March 7th 2013 – I’ve been trying to get into this race for the past 2 years but missed either because of schedule, logistics or simply missing registration, which fills up in the matter of hours, at least for solo categories.
This year was no difference and missed to register timely, while race filled up in the matter of hours. Sent an email begging for a spot and about a month later one spot opened and I got in. This was my second Solo 24hr race, again on Single Speed, the first being Boggs 24h in 2010.
The long drive to AZ is definitely part of the logistic challenge. It is practically impossible to fly to a 24hr race, given the amount of gear needed, so drive it is. Left on Thursday afternoon from Cupertino, headed South and stopped in LA for few hours of sleep, then continued to Phenix on Friday morning where I picked up my local crew support.
I underestimated the drive from Phoenix to 24hr Town.
The venue is located in the middle of the Sonora desert, north of Tucson, but pretty much in the middle of nowhere. As we got closer and started driving on a dirt road the GPS indicated another 16miles to go… I don’t think we’ll find a Starbucks now…Got at the 24hour Town in the dark, still on time for race packet pick up, but too late for a pre-ride.The 24hr Town, what an amazing place, quickly blossomed like the desert like after a rain.Finding a good spot was a bit tricky, considering it was dark and late, but mountain bikers are nice people, even the racing kind. Quick dinner, set camp and then sleep. Dinner was: Grilled chicken sammich on GF bread, eggs and berries.
At around 4AM the wind was blowing really hard and stuff was flying around the campground.
Got up early in the morning and I still had some preparation work to do on the bikes, swap a crank and wheels. Plus pick a gearing for the SS.. Had no idea of the course, but there were no steep/long hills from what I could see on Strava. At the same time I knew my legs wear out during the race and didn’t want to walk at the end or have to swap gears during race. So I went with a very conservative 32×19 on the Green Lurcher (called Esmeralda Villa LoboSS) and on the fully rigid one (Black Mamba)
Breakfast was coffee (with the Italian “macchinetta”) hardboiled eggs, Nutella/Almond butter sammich on GF bread and berries, plus a few bananas. I kept snacking all morning while preparing for the start.
We went for the Race Briefing at 10AM where we got lot’s of useful info, including that in order to finish the race you have to cross the finish AFTER 12noon on Sunday. this is different from races I’ve done before where you have to finish before that time, but also you get a DNF if you do not put a lap after 12 noon. I kinda like this because you otherwise can end your race after 4 hours and still be considered a finisher.Done with the briefing went back to the pit, after stopping at GU where Yuri Hauswald greeted us and gave me some good stuff for the race and Light & Motion to pick some extra lights. I tested the Seca 1700 and the Stella on the helmet.
Had a light lunch (turkey mayo sammich on GF bread) and kept snacking on mixed nuts and bananas.
The start is LeMans style, with all the bikes piled up and about a quarter mile to run. Saw my hero and idol Tinker Juarez and went to shake is hand before the race: he’s such a nice guy and he looks like another day at the office. I lined up with the big group of racers while Stacey was holding my bike at the very end of the start area. That turned out to be a good decision, since I could run ahead of those who had their bikes on the bike racks and had to try and ride in the crowd. Having somebody that can hand you the bike is a big plus.
Off we go, started jogging in biking shoes on a sandy road, easily found my bike and got going. Start was pretty fast, even with the high crowd: the first lap is modified to accommodate for this, so we rode most of the fire road leading to “The Bitches”The Bitches are 5-6 steep rollers on the ‘gasline’ fire road. There’s nothing special to them, but they are steep and loose/rutted, and have fast sections which allow to catch air and enjoy sketching landing. Since I didn’t pre ride I was warned about this section by our neighbor Steve. He told me about this part where I would catch air and I was thinking “I ain’t gonna catch any air on my first lap…”. Wrong.First lap turned out to be very fast and I kept thinking I was under geared and needed taller ratio. At the same a voice in my head kept reminding me this was NOT a CX race, it will not be over in 40min, SLOW DOWN!! It’s a typical mistake to go too fast on the first lap of a 24hr solo, but you see everybody else killing it and it’s hard to resist.
Aside from the gasline section all of the course is single track in the middle of low desert cacti, very had to pass without getting painfully stabbed. I learned that pretty quickly and adjusted my riding after a few contacts brushing the “green stuff” on the side of the course. I decided to go on for 3 laps. Each lap is 16.5mi with a little over 1k of elevation. Temperature was ok, meaning in the 60s or so so I wasn’t too concerned about water, but I only had two bottles, which turned out to be too little for 48miles of riding in the desert….On my second lap I was still going fast and literally seconds about thinking “I could have ridden this course on my CX bike” I proceeded to eat shit on the trail on one of the bitches. Trying to outsprint on a wall one fellow female SS rider, I hit a sizable rock while out of the saddle and took both of us down. Dumbass move…Hit my knee pretty hard and my hip was hurting really bad. Got back on the bike only to stop at the bottom of the next “Bitch” where another rider was down in pain, apparently with a broken arm. Me and the SS gal (which I took down only minutes before) signaled the ambulance that was stationing at the top of the hill, so I took the chance to apologize for my silly move, she was pretty cool about it.
Back on course I whipped another 1:20 lap and continued on #3. Ran out of water, but still felt great, so I stopped to drink and eat. Since we had to put lights on before 5pm I knew I had to stop again at the end of #4. At that point I realized my hydrating was not going well, I chugged one full bottle down in seconds and still felt thirsty. Changed socks and gloves and then loaded another bottle on the bike and went out for #4. I mounted my lights with the idea of whipping two laps, as it turned dark, so I told Stacey I’d be back in about 3 hours. As the sun went down I realized my main light was not working, I could not get it out of lock mode. I ran on my spare light, but as it got dark and quickly colder, I decided to go by the pit again.Got my light to work, ate some more food and then changed into warmer knickers and base layers and prepared for the night laps.
At that point I finally put to consecutive laps, #6 and #7. Felt pretty good night riding and the traffic significantly thinned out, so I was most dealing with fast ‘relay’ folks or very slow solos.When I stopped after 3 hours found Stacey at the pit and she was a bit worried because she didn’t see me as planned and there were rumors of folks injured on the course. I got a great coffee and some more food and then went out for #8.
I would generally try to do more than one lap at the time, but the length of 16miles makes it a bit difficult, since you can stop only every 3 hours, which is too much. So i decided to go one lap at the time from there on. Finished lap #8 at 1AM, with 131miles, with an average of 10mph, including stops.
Lap #9 went relatively ok, although I was slower and starting to be really tired, but #10 was really the hard one. I crashed a couple times (once completely missing a turn and going straight into a ditch) which put a dent in my confidence and then kept being passed by faster riders from the relay teams, which also contributed to make me grumpy.
Mid lap my Garmin also gave the ghost: I have been using an external battery extend the limited range of only 10 hours, but still with full battery the thing shut down and refused to reboot. Lap #10 took me more than 2 hours, for a sub 8mph average speed. The last section with rock gardens got to me and felt like I was not able to ride my bike anymore, lacking completely focus.I rolled into the pit pretty demoralized and decided not to continue riding. Luckily Stacey was there, still up, with a pit fire going and life giving food and coffee. She forced me to lie down in my sleeping bag and take a rest.
I think I slept for an hour or so and at that point the sun started to come out. It is so important to have somebody to support you during a race like this and much more so somebody who understand racing and what is the right thing to do at a given time.
Attitude changes when there’s light again and you had even a small amount of sleep. Now with more coffee and food I felt ready to roll again. So I went out for #11, as the sun started to warm up. Felt pretty good and happy again and in fact I put a pretty good lap time, considering all.
On #12 and #13 Stacey decided to come out with me to give me some motivation, while #12 was pretty good I started feeling my body shut down on #13 and had a hard time keeping up. Luckily we got hand-ups along the course and at that point beer gravity did the rest.
I was very surprised to find out that I made the podium, 4th place in Open SS – completely unexpected: had I known on course I would have probably done nothing different, since 15 laps was definitely out of reach.
- 4 Glutino’s English muffins
- Shaved Turkey
- Almond butter
- mixed nuts
- 12 bananas