Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Swing Swing

Since it would be a shame to break tradition, I was awoken in my tent on Friday night by the sound of rain. Luckily the rain was light, and the trails were bone dry for the entire race. There wasn’t a single puddle of water or drop of mud at all. I had plenty of time to kill before the noon start, so I wandered around and chatted for a bit. I ended up pitting in the same place as last year. I was pitting with Florida's Chris Johns and Chris Janiszewski, and we were right next to Mark Hendershot and the pair of Daves from up north. It was kind of funny that we were all back and in the exact same spot as last year.

The race started with the hated “designated runner” lemans start. This meant that the team riders could have a team member running the ¼ mile loop in tennis shoes and then tag their team rider to start. For solos this is kind of lame, as you don’t want to sprint the run when you have 24 hours to ride, but you also don’t want to start behind 200 slower riders. The run wasn’t too bad in the end, and I was in the top 20 or so getting to the superfly. Coming up the first climb required some traffic control, and I rubbed a couple of wheels in the slowdown. The pace for the first lap was pretty mellow, and I rode the lap with Mark and Chris.

The second lap started well, but I was soon worried as my legs were feeling off already. My legs felt like I had already been riding for 6 or 8 hours, and I hadn’t even made it 10 miles. My back was aching a bit as well, and I began to have a bad feeling about the race. It was bad enough I even worried a bit about even being able to stay on the bike until it got dark. I fell back off the pace of Mark and the Chrises, and was passed by another solo rider. After another couple of laps, my legs warmed up and felt a bit better. My pits were going well, and with the handoffs I barely had to slow down at all to grab a new bottle and go.

The Burn course is quite nice, as you’ve got tons of berms, not too much climbing, and some pretty sweet descents. The last descent is especially cool, as it’s like a roller coaster with huge banked turns. I had forgotten about all the roots and rocks, as the course was definitely thrashing my hands out more than I would like. It flows pretty well, and is broken up nicely with rolling climbs and descents. Passing was tight on the first lap, but after that there were no problems. I managed to run over a black snake on the 5th lap or so. I kind of thought it was a moving root at the time and didn’t realize it was a snake until I ran over it. Temperatures were quite warm during the race, but it didn’t really bother me that much.

My legs were good until around 7 or 8 hours in, and then they began to feel toasted again. I was kind of bummed out, but knowing that a lot can happen at night, I figured I might still have a shot at a decent finish if I could just stay on the bike and ride all night. My hands were pretty trashed at this point as well. On every bumpy descent they were getting quite a shaking, and my fingers were once again killing me. I need to get this figured out, because I get the same pain earlier and earlier in every race I do… Damn you proximal phalanges…

I wasn’t so good at math on the day either. Grabbing my Moab light, with its supposed burn time of 8 hours on high, I headed off on my first night lap. I rode the first half of the lap with the light on medium, but didn’t quite think it was enough, so I switched back to high. Arm and knee warmers were quickly needed as the temperature dropped, and I began to think I didn’t bring enough warm clothing with me. Going with the theme of the day, my night laps were quite inconsistent, with my legs swinging from good to bad and back again every few hours. With all thoughts of a podium spot fading away, I was in “stay on the bike make it through the night” mode. At this point, I hadn’t had to use my front derailleur yet, so I decided that another goal would be to finish up the race without using anything besides the middle ring.

Dropping temperatures meant I couldn’t get down the full bottle of infinit every lap, and I was down to drinking a little under half a bottle a loop. To get the rest of my calories, I stopped in the pits for about 2 minutes every lap to eat a pair of clif bloks, drink some burn, and complain about being cold. I had an interesting experience a little before 4 am, when my battery ran out. Luckily I was on the last climb of the course, and the moab has backup LEDs. Even with next to no light I was able to pass a few people on the climb, and began the final descent back to the transition. I was quickly caught by another rider who was kind enough to slow down a bit and light the way. I quickly swapped the lights and headed back out. My hands sort of leveled off during the night and the pain sort of dulled as the hours went on, so that was a nice bonus.

At this point, the temperature really started getting to me. I’m not sure exactly what it was, but it was probably around mid to low forties. Every lap also had a big open section for ½ mile or so that received a nice cold breeze from the lake to chill me out even more. I was in summer wear with arm and knee warmers, and my teeth were literally chattering every time I went through that section and on some of the descents. My lap times had a huge drop as I couldn’t get or stay warm at all. Finally the sun came back out around 6 am and I was able to ditch my light and hope for it to warm up. However, by 8 am, it felt like the temperature hadn’t gone up at all. I even stopped for 5 minutes in transition to sit in the sun like a lizard to try and get warm. After that, I felt ok until I took about 6 pedal strokes and was chilled immediately.

Luckily it warmed up a little after 9 and I was able to ditch the arm warmers. I finished my 25th lap around 10 am, and checked the results to see if I had to do another lap. Once again, my math skills failed me, as I was convinced I couldn’t move anywhere in the standings if I quit then. Apparently this was wrong, as Virginia Trek rider Shawn Tevandale was able to ride for another 2 hours or so and finish another lap and bump me back to 5th place. Oh well, 5th and 4th are the same as 40th at the burn, so it wasn’t too big of a deal.

So despite a sub-par performance, I can’t help but come away from the race relatively satisfied. I made it through the night, finished in the top 5, and rode almost 190 miles. My nutrition went well, and I wasn’t really hungry or too tired during the race. No stomach problems, no cramps, no mechanicals. With the exception of my legs, everything went really well for the race. Congrats to Chris Johns pulling off the win in his first 24 hour race, definitely impressive. Mark put in a solid consistent ride but finished up about a half hour back of Chris. Javaun Moradi rounded off the podium. I knew at the start that Javaun would be a guy to watch, as I raced against him at Conyers a few years back and he rode really strong there. I was ahead of him for about 8 hours or so until my legs started to hate me again. Chris Janiszewski was riding strong but had some stomach problems 12 or 13 hours in. Many thanks to the Chris' Dads, they definitely did a great job of making sure I got out of the pits quickly and had what I needed. The drive home was awful though. Even with all the burn I still had to stop 3 times on the 3 hour drive to stretch or try and catch a few minutes of sleep. Since I won’t be racing the disc burner, it seems like I’ve got almost an entire month until I race again… Looks like actual training might make a comeback.


  1. elizabeth said...
    My goodness that was some race report. I bet your body will enjoy the break after the beating it to pieces the last few weeks.

    Are you the race director for the discburner? I would be willing to help out for a pint glass and free beer :)
    Dave Holmes said...
    I might know a guy that knows a guy that knows the race director...

    I bet he would do that and even throw in dinner if you came and helped out :)

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