Making An Art Out Of Suffering
The 24 Hours of Big Bear was my first 24 hour race of the season and the field was stacked with solo pros like Mark Hendershot, last year's winner Ernesto Marenchin (aka Sologoat), recently crowned 2005 Solo National Champion Cameron Chambers, and a many other experienced solo freaks.
At 12 noon the cannon fired to signal the LeMans style start and I was off running. I’m not much of a runner so it felt like an eternity till I reached my bike. My pit man Tom swears it wasn't that bad, but I felt like a lumbering oaf. Once I finally got to the El Santo it was right into the single track and a huge pile up of anxious racers. After a few back ups due to crashes in front of me and slower racers things finally spread out on some up hill double track and I found my pace. Then I looked down and saw that I forgot my bottle of HEED! ****! This wasn't SUPER important for one lap but mentally it was kind of a blow. STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! Tom eventually handed me a bottle at a mid way check point so it was all good.
For the next few laps I maintained a nice pace and hooked up with another solo rider. We leapfrogged back and forth for a while then just before before dark I passed him and never saw him again. Could have been abducted by aliens for all I know. But it think it had something to do with him saying he was almost out of gels, COMPLETELY out of gels, for the WHOLE race. Man, I was worried with 3 jugs of Hammer Gel and a box of various other bars and foods. He must have had a killer bonk.
My pit stops were great. I had an area about 30 yards from the course and Tom, his son John and my wife JoErin would alternate meeting me on course and having a variety of all my solo standbys ready for me. Including: Hammer Gels, HEED, Perpetuem, Endurlytes, Balance Bars, Cliff Bars, Red Bull, and fresh cold water for my PolarPak. I've learned it's best for me to have a variety to pick from to insure that I'm taking some amount of food or drink in, rather than passing and bonking later.
Around 7 p.m. I clocked out briefly to get my bar mount light set up in case I wasn’t back by dusk. I sat down briefly while Tom installed the lights on my bike. Took a couple of Advil to help with the aches and pains that were starting, ate a little of a Balance Bar and took a couple swigs of Red Bull. I also grabbed some arm warmers and wiped down with a warm wash cloth. If felt surprisingly refreshing to be a little clean, even if it was only from the neck up. Plus you know you gotta look good for the paparazzi and the layyyy-deez.
By my next pit stop it was full on dark so I had my helmet light installed and now I would blaze two Niterider HIDs through the dark. The trails were getting slick with dew and pretty tore up by multiple laps from hundreds of racers. I was finding it hard to keep the rubber side down including one slow speed crash that found me in a 4’ wide mud puddle. That woke me up for sure! And practically gave me hypothermia given it was like 45 degrees. But I kept going, teeth chattering loud enough to drowned out my muttered obscenities the whole way. Actually I couldn't help but laugh. Then cry. Then laugh again. Sleep depravation will do that to you I suppose.
At my second battery switch Tom made me come into the pit and eat some hot Ramen Noodles and change out of my now funky (funky- like stank not funky-like George Clinton) bikeman.com shorts. Good call on that one, God knows what goes on "below the equator" after 15+ hours in one pair of bike shorts. I tried to not get too comfy or stay too long. Good thing too, because I almost fell asleep sitting up with a Balance Bar hanging out of my mouth. So I downed a full Red Bull, got some dry gloves and then hit the trail.
Seemed like it was daylight before I knew it. Now is when I started going into Solo Racer Math Mode (possible laps I could complete divided by hours remaining). Laps were taking me way over 2 hours now and I knew with about 3 hours left that although I could make out for a 12th lap, at the speed I was going they would probably have the race venue packed up by the time I got in. So I checked in and went out for what would be my 11th and final lap.
At the top of the last hill Tom met me and radioed down to his son John in the pit to check the stats. John reported that going out for a 12th lap at this point would not change the standings. So I hung out about 300 yards from the finish with some friends and family then at one minute till noon made my way up over the big bridge and down to the finish. I would finish in 5th place out of 13 Solo starters.
My goal for this race was just to be in the top half of racers and try to learn as much as possible, so finishing 5th was a real bonus for me. This was a long tough course that had me walking many climbs in the 2nd half of the race, but overall a great course, a great bunch of racers and a great bunch of people. I look foward to racing Big Bear again and would encourage anyone to do so.
And of course I have to give thanks to my pit crew: Tom, his son John and my wife JoErin for all their hard work over the weekend. They were always ready with a variety of foods and drinks for me and helped my stay awake for the entire race. Tom of course did his usual great job setting up the pit and camp areas and taking care of my bikes.
My wife had the best line when I pulled in for about my 5th pit stop with that "what-the-hell-did-I-get-myself-into" look on my face when she screams “you’re making an art out of suffering!” Thanks honey, that’s sweet... I guess.
Time for a week or two of recovery then think about my next race. Most likely a 6 hour race sometime in early July. Either the 6 Hours of Power in NY or the Mid Atlantic Super Series 6 Hour race here in PA.
Full results and event information can be found at www.grannygear.com