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I had my cake, and ate it too-24 Hours of Rocky Hill Recap

October 26, 2010

Photo Courtesy of Bobcat13 Photography

Word is probably out by now that Caveman Productions once again brought home the win at this years 24 Hours of Rocky Hill. I feel like I’m beginning to make it look easy. At the least the people who’ve done a 24 hour race know this couldn’t be farther from the truth. These races take an enormous amount of preparation, the highest level of execution, and indescribable physical pain and emotional battering. My lap times from this year make it look like clock work, and to some extent it was, but those numbers don’t come close to telling the whole story. Just ask the guys who spent the entire race chasing me. Ask my pit crew. Ask the neighboring pit crews who saw the pain, fear, and doubt in my face after blazing 6 laps to start the race out.

A 24 Hour Solo win is rarely ever solo at all. Before I get into race details, I have to thank the following folks. Kathy and Scott Hudson and everyone else at Terra Firma Promotions for putting on the race. The course was well marked, the scoring area well staffed, and the event was well organized and sponsored. My wonderful pit crew started out with my lovely wife but somehow overnight grew to arch rival Adrian “Little Man” Barron ( he himself was racing solo but decided to pull the plug on lap 9), the crew that was supporting him ( Jeff McMahan and Heather Herrick ), and Derek Delpero, who, unbeknown to me, had loaded his 29er with a tent and sleeping gear and rode from Austin to watch the race and camp. Ladybird was there too, but I can’t say she really helped that much. Many, many thanks to Carlos Matutes, a massage therapist who come up from San Antonio to work the race. He worked on me before, twice during, and after the race. That mid race work was clutch to keeping me on the trail. As always, many many thanks to my awesome sponsors: Eastside Pedalpushers for parts and service, Puresport for liquid nutrition, Performance Wellness for pre and post race therapy, Bobcat13 for race photos, and Chipotle Congress for weekly Caveman Salads.

Now, on to the nitty gritty. This year 27 men entered the Solo Open category, 13 more than last year. Not only that, some really fast names showed up that left me knowing I’d have my work cut out for me this year. John Russell, last years runner up was returning to make another run for the gold. I had the chance to ride with John at Walnut Creek a few weeks back and he had me hurting like a dog. I could tell his hard training had paid off and he would be a formidable foe. I found out a few days before the race that respected adversary Wink (Nathan Winkelman) would be there. I’d never raced Wink head on at a 12 or 24 hour race but had always wanted to-yet feared the day I’d actually get the chance. Little Man Adrian Barron would there. He “unofficially” beat me at the 2009 Dirty Dozen, not to mention every Xterra race we’ve ever done together. 24’s are totally different beasts, but he is always a wild card. Bicycle Sport Shop Cat 1 phenom Marshall Bell also showed up. I’ve raced him at the dirt derby before and and have seen his times at XC races this year so I was aware of his threat potential.

So, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I said in previous posts that I would keep an eye on solo racers, but try to race against the teams to up the ante. So, I ditched the usual game plan of starting easy/moderate and finishing strong in lieu of a race plan that entailed starting ridiculously fast, staying stupid fast by the half way mark, and finishing pretty fast by the final laps. It would be great way to get a good jump on the solo field and totally demoralize and beat them down, while staying in “contention” with the teams. I was going to lay it all on the line, or go down in flaming ball of glory trying to. In the end, it kinda worked.

Gun goes off of and the crazy LeMan’s running start ensues. I didn’t break out in a full sprint, but I didn’t lollygag it either. Once on the bike, I didn’t waste much time moving up. Proud Mary was setup for speed with 34-18 gearing on a course that had a lot of climbing on the front end. With that kind of gearing, fresh legs, and good adrenaline pumping, the climbs flew right by. Fastest first lap of the race belonged to Sol Frost of Austin Bikes at 46:28. Second fastest? Yours truly at 47:13. I didn’t

Photo Courtesy of Bobcat13 Photography

know that at the time, I just felt good and knew I was on a mission. Second lap came in at 46:18 with no run to deal with this time. I got edged again by the Austin Bikes 4 man team at 45:43, but again, I didn’t know this and just kept going. Lap 3 48:04 . A little fatigue starting to set in at this point. I hopped on the Dark Knight with 34-19 gearing for 2 laps while Proud Mary got dropped down to 34-20 gearing. I was happy with the fast start and knew I was starting to settle down to my 24 hour pace.

Photo Courtesy Bobcat13 Photography

By the end of lap 6 those blazing fast laps came back to slap me in the face, or adductor muscles actually. The race had started at noon and the high temps for the day were unseasonably high at 86-88 degrees. The combination of heat, singlespeed, and hard efforts had left my legs cramping badly. Adrian had fallen off pace, and John, Wink, and Marshall were apparently riding together about 20 minutes back at that point, so I felt I could spare a little time in the massage tent to loosen those tight legs up. Carlos was quick and effective and I was back out on the trail. It didn’t take long before I started cramping again and began having serious doubts of whether I’d be able to finish the race. It’s one thing to have sore muscles, it’s another when they’re locked up and refuse to fire. I remember stopping at the top of Fat Chuck’s, slapping my legs and massaging them to flush the pain out and forcing them to keep turning the cranks over. I knew if I could get past these first climbs and into the twisty forest singletrack I’d be ok-and I was.

Getting past these painful climbs at the beginning of loop became my primary focus of each lap. I’m not sure if the cramping went away or I built up enough cortisol in my system to just not feel it anymore, but either way it became a non issue each lap I was able to complete. Lap 7 was the last day lap for Saturday and Lap 8 was the first of several night laps.

Photo Courtesy of Bobcat13 Photography

Things always slow down a little at night, but I tried to keep the pace up as best I could. I was putting 1-2 minutes on the competition each lap and I figured if I maintained consistency that I’d be able to lap 2nd place by morning. Hydration and nutrition was keeping up with demand. By laps 11 and 12 I really didn’t want to turn fast night laps anymore to try and slow the race down. I was on pace to complete 24-25 laps and having just done 12, I couldn’t fathom actually riding another 12 more. Pressure from a new dominant 2nd place kept the pace up though. Adrian had dropped out at 9. Marshall had bailed at 10. Wink took a long break after13. John Russell was comfortably in 2nd and he wasn’t going down without a fight. All I remember about those 14-15-16 laps was that I was 21 minutes up, then 25, then 29, then I took another massage break, and all of a sudden I was back down to 20 minutes.

It was time to put the nail in the coffin and deal 2nd place a blow so large he’d have no way of catching back up. I gathered all the strength I had and rode every bit of that course except for that stupid climb before crossing the road and heading into the Grind. I knew no other solo racer was riding it anyways, so that part I could afford to walk. I wouldn’t know the end result of that effort until coming back from my next lap since John would have to scan in before my pit crew could get the split. It was very favorable though. 53 minute lead, almost a full lap. Not only that, but the lap I had done in waiting was quick enough to actually catch him. That hard early morning lap had cost me a bit, but it had cost him even more. The win was all but tied up, all I had to do was ride with him until the clock expired-or until he decided to quit. Having amassed a 4 lap lead over 3rd place, John was in a position to throw in the towel. We rode my lap 20 and 21, his 19 and 20 together for good measure. Lap 20 was the twilight lap, the most coveted and celebrated lap at a 24 hour race, and oh was it sweet. 21 was a full morning light lap and it wasn’t so bad either.  Riding with John those 2 laps was enjoyable, albeit a little painful because I was so saddle sore by this point that I was relegated to standing most of the loop and we were “trying” to ride slow since it wasn’t even 9am yet and the race had another 3 hours left to go.

Photo Courtesy of Bobcat13 Photography

During our two laps together, we made a gentleman’s agreement to end the race after my 21st lap. It was a mathematical impossibility for 3rd place to catch either one of us, and there wasn’t much sense beating the crap out of each other for three more hours when the outcome wasn’t likely to change, but just for fun he still wanted to ride one more lap when we finished those two. I had lost my focus and desire to compete with the teams at this point and didn’t feel like riding lap 22, so I let John take off on his lap 21 resting assured he wouldn’t punk me and go out on another lap. I was done. John held up his word and after the clock rolled over 24:00:00 our 1-2 finish was official once again. Kind of a non-climactic finish to a 24 hour race, but if you look at it from the standpoint of a poker game, and you have so many cards and chips to work with for a set amount of time, you can take a gamble and use it all up front and hopefully walk away big or you can be calculated spread it out over the course of time. I went big up front and it paid off, so I got to enjoy the victory early!

I pretty much did nothing but get a massage from Carlos and sleep those last three hours before the clock expired. I had done 21 laps to last years 18. The laps were about a mile shorter this year, but that still came out to more mileage, about 193. All done in 21 hours too, instead of 23.5 compared to last year. I’ve got a little hand numbness and saddle soreness to contend with, but otherwise I’m very happy to report that physically I am much better shape than in years past following the event. I only had two very minor mechanicals the entire race and neither set me back more than 30 seconds. Payout was $730 plus a custom painted carbon frame from YBS bikes. It’s a 26″ frame, unfortunately, but those guys are working with me to swap it for a 29er frame. Check them out if you are interested in a custom bike from a Texas builder. To top it all off, it was my birthday and Colleen presented me with a little chocolate cake. I can’t tell you the last time I had cake since clamping down hard on the paleo diet to prepare for the race. I won’t lie-it was pretty tasty. The cold Shiner on tap wasn’t bad either 🙂 All in all, couldn’t have asked for a better race.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2010 11:56 am

    Nice work Greg!

    John Russell sent me a link to this post, he’s still recovering from his race wipeout but already making plans for the next 24. He’s thinking Canmore next summer, you should come up – and just like John, you could stay at our house in Calgary.

    Keep doing what you’re doing. You da’ man. 😉

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  1. Long Tall Sally Is Here « The Official Blog of Greg the Caveman

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