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24-The Race Report

October 22, 2007


Here it is, the race that started everything.

I normally never publish much about my cycling happenings, or much of anything for that matter, and try to live life in modesty, but there’s just some things in life that you have to brag about. And this one of them. I had decided about 6 weeks ago to try 24 hours of Rocky Hill as a solo effort. The race took place this weekend. Noon Saturday to noon Sunday. I ended up winning the thing. You can read about it below if you want.

Race Report
24 Hours of Dirt- Rocky Hill Ranch, Oct. 20 2007

“Forget pain, overcome mishap, crush self doubt, and focus only on your victory.”
-Lance Armstrong

I don’t think I really knew what pain was until this race. Nor did I have a true understanding of what “endurance” meant either. I’ve done my fair share of marathon and cross country races, but nothing could really prepare me for this endeavor. Having done well in a few 6 hour races, and a 2 man 12 hour race, I was at least familiar with the race format. I also knew that I tend to be a “2nd half racer” meaning that I usually put down the heat when others start to give out, and that comebacks are historically my style of racing. The most important thing I had going for me was my motivation. I had studied last year’s results, and just knew that I could do better. I knew that if performed at my personal best, that I would win this thing. The only doubt I had was if I’d actually be able to perform at my personal best. I wondered if my rear would be able to handle that much time in the saddle, if I would be able to eat enough food, drink enough fluids, keep the bike running smooth, be able to set a pace I could sustain for that long, combat the normal tiredness that comes without getting sleep for that long and so on. It was truly a physical and emotional battle for the ages-my most complete and meaningful victory on a bicycle ever. It ranks pretty high up there in the game of life too. So, on to the start.
Preparation began a few weeks out. I decided on a whim to do the race solo and starting looking for lights to borrow, since I only had one set. It wasn’t hard to find donors, being on the greatest team in the state of Texas. That aside, real preparation began after the Lake Bryan XC race the weekend before. Recovery, energy replenishment, and ample rest took top priority that week. I also started some research on what to eat, how to race, and any thing else I might need to know. Our very own seasoned endurance racer Sara Krause and her hubby John graciously donated some time to put together a tips list for me to go by. This list would be absolutely crucial to winning, as I later found out. The two nights preceding the race, I spent laying out and packing everything I thought I would need, as well as cooking pasta and rice and tuning the bike. I had tinkered with the bike all week playing with stem/handlebar position and which saddle I was going to use out of the 4 or so I had. I finally decided that the SLR XC gel flow was actually the most comfortable one I had, so I mounted it up on the new thudbuster seatpost (highly recommended, by the way) I had purchased for this ride since I’m on a hardtail these days. I had the height and fore/aft relatively close to the old saddle, but I should’ve went out and rode it to make sure it felt right. Slight inconsistencies like this are greatly multiplied over the course of several, several miles. I finally got all the food, spare parts, camping gear, clothing, and bike equipment together by midnight and went to sleep. I would’ve liked to gone to bed much earlier, but at the same time I didn’t want to leave at home anything that I might have needed during the race.

Drove out there Saturday morning, got registered, got setup in the team area, and got food and drink protocol squared away with crewman #1, our very own Dustin “Major” Payne. Having a crew for you the entire race is a huge advantage, and was critical for this win. 15 minutes before the start I finally get suited up, and start to examine the saddle position since I knew it wasn’t quite perfect. The guys say the height looks good, but fore/aft was about 3/8” too far backwards, so I have to mess that adjustment for about 10 minutes. I get the bike to the staging area and go hop in line for the LeMans start with about a minute to spare. Gun goes off, and it’s on!! I’ll be damned if I’m running the start with 24 hours to go. All the other soloist seem to have the same mindset, so we just take a nice easy stroll around the pond amidst friendly conversation about how the race will be. I’ve never once tried Chamois Butt’R, but I knew if there were ever a race to do so, this would be the one. In my hurry to make it to the start line, I forgot to put some on, so after the walk I go back to the team area and have a quick lube. And I’m off!! Last rider into the singletrack. But that didn’t bother me a bit, at least until I got stuck behind a lot of people on entry level bikes wearing tennis shoes who didn’t know how to corner and were braking at every turn. Braking = wasted energy. That’s why I’m on a 29er, cuz I don’t have to brake nearly as much and can just flow through twisty parts and this course had a LOT of them. So I end up speeding it up a little to pass people, and each time I pass, the level of the rider goes up a little and eventually I get behind people that I can tolerate. I focus on being smooth, not fighting the course, and keeping the heartrate down at all costs, even if it means walking some steeper parts. After the first lap, the field spreads out and I don’t have to worry about passing so much. 3 laps down, I’m just taking it easy. I stopped at end of lap 2 for lunch. Mmmm, turkey sandwiches and pasta! First bike mechanical comes on lap 2. Rear wheel comes out of dropout while powering up a hill. This has happened before and seems to be an issue with the AMC wheel/Sliding dropout combo, but I did not expect it to be a problem here since I wasn’t putting out nearly as much power as in a XC race. Get the wheel back in, but it doesn’t wanna rotate very well. Bent rotor. So I take a rock and give the warped part a tap or two and it’s good to go for the rest of the race. Middle of 4th lap, left knee starts to hurt a little-worrisome. 5th lap, it starts to hurt a fair amount. Due to the location and type of pain, I immediately diagnose the problem-saddle too low. Stop and raise it about 1/8” Problem fixed! At the end of that lap, I’m starting to feel fatigue (50 miles) They are requiring lights now, so we get those mounted. I don’t need them til the end of lap 6, but am sad to see the sun go down. I am able to stay fully hydrated with one bottle of water and 1 bottle of mixed perpetuem or Gatorade per lap. I’m also still able to take down solid foods, but the desire to do so is diminishing. I go out for my first night lap, and arguably the worst lap of the night. It takes some time to get used to the lights and getting a feel for the trail. I’m making mistakes left and right. The biggest one comes when I end up veering off the trail a bit and smack a tree dead on with my handebars, right where the front brake lever and shifter are. The force is enough to rotate the two downwards, so that the reach is all messed up. It was functioning fine, but just mentally getting me off my game. I tried to rotate them back without loosening the bolts, but to no avail, so I just keep going. A few miles later, powering up a climb, chain snaps. Hate it when that happens. But I always carry a chain tool with me. Unfortunately, I had failed to restock the little compartment in my saddle bad with a powerlink from the last time I broke a chain, so I just had to connect it manually, and make a mental note to not get into the big chain ring, which really wasn’t a problem since I was past all the fast parts anyways. Fortunately, Zoe’s light has one of those LED features where you can just run some small LEDs for trailside repairs like that and it’s not bright as hell and doesn’t waste battery life. Got it fixed, as well as the brake lever/shifter, and slowly picked up the pace. Felt cold for the first time since I had sweated, cooled a bit, and got going again, but just a slight chill. Got in from that lap and took the first and longest break of the race. The mind needed it more than anything, but the body was also in favor. Albert Salaazar from the 4 man team slapped on my spare chain, lubed it up, and adjusted the shifter since that too was now a little out of whack. Finally got to rolling and morale was greatly improved by a ‘new’ bike. Finished lap 7 or 8 or could’ve been 9 (things are starting to blur by this point) to find Dustin asleep, but alas, our good friend Nick-ci-roni had showed up to help. By this point I had moved up from last (24th) to about 6th. I got him oriented with the food, drink, and light procedure, took a small break while he cleaned the drivetrain a bit, then hit the trail. Riding through the night is all still kind of a blur to me, but I remember being really, really sleepy in the early morning hours around 2-3am and having to really fight it off. Following the sleepy laps, I started to figure out what this 24 hour racing thing was all about. I could feel the pain going away and the mind was starting to overcome the body. This was a race of mental toughness. There is in large, a huge physical aspect, but a lot of the guys I was up against were just as fit as me if not more. It was gonna come down to who could push through that pain, who could take the shortest breaks , and who wanted it the most. When I felt that pain subsiding, it was just incredible. A feeling of invincibility came over me and I knew I was in the zone. I came through on one of those laps, and I remember Brandon Ortiz from the 4 man team saying “this is when this race is won, in the middle of the night, when no one wants to be out there.” I took that to heart and declared right then and there that I was gonna freakin stick it to the competition in those late morning hours, and boy did I. I rode moderately hard, but kept it smooth. I stayed hydrated as best I could, and tried to eat, but that got harder and harder. I remember looking up at the stars (perfectly clear night) and just thinking how surreal this whole thing was. Murphy’s law snuck up on me somewhere in one of those laps. I had forgotten to put my pump back in my jersey pocket before heading out. I hadn’t had a single flat up to that point (nor had I EVER gotten a flat running a tube on my 29er wheels) so I figured what’s to make happen this lap? Sure enough, about halfway in I get a flat. I did not panic though. I went ahead and changed out the tube and waited for the next ride to come along to try and bum a pump. It took about three riders to finally get one, and since it is a 24 hr race and not a XC, you are allowed to accept outside assistance. Got the tire filled, and back on my way. The push had gotten me up close to the lead by the sunrise hours, but it had taken its toll. The pain had subsided in my muscles, but now it was starting to show up in my joints, particularly the knees, ankles, wrists, and shoulders. I was, after all, on a hardtail and had ridden 120-130 miles by this point, smashing my personal record of 73 miles on a mountain bike about 50 miles ago. Just when things were looking rough, I start to see the light of day.

“For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but JOY cometh in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

Indeed, that sunshine was sight for sore eyes. It was funny how my speed seemed to just ramp back up as did the light of day. I came through the feed, got all the lights off, got refueled and headed out to take control of this race. I come in to learn I had gotten the lead by 2 minutes. Next lap 8 minutes. My confidence is growing. Now I really want to stick it to this guy in second, so I try to keep the breaks to a minimum and keep those big wheels rolling. Next lap: 40 minutes! #$%! yeah! All I have to do is just keep cranking those laps out. I’m experiencing endurance beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before, but each lap gets harder and harder and takes more of an emotional toll, especially as you get closer to the end. You just want the thing to be over.

“You will hurt like hell, you will want to quit. Don’t.”
-Sara Krause

“I believe you can keep going, long after you can’t”
-Unknown, cited from the ‘I believe’ poster at Jimmy John’s, Red River@ 32nd (you never know where you might find inspiration)

I kept those thoughts going through my head, as well as the inspiration from the team. I had some cushion time on 2nd place, so I could afford to take some longer breaks, and slower laps. Looking back though, I wish I hadn’t have thought that way. That’s not the type of thinking that wins a 24 hour race. The way the whole thing ended was rather scary. I’m going out for what I thought to be the last lap. We had calculated that if I finished that lap before those guys, there wouldn’t be any way that they would make it back in before the cut-off to do another and the whole thing would be over.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE YOUR OPPENENT.

That dude turned a 1 hour lap and beat the cut-off by two minutes. Major, major props go out to that guy for the heart he showed the last few laps as he pulled that gap down from 40 to 5 mins. He could have said right then and there that he was going out for one more lap and he could have taken the win, if he finished that lap in 1:30 or less. It’s questionable whether he could have actually done that if you throw in any break he was gonna take and whether he had the physical ability to actually ride that fast after turning an hour lap ( the average solo speed was around 1:23 at that point) but none the less, he had the chance to catch me in a Leon Lett moment (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leon_Lett if you’re not familiar with this reference) because I was off celebrating, completely ignorant to the fact that he had come in just 5 minutes behind me. Luckily for me, he said “done”, and that was the end of the race. I had achieved what I set out to do. I crushed self doubt, I forgot about the pain, and focused hard on that victory. Proud Mary (my Kula 29 hardtail for those of you who don’t know) passed this test with flying colors. She railed the turns, destroyed the flats, floated over the bumps, and bombed the descents. For those who thought I was crazy for riding a hardtail, well, I guess it proves the old adage “it ain’t what you got, it’s how you use it,” Proud Mary showed you what’s up, and I’ll put her up against any full suspension bike on any XC course in Texas. We brought home the gold, back to where it belonged, in the hands of a Pedalmasher. I was carrying on the tradition set by our good friend Karl Deardoff. It is hands down my greatest sporting victory ever, and I consider it to be one of my greater personal life achievements as well. And yes, Jay, I did go to work the next morning to prove to everyone I am as crazy as they think I am.

Although the trophy says Solo Expert Male, it was far from a solo effort. It would not have been possible without the help of Dustin, Nick, Albert, Bill, Jay, Brandon, and even fellow solo rider Jason Beers. Thanks also to Sara and John for their extremely helpful advice. Thanks to Zoe, David Kessler, and Sheila Wadley for loaning me lights. You guys are welcome to use the new Niterider Moab that I picked up as part of the winnings whenever you need to. Thanks to all the other Mashers who offered encouragement along the way.

Some race stats:
17 laps
10 miles per lap
Finish time 23 hours 52 minutes
Estimated 800 ft elev gain per lap (13,600 total)
Roughly (15) 750 ml bottles of water
Roughly (13) 500 ml bottles of Gatorade or perpetuem or ½ water ½ coke
¾ bottle of hammer gel
1 bottle of secret weapon (actually, just a can of that 3 oz. 5 hour energy)
About 12 granola bars
3 bananas
1 pancake
About 3 cups of rice with honey on top
3 cups of pasta
8 or so mini turkey sandwiches
2-3 PBJ’s
Some cookies
1 tube of Chamois Butt’r
1 broken chain
1 flat tire
1 bent rotor
1 close contact with a tree (trees always win, by the way)
1 beat to hell caveman
1 badass bike
1 hellavu support crew
1 1st place trophy

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