Race Report: 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest

This race wasn’t on my radar until after my race ending, mechanical failure at Old Pueblo.  I needed to get another 24 under my belt before this year’s Moab, the granddaddy of all the 24’s.  I felt really strong mentally and physically leading up to the race, but was nervous because I didn’t have my backup bike fully built yet.  The bike takes a special kind of beating in a 24, but this course was no Moab.  100% singletrack yes, but not too technical, with only a few rock gardens to pound us hardtail riders. 

I had planned on a quick loop of the course on Friday evening, but my Pathfinder got a flat as I was pulling into my pit area.  I burned more time on that unwelcome diversion than planned.  Not knowing what to expect of the course, I was treated to thrilling, twisty singletrack through the pines of the Zuni mountains for most of my first lap.  My excitement quickly turned to impending doom at the end of number one.  I had kicked up a big rock while blasting through a rock garden.  Said rock had specifically targeted my rear rotor for destruction so that Rich would have another race ending mechanical failure.  No need to worry I quickly told myself and filled my mind with more positive thoughts.  I had an extra rotor with me, 2 actually.  I had learned my lesson after breaking my rear derailleur hangar at Old Pueblo. Besides, the rubbing of the brake was intermittent, I would go out for lap 2 before dealing with it.  Big mistake.

The pads were rubbing frequently now.  Foolish not to deal with it right away.  I still had a pretty good lap time, but grinding away took a lot out of my legs.  Kind of like driving away when you’ve left your parking brake on.  Don’t tell me I’m the only one whose done that.  The neutral support for this race was provided by High Desert Bicycles.  They saved me BIG time!!  They straightened the rotor and got everything spinning true again. Disaster averted.

During my 4th lap, with a little over 2 miles to go, I received a special treat.  My kids and wife were out on the course, on their bikes!  Father’s Day was complete, at that moment, as far as I was concerned.  Turns out it, them being so far out on the course had more to do with the kids hunting for some of the randomly placed decorations spread throughout the course, than a desire to see Dad.  The decorations were pretty creepy during the night laps actually.  Your mind plays enough tricks on you, the last thing you need to see are a couple of severed heads hanging from a tree.  Kudos to the race organizers though, it was representative of the fun, laid back, grass roots feel of this event.  I will continue to race and support Zia Rides events.

The night laps came and went.  Midnight came and I was feeling strong.  I was keeping my pit stops below 3 minutes.  I took a little longer when I had to put my lights on and change into warmer clothing (low 40’s at night).  I was having a good outing, then after about 14 hours, my good outing started to go straight to hell.

I had dodged mechanical failures, but this time, it was my nutrition plan that was putting my race at risk.  If it’s true that a bike takes a special kind of beating during a 24, it’s even more so for the body.  A proper nutrition plan is critical.  I always use Hammer Nutrition products with great success.  However, this time, I fell off my plan.  My dosage was off and my body payed the price.  I was now worried about dehydrating so I upped my dosage of Fizz and just wanted to get to the coveted sunrise lap.  Laps 8, 9 and 10 had me suffering through a special kind of misery, but I was able to keep down 2 Hammer bars and a couple of shots of Hammer gel.  I was in the pit after lap 8 filling up my CamelBak and saw a note from my wife that said I had moved up to 9th place, but it was her final sentence which gave me the shot in the arm I needed: “Suck it up Buttercup!”  I came in from lap 10 at around 8:45.  All laps had to be completed by noon or they would not count.  I had a goal of 10 laps.  I still had plenty of time to go out for one more.  With a lot of encouragement, I managed to climb back into the saddle for one last lap and it was a good one.  It sounds corny, but during a long ride, I’m always in contact with myself, my fears, my dreams, successes and failures.  It’s like any other passion one has in life. You can “lose yourself” in your pursuits. “Free your mind and your legs will follow” as The Rules dictate. My last lap, was actually one of my most enjoyable.  I kept repeating these words of wisdom from ultracycling.com: “Even if all the goals you set seem unattainable, don’t deprive yourself of the learning experience and the satisfaction derived from fighting over the top.  Don’t quit!”  I soaked in the warmth of the sun and relished in the fact that I had fought over the top and would be greeted at the end by 3 of the most inspiring people I know.  A memorable Father’s Day indeed.

Final Results: 8th Place, 176.44 miles, 14,784 ft total climbing

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