Wednesday, June 29, 2005

24hr Endurance MTB Race, Dalton, MA - The Story

Let's start at the beginning... January. Doing another 3hour session on the indoor trainer while watching Gladiator for the thousandth time. That Russel Crowe is dreamy... Ok, that is too far back... Let's start with Thursday and Friday before the race. I found myself racing around greater Boston, getting all the gear in order. Jamie did a last minute drivetrain switch on Wednesday (support your local bike shop!), then Andy brought it down to me on Friday, making my life a lot easier. Of course, it was then that we noticed the heavily leaking shock. Too late to do anything about it on Friday, so it had to fly w/o oil for this one. Anyway, all the errands, packing, etc, may have been the most stressfull part of the race and by saturday morning, we were still behind schedule, with Jenn peeling and boiling salted potatoes for me at 6am, while i sat in bed in a haze, trying to force-down 2 packets of instant oatmeal...

10:45am - we arrive at the race site - an hour late, so i had to hunt-down Stu Dorland, founder of the series, to point me in the right direction and get my race packet and number. This left me all of 45mins to get myself ready for the race... but hey, it's a 24hr race, so it wasn't like i had to warm-up or anything... just pedal slow... for a propesterously long time. Andy furiously worked on the bike and got it in tip-top shape for the race while i brainlessly pulled my clothes together...

11:58a - i'm jogging from the pit to the starting area. why be early when you can be just on time?

12:00p - we're off like a herd of turtles - camelbacks flopping around on our backs, bike shoes trying to get some grip on the ground as we run the 400meter "le mans" start section, then through the transition tent, onto the bikes and off... the first thing I noticed was the dust. clouds and clouds of dust, but i also knew it would settle once the pack broke apart over the first couple laps. and while it was a hot one, over 90 degrees by my estimate, there was a light wind which made a few open sections of fireroad a little more bearable.

1:52p - Finished my 2nd 8.4 mile lap and took a 5min breather to get the heart-rate down at the pits. The 2 mile sustained climb in the middle of the lap was a real killer, but i was taking it easy and pouring water over my head at the mtn-top checkpoint each lap. After each lap, Jenn would put some ice on the neck and back... and i took my 2nd dose of electrolytes and ibuprofen. A 2-hour schedule was set for these suppliments which would last for the entire race - and prove to be my salvation as i didn't cramp once, even though i knew i had lost pounds of water in the first couple hours alone - and while my back ached for the first 4 hours of the race, it felt better than it ever has in a race for the remainder of the event. VITAMIN I!!

4-5p - rode the 2 mile downhill section (what goes up, must come down!) faster than i've ever ridden a mountain bike, somewhere near 40mph. thom parsons riding for independent fabrication (on a 4-person team) was hot on my heels and as we reached the bottom swung around me with a big smile on his face and said something about me being insane or "how can a soloist ride like that" or something to that effect. it was a big pick me up when i needed one as the heat had been working me over and my head was in a bad place. having a guy i respect give me some props was just what i needed... but that got me into the night and by then, thoughts of dropping were replaced with "how many hours left?"

5-6p - A few folks had been showing serious signs of heat sickness for a couple hours, inlcuding a guy i was rooting for, Nathan Smith, who is a top calibar athlete - who had his eyes on winning this race since january. Harry was also having a hard time with the heat and would DNF as well... At this point, it started too cool down just a tiny bit - but when your heart-rate is running high and you've been working in the heat for hours, you notice small changes. I began to get energized and ready for the cool night. Nathan began peeing blood and from what Jenn said, he didn't remember portions of the course or how he got back to the pits after his 5th lap. That is scary, scary stuff and i'm just glad he's healed-up and un-injured.

730p - my pit crew strapped my lights on, but it was my goal to complete the lap without them and save the batteries for the 6 or 7 night laps. I only had 2 batteries and with Andy's help hoped we could get through the night on 'em without having to use the other lighting system, which would take precious time to switch. My stomach had been boiling all afternoon and felt full, but i continued with the fueling plan, sipping the perpetum and chasing it with about 25ounces of water per lap, plus my big splurge - coke. Nausea had plagued me all race, but it hung under the radar, so we just keep on the same plan, with Darrel suggesting i skip an electrolyte pill as they may be making my stomach turn... my legs then almost cramped on the next lap, so i went immediately back on-schedule with the suppliments - and the light naseau.

845p-1a - Just kept hammering away at the night laps, with a clean change of clothes (thanks jenn!) and renewed energy from the cooler air. My pit crew told me to stop taking breaks longer than a couple minutes (if i wanted to be in the hunt for the podium) and i agreed as i was in 5th place out of the 28 registered participants at this point. From here on out, i would not stop for more than 3mins (and usually for less) except for one 5min "luxury break" at around 5 or 6am. It was on!

1-4a - i moved into 2nd place while Chris G, Chris M, and others took a much needed rest as they pushed harder during the daylight hours than i had. As soon as i got in front of Chris however, it was on and we exchanged the "lead" for 2nd place a number of times. Since results were always about 2hours behind, it was hard to know exactly what was taking place out on the course... but he and i had a pretty good idea what was happening. the 1st place rider, Rob L, was stronger than the rest of us and unless something tragic happened to him, the race was his to win. I blocked him and the goal of winning the race from my mind and focused on staying ahead of Chris, keeping my lap times consistent, my breaks short, and my legs a'pedalin' all night long under a blood-red moon...

5a - the sun broke the horizon and i thought to myself - "almost done!" - then i realized i still had 7-8hours of riding left! Agghhhh!!!!!

6-10a - just kept riding consistent laps, in a lot of pain by this point, but stayed on the fueling plan and fought to stay ahead of 3rd place with s-t-e-a-d-y riding. i don't think i need to explain the rash and bruises on my bum for folks to get the picture...

10-1230p - the hardest couple hours of my life. the heat shot into the 80's by 10 and was near 90 by 11. the last lap was a struggle for survival, my vision was blurry, i was hallucinating slightly and everything hurt so very much, but this was it - the final miles, the final laps... one pedal stroke after another, trying to turn the brain off enough to not focus on the pain, while also staying alert enough to keep the pace up and not crash!

1232p - Crossed the finish line in 2nd place, 23hrs of actual pedaling, with twenty, 8.4mile laps and 24,400ft of climbing under my belt - very, very happy to be done - and to have done as well as i did. This being my biggest priority race of the season, everything else is just gravy from here! Rob L, rode 21 laps to take the win, but in the a.m. hours it looked like he had a lot more gas in his tank than i. i didn't ask him, but that was my perception... that guy is an animal!

130p - stood on the podium - and got a set of tires for my efforts. A set of f'ing tires! is this a joke? apparently not...

I can't say enough about how awesome my support crew was. Andy Sanidas, the guy who deals with me being chronically behind in technical rides (and always late) once again did spot-on perfect bike mechanic work as well as charging batteries, etc, etc, etc; Darrel Edmondson (one bad-ass Explosive Ordinance Diver - hey, if there was a bomb scare, we had the solution!) took immaculate notation of times, fueling, etc - as well as doing anything else that needed to be done; and of course, my lovely wife Jennifer, getting the food, ice packs, handing-out pills, taking care of me, you know? Anyway, they were incredible in the pit! As Jenn said, they were the brain, I was the legs.

I followed a fueling plan of ibuprofen galore, liquid non-dairy carb/protein drink (Perpetuem), electrolyte pills, salt tablets, medium-to-high glycemic index solid foods (but no processed sugars except my splurge - coke!), 25oz of water per hour plus the water in the carb/protein mix, coke, and later in the night, some additional caffeine to keep me focused and on the bike! This mix was relatively benign, but i still struggled with nausea for most of the race - but kept it at bay - just barely sometimes...

I am totally mentally whipped from this one, so it could be a while before i do another solo 24, but i needed to do another one well to vanquish the demons from last year's World Championships. this seasons more intense training plan has been a success and i'm looking fwd to some more great races this year!

Take a look below to see some pics and "the numbers." Once offical results are posted online, i'll add that info as well...


At 7/05/2005 10:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sounds like we need to get together for a serious mega sierra ride!! I think we can put together 100 miles or so of single track and 30 grand in climbing right out of our back yard. I am just looking for someone crazy enough to do it with.

Great job!

Steve Walton


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