A place to share words and pics. Mostly bikes, but my photog eye does wander.

Bikes let the good times roll. In solitude or with friends. For a half hour or 8 hours. Pedals become the gears that turn the earth as the sun seems to track their motion, day after day. Miles become food, and you're hungry. The bike stops being a vehicle, or toy, or transportation and becomes an extension of will, allowing you to journey beyond the pain of self into the realm of almighty, joyous nature, she that feeds our souls. Pedal yourself into the maw of creation. Pedal yourself silly.

Friday, February 25, 2011

24 Hours in the Old Pueblo

A lot of mountain biking is about suffering. Suffering up a long climb. Suffering through dozens of miles. Suffering through inclement, angry weather.  Suffering against sleep, hunger and cold. Sometimes mountain biking is all of them. Witness my first 24 hour race: The 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. 

I had no herculean effort, really, just tough luck. In fact I only did three laps. I even had the longest lap of the night for the team at two hours and forty minutes and managed to sleep through the night. So it wasn't all too bad, but the weather really was the battle. It kept us from properly fueling up, from sitting by the fire, from staying out of our cars and from getting those pedals around. 
The day looked very promising as we drove to the venue on Willow Springs Road. I even let myself think that the weather reports that kept changing for the worse all week were wrong.
We drove down at 6am in the morning to get there by nine. My first lap was at 1:22pm and my second was at 8:45pm. I hit my goal on the first lap with a 1:30 but my second was brutal at 2:40. I did stop to flip some guys chain around - it had somehow become twisted when he crashed and was quite the puzzle after being up for 16 hours and were on mile 22, heading on to 32.  Another racer next to him had broke his handlebar light, his only light, so I handed off four or five zip ties to him and let him have at it. The first just rode off after about three, "Oh, thanks man, whatever you need on the trail, whatever you need." I don't even think I saw his face. Just the bike and chain.I rode with all my normal riding stuff for the race. Just don't quite have that racer mentality to go light. I can't stand being without. 

Had to change a tire about 5 miles after that, then promptly started to bonk when my stomach decided it was desperately hungry.  Oh boy, another 7 or so miles. Forgot to stock the gu and cliff bars. I was without. And it was the weather's fault I figured. The story of the weekend.  Those nice blue skies soon gave way to clouds.

And then even more clouds.  Each becoming more heavy with gray.

Foreboding clouds gather over Mt Lemmon to the south.

The wind was a constant force as gravity, like there was a huge mountain biker magnet to the east, and we were being forced that way. It seemed relentless. We attempted to dull its cut, and made quite the wind block using carefully placed EZ-ups. 

Staked and tied to wood and tied to rock, this structure was very poorly ad hoc.
Our shield from the wind was destroyed in two hours. 40 mph gusts were predicted, but I'm sure they got stronger than that at times.  For half the time we were there, my tent showed the weight of the wind. 

I'm pretty surprised it didn't carry me to Oracle through the night.
The poor weather moved in pretty quickly. Our hopes for a nice weekend quickly vaporized and our ingenuity was not enough to keep us from Mother Nature this weekend. Only our vehicles could truly do that.
Without a proper camp, we couldn't get proper food together to cook. It didn't help that it started to rain. Rain like Forest Gump sideways and upside down rain. 

Visibility dropped to a minimum.
We couldn't fire the stove. I got a tri-tip at about 6pm, but they were closed by 9pm. It proved to not be enough food, since the only other thing I had all day were cereal and a bagel. Not too smart, but if we could have kept things together, I think we cold have finished much better, considering our plans. We had plenty of everything except for shelter.

I survived my sleeping bonk lap, thanks to a kind woman that gave me a large sip of her heed solution, which got me to the road crossing at June Bug where the road worker handed over a Cliff bar and an apple juice. That was amazing!  Thanks! I can't be grateful enough for that. I had to take breaks on the flat parts, the legs were being sucked into my hungry stomach and I was close to empty. If I stopped too long, I would start to doze just standing there.  I'd been up for 18 hours already, on not much food, rained on for the last few hours, and the temps were hitting the low forties, of not thirties. Those two items got me the last 3 miles off the trail. Got to camp, was handed a beer, and felt nauseous. Took the beer to the tent, took my shoes off and crawled into the sleeping bag, full riding gear. I was torqued. The night was often like this:

Slept the night through, about twelve to seven. Found free pancakes and sausage and biscuits and had two servings. Revved up, got dry clothes on, and headed out for the No DNF Lap at 10:30am. A bit less than two hours and we had finished. Too bad we all spent the night in our cars and not around the fire, but it was still a good time for me, regardless. I can't wait till next year, but certainly hope for better weather.

For teams, you'd have to wait in the exchange tent for your teammate to ride in, they call your number and you check in at the table. This requires you to estimate your buddies time so you can be there in time, without waiting forever.  Bummer for Keith, he had to wait about 40 minutes while I fought the bonk on lap 2.

Jay is a glutton for punishment, so he agreed to get in on the action, even though the last time he was on a mountain bike was when we ate up the first 30 miles of AZT from Parker Canyon Lake to Patagonia. That was real suffering there, deathmarch like and a tale for another day. Suffice it was good enough for Jay to sign up for more. The weather was going to break and break bad on his lap. He'd get his fair share of suffering as well.

I caught him heading out from the Exchange tent.  16 miles to go. Hope the weather is nice!

Oh, I think you're riding into......the Nothing.

He pulled in a really good time of 2:24 which, considering the conditions and lack of saddle time, is pretty rugged. True Grit. 16 minutes shorter than my second lap, which had great weather considering.  I even saw some stars in the sky. Our fourth man, Chuck pulled a late night lap at 3am to pick up his third. I'm sure if we could have stuck together through the night with good weather, we could have picked up at least another 3 or four laps, with the proper nutrition. I really wanted another one, and wished I had the juice to get out of the tent in the middle of the night. At least the little bit of community out there I experienced was pretty good. And with better weather comes more pictures.

Its truly a town with bike shops, food vendors, neighbors and even a radio station. About 3,000 racers and support camp out for the weekend.

Team 470, Over the Line. Here are the two rigid 29er singlespeeds that partook in the race. The red Karate Monkey inspired my black Monocog. Great bike and great track for the bike. My fastest lap was on this.
Proof that I was really there. Coming in off the last lap. I felt good, with food in my stomach, not super strong, but surely steady and a decent time of 1:43. I was lucky enough to get out of packing by doing my team duty and getting the last lap in so we'd finish. For all that suffering, we were not going to be DNF! I really wish I could have gotten more night laps in though. The one I had was well worth the effort. Hitting Skip the Bitches by myself in the dark desert after a hard rain was a wonderful experience.  I just followed my lights through the shimmering desert. Stars even broke through the clouds, real glistening and shining like.

Here's the course. We camped near the peak in the center, near the middle of the course. The two sections heading to the west are the Bitches and Skip the Bitches. The Bitches are the ones that keep going up and down, up and down. The detour was really quite nice, unless you're there to ride and race all proper like.

A lap was just a bit over 16 miles, and about 0.2 miles longer if you took Skip the Bitches. Total climbing is only about 1200 ft. Good course for a race, and I'd drive down to hit it again, and maybe tack something on in Tucson, to really make the drive worth it. Next year, we'll have it all dialed. Can't wait. Thanks to Keith for putting the team together, getting the logistics done. Let's do it again.

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