This was my 4th and best 24 hour mountain bike race. Why best? read on. These events are so huge, it's hard to focus a blog entry without going off onto multiple tangents. There's getting to the event, which was particularly special this year as I rode co-pilot with Mike in the 1970's era ? Grumman Curbmaster that is the "Meatwagon" or, our City Bikes team truck. There she is hiding behind the high gas prices sign.
And speaking of gas, this vehicle gets a whopping 7 miles to the gallon, not the most efficient boat on the road, but for it's age and fine aerodynamics, that's not too shabby. I think the highpoint was trying to turn the meatwagon around in the campground, beers already in hand, and crashing it into a fellow racer's VW wagon. No damage to either vehicle thankfully, but the guy whose car we hit didn't look too pleased.
There's the team, which was cobbled together at the last minute this year after earlier victims/volunteers bowed out as the date neared. HOWEVER the final team roster consisted of a great group, the strongest I've ridden with thus far, and an incredibly good match of guys. Alex a.k.a. the other meatwagon, S.S.-Jonathan who was the fastest of us all on his Gunnar single speed, and Citybikesmike
There's the venue- awesome, the other teams, the scene, the weather which was excellent and dry although perhaps a tad windy and cold at night.
And of course there's the race. I started the first lap of the shabang this year, it was finally my turn after letting others do the dirty job of running the le mans start for the past 3 years. I lined up in the front with fellow City Bikes team member Kent who raced in Mens Veteran on the CityBikes Gwadzilla
team. I don't like running, but the immediate dive into the single track forced me to knuckle up and leg it to avoid getting stuck in the inevitable bottle neck right at the start. I'm on the left, Kent is on the right (thanks to Gwadzilla and or Mike for this photo)
I managed to follow close behind Kent during the run and once on the bike, I was about 5 riders back going into the single track. Good deal. After a few tight twists in the woods the trail opened onto some rough double track which gave me the opportunity to start passing some folks. My goal was to keep Kent and an NCVC rider in sight for the duration of the first lap. Kent because he is fast, so if I could still see him, that means I was also going fast, NCVC because they are also fast, but mainly because they were the only other expert team that I could pick out of the bunch. Gotta keep the competition in sight. After a small climb up a watery stream-bed the course turns smooth and rolling for a few miles. In many places it's wide enough for passing, and there was a lot of that going on. Over the duration of the lap I think I passed about 15 or more riders. That felt pretty good.
The rolling single track empties out onto a fire road which stretches on for a flat half mile or less. This was an excellent opportunity to big ring it and pass some slower folks. Diving into the woods again, the trail snakes through a planted pine forest. This section was unique since the trees are in rows, thus the trail filled a row, and turned on smooth banked turns through the trees so that you can really carry some speed.
Things got gorgeous after that. The next section of course is what most people think of when they refer to a trail being 'flowy'. Lots of short ups and downs, mostly downs, with some fast rock gardens and rock drops where you could really air it out. Following this series of curves and happiness, the trail steepened into a full-on rump shakin' down hill. It's always interesting when you start questioning whether your hands can continue to grip the handle bar. The descent emptied into a soggy bottom area, just a bit o' mud, crossed a bridge and started up a long gradual fire road climb. I was still a few riders behind Kent, but ahead of NCVC at this point. I could see Kent, and made it my mission to catch him on the climb. Interestingly, I did, and rode beside him for a short burst of breathless conversation, "hey man, you're looking strong - gasp gasp - everything going alright?"
"hey matt, yeah, you're looking strong too- gasp gasp."
I couldn't break my way into the three man train behind Kent and was burning up too much energy riding on the rougher side of the road so I dialed it down and fell in behind the train. Plus I was feeling a bit shot at this point and needed to keep my effort under control.
The course stretched on through a few varied bits of terrain: a big open area, a rock-pile-lump, a short down to an up, and some grassy ribbony single track. All sweet stuff. The next more remarkable section was a set of boulders at which point my back was starting to hurt. I never saw anyone clean this section, and I doubt that cleaning it is at all advisable during a race, best to get of and run it. I remembered this section from last year, in that it preceded some steep climbs up to the plateau where the camp site, and more importantly the finish line were located.
NCVC passed me back here. I stumbled through the rocks, jumped back on the bike and mashed up the remaining hills to the suffer-ish final fire road. I think this was where I made up most of my time this year. This section was detrimental to my speed last year as I just couldn’t recover from the steep climbs with any sort of pace. I guess that changed! I was moving on this section and started catching back up to NCVC and others, including Kent.
The final stretch was a slight down-hill through some rocky bouncy trail, leading to a twisty woodsy section. I opened it up on the bouncy section, whaled my crank arm on a rock, unclipping a foot, but stayed upright. I’m always amazed when that happens and the crank arms don’t shear right off of the bottom bracket, I suppose this does happen, but hackers like me get lucky sometimes.
A final turn dumped me out into the edge of the campground, bound for the steel bridge overpass that I dislocated my shoulder on last year. I took it easy on this bridge every time through this year. No need for heroics, just finish the lap.
A mad scramble to clock out with the RFID card, and pass the baton, and Mike was off. My first lap was over.
I turned out a 1:20. I was psyched. That was 5 minutes faster than my fastest lap last year, and this one included the le mans run at the start. My sprits were up, equipment solid and I was ready for more.
I won't drone on about every lap. But after my team turned out some sick times, with Jonathan knocking out the fastest lap at 1:13:37 I knew things were fast. The team was having a great time, the conditions were keeping people smiling, and the general mood was way up. I crammed down some food, hung out with the crew and got ready to head out for lap two. This time without the camelback as to avoid further back soreness. The soreness came back, but far less painful, and lap two was a 1:14:40 which would be my fastest for the event.
Night lap number one, starting at 10:45 pm and lasting to just after midnight, went well, but I was significantly slower- 1:25:xx - which always bumms me out. But it was night lap number two that really did me in, starting at 4:48 am going to 6:16 AM. Although it was the dawn lap and the last third was light enough to kill the riding light, I felt drained on this lap. It started off poorly with me missing Jonathan's return and blowing the handoff by 5 minutes. What a waste!
Returning from this lap I needed to recover in a big way. So I ate a bunch and got some rest. Jonathan's ginger snaps really made a big difference to how my stomach felt. Eating those caused any risidual pain to go away in under 10 minutes! I was determined to rectify the poor job I did on the dawn lap with a max effort for my final lap. Having recovered my strength from the nightime doldrums and getting energized, the final lap was a joy, and was pretty fast too at 1:14:50 or so.. After this lap, our team was solidly in third. In fact, after Jonathan's lap, we were solidly in third, but I certainly didn't lose any time. I handed off to Mike with 7 minutes to go before noon, why not be safe? Mike rocked his final lap, I think my beer handoff at mile 3 was a key energy boost for him.
So the wrap up is: I finally posted this! and I had a great time with my team, both those on the 4 man expert and those on the 4 man vet. We ended up 3rd in men's expert and 17th overall, the other city bikes team came in 5th in men's vet and 7th overall, a very strong showing. Thanks to all- check out the stats
Here's a podium shot of the team, thanks to gwadzilla