Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Since 2005, I’ve competed in five, 24 hour solo races. The first two were filled with so much excitement that there was hardly anytime at all for pessimistic ideas to float around in my weary mind even in the darkest hours. This had led to some pretty good results, a win in my first 24 solo and a 3rd place finish at the “World Solo Championships” (quotations are meant to be facetious as there is no international committee to sanction the event, however the competition was truly top notch). My next two attempts at 24 hour solo racing were not as successful as I bore the shame of not finishing with some rather valid reasoning. With a 50% finishing rate, I decided to go back to 7 Springs, the place where I won my first event of this kind in 2005. The game plan was to ride with A-ron until a time where we would agree to get our race on close to the finish. At the beginning all was going well. We rode at a casual pace, made quick pits, and had an early lead. For the next eight hours or so we continued to ride together, holding conversation, and keeping each other’s spirits up. Then all of a sudden, sometime in the night, things had gotten quiet and it was known instantly that we were both starting to fatigue. Aaron was the first to be struck by the inevitable bonk somewhere around 2 or 3 a.m. Not wanting to stop, I continued on and rode up to where our pit was located. I quickly changed into a new, dry, and warm kit, changed light batteries, and ate some grub waiting to see if Aaron recovered. By the time I had taken care of all of my needs we had joined back up to ride the last few miles of the lap. A few minutes later Aaron was still riding at a slower pace and my right knee would experience sharp pains if my cadence would fall below an unspecified mark. This gave me no choice but to leave my friend in pursuit of a happy knee through soft pedaling at a higher cadence. However, the soft pedaling approach left me suffering in other ways. My degenerated rear end did not like this technique at all, so I would have to intermittently shift the pain from my butt to my knee by standing up and mashing on the pedals with somewhat of a limp. For the rest of the night I pretty much suffered alone, except for my encounter with a bat. Anyone who goes night riding is familiar with the ability that these creatures have of violently swooping right in front of your face to grab an insect. Witnessing this feat brings on admiration for the speed and accuracy that these winged rats have. However, the bat which I ran into did not have this accuracy… either that or he/she was sucking down a little moonshine before going out on the hunt. As I’m bombing down one of the many downhills, I see a bat dive in for a kill and then bounce off of me in a rather disgraceful manner. For a moment I got the chills as bats are rather disgusting then continued to ride along in my own hell. It was sometime after the bat encounter that I suddenly found myself on the last night lap. As I watched the sun rise, I couldn’t stop smiling inside. I knew I was going to finish this one. Before going on for my first full morning lap I relaxed a little and sipped some coffee. Only 5 hours or less to go. Back on the bike I tried to ignore all of my aches and pains as I continued the death march. After about two more laps I pulled off of the course and went to the pit area to check on Aaron, who looked to be having as much fun as I was at this moment, so I made a proposition. At the time I was ½ hour or so ahead, so the deal went down like this… Me: “My butt hurts really bad. I think we’re ahead by enough to quit now. Will you stop if I stop?” Aaron: “Yeah. This sucks.” < The quoted text is about as accurate as a town drunk’s ramblings, but tells the story in a sufficient manner.> So half an hour later, I would meet up with A-ron again at the finishing tent, but with bad news. 3rd place was only a lap behind us, so we would both have to do another lap. The agreement was still mutual about how we would finish, but the anger I experienced about having to go out again after I thought I was done had me hammering the first 8 miles time trial style. I rolled into the pits and waited for Aaron before we would ride the remainder of the lap together. As we were just about near the finish we decided to stop in and visitRob, who was about to go out for his final lap for the visitPA team. We sat around BS’ing for the next hour or so talking with Rob, Zach, and Nancy until noon, the earliest time which a rider can finish. As agreed we slowly strolled into the finish tent and I took the W with A-ron in 2nd. I couldn’t have been happier as we took the top two spots in the solo class after both suffering defeat at 9 mile. After finishing this race I gained a whole new outlook on 24 hour solos. I’m throwing out all of my old theories on why I may have dropped out at 9 mile and Laguna Seca. My new theory is this. In a 24 hour solo, you WILL be presented with many VALID reasons to drop out, and the test of finishing one of these events is just manning up and pushing through it, no matter how bad it hurts, no matter how sick you feel, or how many things you might have broken (spirits included).
A BIG THANKS goes out to my Mom, Wendy, Jen, and Zach for helping out in the pits, and to Nancy for bringing Aaron and I pizza before the finish when our pit crew was exhausted! These races don’t happen without a great pit crew. I would also like to thank Lupine for all of the support everyone has given me. These races are won and lost in the night, and I couldn’t ask for a better lighting system. Also thanks to everyone with SoBe/Cannondale. Your support makes all the difference.
Well one more month of racing to go. Next up is the Terror of Teaberry in Michaux which also happens to fall on my 23rd birthday… I can’t wait!