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Return to 24 hours of Rocky Hill-Vindication

October 19, 2009

If there’s something I can grab, you can bet, I’ll pay the tab.

From Peace by Weezer

The body is a resilient thing. I found this out first hand back in October 2007 after winning the 24 hours of Rocky Hill. It is, however, with limits, as I painfully found out at the 24 hours in the Old Pueblo (Tucson, AZ) the second weekend of February 2008…I was about ¾ through lap 7, about mile 110 or so, and I started to feel a sharp pain right below the left patella. I knew it was only going to get worse and if I kept pushing on, it would do some pretty bad damage. So right then and there, I was faced with a pretty tough decision. I was a little over halfway though the 24 hour clock. I was moving up the ranks to where I wanted to be before really laying down the hurt in the late night hours when most people start to cave in. That’s when the race is really won. I had the energy to keep going. I definitely had the desire. Too bad I didn’t have the knees. I rolled back into camp and called the race. I’m not a quitter, and in fact, this was the first mountain bike race that I’ve ever thrown in the towel on. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so heartbroken over a decision like that…I’m out for vindication. Moab Rocky Hill is where I’m going to get it.

Reprinted from “In Search of Vindication” February 2008 (except for that Rocky Hill insert!)

IMG_1202Neither that 24 hour race in Arizona nor the one in Moab last fall went very well. I somewhat regret having skipped Rocky Hill to do Moab last year and have been looking forward to a return trip to the race venue that launched my 24 hour racing career ever since. My first outing, I cranked out 17 laps in 23:53. Last year’s winner also cranked out 17 laps, but on a single speed and in 23:30. I had no way of knowing if he would return, but I would prepare as if he were. You never know who else might show up either. Plus you never know what mother nature and lady luck might throw your way.

So, I not only planned on matching the previous year’s feat by racing single speed rigid (no suspension), but I also wanted a performance that would be worthy of a national caliper race. Having attended a few of these big boy races the last few years has taught me what it really takes to be the best. I was going to shoot for 20 or 21 laps, even if it only took 17 to win. I was also hungry for the $50 bonus awarded to the rider with the fastest lap time who also finished in the top 3 overall.

For this race, I setup the Dark Knight with a rigid fork and traded in the gears and shifters for a DMR chain tensioner. I didn’t feel like changing out the Middleburn Duo crankset so I just ran a big cog in the rear for 40-21 gearing. That’s slightly tall gearing for a 29er, especially for an endurance race, but the setup was light at 19.5 lbs. I wanted to crank out some fast daytime laps and then switch over to Proud Mary when the sun went down.

Come high noon the race kicked off with a LeMan’s start. There would be no walking this year as I was serious about starting off in good position and wanted to get to work right away. I only wish my bike wanted to get to work right away…

Although I had tested out the chain tensioner around the neighborhood, I didn’t have a chance to ride it hard on a trail due to all the rain Austin had been getting the week before. The chain popped right off in the middle of one of the first climbs. Put it back on and reset the tension and was good to go for maybe another mile or two before it did it again. I think I dropped my chain no less than 7 times that first lap until I figured out that having the chain roller in the up position was causing the problem, so I flipped it to the down position and seemingly fixed it, although I no longer had confidence in it, so I switched off to Proud Mary for lap 2. My 1:15 first lap was very frustrating and had already set me back by ten minutes, but I knew I had plenty of time to make it up.

Proud Mary had 34-19 gearing and a bonafide sliding dropout chain system, so I was much more comfortable on her. Mechanical worries aside, I was back in a rhythm and ready to get to work. The 2nd lap gave me the $50 fastest lap I was looking for. Somewhere around lap 4 or 5 the 34-19 gearing became tiring so I took a pit stop to trade the 19t for a 20t cog. It was a huge sigh of relief since all the climbing on the course was a bit easier on the body. Unfortunately, my mechanic/fiance forgot to tighten the dropout bolts completely and the chain came off or the wheel came out or something that forced me to stop and fix it midway up the first climb. Not a huge time loss, but a mental frustration I could’ve forgone.

By lap 7, my times had been strong and consistent enough to erase the lap 1 deficit. I wasn’t in first yet, but I was getting there. I was still having pesky mechanical problems too, though. On one lap, I tried to clip out to hike a steep climb and just fell over because my cleat was loose and just stuck in the pedal. Turns out it lost a bolt, so I had to super tighten the one that was left to finish the lap, then steal one from my spare pair of shoes back at the pit. My mechanic again (bless her heart, I love you cupcake!) didn’t tighten the bolts well enough and I had to stop mid lap to tighten them properly. I have no idea how, but the other shoe cleat bolts loosened during a later lap in the night and I had to stop and tighten them. Not once, but twice, did I smack the same low lying branch on two night laps knocking my light and battery (and luckily not my head-although it did hurt) off my helmet. Both times they went tumbling down into a creek and I had to fetch them. Even though I was still gaining ground in the standings, these silly problems were just killing me. I was praying for just one single lap without any issues. I maybe had 5 such laps, but it only felt like 1 or 2.

By midnight I had clocked 10 laps and was on pace for the planned 20, but fatigue was setting in and I knew it would be more like 18 or 19. A critical turning point came at the end of lap 12. I rolled in to see the leader checking in, right before me. He looked at me, and must have known who I was, and how much trouble he was in for showing himself. I wasted no time getting re-stocked and going back out.

A lot of people say that these races are won or lost in the wee hours of the night. It was true for my first go round, and it remained true for this one. I cranked out laps 13 and 14 only to learn that 2nd place hadn’t gone back out yet. He was reported stretching, changing clothes, and hopping in his sleeping bag. I’m sure it was a tough decision to concede the race like that, but everyone has their limits. The guy raced his guts out for 15 hours and needed a break. Like I said in my last post, anyone who even attempts these races is a winner in my book. He did wake up and go back out in the morning for 3 more laps to hold on to third place, so kudos to him for getting back in it and putting up one hell of a fight until that point.

After 14 laps myself, I was ready for a break. I was feeling light headed, hungry, cold, and of course, exhausted. My lead over the new 2nd place was comfortable, so I  changed into my wool jersey and warmers, cuddled up under a blanket, drank some water, and ate. Up to this point, my homemade caveman energy bars and Puresport were getting the job done. It seems though, that it gets increasing harder as the race progresses to eat and drink the same thing over and over. When word broke that some teammates at a nearby campsite had a surplus of Mr. Gattis pizza, I jumped at the chance and downed three slices.

The pizza and about 30 minutes worth of rest brought me back to life and it was time to put the hammer to the nail. On lap 15 a new problem had arisen: saddle soreness. Despite the fact that I was riding an unsuspended bike with only one gear for already 150+ miles and arms, shoulders, legs, and kneew were being subjected to the beating of a lifetime, my sore butt was giving me the most worries. The pain from trying to sit and take the weight off my legs was incredible. But without giving my legs even some relief on the flats and downhills, I didn’t know if they could hold up, literally, for another 4 laps.

The solution was to compromise. Sit as much as I could, support the rest of my weight with my legs. If worse came to worse, I wouldn’t sit at all. Just stand and hammer away. In a very sick and twisted way, I began to love the climbing at this point, because it meant I didn’t have to sit! I found being on a single speed to be advantageous in this respect. I’ve never stood and hammered out of the saddle for so long in my entire life. I’d easily say 80% of the last 3 laps was spent out of the saddle. That’s what it took to get ‘er done.

Lap 15 was a scary one in another sense as well. The course itself wasn’t very muddy, but had some creek crossings that were full due to recent rains. With about 20 crossings on the course, it was ample opportunity to get your bike dirty and tear up components. Since I was running a singlespeed, I didn’t even worry about cleaning it each lap. My rear Stan’s ZTR freewheel just wasn’t up to the challenge. Somehow, about 1/3 through the lap, I lost freewheel capability, and hence the ability to coast. It was completely seized. I’ve wanted to try fixed gear mountain biking for a while now, but this was neither the time or place for it! After riding this way for another two miles or so, I was involuntarily backpedaling down a steep descent and it sort of unseized itself. Coasting was real rough, and it sounded absolutely horrible, but at least I could coast now. I’m guessing one of the pawls became dislodged and stuck, and then partially broke, then maybe fully broke a little while later because full coasting resumed, only engagement of the hub took ½ a revolution and drove me nuts. I was ever so thankful that it got me back to the pit though. We changed out wheels and off I went for lap 16, which was pretty non eventful

Heading into 17, I was pumped up and feeling strong. I didn’t stop in the pit, just changed out bottles and kept on going, a strategy I had intended to employ the entire race but for one reason or another didn’t work out til then. 2nd place (John Russell-Pedal Hard) was 15 seconds ahead of me, starting his 16th lap. I caught up to him and we chatted a while, before I sped up to a pace I was more comfortable with on the singlespeed. I had problems on this lap with my rear wheel slipping out of the dropout, and John passed me back as I was fixing it one of several times, and we chatted a bit more before he continued on his mission to secure 2nd place. These silly mechanicals were no longer frustrating at this point, just nice opportunities to take a break. I think it was the same lap that I passed a rider who was running with a chainless bike. “Lemme guess, no chaintool?” to which he replied, “Nope, but don’t worry, I don’t mind running.” I started to keep riding before thinking to myself, man this guy has a long way to run. I pulled over and fixed his broken chain for him. I just hope it didn’t break again!

I completed lap 17. I had matched my feat set here 2 years ago, only with a different bike setup and a faster time. Now it was time to best that feat and complete 18 laps. At 23 hours 41 minutes  I crossed the finish line and called it a day. John had started his 18th lap just minutes before I arrived and I was pretty sure he wouldn’t turn a 20 minute lap to start a 19th lap so at high noon Sunday afternoon, I was the official winner. 19 laps was not out of the question. Physically and mentally I still had it in me, but there was no sense in causing any more damage than I had to.

Another epic race, another epic victory. Hopefully, many more to come.

Thanks be to God, for whom all glory is due, for I am nothing without Him. Thanks to my pit crew, Colleen and her cousin Christie who just moved to Austin from Connecticut. These ladies supported me without end and were crucial to my success. Patty B and Mike Pawlik also helped out mechanically when they could. Thanks to Dennis Lozano’s girlfriend who brought the Mr. Gatti’s pizza that revived me in my hour of exhaustion. Thanks to Proud Mary, who, although gave me some hiccups, pulled through and showed what a tough, efficient steed she is and rode away with her second 24 hour win. Thanks to all my sponsors, for this particular race most notably Puresport who provided liquid nutrition, Performance Wellness for providing pre and post race physical therapy and massage, and Bobcat13 Photography for coming out and shooting photos. I’d also like to thank my new shop sponsor, East Side Pedal Pushers. Owner Lee Gresham gave me a great deal and shop use to get the Dark Knight setup for the race. Thanks also to you, my readers. All you guys are awesome! Now, time for me to get some more food, and more rest!! Til next time,


Race stats:

lap splits/results  here:

18 laps 23 hours 41 minutes

1st place Expert Male

1st place Singlespeed

Fastest Solo lap (1:00:28)

each lap ~10.1  miles, 182 total miles*

each lap ~900 ft elevation gain = 16,200 ft total*

consumed about 12 full bottles of Puresport, at 120 calories each = 1500 calories

about 10 full caveman bars which I estimate to be 250 calories each

1/2 lb Turkey, 1 lb of strawberries, 1 lb of grapes, 4 bananas, some apples, 3 pcs of pizza, and a good 30 ounces of Odwalla “Monster B”

In the end, I was probably a bit undernourished, but my day to day “Caveman” diet and lifestyle more than accounted for my nutritional requirements.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. There is no other better way of eating than the Paleo diet. For me, this race was ultimate proof. Except for that 5am moment of exhaustion, I didn’t feel hungry or lacking energy, and in fact, that moment was probably more induced by lack of sleep

*I do not use a heart rate monitor, power meter, Garmin, or computer, so I cannot provide any of those stats in case you were curious. The course numbers listed above are from other racers who do.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. Hammer permalink
    October 20, 2009 3:33 pm

    Way to rock & roll, man. Very impressive once again.

  2. October 20, 2009 5:33 pm

    Nice writeup Greg. Man did you have a lot of bike issues – and on a SS! You sure looked strong out there. I was running in 3rd behind you guys for the first 13 hours before my lower back blew up. You just flew by me. Geez.

    Great ride for a very deserved win.

  3. Chris Koob permalink
    October 22, 2009 8:43 pm

    Congrats! Looks like you kicked butt again. Next year I will have to come out and help!

  4. October 26, 2009 10:15 am

    I’m so proud of you babe! You rocked it and never gave up. You have so much strength mentally. I am very glad I got to be there to see you absolutely shine.


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