Monday, May 27, 2013

Mountain Bike Racing For A Whole Day

What, it's over already? The race may be 24 hours long, but it went by quickly. Since I rolled my ankle on Thursday, I moved from number one to number three in the rotation for the Because Beer Matters team. Mark Lambie volunteered to be our number one rider and did great during the run. Out of our four teams, he was the first Team Double Check guy on the bike. And he finished his lap in about an hour and fifteen minutes. Roland Goekel, team captain, cranked out a 1:16 so my first lap started around 2:30 pm.
Base camp for our four five-man teams.
I was unfamiliar with the last half of the course and had a couple of minor incidents along the way. There was a great downhill run followed by a nearly 180-degree turn and just to make it interesting there was a huge rock in the middle of the last part of the turn after which the trail rises a little. Someone faster than me was coming in on my left so I went right of the rock I was not expecting. Still a little unfamiliar with my loaner bike I reflexively gripped the bars tightly, hitting the button that shifted me up a couple of gears. Now I'm standing on the pedals and ended up going to far to the right where some tree branches would leave some marks on my arm after grabbing at it. So I became familiar with that part of the course. 

Some time later, Tom McFadden passed me and said hi. I knew Tom was experienced at this. I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to learn something and maybe pick up some time so I hammered the pedals and latched onto his back wheel. About 100 yards later we hit this S-turn that weaves between two dead tree trunks. Correction. Tom hit the S-turn. I was watching Tom's back wheel and didn't see what was ahead of me. Suddenly Tom wasn't there any more and I was off the trail. Lesson learned. Don't latch onto Tom's back wheel unless you know where you're going. 

After the last climb, followed by passing Checkpoint 3 (oddly the fourth checkpoint), you have a wide open descent and level terrain all the way to the finish. You can put it in high gear and open 'er up. In spite of my derailments, I passed the timing chip to Steve Skeehan after an hour and ten minutes. Arriving back at camp, I let Dan Peterson (number five) know what time Steve left, cleaned and oiled my chain, changed into dry clothes, and ate. I ate a lot.
Get the timing band and go!
Lap number two started with darkness setting in. I had my brightest light on my helmet and a smaller one on my handlebars. One benefit of wearing a light is that you can now see the dust you'll be coughing up for the next couple of days. 

The direct light casts hard moving shadows on the trail making the rocks look much more menacing. It's like the rocks swell up when the sun goes down. And Devil's Down was terrifying. They had an alternate route at Devil's Down that the race organizers stressed you must take if you're not riding Devil's Down. No walkers are allowed. Too many close calls and injuries happened last year when someone would be on foot halfway down the steep trail and another rider would come flying. The alternate route was easier but it also added a lot a time. I took the main route but I dragged a foot in some parts. I turned in a 1:20 for my second lap. After eating--a lot again--I went to bed.
Tandem badasses.
Mark woke me at 2:30 am for my next shift. And I was sleeping so soundly. But I paid good money to do this and wasn't about to skip out on a lap just because it was the middle of a cold night.

The break of day was still a few minutes away when I got the timing chip from Roland. The air was cold and damp. I'd forgotten to bring my Under Armor-like clothing. A brilliant move on my part. Kathy told me to call if I needed anything but I'm pretty sure she did not mean I could call at three in the morning. I layered up with a fleece shirt and a light jacket. I wore jeans to protect my legs and tucked the legs into my wool socks. It was heavy, but effective. The sky was lighting up around the halfway point which overlooks the course and the river below. Looking down, I saw a few tree tops poking through a fog bank covering the fastest part of the course. 
Most energetic checkpoint crew ever.
The Marrakesh Express route was fogged in. What made it even more fun was the condensation building up on my glasses. The fog cleared up right before Checkpoint 2 where two young ladies in pink wigs and tutus danced, blew kisses, cheered, and rang cowbells. They were awesome. I was really feeling the climbs on this lap, dropping down to lower gears than usual and walking a couple of short steep parts. This lap took 1:26. The sun was up so I knew I wouldn't sleep. After making sure Dan was ready, cleaning the chain, and eating--a lot--I grabbed the cameras and rode out to parts of the course to get some video.
Dismount before the crossbar with the Dismount Here sign dismounts you.
I wasn't about to go to the hardest parts of the course since I had one more lap to complete. I wanted to get some shots of people on Devil's Down but there was no way I was going to ride there unless I had to. But I had an idea.
The cycle of life - Ride, eat, rest.
My brother John (resting above) was the second guy on his team. They were a bit slower than my team and as luck would have it he and I would ride our last lap together around 11:00 am. He left before me but agreed to meet me at Devil's Down where I would be guaranteed to shoot at least one rider--him. Leaving for my last lap, I was feeling much better and less tired. I arrived at Devil's Down and John shot me coming down. Fortunately I got some footage of some real riders.
My less than desirable technique.
John and I rode the rest of the lap together and we both thought it was the best lap of the race. There was no pressure on us since neither of our teams were podium bound and yet we still managed a 1:23 lap even with our video-making stop. I think riding it together just made fun. Arriving at the finish for the last time, we dismounted, ducked under the dismount bar, and dropped off our timing chips. A job well done by both of us.

Arriving back at camp we cleaned up and packed up. John had a craving for a greasy bacon cheeseburger and I had to admit that sounded really good. So we skipped the free pasta feed and stopped by Fatburger on the way home where I ate a lot. As you may have noticed, eating a lot goes hand in hand with a 24-hour race.

According to the official results, one of our teams, Vintner of Discontent, finished third in the 5-Person 250+ category, the 250+ referring to the total age of the team members. The team I was on, Because Beer Matters, was right behind them. I Freeride and the Jeremy Clarkston Five (John's team) finished 8th and 16th respectively in the 5-Person 200-249 category. 

John and I rode a total of 60 miles during the race. That's pretty cool and it was hard work. But if you want to see incredible, check out the awe-inspiring results for the solo and 2-Person teams. I can't imagine doing a couple hundred miles. Simple amazing athletes, each and every one of them.

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