2010 Mountain Bike Nationals
By Justin Griffin
||The week of
the mountain bike nationals was pretty stressful; on Thursday, July 8th I
had a bad crash while pre-riding the Solitude race course. It was
difficult for me to walk because my knee hurt and I also hurt my finger
pretty badly. On the way home my dad decided to take me to urgent care. I
received X-rays on my left hand and my right knee. Luckily, my knee wasn't
broken, but there was a small fracture on my middle finger.
They gave me a splint and
said I needed to wear it for about a week. I really thought I might not be
able to race at nationals because of my injuries, I was so angry at myself
for making such a dumb mistake. The day after my crash, I took my road
bike out just to get my legs moving and it wasn't good. It was very
difficult to shift and brake with my left hand because I could barely bend
my middle finger. I really hoped that I would be able to recover in time
supposed to have a race on Saturday, July 10th at Solitude, but because of
my condition, I wasn't able to race. On the following Monday I decided to
try and go for another road ride. It was a very hot day with temperatures
in the 90's, but despite the heat, I felt great. It was still difficult to
shift and brake, but not nearly as bad as it had been, and my knee felt
fine. I decided to rest on Tuesday, and on Wednesday we left home
||We arrived in
Granby, Colorado, around 9 PM so we checked in at our condo and went to
bed. The next morning we got up and prepared to go and pre-ride the race
course. Before we got the bikes out, we went to go and pick up our race
packets. It took about an hour before we got all the papers signed,
received our swag, and got back to the truck.
We looked at a map of the
course and found out where it started. Then we got the bikes out and
headed over to the XC race course. I rode the course a couple times to get
familiar with it. On the ride my finger hurt a little bit, and was causing
a little trouble. I found out that if I used my middle finger to brake, I
wouldn't have to bend it as much. I was pleased to discover that my finger
probably wouldn't slow me down in the race.
||My lap was about
3 miles and in my race I was supposed to do 3 laps plus a start lap. It
was a very short race compared to the distance I usually race in the local
series, which are usually around 20+ miles. I estimated my race would be
about 1 hour long. Because it was going to be such a short race, I
predicted that it would be a very fast pace throughout the race. After the
pre-ride we went back to the condo and I cleaned up my bike and got it
ready for the race that would be on Friday at 3 PM.
After my bike was race-ready
I went to eat a nutritious dinner and prepared to go to bed. I had trouble
falling asleep because there were so many things going on in my mind, but
eventually I was able to clear my head and fall asleep. In the morning I
woke up after a good night's sleep. Today was the day I needed to prove
myself. I was excited and nervous. I could already feel the adrenaline
|Before the race
I got all my bottles and gel ready to go. As we headed up to the race site
I was trying to prepare mentally for all the things to come in the next
few hours. When we arrived I unloaded my bike and got ready to go warm up.
During my warm-up I wasn't feeling 100%. My legs felt a little sluggish
and a little lazy, but I ignored it and continued to warm up.
I went to the start line
about 30 minutes before my race started in hopes that I could get on the
front line. It didn't happen. They called everyone up to the line by their
bib number. I ended up being in the middle of the group on the third line.
It all came down to this, I thought. I heard the whistle, the race began,
it was a fast start, but I wasn't fast. We hit the steep hill at the
beginning of the race. I found myself near the back of the group in 27th
place. Only 10 riders were behind me on that first hill. I was thinking
about how stupid I was to get myself into this position, but I pulled
myself together and began to pass people.
||We hit the
singletrack and I had passed about 15 people, but the lead group was still
pretty far ahead of me, but I was able to reel them in on the first 1.6
mile start loop. I was in 5th place as I started the next lap. I was quite
pleased with myself because I was in the first group. It was a good pace,
but nothing I couldn't handle. At the beginning of the second lap I was
surprised to find that the pace had slowed down quite a bit. But I just
decided to sit back for the time being, because it was still early in the
My rest was short-lived.
Soon, I saw someone go by me and everyone else to get into first place. I
later found out it was Joe Christiansen. Soon, Joe had about a 50 yard gap
between him and second place. I knew I had to bridge the gap. I passed the
people in front of me and got into 2nd place. It was a painful time in my
race. I felt a tightness in my chest and felt a little short of breath,
but I kept riding.
through the second lap I bridged the gap and caught up to Joe. I followed
his wheel for the rest of the second lap and about halfway through the
third lap. I started feeling a little bit better and decided to pass him.
I got into first place and set a good pace. I soon had a gap between me
and 2nd place and 3rd place was nowhere in sight. It was a race between me
and Joe. But I was feeling good. I thought I could win as long as I kept
up my fast pace.
||On the beginning
of the last lap, I felt a strange thing. I was tired, very tired. I felt
like I was close to hitting the wall. I knew I was slowing down because on
each switchback, I saw Joe get a little bit closer. I was determined to
stay in first, but the pain was getting worse. I felt like stopping, I
didn't feel like I could finish the lap. My heart was pounding. But I
couldn't take second, not after everything that had happened. I was in the
perfect position, but my body was failing me. I pushed through the pain. I
was nearing the top of the climb. I was almost there. I could hear Joe
coming behind me. I pushed harder.
I got out on the dirt road
at the top. I looked behind me. Joe was now about 50 yards behind me. I
could see the beginning of the singletrack and the decent ahead. I only
needed to make it there, and I knew I could rest. It seemed forever, but I
finally made it. I was on the decent with a small gap between me and 2nd
||I knew I had done
it. I was going to win. I just needed to stay in control on the decent and
not crash. I went down the mountain as quickly as possible while staying
in control. I saw the finish line, I was getting closer and I couldn't see
Joe behind me. I crossed the finish line. I could hardly believe it, I was
the national champion, and suddenly all the pain and suffering was worth
After the race I felt almost
as bad as I did during the race. I became very lightheaded and dizzy, I
felt like I was going to pass out. Luckily, my dad went to get me an
energy drink and I soon felt better, but still extremely tired, I assumed
it was the altitude getting to me. The awards ceremony was at 5:30. I was
feeling a little better now.
started calling up the people in my category, I got ready to walk up to
the podium. I walked up and received my national champion's jersey and
gold medal. It was a great moment, after a year of bad luck, my luck had
finally turned around.
||On Tuesday, three
days after my race, my dad took me to the doctor. There I got a chest
x-ray. The doctor looked at the x-ray and saw constricted bronchial tubes.
That, he said was the reason I had felt tightness in my chest during the
race. I had been trying to draw air through tubes that were too small to
get that much air through. It would also help explain my strange feelings
and fatigue after the race. Dr. Chapman put me on antibiotics and an
inhaler to open up my breathing passages. He said it would clear up the
illness that has lasted six weeks much faster than if we just let my body
take care of it. He said it could be another four to six weeks for my body
to get better and he wanted to help me be healthy for my next two races
coming up soon.
By Jay Griffin
On July 9th, we
were pre-riding the Solitude race course. As I was merging into the full
lap trail Justin went flying by me. I wondered as I descended the
technical and rocky descent, how Justin can descend that rugged stuff so
fast. As I arrived back at the truck Justin was just coasting around the
parking lot on his bike as I rode up. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
Then he stopped in front of me and said, "I crashed and I think I
broke my nose."
Keegan Swenson in 1st place and Noah Talley in 2nd --
riders in the age 15-16 championship race.
|His nose was
bleeding and swollen and the skin below it was all scraped up. Fingers of
his left hand were mangled and bleeding. He was also complaining of severe
pain in his left knee. He could barely put weight on it and thought
something was broken. It looked bad, but there were no immediately serious
issues. I couldn't help asking why he had to ride so aggressively the day
before the State Championship Solitude race and only one week before
I had been hoping, perhaps
more than he had, that he could redeem himself at the XC Mountain Bike
Nationals, after he had been so sick for road nationals. Now it seemed his
hopes for that were probably over. It has been an unlucky season for him in
the big races. He has performed exceptionally in the ICUP, but no one
notices our little Utah race series.
Justin wears the winner's jersey at the top of the podium for age
|The doctor did
Xrays of his hand and right knee. The news was good and bad. Nothing in
his leg was broken, but the middle finger of his left hand was. The
question was, could his knee recover enough in one week for nationals?
The secondary question,
could he ride with a broken finger? We already knew neither of us would be
racing at Solitude. The next day he rode his road bike and shifting and
braking were difficult, but possible. He could probably race in a week if
the rest of the pain in his body could subside. He rode a little on the
road before we left on Wed. It looked like he would be able to ride. His
knee was better and his finger was not too painful. He had figured out a
two finger braking method that should work. He wouldn't need to bend his
finger much, which was good because bending it much was not yet possible.
|We arrived in
Granby, Colorado too late on Wed to ride. Thurs we picked up our
packets, signed liability releases in seven or eight places. It was
amazing the amount of paperwork for one racer. I sort of rode with
Justin on two of his 3.2 mile laps and then he then he had someone tell
him what the initial 1.6 mile shakeout lap would be and we rode that. It
was almost the same course the pros would be riding and he had it
figured out. It was not very technical and we figured it would be
basically an all-out criterium on dirt. We would plan how he should race
and in two days at 3pm it would be the day of redemption.
On Friday, race day, I
know I was more nervous than Justin. My heart was beating pretty fast.
We had discussed that getting as close to the start line in the lineup
of the 37 racers in the 13-14 yr old race would be important, so Justin
finished his warm up early and was one of the first to go to the start
area. Then they announced that racers would be called up to the line by
bib number. I had my fingers crossed that Justin would be called up
early. He ended up in the third line of six riders. Not great, but
pretty good position.
With camera ready I waited
for the start. Finally the start whistle sounded. Through the camera I
looked for Justin. I snapped the first picture. No Justin. I snapped the
second picture. No Justin. I was concerned. In the third picture, there
he was, finally. Later, in the photos, I counted racers. He was in 27th
place out of 37 racers. That was hardly what we had planned.
||Mom was handing
Justin water bottles up on the hillside and she had binoculars. She was
actually able to watch much of the 3.2 mile laps from her vantage point,
but I had camped out where I couldn't see much of the action. I wanted a
good position for photos. I was pretty sure Justin would hang with the
leaders. He is a very strong racer and I thought he would be OK.
He had still been coughing
a bit, even six weeks after his illness at the disappointing road
nationals races. I was a little worried he still hadn't recovered enough
from his illness and from his crash one week before. As they came by
after the first long lap Justin had moved into second place. Now his
position was perfect. Justin was right behind the guy who was 5th on the
first steep hill. On the next big lap Justin came by in first. He was 15
seconds ahead of second place. Now all he had to do was hang on.
down to the finish line for the final lap. I was scanning the hillside
above the finish for the first racer to come by. There he was. Justin was
still in first. I snapped a telephoto shot and waited. I got a good shot
of Justin coming across the finish line in first place with a time of
1:01. He had the national championship! It had been a good race. Justin
needs to practice his championship arm raising at the finish. In the
picture he looked like he was just crossing the line to go out on another
lap. The second place guy crossed the line 9 seconds later. After the race
Justin was totally exhausted. That's not typical. His championship race
had only been an hour long. Usually he races in expert races that are two
hours or more. He was complaining of being dizzy and not being able to get
enough air during the race and had to sit down to rest. I got him an
energy drink and that helped a little. After getting back home I took him
to the doctor. He said he was suffering from the lingering effects of
mycoplasma. The doctor gave him a prescription for an antibiotic and for
an inhaler he could use to unblock his blocked bronchial tubes, which was
the reason he couldn't get enough air during his race.
Two weeks after starting the medications Justin has
finally stopped coughing. He won his first expert race since nationals in
2 hrs and 27 min. He didn't even look that tired when he got done.