Saturday, June 16, 2007

24 Hours of Amazingness

I was looking so forward to this race that I thought that it would never come! As it finally approached I had it in mind to have a very light week of training. When Monday came I felt as if I was coming down with a cold. I was so super bummed because a few people in my office had been sick the prior week and it seemed pretty bad. I laid into the vitamin-c and Zicam nasal spray. I was definately forced to take it easy for the rest of the week. Friday finally came and I was so ready. I worked a half day and headed off to the bike shop because I had trouble installing a new chain the night before.
The owner of the shop pointed out that my middle chain ring was bent and needed to be replaced. He was off to lunch and told me kind of half-assed how to change it. One of the guys helped me out and about 45 minutes later I was off to Rory and Jenn's. We had to wait for the rest of the team and Rory's brother to show up. As soon as we jumped on the freeway headed to Monterey, we stopped dead in our tracks....traffic. We were stuck in the nastiness all the way to Santa Barbara. Then it was a straight shot to Laguna Seca Raceway.
We arrived around 9:45 PM and got to start setting up camp in the dark. When we were about halfway through some jerk pointed out that we were setting up in the wrong place. Like it really mattered. We were only 3 spots off and it really made no difference at all. Soon we were set up and went across the way to HAMANA Saloon. There is a contest for whomever has the coolest pit area and Team HAMANA(a larg cycling club from Nor-Cal)wins every year! This year they built a real western saloon. It was really cool. The coolest thing was that they had these portable heaters that were VERY nice in the cold of night! We soon hit our tents and were out like lights!
Rory and I awoke to a foggy and FREEZING morning! We were up about 5:30 AM and ready to go. We pressed some Starbucks coffee and had some oatmeal. The wind was already picking up but managed to blow away the fog. Rory took a quick look at the bikes and did some repairs to Heathers trusty steed. Poor girl is racing in her first 24 hour event which is also her first mountain bike race and she is riding a bike that is at least one size to big for her and heavier than my car! There was race meeting at 9am which we all attended. They just went over the rules and the right way to do things. The Canadians that put these events on are super cool. They not only seem to have it down to a science but they also make it a point to walk around and ask how your doing and how your experience is going! Kudos to the team at 24 Hours of Adrenalin!

Well 10 AM was approaching and we picked the order of Heather first, me second than Rory followed up by Jen. Heather did the LeMans start which is about a 1/4 mile run than you jump on your bike and hit the course! She had a pretty good run and put down a decent first lap!
Then it was my turn! I took off like a maniac and hit the course for the first time. It was a pretty bumpy trail and a lot of fun! When I hit the first bit of steep climb I tried to drop my chain into the granny gear and it would not go. I tried and I tried all the while continuing to push the middle ring up the hill. When I realized that it would not go I just tried to maintain a pace. All of a sudden I hear my heart rate monitor making a crazy noise! When I look down I see that it was pinging around 200 BPM. That scared the living day lights out of me so I tried to slow down a bit. I finally spun my cable at the lever and at dropped down to the small ring! I was already 3.5 miles into the race! I flew around the super fun course and even climbed Hurl Hill with ease. About 7 miles in you start the long climb they call The Grind. I was really moving up the grind when I started to feel cramps on the top of my shins. I started to freak a little considering this was my first lap! I managed to spin through the discomfort. I quickly realized that the course was not the 10 miles in length that they stated it was. As I passed the 11 mile mark I started to wonder how long this thing was going to be!
As you came out of the mountains towards the race track, you had to crossover the bridge and ride down the stairs into the pit area. Once into the pit area you raced through all the campsites as the other teams cheered you on. It was really cool. I managed to finish my first lap in about 1:07. Now it was time to wait!

The adrenalin was still so high that when it was time for my next lap, I was ready to go. I loaded up on my Hammer Endurolytes and took off like a flash! The first 4-5 miles were the toughest for me. Even though the hills were short, they seemed to play with my mind and test my strength. Once I made it to hurl hill I felt as if I was home free, as long as I could keep from cramping up climbing the Grind. I felt as if I was 5 minutes faster on this lap but came in only a minute quicker than my last. This lap was way more spread out than my first. I went through sections of the course where I didn't see anyone for a few minutes. It was pretty surreal how quickly the course spread out the competitors.
I was able to eat a little between laps and this time I made the effort to stretch for a good 20-30 minutes. My next lap was just before 9:30 PM and I was feeling pretty good going into my first night lap. It had already started o get pretty cold so I layered up well. Once I got through that initial 3-4 miles I stepped up the pace. My battery pack for my headlight came undone from the velcro, so I had to stop and fasten it back to my bike. That ate up at least two minutes. I did not see many riders out until I got near the end of the lap and looked back into the valley. It was a sight to see all the lights in the pure black of night. The fog had also started to roll in at this point.
I tried to eat but had a very hard time getting down any solid food. After a banana I just decided to drink my meal. Rory and I were still downing Endurolytes like they were hot tamales. I then made the mistake of trying to lay down. My body was tired but I did not feel as if I could sleep. I just wanted to bundle up in my sleeping bag because the air had dropped to the low 50's. As my alarm went off for my 3 AM lap, I started to question if I could or should get up. I asked myself if my team would be mad if I said that I couldn't go on? But I pulled myself up and threw on my clothes. I stretched and warmed up in my tent and as I climbed outside I was taken back by the thickness of the fog. I couldn't see five feet in front of me and quickly wondered how my teammate Heather was doing on the course with her insufficient light. I walked over to the Hamana Saloon to sit in front of the heater and heard stories of how bad it was out on the course. As I waited for Heather I started to worry when the time continued to pass with no sight of her, and than finally she appeared out of the mist!
Before I took off I said a quick prayer for safety and strength and then hit it. About three miles into the course, the fog blew out and the wind came to a standstill! It was amazingly beautiful and I just tried to hammer as fast as I could. My battery pack came loose again and I had stop to fasten it back on. Once I got going again I seemed to find a cadence and flew though the night! On my way up the grind I did not see anyone until I heard someone moaning in agony. I asked the guy if he was OK and he said that he was cramping. I stopped to give him a handful of my magic pills!
By the end of lap I was super stoked that I got up! It was really fun riding in the middle of the night! That lap took me 1:16 minutes. I had already decided that I was not going to lay down and let my mind go through the questions again. I did a large amount of stretching and sat in the saloon warming up for the rest of the morning. Rory got the sunrise lap and said that it was beautiful. By the time he came through the finish the wind started to pick back up.
We had noticed in the middle of the night that we were now battling for 10th place with two other teams! We couldn't believe it. To make matters more stressful, they seemed to have their quickest on the course when we had our slowest. So we would jump from 14th to 10th and then fall back to 13th the next hour! The race was going to be decided on the last lap!
Before my last lap started at about 8:30 AM we realized that mine would be the last. I had a fear inside that my body had nothing left to give. As I took off I felt a surge but quickly ate that up during the tough beginning of the lap. Once I passed over hurl hill, I let it all hang out on the downhills. When I got to the bottom of the Grind I was feeling it in my lower back! I found a slow cadence and started pushing up the hill. I then decided that I was not going to leave anything or any part of me out on the course. I stood up and hammered my way to the top of the hill as fast and as hard as I could. When I came over the crest you could hear the crowd cheering everyone on! When I dropped down the stairs into the pit area, the crowd was going crazy as all the riders passed through. That seemed to help push me a little harder. As I hit the paved road I noticed to goofballs trying to draft each other and I told myself that I was going to pass them. It took everything I had as I sling-shotted around them and passed the finish line a few bike lengths ahead!
I was greeted by my teammates at the line and they all seemed to be as happy as I was! When we got back to camp I walked over to the lake and proceeded to dry heave salt crystals out of my tummy! I then walked over and checked the results and found that we locked in 10th place by 5/100ths of a second! I couldn't believe it! I felt as if we had won the race! What a way to finish!
When all was said and done, we had no real mechanical problems, no flats, no crashes, and we managed to keep someone on the course all 24 hours! This was one of the coolest things I had ever done! Rory and I have now decided that our next 24 Hour Race will be September 21st in Southern California and only me and him! That's right race fans, 2 man team! Start praying for us now! We are definetly going to need it!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Racing Against Myself

Ready or not! I arrived at Ellings park in Santa Barbara ready to fight like a maniac! As we lined up for the race on the cool foggy morning I quickly realized that I was the only one in my class! Wow, all I needed to do was finish the race and I could capture the gold medal! The over 35 clydesdales that always start with us had a their quickest 9 guys so I figured I would have my eyes on them. The guys that have been winning this class have been 6-15 minutes faster than me in the prior races so I knew that I had a battle in store.
It's been two weeks since my last race and I put in some serious training. The week after the Castaic race I put in about 160 miles, 15 hours, and 18,000 feet of climbing on my road and mountain bikes combined! The following week I decided to take a new approach and take it easy. I did a couple days of riding around the lake on both my mountain bike and road bike. I also decided to eat something before the race this time but had to opt for only a protein bar as I was out of oatmeal!
Back to the starting line! As we took off I actually jumped out front much to my surprise. It was important to get ahead quickly as most of this course was single-track and there was very little room to pass. By the time we hit the hill I was already passed by a large part of the group. Just near the top of the hill, one of my Westlake Cyclery's Fast Friday team members busted his chain right in front of me. I thought of offering him my Quick Link(piece to fix your chain) but decided stopping was not an option.
I was hanging with the front half of the group for the whole first lap. I took a couple of crazy lines trough the bushes in order to pass some slower riders and got very lucky that I did not flat! I was not feeling 100% on the first lap, but I was holding on pretty well! As we started up the hill on our second lap I started to lose sight of the leaders but new I was around 4th place. As we reached the crest of the mountain my chain would not go into the big ring. It started to jump and skip as I hammered through the winding trail on top. I hoped that it would work itself out as I flew down the mountain side. Once I hit the flats it started to skip even worse. Then as I looked down I watched in slow motion as my chain broke. This was the first real mechanical issue in a race that I've had! My chain has fallen off and skipped before but nothing serious like this! I jumped off and hoped that I had that quick link in my bag! Sweet I found it! Now I just needed to know how to put it on! As I struggled for a little over 10 minutes I watched rider after rider pass me by. Once I finally got it on, I jumped back on and took off. Unfortunately I was at the bottom of the big climb and had to go straight uphill!
There was no real relief on this course like Castaic. The descents were hairpin soft turns and the stretches of single-track were super bumpy. So you were climbing or holding on for dear life! As I started my 3rd and final lap I felt really good. The sun had come out and was putting out some serious heat. I noticed some friends not to far ahead and used them for inspiration to hammer away. I passed a few riders but most of the faster guys were to far to catch. I finished feeling well yet disapointed! It's one thing to break down, but to break down when your feeling good sucks!
Next weekend is my first 24 hour team event! I will be racing on a co-ed team of 4, for 24 hours! The race is in Monterey. The course is a 10.5 mile course that takes approximately 1 hour to complete. The way it breaks down is I will be doing a lap about every three hours for a total of about 6 hours. The only variable is possibly doing two laps in a row if someone is hurting. I am super excited for this race as it is very much like a large festival with crazy ccontests like weirdest helmet and best theme for your pit area! We do not expect to win this race as it is an "Open" race meaning we will be racing against other co-ed teams made up of semi-pro and expert riders. We will give it our best and will attempt to complete 23 laps in the 24 hours. Wish us luck and safety!