Monday, February 18, 2008

24 Hours of Old Pueblo Race

So I survived the 24 Hour of Old Pueblo. It was [choose one: amazing/ cold/ awesome/ painful/ tiring/ make your own adjective].

Our team rode 13 laps of a 17 mile loop and always had someone on the course, so that was a victory for us. We actually podiumed (5th place) in the five person ages 100-150 category in 5th place which was good for us seeing how none of us had ever really done a real mtb race and definitely never a 24 hr one. Woohoo! But I must point out that there weren't that many teams in our category since I guess we are young (although not really that young) and most of the 5 person coed teams were in the 150-200 age division. And when we saw solo women accepting their awards for also doing 13 laps BY THEMSELVES, it was a bit humbling. But oh well, 9 months ago, I had just went for my first mountain biking ride and I didn't know there was a different brake for the back and front tires so I guess "I have come a long way".

I rode three laps for a total of 51 miles with times of 1:36, 1:55 (night lap, boo), and 1:44. Can't complain because three months ago when I tore my ACL, I didn't think I would be riding at all, so I must do a little shout out. Thank you knee for overcoming your obvious deficiencies (like not having an ACL) and persevering enough that my back hurt more than you this weekend. It was a perfect way to go out before my surgery this Thursday, and my knee isn't really that sore (nothing a little beer and ice can't fix).

Now for the actual race report. Skip if you don't want to hear about snow, cactus and the inner workings of my twisted mind.

We checked the forcast Friday and with 2 inches of snow and temps in the 20s predicted for Oracle that day, we wisely decided to wait until Saturday morning to head down instead of Friday night. Just getting to the camp was an adventure. The snow was starting to melt when we showed up at 8am and turned the 20 mile dirt road leading to the 24 Hour town into a mudpit. There was soupy mud everywhere, snow on the ground, and little rivers running across the low parts of the road. Plus it just looked cold. Cactus apparently turn dark with cold snow...who knew.

We arrived and met our two other teammates who had showed up Friday night and spent the night freezing. By the time we got camp set up, it was time for the captains meeting and bam the race was off. Sarah, our fearless token tough girl, started out for us (since the rest of us were scared of the lemonds start and the crowd. She had a great first lap battling off the rat pack and finished with a good time in very wet soupy conditions. BJ was next and he had a killer time for us newbs as the crowds broke up and the course dried. Angel "I am a runner not a biker" went third to take advantage of the light since she had never preridden the course, and really killed herself to finish with a good time in her first bike race ever. I had the privilege of going fourth starting at about 5pm which meant I had to try to get as much of the lap done before dark.

Here's my spiel. I have learned how to ride a mtb on desert single track. That is all I ride in my little ride radius of Phoenix and have learned how to corner around cactus and hit the right lines. I only started biking last June and haven't really had the opportunity to ride in things like rain, snow, on real mountains, or even up steep hills that last more than 3 seconds. See the desert is usually pretty flat. But this course is more involved, not really technically, but mentally. Towards the beginning of the course is a portion called the bitches. They should really be calling me their bitches, cause they own me. They are these huge rolling hills under a powerline that go straight up and then come straight down before going straight back up again, repeat 6 times. The problem is, that its not pack dirt, there is a lot of rocks and sandy parts and it is hard to get any real speed from the downhill that isn't gobbled up by the sand at the bottom. And one thing I need to learn is how to stand while I go up a hill. I really don't know how to do that. I usually just granny gear everything, but honestly, that takes forever and I watched everyone pass me standing up and it is soooo tiring to get passed while granny gearing, so really I just wanted to lay on the ground in fetal position by the last one. Once I got through that part of the course, I always feel so much better, cause the next long portion is just what I like, desert singletrack. On my first lap, I killed on the next part. I actually passed about 10 girls and a number of guys. Granted, they were probably on their fourth or fifth lap, but I was feeling good. There are a number of ways to wreck into a cactus on this part, but I just love how the ups and downs with plenty of fast rest time in between. The final portion of the lap is a long climb up to a mountain ridge and then a fast decent to the finish. Although I found this part tiring (long extended climbing always is) I liked it because I could just granny gear all the way to the top. In the words of Nemo, just keep swimming. It only got dark right at the end of my lap as I was descending the ridge and I came into the TA feeling good and happy with a 1:36, my best time ever. I passed the baton to Jeremy who got ran off the road into a tree (better than a cactus I suppose) and had to fix his bike and change a flat as a reward.

After getting warm and eating some food, I got to sit around the campfire for the next 5 hours and think about how much it was going to suck that I got to do the twilight zone lap from 3 to 5. That is how the cookie crumbles though and we stuck to our ordering. I went down to the TA at 2am because I was cold and wanted to get the show on the road. The track had turned crappy as the night got colder and a lot of condensation was causing hard packed dirt to turn into sticky mud. Angel said she saw the conditions deteriorate as her lap went on so they were especially nice by 3am when I got started. I immediate could tell that it was much much harder than my first lap. Things that were fast last time, felt slow and bogged down. There was ice and frost covering all of the cactus and there was ice cold water drops flying up from my front tire and hitting me in the face. And for whatever reason, my ear band was wet and kept slipping down over my eyes, so I finally just pushed it down and went hatless. The bitches sucked once again, and this time, my favorite single track also sucked and I felt like I was in granny gear way too much. The uphill climb surprisingly was also painful. Okay maybe not surprising. The other MAJOR problem was that my bike wasn't working right. I was experiencing phantom gear changes the whole time and by the end, I just got accustomed to having to change my pedal stroke to whatever gear the bike decided to jump into. Let me tell you, that was fun. The only good news was that I had brought my cell that plays out loud and jammed out to tunes the whole lap. Everyone that passed me (there was a lot) liked my tunes also. Towards the end of the lap, it seemed like everyone was hurting quite a bit and I had a lot of time to talk to people about how much the last climb sucked. Unfortunately, right at the end my music stopped but I was close to the ridge and figured the battery died and just kept going to the end. It wasn't till I went to check the time after handing off the baton that I realized I had lost my cell phone out of my pocket. Damn it, not again! I was super drained mentally, bummed about my cell phone, pissed because my new bike wasn't working properly, and annoyed and tired that the sun was coming up and I hadn't slept yet. I felt like I was on the trail for 3 hours, so I was actually quite surprised that I was still wasn't that slow (for me) at 1:55.

I was too tired to eat or drink (bad idea) and soooo cold that the though of preparing food or crawling into my frigid tent was abhorrent. I dropped off my bike at a mechanic on site and did the only thing I could find energy to do, strip down and sleep in the running car for an hour. An hour later, I got up and went to find out if my bike was fixed. The mechanic was like, "I can't believe you road a whole lap like that". Apparently something was wrong with my brakes (dragging really bad) and the derailor was all messed up. He claimed if I didn't drop 10 minutes off my time, then I should tip him. "Okay buddy, hope you are right" I said as I secretly thought that I didn't want to even ride another lap, let alone drop time. Then I went to the lost and found tent and like magic, there was my cell phone. I am sure some delusional solo rider thought they were losing their mind and hearing music before realizing it was my cell phone on speakers cranking tunes. Thank you nameless tired person who must have been pulled over for a rest for bring my cellphone to the lost and found.

So each team must ride for 24 hours, which basically means you must ride to begin at 12pm the first day and that you must ride over the finish line for your last lap after 12pm the next day. So as the cookie crumbles, I got to ride one more lap and cross the finish line after the 12 mark. I was not so quietly dreading another lap as I was crabby from lack of sleep and so stuck in the terrible mental state of that previous lap and its pain. Finally my super tough teammate Sarah, declared she would ride it with me to make it more fun (even though she had just finished her third lap earlier that morning). We knew we didn't really have time pressure, just needed to finish it, so we figured we would take it easy and enjoy the sudden sun and warm weather that showed up finally. Well after the bitches, which still sucked, suddenly the trail was very very nice and I had all sorts of energy that came out of nowhere. I really enjoyed the last lap, and ever though it wasn't as fast as my first one, was only about 8 minutes off at 1:44. Plus I didn't lose my cell phone and my bike ran like butter. So I guess I paid up my mechanic friend the tip because I took 10 minutes off my time. Then we collected our little plaque for fifth place and some swag (yeah!) and complained about how hot it was all of the sudden and how the sun was burning our faces. The weather was variable to say the least.

Overall, it was amazing. I have a new respect for 24 hour solo racers and a tiny little seed of "maybe I could..." planted in my soul. I came home last night and slept for 12 hours straight and it was everything I ever thought it could be.

Now today is my 27th birthday and I am putting on my shorts and going to drink a beer on a patio in the warm February sunshine and enjoy my last free day before they cut me open.

And congratulations to you for reading the longest post ever. Are you simply slacking at work today or really enjoying the day we set aside for the big guy in the White House? Doesn't matter, Happy Prez Day to you.

1 comment:

Danielle said...

Happy B-day. It's too bad that we didn't get to meet, but maybe I will meet you at another 24 hour solo race when you are doing it solo, right? Take care!