Monday, May 25, 2015

Most Of The Day And All of The Night

The 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race took place this last weekend. The theme this year was All Day And All Of The Night. Failing the IQ test once again, I signed up to ride solo. I trained a lot better for it this time around and it paid off in places. On the down side I'm carrying 6-8 more pounds than last year so I had that going for me. My brother John came over from Tacoma to be my support, which was awesome of him. After it was all over he said that if he comes back to this race then he's riding. I guess he's getting a mountain bike then.

 I am clearly flexing and sucking my gut in.

My back at the back of the start.
(Photo by Dave Braun)

I started in the back of the crowd for the Le Mans start. The first lap is very crowded so I wanted a lot of people to get ahead of me. Plus, it was very hot on Saturday so I thought I should take it easy and push the fluids. That wasn't working as well as it should have been. Probably because I was doing it wrong. I was feeling pretty crappy after two laps. The heat was sucking the life out of me and even though I thought I was pushing the fluids, it wasn't enough. I started cramping during lap three so I took a longer break to try to recover. Lap four was even worse. Different muscles would cramp up at the most inopportune time. There's a climb that's followed by a 180-degree turn and a really loose, gravelly downhill. Right when I was taking the turn my right hamstring knotted up. I immediately straightened my leg to fight it back. I went down the hill with one foot on a pedal and one leg sticking out to the side. 

Starting off on my first lap after the Le Mans start.

When I finished that lap I felt pretty close to being finished myself. I tossed back some more liquids and ate a bunch of cantaloupe, honey dew, and watermelon. My calf muscles were twitching all over in different places making it look like a creature was trying to find its way out from under the skin. So I laid down for a bit to relax and maybe get a short nap in. After an hour of coughing up dust--the course was extremely dry and dusty--and fighting more leg cramps I decided to get back on the bike. I took it as a personal favor that the temperature gods starting dialing it back a bit. I felt a lot better after the fifth lap so I knew I was good for the night. 

Just about done with my first lap.

The cool night laps were much more comfortable but my body was not about to recover from the toll it had paid earlier in the day. So I'd do a lap in 1:30-1:40 and stop for a while to refuel and recover. As the sun crept up over the horizon the temp started climbing back up and I was feeling it. After my ninth lap I asked John to check the standings. When I came in on lap ten he said I was in fourth place with the third place guy 2-3 laps ahead of me. Perfect. While I had time to get one or two more laps in, I just wasn't up for it and I wasn't about to kill myself for a very slim chance to podium.

My stats.

I did a couple things different this year. Just past the halfway point going up 5-Minute Hill it takes a steeper angle and there's more loose sand and gravel. I decided to walk from there to the top. That way I was grinding my butt into the saddle as much or burning up my bike legs. Yes, there's some time loss, but I was okay with that. By morning I was walking on some climbs because my legs just weren't up to it. I'm sure the extra weight I'm lugging around didn't help. Last year I had some chafing problems. This year I was prepared with a "secret recipe" for a chamois cream from my friend, Geoff Forshag, owner of Two Wheel Transit, that he shared with me. It worked great. No chafing whatsoever. My saddle is so slick and shiny, too.

I'm very happy with the Scott Genius. It performed flawlessly the entire race and I never had to touch the backup bike.

Around 2:30 am something weird happened. A tree grabbed me and threw me into another tree. I managed to stay upright. But still, it was strangest thing I ever did saw. 

Other notable memories include:

* A fellow with a tall can of PBR was offering midnight-hour beer hand ups at the trailhead that's just after the top of Five Minute Hill. I politely turned him down. 

* I came up on an injured cyclist in Little Vietnam, which is the part of the route that runs alongside the Spokane River. He hit a tree and injured his shoulder or collar bone and was in a lot of pain. He had already called his teammates and fortunately was pretty close to the main event area. I offered to walk his bike out for him but he turned me down and insisted I continue racing. Never mind that for me it was more riding with a number than racing, he told me to keep going. I stood his bike up for him, put it on his good side and pressed on. 

Sticking a fork in it after ten laps.

That's the spirit. 

The fellow next to me never stopped. John likened what he did to a NASCAR pit stop. He would roll in, toss two empty bottles to the ground, grab two more bottles from the coolers, and head out again. Every once in a while he'd shotgun a can of Coke. He won the 40-49 solo division with 18 laps. That's killer.

 A wheelie finish at the end of the race.

A big thanks to John for his support, unpacking stuff, packing stuff, hauling stuff, refilling water bottles, etc., and to Kathy and Barb for checking up on me. It was a good time. Except for the pain and suffering part but that's to be expected. I imagine I'll be back next year. And maybe John will get that bike and share the camp with me but without all that snoring he was doing at three in the morning.


Pat S said...

Damnit, Hank, nicely done! I've never done anything close to this kind of epic, and never will, but I like to imagine, and your telling of the story puts me in that place.

It was a great pleasure watching you come across the start/finish on one of your early laps. Relative to the team lap riders that were coming in around you, it was extremely obvious that you were pacing yourself for the long haul, and that you were very smart in doing so. I ran across Dave Nelson just shortly after the first lap and he was telling me how many people came in totally cooked after their first lap because they'd decided that they were going to hit their training pace, and blew up, in doing so.

The number of people that can even relate, first hand, to what you've been through, must be extremely small. I was over at my friend Chip's today, and he's a pretty hardcore and seasoned guy, but he rode 3 laps in support of an 8-man team effort and he was noticeably challenged with trying to recover. I can't even imagine what it must feel like, the day after doing what you did. The heat and humidity were a major deal.

So cool, Hank. Congratulations on a stellar effort.

Hank Greer said...

Thanks, Pat. I'm glad I got to see you and say hi when I came in.

It's funny how five years ago I knew about the 24 hour race but never dreamed of doing it, let alone as a solo.

Long story short, things happen and people change. Going solo has a great appeal to me.