A little over a week has passed since Old Pueblo and I can finally wrap my head around the experience. My race didn’t go according to my plan but somehow turned out to be one of the most rewarding two days I have ever spent around bikes.
We woke up Saturday to the most perfect weather the event has ever seen. I was so excited to get this race started that I had my helmet and gear on by 10:30am and the race doesn’t start until noon. The DC crew consisted of 4 solo riders and 2 female duo teams. It was pretty impressive to see all of that black, yellow, and red roll to the start line. We looked damn fine.
The start of this race is massive. Hundreds of people released with the blast of a shotgun to run down a dirt road. As we
ran sauntered down the road it felt like we were almost in a tunnel of cheering people. There were beer hand ups and so many shouts of “GO DC!!” and “YEAH DRUNKCYCLIST!”. It was awesome.
We hopped on our bikes and set out for the conga line shit show that is the first lap of any 24 hour race. Normally this is a test of patience for me. But this year I found myself just having a blast. Everybody out there was so happy and I was surrounded by DC jerseys for most of the lap. Good stuff.
It all went to hell somewhere in the middle of my second lap. Making a hard left turn at the bottom of the Corral trail meant that the wind would be at my back and it should be nothing but smooth sailing for a few miles. Instead I found myself being passed by everybody. People I knew coming up behind me, putting their hand on my back, and asking if I was OK. I think I’m OK but I’m getting passed like I’m riding under water. I just couldn’t put the power down.
I rolled back through the pits at the end of my second lap and sat down to evaluate what was going on. I looked down and realized that my knees were both really swollen. Oddly enough, riding my bike from San Diego to home then only taking 3 days off before a 24hour race wasn’t such a great idea. I’m an idiot.
I decided to call and end to my solo effort and switch to a supporting role for our camp. I have done enough of these things that I have a pretty good idea what a rider is going to need. We had some first timers out there who are super fit, and with some good work in the pits, I had a feeling they could all do really well. I brewed the first of what would be many pots of coffee and went about my tasks. Stage the lights, prepare real food, fill water bottles, inventory the energy food… Game on.
I watched my friends turn lap after lap and test themselves further than they have ever gone before. When Steely broke 100 miles we high fived. I gave him a turkey sandwich and told him to keep pedaling. We moved into the night riding and things started to noticeably slow down around 9pm. I gave Lar some caffeine and some candy and watched the energy coarse through her veins right in front of me. Here are some fresh bottles and a new battery. Get back out there! When Hellmania’s stomach turned sour and possibly end her race, I saw her teammate step up. Erin washed a bunch of food down with some coffee and headed back out on course for another cold, dark lap. That extra rest was all that duo needed to get back on track and put them on the podium. When Steely came back around about to break 200 miles he was starting to dig deep. I gave him a pep talk and 5 different food options to pick from. By the time you hit that 14th hour, your appetite is gone and nothing tastes good. It’s best to have options. A couple of times I even had to shit-talk just to get these kids to eat. This was fun.
I would walk around 24 hour town whenever I had a break in the action. This is something I have never had a chance to do before. I wandered past Mike’s pit and watched as he passed through with the efficiency of Formula 1 pit crew. I saw people come through the exchange tent with smiles so big their cheeks are were going to be more sore than their legs on Sunday. I took it all in and it was truly impressive. It occurred to me that there really is no such thing as solo out there. You may be on that bike for 24 hours pedaling, but it is the energy of the people around you that make you push on. Like when you want to lay down and that grumpy guy in the pits makes you get back on the bike. That campfire the volunteers make on the cold back side of the course that warms your toes. The smile of the people in the exchange tent who say “Welcome back! Great Lap!”. It was amazing to witness.
Thanks to everybody who made this event so fantastic. I hope each and every one of you can make it out next year to share in the experience. And to that guy on my second lap who asked if I was OK. Yeah man, I’m so much better than OK. Keep it dirty…