Here’s a race report for all you racer-brah-spandex-junkies, or just anybody who likes to ride their bikes with a zillion other funny wierdos. And besides, it all started here, at DC HQ, when i rode as “Drunkcyclist 2” at the 24HITOP. Before then i was just a happy-as-a-clam XC rider. I hold you all responsible. What hath DC wrought? Read on:
So as requested by some, feared by others – here’s an account of the goings on last weekend. I raced the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, solo for the second year in a row. It was my third 24 hour race, and i had some idea of what to expect this time around. Sara, Seamus the dog, and i headed down on Friday morning, with a car full of camping gear and bike stuff. Though Tucson is “warm,” nights in the desert are very cold, by any standard, so we were prepared for any conditions.
After a couple of stops in Phoenix, we rolled into 24 hour town about noon, set up camp in an excellent spot about 25 feet from the course, and pre-rode the course. This was a major accomplishment for Sara, who put her neophyte mtb skills to the test and survived nearly the entire course. She never crashed, hit a cactus, or flatted. And she learned that mountain biking isn’t always as technically difficult as Flagstaff or Sedona. So it was a success.
A quick dinner, early bedtime, 12 hours of snooze, and a bright clear morning led to Saturday. Race meeting, baton pickup, bathroom breaks, organization of food and clothes and lights (for later) were the logistical concerns before 11:30 when staging for the 400 meter running “LeMans” start began. I wandered into the crowd (several hundred strong) and looked around. A guy dressed as a cow was standing next to me. I was in the wrong place. Moved forward. Looked down. a 12 year old wound up squirt was next to me. Looked around. nowhere to go. That’d have to do.
Bang! Noon. off we go. instant mayhem – picking up my bike from Sara amidst hundreds of screaming people on the side of the road, racers running and riding by, bikes tipping over, people running backwards because they passed their bikes, etc. i got out onto the trail and drilled it. Time to get away from the goofballs. fortunately, the first few miles were dirt road, so i was able to get around most of them. Found my teammate Mark Wille, also solo, also his first time. We chaperoned each other to safer environs. Rode steady, not fast, but not slow either, through the first lap.
On the second lap, all the people were gone. It’s a strange thing i noticed last year. the trail was quieter, and the riding was smoother. Settled in for a long day in the saddle.
Ripped off laps until 10 at night, when my under-dressed lap that i started at 8:30 caused me to be quite cold. put on fresh clothes and went to the big trailer where my friends Andy and Sam were based. They were racing on a 4-man team, and were on their way to a victory over the dominant Kona team. I warmed up, drank some coffee, ate some soup, and headed back out for more.
2 more laps using CB’s lightkit. Bright, white light from the helmet – great vision. At the end of the second lap, i had to stop at the NiteRider booth, pickup my light that was charging, turn in CB’s battery, and head back out. Except…the niterider dude told me that my battery was the only model not charging right, due to surges from the diesel generator. uhoh. how much time did i have in the battery? It’s supposed to have 4 hours – do i have 2? No idea. not looking good. But there’s a race going on, so out i go, with a limping battery pack.
45 minutes in to a 1:20 lap (i was going fast to try to make it around on the battery), at approx 3:30 am, the light was gone. i rode in the darkness for a minute, caught a slow-moving soloist i knew was just ahead, and rode in behind him to the finish. phew. But now i had a problem: i had no light to ride with for 1.5 hours until CB’s battery was charged. it was 25 degress, and i was wearing sweaty clothing. uhoh. off goes the gear, and into the sleeping bag i go. ok. Plan B is to get 1.5 hours of sleep, get up and drill it. Except i awoke at 7:15 to daylight. oh no.
A quick breakfast and change back into the sweaty clothes, and off into the morning i go. I can still salvage this thing – but i can only get 3 more laps in. Argh! i was riding hard, trying to earn back time, dropping 1:20 laps + feed time. But i couldn’t stop the arrival of noon, Sunday, when i rolled through the finish after 24 hours and 40 minutes.
13 laps in the books, 208 miles of dirt, and 11th place in the solo category. In most years, 13 laps would put me somewhere between 10th and 4th. this year had such a strong field that wasn’t to be. But look at it this way – my teammate Mark, who i rode with on the first lap? He put in an awesome 9 laps by holding to his plan. That’s more than i did last year (8). Last year i was 25th, this year he was 44th! wow. what a strong field that was. And, what a difference a year makes. It helps to be fit, and have a lot of miles in the legs. Last year was my third ride of the season. This year…countless rides already.
What do i think of out there? Not sure. I told a friend the week before that the first 6 hours are laughter, the next 6 hours are anger management, the next 6 are self-loathing, followed by 1 hour of whining, 3 hours of hope, two hours of relief, and one year of pride. That’s about accurate. But mostly i thought about how lucky i am to do this stuff, and to do it well is a gift, and how many people i know or knew can’t do this stuff for whatever reason, and they wouldn’t stop just cause they were cold or cramping – they’d ride because they finally had the chance.
So in reality, i rode a ton – but couldn’t have done it without a lot of help from a lot of people. Sara was a super-trooper, helping feed me and keep me happy, despite my shouted demands as i rolled into camp and shouted demands as i rolled away. CB, of course, was super nice to let me borrow his lights, and Andy and Sam let me warm up and wander around their cavernous RV (that wasn’t even theirs!). A good kind friend at Clif Bar provided me with AMPLE quantities of ClifShots, ClifBloks, and bars. For the first time in any endurance event i’ve ever done, i found myself completely well fed on the bike. I didn’t have to ration my food – i was able to eat as much as i needed, whenever i needed, and it helped. John and Terry at Cosmic Cycles got me on the Rocky Mountain – and full suspension makes a huge difference in being able to ride smoothly for that whole way. Other big helpers include advice from Doug Loveday, Linda at WP Smart publishing in NYC, Red Rock Racing, and Dana B at Balanced Body Therapeutics for putting this humpty dumpty back together again. Todd at Epic Rides always puts on a class event, and hundreds of volunteers allowed it to happen. And of course to the countless others i’ve forgotten to mention this time, i’m sorry.
Thanks to everyone for tuning in and thinking of me. It helped a lot to know that people were watching and hoping. I tried to put on a show. I could’ve snagged a few more laps, had all gone well. Next year, if i EVER do that again, I’ll bring a small army of people and half a dozen light kits. Some of you may be petitioned. Consider yourself warned. But at least i’ll be shooting for top 3 next time.
Peaceout, ya’ll. Until next time…