Tuesday, June 8, 2010

24 Hour Race

A few blog-worthy things have happened since my last post. I rode part of the 24 Hour Race, we had a Team Two Wheel Shop Ride and I rode the Mad Dash 8 Hour race. Two of these things also involved my new bike, a Gary Fisher Superfly. And despite all of this, I was not once accused of motorized doping. I guess I need to work on that.

So, without further ado (ado being a naturally occurring substance which I am too polite to discuss in this blog), here are some of these tales of these events in chronological order.

24 Hour Race

It was a cold and dark morning, with wind whipped clouds on the horizon . . . Not, actually, it wasn't. The 24 Hour Race, put on by the incomparable Wendy Bailey and Gino Liesicki (and lots of volunteers and helpers), is a mountain bike race held in Riverside State Park and which runs from noon Saturday until noon Sunday on Memorial Day weekend every year. This is the 11th year of the event, although I would have guessed it was 20 or more. This race can be done Solo, Single Speed Solo, or on teams of various sizes ranging from two to ten. This event has continued to grow and it attracts several hundred people who participate, volunteer and otherwise camp and hang out around the race course area starting on Friday before the race. All in all, it is a great event and any organizer who wants to understand how things should run should take the time to check out this event, from course set-up and marking (clear, obvious and safe), logistics and support (excellent) to food (all provided by Mark Starr and the David's Pizza Emergency Support Vehicle) This race is a lot of fun.

This is my second time participating, the first was in 2007. The same thing precipitated my involvement both times: Leadville 100. A subject for another time, but the point is that I am "training" for the Leadville 100 and it seemed in 2007 that riding/racing my mountain bike for many, many hours was a good idea. So, in 2007 I signed up for the solo division and rode from the start at noon until around 6 or 6.30 pm and then went home for the night and came back to ride two more laps in the morning prior to the Sunday noon cut-off. I had slightly more ambitious morning ride intentions, but it was my anniversary so breakfast with my wife of then 18 years seemed like a good idea.

So, this year when my Leadville 100 aspirations came up again, I thought a good long mountain bike race might be in order again. I recruited two stalwart souls to join me in our self-described "daylight division" and we once again set out with the pack at noon and rode until Wendy said we would have to have lights on in order to head back out. This year that meant stopping about 7.40 pm after 6 laps, or about 86 miles.

Lap 1 - This lap is the high-excitement-of-the-start lap, but also the lap with the g-damned Le Mans start, which means running "to" your bike the way car racers at Le Mans used to, except this involves an uphill out and back run. Now, I don't fault them for it, as it does a good job of separating the pack out so there isn't a crunch as people get out on the course, but damn it all, I ride a bike because I hate running, so starting out my bike race with my bike shoes and running 600 yards up and then down a hill is not my idea of entertainment. By the way, this is the only time I saw Stalwart Soul PK until after he had finished his 7th lap and we were all ready for a beer. The first lap is also the lap where everyone's adrenaline is pumping and the people on teams are laying tracks as fast as they can. It is hard when you are planning to do eight hours (and I can't imagine doing 24 hours) to just settle into your day-long pace and not get sucked into racing at their pace. This gets better as the day goes on because a couple of hours into the day I just didn't have what it would have taken to even try to keep up with some of the fast folks doing single laps at a time. Anyway, this lap went reasonably well and the results tell me that I was 2 min 45 sec behind PK and 1 min 20 sec behind PW, the other "Daylight Division" riders also training for Leadville. Since I lost this much time to them on the Le Mans start alone, this wasn't a bad beginning.

Lap 2 - This was the lap in which I had a flat. I have had a couple of pinch flats before and they tend to be quick deflation affairs. In this case, the air was slowly draining and I was able to make it back to the pit area before stopping. I did this because I had a spare tube and pump available and somehow it made sense to me. I lost more than 10 minutes on my comrades this lap, but not bad considering that I rode gingerly for the last part of the this lap and then changed my flat.

Lap 3 - The lap from hell. As I started up the hill that starts the 14.something mile course, I realized that I couldn't shift into the largest cog in the back (largest cog = smallest gear, does this make sense? Yes, but still). I attributed this to the banging through the prior lap's "rock garden" sections. By the way, I have had to switch to using the term "rock garden" exclusively as my wife objects to the term "baby heads" to describe the infant-noggin size rocks that inhabit portions of this trail. Anyway, new bike and cables that might still need adjusting, right, so I figured I would just drop down into the "granny gear" in the front (speaking of jargon, does anyone still use that term for the tiny chain-ring) and make due. While I rode this lap, however, I started feeling miserable. I was really dragging. I couldn't get up to speed on the flats, I was notably slower uphill and it all started to get to me mentally and physically. Also, my right knee started to get sore, which is not something that would normally bother me, even on a long, hard ride. About half way through the third lap I had mostly decided that I would just struggle through one more lap and call it day. I had started out with the goal of riding six laps (about 86 miles), but if four laps (57 miles) was all I could do, I needed to be realistic and re-think my fitness for Leadville.

The last section of this course has a fast downhill section and then flats, so I shifted into the smallest cog in back to take advantage of the speed and instead was greated with the chain dropping between the cog and the frame. Not good. Very kindly, Tom, the mechanic from Two Wheel Transit who had prep'd the bike for the race, told me that he would be racing that weekend and if I needed anything he told me where to look for him. Tom and his crew had cheered me on prior laps so I decided to stop by and was hoping that we was not out doing one of his incredibly fast laps and instead could help me get the bike shifting correctly.

Thankfully, Tom was sitting course-side and graciously offered to take a quick look at the bike. And, indeed, all it took was a quick look as he immediately noted that when I put the rear wheel back on after changing the flat, that I had done so without putting the part of the rear hub that fits into the drop-out on one side, so that it was sitting on the skewer on that side. This meant that it wouldn't shift correctly since the whole thing was pushed sideways. A few of you will have immediately tripped to the other issue. Yes, the rotor for the brake was also pushed sideways, so that it was firmly and solidly against the brake pad. Do you think this might have contributed to the feelings I was having on that lap? Yes, you are right. You are very perceptive. In fact, riding a 14+ mile lap with your brakes "on" is really a bad idea and it makes me ponder my relationship with reality. How could I have not noticed? How could I not have spun the wheel after it was back in the frame? I don't know the answer to either of these things, but I did a quick change on the tire and it was apparently at least 15 seconds too fast since I didn't check that.

I was really glad, however, that Tom was there and had offered to help. Don't know when I would have noticed otherwise. Maybe when the brake ignited something?

Lap 4 & 5 - At this point in the race, things are less distinct in my memory. The good news is that nothing traumatic happened and the bad news is that also probably indicates that I needed to eat and/or drink more to keep the brain sugar levels up. My legs were definitely feeling the impact of my idiotic brake-pad fiasco from lap 3 and it really took these two laps to work them out so they felt good again. My right knee stopped aching and just went back to feeling normally tired above and below it. Interestingly, my 5th lap of the day was 15 seconds faster than my 2nd lap of the day. I had to slow down and baby the corners on my 2nd lap as the tire was getting low, but still that indicates that I was doing all right even five laps and more than 70 miles into the race.

Lap 6 - I came into the pit area after Lap 5 and saw PW. I was feeling pretty good for being 6 1/2 hours into a mountain bike ride and I finally felt like the crampy/stressed feeling from Lap 3 was finally gone, so I was planning to get in a 6th lap and call it day just as lights were required to be mounted on your bike to continue on the course. PW was getting a piece of pizza so I grabbed some sandwich I had brought and we agreed to ride the last lap "together". You would think that this word has an agreed-upon usage in the English language, but that would indicate that you don't know PW. "Together" in this instance meant that I should ride slowly when he wanted to go slow and that at the end of the lap when he felt sparky and got around a couple of riders, I should just hope to see him after the finish line. Oh well, you wouldn't have friendships that lasted 25 years if you didn't overlook this type of behavior, right? Maybe it's good there weren't blogs 25 years ago.

Post Lap 6 - I felt remarkably good after riding around Riverside State Park for nearly 8 hours. I knew I would be sore the next day, and I was, but I wasn't in the shot/knackered/wasted category. I was just in the good old-fashioned tired category. I was also very, very fortunate that my pal Mark was right next to my pit area and he had some cold beer, Papa's Pale Ale from the Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company (brewed in honor of the Centennial of Father's Day which was founded in Spokane (Proof of this claim and places to get Papa's Pale Ale on tap - just click). It is hard to remember a time when a beer tasted so good and it felt so good to sit down. So, I sat a bit, had another beer and then PK (who had snuck in a 7th lap - putting him at an amazing 90 miles in 8 1/2 hours)(also, did you know the correct term is "sneaked" and that "snuck" is not actually a word?), PW and I headed to the Steam Plant Grill to meet my family, PW's daughter and to have a burger, another beer and an end to a great day.

Last thoughts - Solo
- When you get your race number for your bike in the solo category, you also get a small tag to hang on your seat that says "Solo". This is so team racers give you some respect as they bomb past you on their fresher legs. Since I was only ever intending to ride 7-8 hours and almost every other Solo was there for 24 hours, I felt bad every time someone passed me or I went through the tent and got kudos for being a solo. People who stick it out 24 Hours do deserve recognition, so I felt guilty taking any of it from them. I will ask Gino and Wendy for a "Daylight Division" sticker to go on my Solo badge next time.

Women - Any male who thinks they are superior to women by dint of their equipment, should come out to a race like this. I saw women flying around all parts of this course, uphill/downhill/technical/flat/volunteering, who outclassed me at every point. There were solo women, team women and women on co-ed teams all dishing it out better than a lot of men, so guys, let's put aside the junior high attitude that all men are somehow better athletes or more hard-asses than all women, cause it just ain't true.

Finish - It was a great day and it is a fun race. I saw a lot of friends and was reminded of why I like Spokane so much. Tom gets a shout-out for being the mechanic who saved my day and Mark Starr at the David's Pizza truck deserves special mention for his food and logistical support.

It made me tired just to type this up. That's why it took so long.
Rider 3

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