Monday, May 26, 2014

A Hard Day's Night

This year's theme was A Hard Day's Night. Never was a race more appropriately named. Doing the 24 Hour Round The Clock Race as a solo is just as mentally challenging as it is physically. I'm very glad I did not know how how painful this was going to be before I did it. I'm hopeful I'll forget about the pain so it won't dissuade me from doing the race again.

I hung back for the Le Mans start and jogged the 600 or so meters back to the bikes. It was nice that the solos had their own bike racks separate from the teams. I put on my helmet and joined the swarm going up the first hill. The first half of the first lap was crowded, especially when we hit single track and/or rock gardens. But the field eventually spread out and the race was on. I stopped after each lap to refuel and swap out water bottles. During the second lap the bottom bracket on my 29er started making a clicking noise. It got worse during the third lap. I was afraid a mechanical issue would put me on a loaner 26-inch bike, which would have been much less comfortable.

Dave Nelson, who does a ton of volunteer work for the race, stopped by when I pulled in after the third lap. He generously offered to take my bike to have it checked. I thanked him very much and did a lap on the backup bike. When I returned I found out the bearings were a little dry. It couldn't be fixed there but two mechanics said the bike was rideable. What a relief. I headed out for lap number four. (clickity-clickity-clickity-click)

Kathy and my sister, Barb, stopped by with some food for me after lap five. I wolfed down some pasta salad, fruit salad, and a slice of pizza. Then I washed that down with a bottle of flat Dr Pepper. Laps six and seven went very smooth and strong with that in the tank. During my night laps I carried my Bluetooth speaker in a net bag on my back and blasted the likes of Rammstein, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Alter Bridge, and many more all night long.

There were a couple of comical moments on my first two night laps. When I arrived at the top of Devil's Up, two guys were standing there. They were both in freeze frame. One was acting like he was taking my picture with a smart phone. The other was in a still-frame cheer. On my second night lap I was weaving through the dark woods when all of a sudden there's someone in a gorilla suit waving. All I saw was black hair and big white teeth. It scared the crap out of me and then I laughed.

Tragedy almost struck a little after two in the morning. I was going through an area called Little Vietnam. It's right next to the Spokane River. It's green and lush and quiet and cool. My minded faded and I drifted a little to my right into the vegetation. Boom! My bike suddenly stopped and I flew over the handlebars. I found a huge frickin' rock. I was stunned for a few moments but then gathered my wits and checked everything out. My only injury seemed to be a killer monkey bump on my left thigh. Everything on my bike seemed okay. The switch that dampens the rear suspension was snapped off the handlebar. (Later on when I was cleaning up I found that my chest broke the switch.) I wrapped the cable around the brake and shifting cables so it wouldn't tangle in the spokes and got back on the bike.

The rest of the night was a blur. Lights would quickly approach from behind and team riders, and a couple of other solos, greeted me as they passed by. I just kept refueling, pedaling, cranking the tunes, and focusing on completing the lap I was on. I found myself losing power and walking up more of the climbs. At some point I put on two pair of bike shorts hoping the extra padding would help my sore butt.

Come sunrise I was damn tired and unsure whether I had done ten or eleven laps. It was after 6:00 am and I felt I was done. I went over to the pancake breakfast and had some giant blueberry pancakes and a huge glass of chai tea. If you saw me sitting there with my head hanging over my plate and weakly shoveling chunks of pancakes into my mouth, you would have thought, "That guy is done." And I thought I was. I was physically and mentally worn. Despite the anti-chafing products, my butt was extremely sore. Plus, I'd been awake since 6:00 am the day before. Then I checked the standings. The guy in first was unreachable. I was in second but I didn't have a lock. I was on lap eleven and I could be caught.

Well, crap. Surprised to find myself podium eligible I now needed insurance to remain there.

So I went out for another lap around 8:00. About halfway through my front derailleur started acting up. The chain was reluctant to stay on the big ring. Shifting down send the chain between the little ring and the bottom bracket. In the meantime the bottom bracket was clicking incessantly. I got back to camp around 9:45 and decided to do one more lap on the backup bike. But I had until noon so I knew I could take my time. It was a most painful lap. I had to stand on the pedals a lot to keep my butt off the saddle as much as possible. That wore my legs out. As it turned out I didn't need to do either of those laps as the third place guy did ten. But I had no way of knowing that would happen.

I got back around 11:45. Stephanie was waiting for me with some donuts. Whoo-hoo! I waited for the gun to sound indicating the race was done and rode to the timing tent to check in for the last time, wrapping up 13 laps and about 192 miles. My bike is all beat to death but it served me well. It will be repaired. And I can't wait for the pain to subside so I can look forward to racing next year.

 Done! Waiting for the final gun.

Trying to stay awake before awards are presented.

The third place guy grabbed his stuff and walked away.

One for the books.


Wileydog said...

great job, old man!

Pat S said...

Congratulations, Hank!

"Doing the 24 Hour Round The Clock Race as a solo is just as mentally challenging as it is physically."

I can only imagine how true this must be. When I look at your lap times, I envision the 2:48 11th lap as pretty bigtime misery. Great job persevering.

Thanks for sharing your preparations and actual race adventure with us - it's been a lot of fun watching you get ready for this and I've admired your systematic, all-in approach.

Again, congratulations on a damn fine accomplishment.

Hank Greer said...

Scott, thank you.

Pat, all of the lap times are a bit misleading because they include the time you spend at your camp changing clothes, eating, etc. That 11th lap took about 1:45 and I spent an hour wandering around with my camera, eating pancakes, and wondering if I should call it quits. Then I checked the standings.

Brian J said...

That's what's up!!

John Greer said...

Awesome job Hank! I'll be 50 next year, so maybe we can ride solo together and keep each company?

Hank Greer said...

Absolutely, John. Misery loves company. We can share a base camp. Of course, with you being 50 that means we're competitors.

Pat S said...

"That 11th lap took about 1:45 and I spent an hour wandering around with my camera, eating pancakes, and wondering if I should call it quits."

My point, exactly. I'll bet Lap 11 was a pretty wild three hours that you could never adequately explain with words (and shouldn't be able to) and that over time, the memory will be something that you wouldn't trade for anything.