Tuesday, September 8, 2009

24 Hours of Seven Oaks

Once again it is that time of the year, time to have the most fun you can have on a bike in 24 hours, well that is the theory. I did have a good time again, was a lot tougher then last year but still fun. Our first hurdle was not being able to find a 4th for our team, so we ended up doing it as a 3 man 24 hour team, good and bad. Good because the 3 of us are pretty evenly matched when it comes to how we ride and lap times, but bad because less rest between laps.

Once again this year I would start us off, I had no problems with that, gave me the opportunity to get us into a decent position after the first lap. Le Mans style start (lay your bike down and run to it) and I was the first to my bike, was able to get through the traffic, get on my bike and be first out to the gravel road. From there it is a long 1/2 mile climb up to the campground where we would drop into the singletrack and work our way down to the start finish area and begin the real lap from there. First lap went fairly routinely as I was 5th or so into the woods, and really the front guys are going to usually be your fastest anyways so I wasn't too worried about being stuck behind anybody. I was with 2 other guys for a little bit, one who had never ridden the trails here before and when he bobbled one of the switchback climbs I was able to get around him, which he used to his advantage so he could follow my lines as I have ridden many laps here in the past year. We get back down to the bottom and go into the chute for the exchange to the next rider, get Tom on his way and I can go rest. Look down and notice I did the first lap in under 45 minutes, sweet that is a crazy fast time considering at the XC race 2 weeks before I was doing 45 minute laps, and they were 1/2 mile shorter laps.

Now it was time to sit back and rest a little while Tom and Chris would each ride their first laps, so I sat down ate some food, and watched others race. We were keeping track of who was coming through, how fast they were doing laps, and also what place we were in overall. Watching as the first 3 teams would jockey back and forth depending on who was riding. My turn came up and I would head out for another lap, and this one had less traffic so I was able to just set my own pace and go for it. This lap would be about a minute slower then my previous one, but still a respectable time. So now we are 4 laps into it, and can see we are sitting in 3rd place for the overall, sweet. Next couple laps go by and we are behind by a few minutes, and a few minutes ahead of the next closest team, so as long as we can keep up the pace we were going at we would be fine. Chris was turning some really great lap times in the low 40 minute range, so that was helping us out. I went out for my next lap and saw the one guy from the 2nd place team come running back with his chain in his hand, oops, but that just put us back into second. I was able to match my previous lap time of just over 45 minutes keeping us where we were at. By now it was time to sit down eat some dinner which was some chicken and rice, and rest before heading back out for what would be my last lap before nightfall.

After 7pm you are required to take your lights with you whether you use them or not they have to be there. So I get my bike all setup for night racing and go wait for the exchange. I got going just before 7, and knew the sun would be setting soon, so I had to bust out another good lap to make it back before dark, wanted to conserve light if I could. It did start to get a little dark in the woods for the last mile, but I was able to make it through without the use of my lights, and still had a good lap time. Now that night had fallen I knew that both fatigue and the fact that I don't have the greatest lights would slow me down a little bit for the next few times. Got out on my first night lap right around 10pm and it was dark. I was out running my lights on the downhill sections, not good, and trying to get them pointed where I wanted was costing me a little time. I did slow down some on that lap, down to 53 minutes as I was really starting to get tired, so when I got back I went and layed down for a little to try and rest. My next lap was up just before midnight, and not having slept yet and with the cool temps it was hard to get the legs going. It was a full moon 2 nights before, so when you got to an open area the moon was very bright and helped being able to see some. That lap I was in at 56 minutes and needed some sleep.

Now here is where we went wrong, we didn't switch to 2 laps each to allow some rest time, we kept going on a 1 lap rotation like we had been, and that proved to be a problem. I did get about 30 minutes of sleep this time, and knew going back out I would be able to still do a lap, just not as fast. I got back on the bike and was just all over the place by now, and tried the best I could to keep moving forward and not stop. Now that is was 3 in the morning most guys had stopped racing, or something because there was hardly anyone out in the woods, was peaceful and all, but had no one in front or behind be to judge my lap times off. This lap I slowed a little and was just over 57 minutes, back to try and catch some sleep.

30 more minutes of sleep and mt alarm goes off, it is now 5:40am, and I know Chris is coming around soon, so I just up get dressed, grab my light off the charger and run over to the finish line to wait. Hmm no Chris, ok there are a few guys coming in, so I go and check out the lap board to see that we are a lap or 2 down now from 3rd place, damn. So I talked with the couple people that were still there, and someone asked if that was the updated numbers and they said yes, but wait the last completed lap by our team was at 3:30ish which would have been my last lap, did they miss Tom, I know I heard Chris get up to do his lap, hmm we will deal with that soon. Fast forward to 6am now and I can see what I believe is Chris coming down the hill, quite foggy hard to see. Indeed it was Chris, he comes across the line, tells me that Tom had quit 1/2 way through his lap, he was going to hit the shower and sleep, he was done. Crap what do I do, I got up, I might as well go do a lap so we don't fall too far behind, so I head out for what would be my slowest lap of the race. I never got off the bike to walk any of the hills, I would just sit and spin at 2 mph on some of them and keep making forward progress. Got back with a lap time of 1hour 2 minutes, and decided it was time to lay down, the sun had started coming up on this last lap, I watched the sunrise on top of the hill, and looked into the valley to a fog covered ski area, was a very nice view, but at that point I was too tired to admire it.

I never fell back asleep, but did hear Chris wake up at about 8 so I decided to get up and see what he was feeling like and what his plans were. He figured by now we were so far out of contention we should probably just pack it in and call it a day, since I now had my coffee in hand, and the wife started the grill for pancakes, we headed over to look at the scoreboard. Wow we were still sitting in 5th place overall and 2nd place in the 3 man team's. So we didn't want to lose those places and we did see guys still turning out laps, so we decided to both turn in one more lap a piece since the team that was winning was 3 laps ahead of us, and they had that many done just after 7am, even if we did 3 we couldn't catch them, and to do 4 with just under 4 hours would have been impossible with how we felt. Chris decided to fore go breakfast and head out for an easy lap, he said even if it was an hour and 10 minutes he was doing it, so I ate and waited for a little to get dressed. At around the 55 minute mark or so someone said they saw Chris at the top of the hill, at that point I had about 4 minutes to get dressed and back on the bike, not a problem, he only had to wait about 2 minutes for me over at the exchange area. I was back on the bike, full of caffeine and pancakes, and ready to rock. I had yet to ride a clean lap without putting a foot down all weekend, and was starting to get pissed about that, so that was my goal for this lap. I got to the top of the hill for the last time, looked down and noticed, hey I am only about 6 minutes off my day time laps from the previous day, hmm do I have enough for one more lap??? Well by this time the other team in first place caught on that we were riding more laps, so they sent a guy out to chase us down so we didn't pull off a sneak attack late in the race. I stopped by and grabbed a Coke from the tent on my way by, and headed out for one last lap. This lap would be about 3 minutes slower then my other one, but did it feel good to be that strong after not sleeping and racing so much. I am happy to report that both of those laps were ridden cleanly with the only time I stopped was to fill my bottle.

Some stats from the weekend,
5th Place Overall
2nd Place 3 man 24 Hour
10 laps of Boone
8hours 39 minutes of racing
81 miles
8000+ feet of climbing

I need to thank all the people that made this possible this weekend including my wonderful wife who made food for us, and we wouldn't have eaten as well if not for her. Chris's dad for coming out and helping with setup and tear down of our camp. My kids for being there to cheer on our team as well as most of the other guys that we now know from doing races, and all the people involved in making this race happen.