Monday, June 16, 2008
I survived the Harcore 24 with minor cuts and bruises as well as a second place finish for our team. Good work to all the members that contributed to the epic run through the torrential storm that tore through the first half of the race - making for a slippery, muddy and a very rutted out course!
I had no idea what to expect from this as it was my first time in a 24 hour mountain bike race, but I do know that I had the time of my life! I never imagined in the midst of such a physical beating that it was possible to have such an incredible time! Even my lap during the heaviest part of the rain storm on Saturday, while Boris and I were slipping and sliding (and falling), I couldn't get rid of the huge smile on my face. I kept trying not to smile as the mud and dirt kept getting lodged in my teeth, to no avail - even today I can feel the grit in my mouth.
We arrived late Friday evening during a most intense thunder storm. On the drive down blinding lightning bolts struck in the surrounding valley. The rain came down with such force we had to pull over for minute due to lack of visibility. I have never experienced a storm so formidable yet exhilarating.
We ate dinner with T$'s team (The Night Crawlers - they came in second in their group as well - good work guys!), they strategised for a bit, then it was off to bed. Roughly eight, much needed hours later we got up to pre-ride the course. I felt as if I could have slept longer but the race started at noon and we needed to get out to the course asap. We ran through the first part of the course which didn't seem too bad - except for all the f--in climbing. Without my first cup of coffee it was rough, but at least I knew what to expect in terms of where I could get some speed without having to come to screeching halt before making a 90 degree turn uphill - of which there were plenty. We got back, showered (yes, I know I would just be dirty again later - and how! But for a brief moment I needed to feel clean), ate some of the most delicious frittata this side of the Rio Grande, then got the bikes* and ourselves ready.
*Boris looked so tough with his number tag on...and even more tough after our first lap caked in mud.
The race set off at noon. T was the first rider on his team out of the gate and as expected he did an amazing job hanging with the big boys - he is wicked fast and getting faster each time out! After he completed his first lap my anxiety was somewhat quelled by the huge, muddy smile on his face.
I was the third rider for the fifth lap (our leader and second each did two laps) and got caught in the heaviest part of the rainfall that day. Good times. It was actually very good, except for the fact that I had to ride a bit slower than I wanted to due to my bike and I sliding around each turn and wheels spinning out on the climbs. Even with lowering my tire pressure it was so hard to get any kind of traction. Through one of the double track sections I was hauling in my highest gear coming around a turn when Boris and I slid out - not any old fall and slide, oh no - this was like a slip and slide on my right side at high velocity. The high grass at the edge of the track stopped us, we popped right up and back on track we went. I couldn't help but laugh for a good minute after that. My shorts, jersey, helmet, every inch of me and my bike were caked with mud and completely drenched throughout.
Towards the end of the lap, Boris wasn't even shifting properly anymore due the extensive amount of grit that gunked up in gears. For a brief moment I though a single speed would have been nice - that moment was very brief, indeed. I only need to get my thighs meatier (and much, much stronger) for that!
The entire race I slept for roughly two hours - and did I sleep. I don't remember a thing except HF waking me up at 2a.m. to get ready for my next lap. I popped right up and immediately threw on my riding clothes, grabbed Boris and my gear and headed down to the area where the riders came through before the mile long climb into the last section of single track. (Once you saw a rider come through there you pretty much knew that you had on average 20 minutes before your lap). So I sat at an inviting campfire, drank some cowboy coffee (the best I've ever had!) and waited to see if my team member would tell me whether or not he was riding two laps or done after that one. He finally came through and screamed that he was done after that lap. Ok then, I was ready - full of caffeine and two hours of sleep.
I got my handlebar light ready and my helmet light on - in case I needed to communicate with martians - that thing was so f--in bright! Got tagged in and off I went.
Now, just so it is known, I have never ridden trails at night before. Never! Everyone kept telling me how much more difficult it is, how much scarier it is, how you need to focus more. I fell in love that night. I am buying a NiteRider TriNewt and I am going to ride every night that I physically can. I found that lap to be the best trail ride I have ever experienced - EVER! I focused just fine, in fact all I could focus on was the line ahead of me - the periphery disappeared and it didn't matter. I felt so comfortable cruising through there, that I was certain my lap time would be faster than during the rainstorm...and it would have been until I came upon a rider in distress.
I know...it was a race, but I couldn't leave the poor guy, that's just bad karma. I ended up (wasting) adding over 30 minutes to my lap because the guy jammed his chain in between his cassette and hub - that's right - into it, I mean embedded. Not sure how he managed to do it, but it was in there, and it wasn't coming out. After about 20 minutes of removing the back tire and trying to pull it out (to no avail) we ended up breaking his chain and he was forced to coast out. Lucky for him the majority of the that trail out was downhill. So I tried to make up for lost time, but there was no use. So I just figured on having a fun ride out as fast as I could go without dying.
That was my last lap, so the rest of the race I spent cheering on my team, T and the rest of his team, as well as all the other riders. I must mention one rider in particular that deserves it - I don't know her name, but she was the only female solo rider and I truly commend her on her drive and ambition. At the end of it she completed 11 laps, or roughtly 88 miles (granted the male solo winner completed 19 laps and 154 miles - but he was built like a brick shithouse. So as impressive as that is in itself, I feel she deserved some props of her own). Good work, Sister!
The day ended with awards, food, sun (at long last it stopped raining!) and finally much needed sleep. I can honestly say, I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend and I can't wait until the next race!