Love That Desert Love

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loving living

 

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desert, bikes, friends and beer

Headed down to the 24 Hours in Old Pueblo this past weekend with Rachel, two bikes, two coolers and about a hundred cookies. It has been 10 years since I raced 24HiOP solo. For a few of those years I have been kinda curious if I learned anything since that might make it possible to crank out more laps?

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no matter what it was gonna be a great weekend

 

The desert is such an amazing place and it pulls at me almost as much as the mountains do. The sun was warm, the wind was fierce, the air filled with fun and adventure. Oh and bikes, lots of bikes and the chance to ride as much as you want to…

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there is no end to learning…

So it would seem that I have learned some things, but I don’t always follow my own advice. My plan, if any, was to run slow then ride easy and consistent. Ended up running slow, getting excited and riding too hard for too long burning a few too many matches. Eventually the body got tired, sore and I slowed down. Even had a few mishaps that tested my shaky bit of calm. I teetered on the edge of implosion, slowly falling apart night lap after night lap. Somehow I managed to rally along with the rising sun and push my pace a bit harder for the final laps.

I rallied, but man did it hurt...

I rallied, but man did it hurt…

It was an awesome week, weekend, and a fantastic and successful race. The desert was warm, sunny and full of love. The race was a wild crazy fantastic ride leaving me to wonder about a next year? Mostly the whole week makes me grateful to be happy, healthy and still learning, dreaming and scheming.

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Podium!

 

All pictures by Rachel Alter.

24

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so sorry bike, so sorry

so sorry bike, so sorry

“Why would anyone want to race their bike for 24 hours” Came the drunken slur from a rolled down jeep window, passing us in the we early hours of the morning some 15 hours into the 24 Hours In the Sage. At the time I was put off by the question, to me we were pushing ourselves, trying to find the limits of our endurance, of our mind’s. After doing several 24 solos over a 4 year period I eventually bottomed out and asked myself the same question, why? Maybe those kids had it right, screw the heartbreak of failing, the incredible cost to mind-body-bike and bank account. The time spent training, traveling. Just party and hang it out, sounds good for about a minute. Instead of taking on the slacker lifestyle completely, I switched to the self-supported multi-day bike racing thing. It suited my strengths and I learned loads about everything from nutrition, to bike riding to mind control ending up knowing much better what I was personally capable of. Now I was racing for days on end not just 24 hours….

After a 8 year hiatus from solo lap racing I jumped into doing the 12 Hours Of Mesa Verde. I was racing for Team Griggs Orthopedic this season and wanted to show my stuff and do some races close to home. Well the race was super fun, I did pretty well and ended up a bit excited. Now I had just got the internet at home and one day home for lunch I signed myself up for the 24 Hour National Championships at the 24 Hours Of Enchanted Forest. Excitable boy + internet + lunch break = what the hell have I done?

Done got myself in over my head, but what the hell. Plus I did some homework and if you look at results from most 24’s, including nationals only the top 4-6 guys are consistent.  Well what better place to test whether you got the moxie to race for a whole day than with the big boys and girls, so after a few more weeks of training it was off to Gallup, NM for some fun in the sun!

The fact is I went into the race worried about all sorts of stuff. The heat, food, hydration, my bike and last but not least the whole mystery of your own body holding up to so much pedaling. All this kept my eyes twitching, my dreams full of panic, my thoughts a twirling. But there is only so much you can do and at some point you got to just chill the fuck out and see what happens.

The race venue turns out to be sweet, tall pines, warm dry air, super fast trails. The vibe is chill and supportive, camping with fellow GO riders is simply great. It is easy to relax, sit and talk, slowly moving chairs and coolers in order to stay in the shade. All of us going about getting their respective ducks in a row. After some decent sleep among the pine needles it is time to wake up and eat and begin the prep, seems like a hundred sandwiches, even more water bottles and chews. Last minute fussing with the bike, number plate, trying to poop. Sooner than later the morning is gone and it is time to see how the cookie crumples…

The first two laps are hot, dusty and a bit crowded. Yet my fellow racers are cool and polite. The course is so fast, just so fast. It is looking like 24 hours could bring in some serious mileage. Each lap I hit the pit, grab fresh bottles, a sandwich, some sport legs. I am flying out there, it feels good, but by lap 6 I am also starting to feel it. My lower back is sore and there is so much sitting and pedaling that I am wearing out my butt.  Lots of Ouch. Can I truly hold this pace for the duration? Although it hurts I still want to see what I can do?

Despite all the anticipation, wondering and fuzzy math no one knew what was in the cards. At 10:20 the sky opens up, pounding us with thunder, lightening and wind driven rain. The trail goes from dusty and fast to a flowing stream in minutes. One section of the course known as the Burma Trail, which was so fast and fun the very lap before, is all clay. I know it when I drop in, soaked to the bone with teeth chattering, that the Burma Trail is doomed. It is a complete mess, folks falling down, dragging bikes, desperately picking mud out of their forks and stays. The trail is gone, now just ruts and footprints. I am clinging to my determination to finish the lap, to still race, although this means picking up my front tire and dragging the back. Trying not to stop, to not hear the screaming in my back and shoulders.

After an agonizing 2+ hours I complete the lap and am told the race is paused, more info coming forth. I roll back to the camp, it is very quiet, my brakes are grinding, my bike is a disaster. I am dazed, worked, a bit dumfounded. I eat and take nap. Not sure what happened, what is going on, if I will or even should race my bike some more. I am awoken to a megaphone telling us the race will be restarted at 4:AM, which then becomes 6:AM and ends up being 6:30 AM. Everyone seems a bit confused, I know I am.

I get up, I don’t want to eat. I try to get some of the mud off my bike, out of my brakes, off my poor drivetrain. After a couple gallons and some very dirty hands I get my bike sort of ready to ride. Still the brakes are grinding, the drivetrain sounds like a WWII tank. Not good. My head is off as well. Just not as stoked on the race, on putting in more laps. But I didn’t come here to sleep in the back of someone’s van. So Suck it up Buttercup and get out there and race damn it!

Well the morning laps go along fine despite my back being on fire and my legs feeling a little dead. Still I manged to crank out three more laps before the 11:AM cutoff. The course is tacky and smooth, although the now infamous Burma Trail has been taken out of the course. I roll into camp, I am done. I feel disconnected. The last two races I did left me feeling amazing, so stoked and excited. Today I just feel tired, not so sure what actually happened, where I placed, what laps were counted.

Still days later I am a bit fuzzy about how I feel about this race, this experience. I have had plenty of races were I blow up, do something stupid, get sick. But to have it come down to something uncontrollable like the weather just leaves you guessing, wondering, for me unsatisfied. I mean we only did one night lap and that ended up thrown out due to the chaos of the mud and some folks taking a road instead of the muddy trail. Yet no one imagined that it would rain that hard, on that night. I rode a pretty good and smart race, I did fairly well, but I just don’t feel like it was a success. So now I have to wonder, do I really want to race for 24 hours again? Well, I think I might…

Growler Lap

 It was raining, huge dark clouds were everywhere around us. Full on walls of purple thunder were dragging along the hills. But we still headed out. We had to curl on back to get Sam more clothes and stop to get more air in his front tire. Even wide open and sitting on the side of the pavement somehow the rain didn’t open up,  just peppered and threw graupel at us. Determination was strong as we were heading out to throw down a quick Growler Lap. The race is a week away and it is hard nor to get caught up with the nervous energy and fear of that many miles of pretty tough riding, with 300+ other folks.

Having just suffered through the 12 Hours Of Mesa Verde with a sore tight back that lead to some post race dead legs, I just am not sure what to expect in the Growler. Plus all excited and wanting to do another lap race, I signed up for the 24 Hour Nationals, at the 24 Hours of Enchanted Forrest, only 4 weeks away. Sometimes when I calm down I wonder what sort of fool bites off way more than he can chew. But I am me and I have to keep up my end of the bargain by living and trying. Yet what is wrong with me? I can deal with a good bit of discomfort and pain, but I am more than a little scared about all this.

The best way to deal, is go for a bike ride. Sometimes a sort of fast bike ride, and that was what happened today. After the awful grind up Kill Hill, I opened it up a bit on Main Street, and Josho’s. It felt good. Pushing the pace, cranking the pedals. Sam was wondering what the hell was I up to…he wanted to go sub race pace, yet he hung on my wheel so I just kept cranking.

Soon I backed off and let the pace ebb and flow a bit more, still cranking it hard at times to keep myself feeling honest. I even stopped to let us eat and talk with normal breathing. Today I felt smooth and quick, what we like to call being a Trail Ninja! It is such a temporary condition and needs to be enjoyed while it lasts. Oh it was fun. Being the excitable boy that I am I was unable to control myself towards the end of the ride and pushed Sam a touch too far. He was cooked by the climb up Ridgeline Trail and ate it a couple times on the tough tricky techy ascent. Sorry Sam, but when you got it you got to use it!

I am still plenty scared of the upcoming events, one after another, all hard. But the truth is I love riding bikes, I love riding bikes as fast as I can on all kinds of trails. I enjoy the competition and comradery of bike racing. Fear tempers my approach, but does not dim my enthusiasm. Today while my legs screamed up the climbs, my back sent angry messages to my brain, I grinned ear to ear as my tires carved the turns and hopped the rocks. Even freezing in the wind and rain I was aware of how lucky I am to have the predicament that I have. Thank you universe for letting me get through all the BS I once held so dear and to be at this point in my life.

12 Hours of Mesa Verde

If you haven’t ridden Phil’s World outside of Cortez Colorado, you need to get your butt down there and ride! I had the pleasure of being down there this past weekend for the 12 hours of Mesa Verde, my first race of the year and my first solo lap race in 7 years. The place is amazing. Folks with pure trail genius oozing out of their pores built the smoothest, fastest corners I think I have ever ridden, utilizing the terrain to its blissful trail riding potential. The event is also smooth and tight.

Having not yet raced this year, or put in too many long rides, or that many rides at all, I went into the race a bit nervous about my fitness, but mostly worried about my bum and my back. Was I ready for 12 hours of riding, of riding all singletrack, would I curl up and want to cry, would I blow up and look the fool? Would my Sram XX1 keep delivering the goods or make me walk. Well one can wonder their life away or go out and live it, right? This was also my first time racing for my team, Griggs Orthopedics, Team GO,and I wanted even more to do my best.

Before I know it I am standing in a crowd of hundreds of bikers, the gun goes off and we begin the long day with a jog to our bikes. I go slow on the run and end up bottle-necked and in the back of the pack. I bide my time and take it easy on the first lap, forgetting that the key to lap racing is pass pass pass. By the second lap I feel warmed up and begin to crank the throttle, even as my back begins to throb and fill with knots. Grin and bear it, I tell myself, grin and bear it. From here I simply want to keep the rubber side down and aim for 1:30 laps. Chase the rabbits and run from the wolves to keep the pace from falling off. Oh My does it hurt.

Somehow I simply let the pain be and keep the pedals spinning, and if you keep the pedals spinning you will get there. I keep eating, drinking and pedaling through intense sun, a bit of refreshing rain. I do terrible math all day trying to figure out where I need to be to get my desired 8 laps. I do the math over and over, not that I could go any faster if I wanted, but it gives the old noggin something to do besides focus on the discomfort taking over my body. I manage to get through the lap tent before 6:pm and have the chance to hit my goal, 8 laps! Through out the day my team does a great job of keeping me hydrated, plenty of Squirt on my chain and lifting my spirits, thus I am ready for one more.

Although it hurts, I almost don’t want it to end, the course is just that fun to ride. Even after hundreds of wheels and being exhausted I can still rail the corners with lots of speed, corner after corner just begs you to lean into it and trust it. After 12:30+ hours of riding I am cooked, sunburnt, tight and beat up, but so damn happy. It was not a perfect race, not even close. There is something magical about pushing yourself, with a goal in mind and the willingness to do it, to suffer for it and to pull it off is irreplaceable. It was so hard, it hurt a whole lot, but there is nothing I would have rather been doing this weekend. All day I had no idea where I was in the standings, come to find out I pulled off 5th place and got to stand up on the podium, I just can’t stop smiling!!

Huge thanks to the event organizers, the volunteers out there all day, my awesome fellow racers on Team GO, Dr. Rhett Griggs for making this team happen, Jari for the ride down, Miff for watching JBoy, DaveMoe for letting us leave for the weekend and all the wonderful folks out there racing their bikes with me. It was a great weekend!