The rules of this ruthless bike game can be found here, but along with the rules which are stated are some implied rules. For one, food and water are good. When consumed they give your body the energy it needs to continually move forward. Two, the mind can easily be tricked when sleep deprived, so refrain from actions that will turn your smile upside down. Three, no matter how tough your skin is you can still rub it off. And the final rule that I will mention (it is final because I don't feel like writing an encyclopedia right now) is that shit happens. There's 24 hours and the smallest of problems can add up and break you.
I'm still new to endurance racing with only 4, 24 hour races under my belt so my latest race at 24 hour nationals raises no concern about my future as a freak. It just makes me ponder what had happened. But first I must go back to when things worked at my first 24 hour race. In the summer of '05 I decided to try my first 24 hour solo race. My interest was peaked concerning the idea of riding a bike for 24 hours thanks to my then teammate, Rob. So I planned accordingly, but I had no idea of the pain that would come. I brought the essentials; food, water, and a spare bike. The plan was simple. Just relax and ride a moderate, but steady tempo. The simplicity of this plan brought on a lot of pain and emotional baggage that would last for weeks. Along with this came a win in my first event of this kind. It also qualified me for the 24 hours of Adrenalin World Solo Championships in 2006. So at worlds in '06 I followed the same plan, not expecting any kind of fantastic result as I had no idea what the competition would be like. In this race, after 15 hours of just riding along I found myself laying down an attack on Mark Hendershot in a battle for 3rd place. This was a complete surprise for both of us as I was a complete unknown and I never thought I would be close to Mark. From that point through the end of the race I held my 3rd place position to finish behind former world champ, Chris Eatough. So for '07 my plans were huge. I wanted nothing other than to win at the world championships, and it didn't occur to me until now, the reasons why I DNF'd there and in my most recent bout at this years 24 hour national championships. Last year I got sick and this year I just felt like shit and had some blurry vision which added up to my not finishing. However, these reasons are just symptoms to a greater problem. What makes my most recent two races different from my first two is my strategy. At first I just wanted to ride for 24 hours and whatever happened, happened. But over the past two years, my goals and ambitions took over my fool proof strategy. I didn't want to just ride for 24 hours, but race the whole time. When constantly worrying about my position and doing anything I can to improve it my body learned to say no. Last year this strategy had broken me down in about 12 hours. This year I lasted 17 hours and afterwards wanted to quit doing 24's. But there is one final rule that if followed can help a person to come back even stronger, and that is to never give up. Thanks to a little inspiration from Mark and Roberta Hendershot after the race, I realized that nobody is successful all of the time at 24 hour racing. As consistent as Mark is at these races, he has already had a season of 6 or 7 races where he only finished once. So what's next for me? I'm going to go back to the basics and start tweaking my strategy in smaller increments until I find the perfect balance. 24 hours of 7 Springs is already less than a month a way. Could there be a better place to go back and figure it all out again?
Thanks mom and dad for continuing to support me at these races. Thanks Matt for coming to do some wrenching, and thanks to Wendy and Jen for helping out when they weren't busy taking care of Aaron.