What Is "IT"?
Adam over at Epic Riding/Epic Writing had an excellent post today about the "drive" to want to race 24 hour solo races . I couldn't help but hijack his post and give my own thoughts on how I got involved in this type of racing and try to figure out what "it" is that drives me to WANT to do it.
The first time I saw a 24 Hour race was at the 24 Hours of Canaan in West Virginia. I was a spectator. I watched with such jealousy. I wanted to be out there racing so badly. I knew then I had to do it.
The next year my buddy Tom was on a 4 person team when the race moved to Snowshoe, WV. There was a possibility of me being the fourth rider if one of the other guy's wouldn't commit. I was so excited. Then the guy committed and I was out. Shit. Another year with no 24 hour race.
In 2002 I was finally in! A 5 Person Open team with Tom and some other friends at Snowshoe. I can't even tell you how excited and nervous I was for this race. I'd heard all the Snowshoe horror stories. The mud, the rocks, the blood. This was my first 24 hour race and the last year for the "long" Snowshoe course. I think I rode 3 laps. They were SO hard, but I was hooked. The only disappointment was not getting to ride more laps.
Shot of me after the prologue hill back in in '02 on my Dean. Man, I hated that frame. Beware of Dean.
I was back at Snowshoe again in 2003 on a 4 Man Sport team. This one almost didn't happen. That spring Tom broke his neck riding and we had to beg and plead to find another rider to suffer with us. This year they shortened the course, It rained again of course, but we were pretty fast and placed 14th. Once again I left with such a high I couldn't wait for the next one. The only downer was that at one point in the early morning one of my teammates decided he had enough, said he was hurting and wouldn't go out again. I pulled in the transition area and to my surprise found Kevin instead of the other guy. Wasn't happy about that, but you gotta roll with punches. I would go on to race another 24 Hour race up at Seven Springs that year. Once again we had a team member VERY unenthusiastic to pull another lap, so I went out and did one more.
In 2004 I did a 12 hour Duo at Lodi Farms. Had a blast and finished 5th. Pushing myself harder felt great and was anxious for Snowshoe. It was a struggle to find a team for Snowshoe though. Tom gave up racing since his accident (and who could blame him? He was lucky to be alive AND walking) My buddy Kevin was in again with some arm twisting, we tracked down our old friend Fernando again who we met back in 2002 and then had to beg one of his friends to join us. This team stuff was a pain in the ass. This year was pretty cool though. It rained AGAIN!!!, the course was muddy, attendance was down, but we had fun and raced fast and finished 6th. It was cool to finally feel competitive racing. Something I NEVER felt in regular XC. This was the first time I started watching the Solos with interest too.
After all my team troubles and pushing myself at Lodi doing a Duo, I was pretty convinced I could do a Solo. At least finish. So after I recovered from Snowshoe I decided this was it. I would race Seven Springs as a Solo. I was obsessed with the training. I loved the hours in the saddle, reading about nutrition, I loved it all!
I was nervous, but what the hell. Just wanted to say I did it. Race day the weather was great, I felt great and ripped off 4 or 5 nice laps. Then I started slowing down. I couldn't eat. The Ensure that worked great in training was not going down at all (bad choice), boiled pierogies sat like lead in my belly, I was tired, etc. etc. I really didn't think I would finish and couldn't believe what I got myself in to. I had to take a couple hour break in the early a.m. and had to be convinced to keep pushing. I went back out, ended up in 4th place out of 10 or 11 Solos and completed 10 laps. I was thrilled. By that evening I was already thinking of 2005. I was now done with the "team" and was now officially a Solo racer.
Catching Zs during a "short" two hour break at 7 Springs in 2004.
The winter of 2004/2005 I decided that I would race Solo and endurance races in the 2005 season. So I trained hard all winter and spring and had a blast this year. I pushed myself harder and further than I thought I could go. I wish I could have done more races, but finances got tight and I couldn't afford any more, but for my first year I think I did plenty and had a great time.
My buddy Tom thought this was just some sort of one off thing. When I started talking about 2006 he was like "whooaa, you plan on doing this AGAIN?" I was shocked at his response, because even through all the pain, sweat and coin dropped on this race season I couldn't imagine NOT doing it again!! This is just what I do now. No turning back. It's like a cult. HA!
I had some good results in 2005. A 3rd place 12 hour and 5th and 4th place 24 Hour finishes in a competitive field of racers. It's weird to go from racing Sport class a couple years ago to racing right along pros like Chambers, Eatough, Hendershot, and now Ernesto (Solo Goat). I would love to podium more in 2006 but if not, it's one hell of a ride and I wouldn't trade these life experiences, my fitness level, or the opportunity to introduce my wife and son to the world of Mountain Bike racing and the great people involved in it for anything.
2005 was just the start of what I hope and pray will be a long life riding and racing my bike and having a good time doing it. As I commented to Adam. It's like having a drug problem. You pay out good money to experience the high of racing, put yourself through hell, say you're not gonna do it again (at some point we all at least think it I'm sure), only to finish and start planning your next race. Why do I, or should I say "we" do it? Not sure. We just do. So have fun, do your best and keep on riding. I know I will.