is next and his wife Heather is in our spectator group so we all whoop it up. Adam Childers is next and somehow he always can flash a model smile!

Race Pic
Putting on the race face
One thing that continually amazes me is when riders have a mini-conversation with me while they whip past. Or even more amazing are the STOOPID riders who will take a hand off their handlebars to WAVE at me, or actually the camera. Another favorite is the sticking out of the tongue, or the ever so subtle wink. Don't think I don't appreciate that fellers!

After a while Kevin comes by and yells for his water bottle, which is at the bottom of my bag. After a quick dig for the bottle and a hand off, away he goes. Then Allen Moore bikes by wondering how far ahead Kevin is, like I'm there to give splits or something! So, of course, I lie and tell him he's too far ahead to catch!

We all start to hike back to the car, having to keep an eye out for riders from the rear. I take more pictures, and do a quick battery change. One more squish into the car and then we are at the finish line.

The first few XXC'ers are in, and I attempt to talk to Joel Maynard about his race as he is lying on the ground mumbling about food and mud. Maybe we'll talk later.

After wandering around a bit, I see Julie Jenkins and Erin Johnston and talk with them a bit. I then realize I should be trying to find some of the pro ex men and attempt interviews.

I track down Chris Eatough, who is trying to hit the road. After a few words (had some chain suck, liked the backwards course, hard training week and he's tired), I look for Joel again, who has now had some food, but is still recumbent on the grass.

Race Pic
Getting the scoop on another fast day of racing
He says he's glad to be done, and that about a quarter of the way in he realized he was in no shape for the length of the course, was in pain, and had no shifting. And the MUD!!! Other XXCer's are huddling around, and the mud comes up again. Marty Quinn is recounting his arrest in France during the Tour. It's very funny and I wish I could include it here, but if you see him, ask him about it. It also involves nakedness!

Some of the women are in by now, and I corner Kristi Manz. Despite a flat as well as a broken shoe, she's captured first for the pro women. We talk of her 'jinx' for this race, which I think has now been overcome. I thank her for her time, and see Trish Stevenson.

Trish's words of wisdom include "don't do a race the day after going to a wedding". I guess late nights are hard for the early morning drive, but since she's fond of this area and the Hoo Ha, she and Matt made the drive.

The sun is really getting hot by now, and a lot of people are in the shelter of the tent. George lets me know that awards will be happening soon, so I stick close to nab the podium shots. This is always interesting, because as soon as you hard working podium people get your prize, you run away! This then makes me ask you to re-group in order to take the picture. Luckily George directs the winners with his microphone, instructing them to pose for the picture, making this task a whole lot easier for me.

Race Pic
See you in the woods next time
Now if you are still reading by this point.... this is when I usually mention sponsors, race directors, volunteers and all the good folks behind the scenes that work long before the race, as well as during, and after to make a great event happen. I know you know that races don't just magically happen.

Here's to George and Kenny and all the Massanutten Resort workers that hand out the Le Blue beverages, pick up trash, take down the tents, write down the times, tabulate results and who knows what else. Thanks also to the Elkton Rescue Squad for sitting around in the sun in dark uniforms, hopefully waiting for nothing (i.e. no injuries). A shout-out to Jamis, Kenda, Dirt Rag, Scott USA, Optic Nerve, Allen Bike Racks, Thompson, and Madhra who provided cash and prizes. And we certainly can't forget the Shenandoah Mountain Bike Club for help with getting the trails in great racing shape.

So there you have it, not exactly in a nutshell. Thanks for bearing with me, and when you see me at the races, give a shout or a wink, and please keep you hands on the handlebars!!