3rd Place Men’s Solo
255 Miles in 24 Hours
I even made Cycling News!
Room for improvement? I think so ;)
On Oct 1, 2009 I committed to driving 1000 miles to the land of cacti for 24 hours of glorious suffering. Leading up to that point I was really torn with the decision to head south this year vs. signing up for a snow bike race in AK or MN but when the online registration opened for Old Pueblo it just felt “right”. I have followed this race for years, had heard great things about the race, and wanted to experience a really big 24 hour race. October 26th was the day I started to seriously train for the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo and although I missed a few good ski days, I really liked having a goal to focus on over the winter. Personally, the other benefit to doing a 24 hour race in Feb is that I can take my time recovering and not feel as if I am missing out on our super-short cycling season.
My sleeping quarters + our rented circus tent in the background
I felt as if I had raced before it started. Two days of driving to get there, cramming some work time in on the laptop each day, setting up camp & the pit, and the pre-race anxiety had me feeling a little ragged. Sharing camp and a pit with Lynda was a highlight and when she got there late Thursday night it definitely helped my mood to finally have a camp buddy. I had some serious pre-race jitters in the days leading up to this one. However, Friday was good day. French press coffee & a bagel, followed by a fun pre-ride with Lynda, seeing Ed & JJ, getting big hugs from JJ, and then gradually getting my gear organized for race day.
I knew this was a big race but I had no idea it was a giant camping party with a 24 Hour Race going on in the background! This 24 Town just explodes out of the desert and exists from Thursday (actually earlier ‘cause some folks cheated and got there waaay early) through Sunday. The race sold out every category which meant a total of 1600 racers plus their friends, families, dogs, goldfish, etc. were all there. Rather than the exception, RVs were the rule. Teams would park several RVs in horseshoe formations to form their “compound” and throw out a fire pit, an E-Z UP, a gas grill, and a Lazy Boy on top of that. I thought I had my pit program dialed but those folks in AZ don’t fuck around when it comes to their camping. Yeah, I was a little jealous.
Well, my plan changed a bit when Michelle couldn’t make the trip to AZ which meant that I was racing solo AND unsupported. Working backwards, I knew that 16 laps was the absolute most I would do so in order to pull that off I needed 16 laps worth of hydration and calories ready to go before I started lap #1. When Lynda saw me pre-mixing 32 bottles Friday night I think she thought I had lost it. I tried to lay everything out so that I could roll into the pit, grab two bottles and a gel, plus any snack I craved, and roll out in a few seconds.
Chillin’ Amongst the Carnage
I distinctly remember the sound of heavy, labored breathing all around me during the first and second laps up the Bitches and I cracked a tiny smile as I spun in it out in my small chain ring while taking it all in. Saving energy while moving efficiently was my biggest goal early and I had no interest in the burst-slow-burst routine that many over-zealous riders engage in on the first lap. There were plenty of crashes, bobbles, flats, and broken chains on the first two laps and I just calmly weaved my way through it.
In addition to a conscious effort to stay positive throughout the race, I had positive people around me. JenyJo and Aaron were racing Duo Coed against Lynda and Scott and both teams were on FIRE! On my 5th lap I got to ride with JJ and we took the silliness to a new level. If you were riding around us at the point in the race you were probably wondering what kind of crack we were on. We were laughing and trash talkin’ and just being silly in general and as I have said before, I go faster when I am smiling. Lynda and Scott helped keep the mojo flowing when I would see them briefly in our pit in between laps and their encouragement really helped keep me on track. When Lynda told me that I was in 7th place around midnight I thought she was playing some kind of Jedi mind trick on me.
It is not a matter of whether you are going to experience discomfort in a 24 Hour Race, it is matter of which body part, how much will it hurt, and are you mentally prepared to deal with it. The only way I can describe my nemesis during OP is Monkey Butt. There is nothing glamorous about it people. I have had plenty of saddle sore issues and had expected to experience them in this race but this was different. This was a burning, painful, stinging welt-like rash covering every inch of my ass that was touching my saddle and the discomfort was building throughout the night and affecting my riding. I had to stand up a lot and shift positions constantly. By dawn I couldn’t take it anymore so I took drastic measures. Instead of taking a planned break for hot tea and a bagel, I dove into my tent, stripped off my layers, pulled down the bib shorts, applied a thick layer of Desitin to my now baboon-like butt, AND slathered a layer of chamois cream onto my chamois. That messy concoction helped me finish out the race and took the edge off. Phew, now let’s get back to racin’.
The Final Laps
My early race was a setup for the finale and now it was time to unleash everything I had left. At 7:25am I started to ramp it up and instead of spinning up the Bitches I was standing and mashing my way up them and it felt good. I was big-ringin’ the back stretch too and going fast is fun, which made me smile, which in turn made me go even faster. I was riding on emotional crack at this point but I was also calculating my finish. Lynda told me I was in 4th and then a lap later I was in 3rd…holy crap. Stay on the gas. By 11am the wind had come up and the headwind on the back stretch was soul crushing. Mentally, I was still racing, riding hard, and mentally preparing for Lap 16 but I was physically slowing down. When I rolled into the pit at 11:58am I had time to go out for Lap 16 but mathematically there was no need. Physically, I could have gone out for one more if I absolutely HAD to, but it would have been U-G-L-Y. The energy in the timing tent after 12 noon was awesome and I got a big hug from JJ. And then it hit me. It was like I had been riding on fumes because I was barely able to walk my bike back to the pit and unfold my camp chair to sit down.
Adding to the stoke, my race buddies kicked ass this weekend. Lynda & Scott won the Duo Coed and JenyJo and Aaron took 2nd in Duo Coed. How cool is that?
Huge thanks to Lynda, a Super Coach who leads by example, and to Michelle and all of my friends for their love, support, and encouragement.