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The 2010 Dirty Dozen

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly; ‘Tis dearness only that gives everything its value.

Thomas Paine

I’ve done 6 hours, I’ve done 24 hours. I’ve done cross races in bone chilling temps and atrocious slop. I’ve swam a mile, rode 20 miles of trail, then ran 6 miles of trail in near 100 degree heat at Xterras. The 2010 Dirty Dozen 12 Hour MTB race at Warda, TX this past weekend tops them all. Warda received a lot of rain the week previous the event, and no help from mother nature to dry up the course in time. Most of the trail was in decent shape. Some was mushy field that was totally rideable but just sucked the life right out of your legs. The rest was just an absolute slop fest. And with twelve hours of racing with 200+ racers out there, it got worse and worse each lap. I almost certainly turn to my trusty singlespeed for such conditions, but my gut told me before the start that if there would even be that much mud, it would be a watery mud that didn’t stick to your bike and clog your drivetrain, and that on this course 18 gears would be much preferred over 1, so I stuck to the plan and had The Dark Knight ready to roll. Proud Mary would be in the pit in case I needed her.
I rolled out of the tent at 7am. The racer’s meeting commenced around 7:15am. I could hear the announcer fine from the campsite, so I just stayed put getting everything setup. Colleen was racing the 6 hour so I couldn’t rely on her to help me setup, nor lend a hand for the first 7 hours of my race. I setup shop next to the aggie team that I made the beer bet with, and they too would be preoccupied with their race so I couldn’t count on them for much help either. It was already a tough start to the race and it hadn’t even started yet. For those of your who have never done a 12 hour solo, there is a tremendous amount of planning and preparation that goes into the effort to make it successful, especially if you don’t have much help. I frantically spent the next half hour cutting up fruit, filling up water and Puresport bottles, setting everything out to grab as I came through the feed zone, getting my tools and equipment ready, and initiating the fastest 5 minute clothing change in a tent that I’ve ever had to do. I had a dream the night before that I actually missed the start of the race, and here it was about to come true. I tore butt over to the LeMan’s start line ( a running start of about 150 yard to your bike) where they almost blew the whistle were it not for Colleen recognizing that I was no where in sight and asking the official to wait a little longer, which he did (thanks Scott!) He had someone ride my bike over to the staging area and the gun went off almost immediately!

Photo Courtesy of Bobcat13 Photography

So now I’m running towards a bike that I don’t even know where it is in mad dash of 150 other racers running, mounting, and taking off. The bikes were laid on either side of a road, and I had to make a choice which side I would try first. Unfortunately, I chose poorly. Fortunately, the race promoter had given me the #1 plate for winning this thing last year, and that number is a real easy one to spot, so right as I switched to the other side of the road I saw Dark Knight laying on the ground about 20 yards back. Knowing darn well the consequences of getting caught behind the slower racers on the first lap before hitting singletrack, I took off like a bat out of hell! I passed a good chunk of the field, but still had several slower racers to deal with the entire first lap. All I could do was be patient and pick them off one by one, knowing that things would open up the longer the lap wore on.

Photo Courtesy of Bobcat13 Photography

There was more mud on the course than I had anticipated, but it was the watery mud I was expecting and it didn’t seem to be affecting the bike too much so I forged ahead unfettered. By the end of the first lap, sure enough, the field had spread out and I just about had an open course for the second lap. Just like the 24 hour Rocky Hill race, there would be a $50 bonus to the top 3 solo rider with the fastest lap. I wanted that sucker bad, so I set out pretty hard. I had fresh legs, a fast bike, and wanted to get out in front quickly, so that the next few laps went by quickly. I did not know if I would get the bonus, but I did know the course was getting worse each lap and I was beginning to settle into a rhythm so the early effort would have to stand. When I finally started coming into the pit for food, water, and a bike tweak from a crash on lap 3 or 4, the aggies were able to help with food a little, but I when I asked them to change out the cog on the single speed for an easier ratio to use on the next lap because I was beginning to have some chain suck problems with all the muck building up after 4 laps of no cleaning, they didn’t come through for me. Granted, they had no obligation to help me and were busy fixing their own bikes, but it was frustrating having a bike dying on me, and not having a suitable backup to take out ( I had set it up with 34-18 gearing, and asked them to switch the 18 for a 20 because I knew that 18 would kill me in the mud and climbing out there) I asked them to do it again, or at least make sure to find someone else who could do it. Another lap later, the bike still lay untouched. So I asked them yet again to please find someone to fix it. Meanwhile, I struggled with major chainsuck problems on Dark Knight, but at least I was getting through it.

Photo Courtesy of Bobcat13 Photography

When I finished that lap, someone had at least tried to change out the cog, but they weren’t familiar with the chain tensioner and the wheel was rubbing the chainstay. Dark Knight was just about on its last leg, So I grabbed my tools and fixed the SS myself before taking off on my most trustworthy of bikes. I also asked the aggies if they could hose down Dark Knight and clean it a little, since I had a feeling I would need it again.

It felt refreshing being on a clean, simple bike, and knowing chainsuck wouldn’t bother me for a while. Part of me felt ashamed for having not chosen this bike in the first place, but part me also felt relieved for having gears and suspension those early laps. Everything was going fine until I hit I arrived at a short rooty ascent and the rear wheel came out of the dropout. I just figure the skewer wasn’t tight enough, so I put it back and tightened the dickens out of it. It happened 3 more times later in the lap and at that point I knew the skewer just didn’t have enough bite to hold onto the dropout, so when I came into the pit I not only changed it out for a better one, but noticed Dark Knight was still laying on the ground caked full of mud. It’s one thing my indifferent “pit crew” didn’t have the time to clean it for me, but it’s another that they couldn’t even find someone to get it done after I desperately begged. One of the reasons world class endurance racers such as Chris Eatough are so successful is that they have multiple bikes to use and a dedicated team to help them out. Even my main competitor at this race was getting a clean bike every lap and confessed to me after the race that he was spoiled by a super awesome crew. At least Colleen would be finishing her race soon, so I asked them to at least tell her to clean when she got in.

Photo Courtesy of Bobcat13 Photography

Of course, they failed to do this as well and I went another lap before getting a chance to tell her personally. After a third lap on Proud Mary, even the low 34-20 gearing was beating me down in the mud. The geared bike was washed down a little bit when I came through, but the front chainrings still had a lot of muck in them and Colleen wasn’t even there. At this point I had to just take everything in my hands and grab a brush and water to clean it myself. These long pit stops were just killing me, but I didn’t have too many other options. After taking off on Dark Knight Colleen finally caught up to me at the scoring table, and I told her to make darn sure she or someone else swapped the 20t cog for the 21t because I knew the geared bike wouldn’t make it the rest of the race. It was about this time that I learned second place was only 10 minutes back. No one had been giving me splits the entire race and I had no idea how to gauge my effort. That bit of info struck some fear into me though and I picked up the pace.

Photo Courtesy of Bobcat13 Photography

I find there comes a point in a race like this where the pain starts to subside and you find your “sweet spot” or auto pilot mode, and after 8 hours I was there. The pain is always there, of course, you just seem to tolerate it better and realize that if you made it this far and haven’t cramped or bonked yet, you can push it even harder. I cranked out three more pretty solid laps until chainsuck again forced me to swap to the SS. Dark Knight had gained the lead, now it was time for Proud Mary to save it. The 21t cog had been put on, but the people who changed it out had a problem with the chain tensioner since I have never really ran the 21t in back before. This at least, was an unforeseen circumstance and I didn’t blame anyone for this one, but nonetheless, I still had to fix it myself before taking off.

Fearing that those precious minutes lost in the pit would motivate my competitor, on my 15th lap, I cranked out one of the most important laps in my racing career. No, the fastest solo lap of the day would not be early when the legs were fresh, the bike had gears, and the course was in its best condition and fully daylit. It would happen this 15th lap on a rigid singlespeed as day turned to night in much muddier conditions. 29 minutes 55 seconds. The fastest lap of any racer that day (from a 4 man team) was 29:15. The demons of competition had clearly overtaken me.

Photo Courtesy of Bobcat13 Photography

With a little breathing room and light at the end of the tunnel, lap 16 was much more conservative. I focused on being steady and not crashing. I left the pit at 7:30pm knowing that this 17th lap would be my last. No one was able to give me an accurate split between second place though, so I had to assume that he was only 3 minutes back and finish this lap hard. Physical strength had waned severely by this point, but mental resolve only got stronger as each mile ticked away. I thanked the good Lord each time I made it past a difficult obstacle out on this cold, wet, dark course. I slowly pushed through the last major climb (a part of the course I call the suck zone-it’s not real steep, but it just seems to suck the life right out of you, even more so when it’s muddy) and rounded the corner to the table top jumps where you can get a good view of the finish area. It’s still about a ¾ mile though the woods and some nasty nasty mud, around the pond, through the campground, and one last 180 turn to the homestretch, but looking back I couldn’t see any lights in sight so I knew it was all but sealed up. I crossed the finish line in 12 hours 6 minutes and some change, 30 minutes ahead of 2nd.

I have to give major props to Adrian “Little Man” Barron. He kept me on the run and had me hurtin’ like a dog the last half of that race, and even though the final outcome was a 30 min difference, the score doesn’t always dictate the closeness of the battle, much like how New Orleans beat the Colts 31-17, but it was actually a much closer game than that. Adrian even technically “beat” me last year at this race by crossing the line a few seconds ahead of me. Since he signed up for the sport class though, I wasn’t keeping tabs on him and it didn’t count in the expert category. He is a fierce, fierce competitor who routinely kicks my butt in Xterra’s and it is an honor to race him in events like this. At the expense of being a little cocky, I just have to tell him though “You might have the upper hand in swimming and running, but when it comes to mountain biking, I own you!” I love you man, seriously, but be careful who you trash talk to 🙂

I must also give credit to the aggies, Team Currently Known as Awesome. They had some hardships of their own and not only defeated arch nemesis Team Formerly Known As… and finished 2nd in the 4 person open division, but they did win the beer bet squeaking out 20 laps to my 17, 1 more than the allotted 2 I had wagered on. For the record though, I was right about being physically capable of the challenge. I was only 6 minutes short of making it in for an 18th lap, but I was also right about outside forces that can have a large impact on a race like this. I lost at least 12 minutes in the pit having to fix the bikes myself.

So, even with the fudged start, the bike problems, horrible conditions, and pit crew miscommunication, I was still able to take some lemons and make some lemonade! What an awesome battle this thing turned out to be! No knee or body or nutrition problems at all. Primal fitness, nutrition, and resolve totally ruled the day. I drank maybe 6 total bottles of Puresport (and maybe 6 bottles of plain water) throughout the day, but otherwise subsisted entirely off my famous Caveman Energy bars and mixed fruit (including banana, strawberry, grapes, grapefruit, pear, dried apricot, and a bottle of Odwalla Blue Monster).

My thanks goes out Terra Firma Promotions for putting on the race, and all the sponsors that donated schwagg. Thanks to Bluff Creek Ranch for hosting us and letting us absolutely destroy some portions of the course. The TMBRA race there is 3 weeks away and I can guarantee you they will need some help fixing it up. If you need paydirt, consider giving them a call. Thanks to ALL my sponsors, most notably Puresport, Performance Wellness (post race massage was awesome!), Eastside Pedal Pushers, Bobcat13 Photography, and Paleo Cookbooks. Thanks also to the aggies for lending what support they could, and last but not least, my little cupcake for helping out after her race. She did the 6 hour on her singlespeed and finished 3rd overall and 1st among singlespeed women. Total badass. Good job, Cupcake! Thanks also to all my readers who for some reason still find it interesting to check in on my adventures 🙂

Peace,

Caveman

Now, just for kicks, push play and read this whole thing again and see if it makes it any cooler!

Photo Courtesy of Bobcat13 Photography

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Adrian Barron permalink
    February 8, 2010 9:35 pm

    Job well done Caveman…nice race re-cap & a really well executed race day, thank you for the call out! As much as it pains me all over I bow in your greatness and accept your ownership.

    I love you too man…….(I will still keep up my trash talk w/you)

    • aardvark102431 permalink
      February 9, 2010 4:16 pm

      Ha. I’m glad you have a good sense of humor as well! If you go into Performance Wellness anytime soon, I told them to heckle you, so be prepared!

Trackbacks

  1. The 2010 Dirty Dozen « The Official Blog of Greg the Caveman
  2. Defeat at Warda-2011 Dirty Dozen Recap « The Official Blog of Greg the Caveman

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