Wednesday, February 20, 2008

2008 Old Pueblo

Another one has gone into the past. Great race, and one helluva weekend.

If you've been following my blog you know that a huge weather system that left around 1" of moisture moved through the area down there between Thursday evening and Saturday morning.

Saturday morning dawned foggy. The hope was that the fog would burn off mid-morning and the race would start in sunshine. But it just did not seem to be happening. During the riders' meeting before the race it was chilly and clammy. Not really foggy, but really low overcast cloud cover.

As we lined up, the clouds started to break up, and magically, the sun shone through just as the starting gun went off. Amazing.

The first lap took place on a pretty soggy course. Remarkably, there weren't many patches that were terribly messy, but there were a few. I rode that first lap in heavy traffic. Passing was not really possible, and not practical anyway. Passing one racer would just put you immediately behind another one. So we pretty much rode it in a solid line.

My left knee had been a real source of worry for me prior to the race. It was pretty stiff and gimpy. But once I started riding, it felt fine. Not so good when I got off the bike to do anything, but I was pedaling fine with it.

My camp was just at the base of Wahoo Rock. At the end of that first lap I took the "ride the rock" option and did a little trick for the crowd that always forms to watch riders there. I did a little hop at the top and then landed on the slant and swooped off and right into my camp.

Me dropping down Wahoo during the '07 race (see that compressed fork?) No pictures of it from this year.

Back at the camper I grabbed a fresh bottle of HEED and rolled on down to the start/finish tent for lap 2.

Lap 2 was an actual race lap. I was still fresh, I was trying to stay off the throttle, but I was rolling pretty well. It was a good, tight lap. Then I got to the end and went to ride the rock.

This time I thought it would be a good idea to really show the crowd how Colorado rolls. So this time I went huge. A brought some momentum to the edge, then leaped the biggest bunny hop I could as I headed over the edge. It really was huge too. I landed with a really good head of steam, yanked my bars up to make the transition to the flat. The runout at the bottom of the rock is good. There is just one rock that you need to miss. I did a poor job of missing it.

I crashed nice and big, over the bars. When my front hit the rock I heard the tire get contorted and start leaking immediately. I landed on what seemed to be my left shoulder blade. I lay flat on my back in the dirt, silently cursing myself for the sin of pride. Dumbass. Then I rolled up onto my feet and the crowd cheered. They got a show anyway.

Immediately I could tell that I'd done a little damage to my rib cage some way or other. Breathing caused a little shot of pain. Deep breaths even more so.

My front tire continued to leak noisily as I headed over to my camper. I had been running a pair of Bontrager Dry-X TR, tubeless with the Hutchinson goop. They were quite wonderful for the conditions. But now the front looked like it was done for--probably sidewall pinch cut. So I switched out to my spare wheel which had a WTB Weirwolf LT mounted. It had way too much pressure in it so I bled out a bunch.

During lap three I humbled myself down. I gave myself a serious talking-to about being a dumbass. I slowed down and mentally prepared myself to actually race for another 21 hours. I also wondered about my bike. The steering felt sluggish and felt like it was pulling a bit to the left. I wondered if I had tweaked the fork or something more serious when I piled into that rock.

When I got back to pit, after carefully dropping off the rock. I asked my friend Sean McGuinness to look it over for any cracks or oddities. He checked my tire pressure and the front was way low. I had bled out far too much. He pumped it up to about 30 psi for me and I headed back out. Felt fine from then on.

But baby, did that bike creak! Must have been the getting rained on. I had been riding it a bunch in the weeks before the race and it had been fine. But during the race a squeaky-creaky noise developed until it was totally obnoxious. As Sean said, "isn't that what full-suspension geared bikes are supposed to do?"

At the end of lap 3 the lights went on. I needed them for maybe the last 20 minutes of that 4th lap. I didn't need to put on any warmer clothes until around midnight.

Until dawn, the story was pretty uneventful. I did laps. I listened to coyotes and owls. A jackrabbit with 6" ears ran in front of me. It got colder. Eventually little sparkles of frost formed on cactus, grass, dirt. Then as dawn approached the frost got fatter and whiter.

I rode some really good night laps. Often a solo racer is visited by demons in those wee hours. I was having a blast. I was tired, but not so that I was slowing way down. I just kept rolling, eating, drinking, breathing...

The cold was only a problem just after I left the start/finish tent and headed out onto the course. The first 2 miles or so was fast downhill singletrack. During every night lap I just froze on that bit. I would think that I should have put on more clothes, or that I might have to stop to put my jacket on. Then I would start the harder work part of the course and everything would even out. I finally concluded that dressing to be confortable during those first 10 minutes would mean being overdressed for the rest of the lap, which would mean sweating. So I just planned for the first part of each lap to be uncomfortable.

Usually dawn gives me a boost. This time however dawn coincided with a breakdown in my eathing strategy. Around the middle of the lap, just before the sun actually cleared the horizon, my camp-mate Mark McDaniel came up behind me to wish me good morning. Just about then, my ass started dragging. It was bonk, coming to visit. I had been pretty much surviving on HEED, HammerGel, and Hammer Bars since the excellent bowl of beef stew Mark's wife Amanda and mother-in-law Jane had given me at around 10 the night before. And the hammer diet had been working really well. But suddenly my body was done with it. My jaw was slack and I had that thousand-yard stare.

I slogged through the rest of that 11th lap, got to camp, and Amanda had just finished frying the bacon. She made me three scrambled eggs, three pieces of bacon, and two pancakes. My body was so thankful. It turned the whole thing around for me.

I headed out to bag two more laps and achieve my goal, happy, well-fed, energized.

When I was in the last 20 minutes of that 12th lap, my front tire got soggy. It was one of those 24-hour-racer moments. I got really bummed out and said, "that's it! Now I'm done!" I tried to put some air in it to see if the sealent would just seal it up, but could hardly get the pump to work. I had left my pack with the CO2 behind so all I had was the pump. I pushed my bike for 5 minutes muttering about my poor luck.

Finally it occurred to me that I should actually take the tire off the rim and see if I could see what was making it go flat. Grudgingly I took the wheel off, pulled the tire, and right away I saw a big cactus thorn in there. "Well there you are!" I said to myself. I pulled the thorn, put it all back together and pumped it up. I jumped on and rode for 100 feet before it was flat again.

Damn! Damn my luck!

It took me perhaps another 5 minutes to pull my head out of my butt and actually pull the tire off, find every single thorn in it (maybe 20?) then put it back in and air it up. A good Samaritan showed up offering a CO2 shot, which I accepted. Then with a hard tire I rolled up the climb at the end of the course.

When I got back to camp, I had pretty much figured that I was done. I was tired. What did I really need to do another lap for? What, go get another flat maybe?

Amanda McDaniel is the reason I went out for that last one. I don't remember exactly what she said, but it was something like, "Oh Tom, you have plenty of time to do another lap. Why not just do it?" She was right. I had no answer to that question other than, yeah, you're right.

So that's what I did. Thirteen laps. Met my goal of riding more than 200 miles. That was my goal at Old Pueblo last year, and I missed it by 10 miles. This year I did it.

Feels good.


JenyJo said...

YEEEHHHAAAAWWWW!! Way to RIDE and RACE and BE, Tom!!! Congratulations!!!!!


Anonymous said...


Kerkove flickr'd ya:


Dave said...

You da man!!!!

Dave Harris said...

Nice riding Tom. OP is becoming a ritual on your calendar I see! Might as well register oct 1 this year.

Chad said...

Great job Tom...

Japhy rider said...

Amanda's one super trooper, eh? even when she can't ride, she's keepin' us ridin. that's my girrrrl - (!

thanks so much for sharing your camp with us. it was sure fun meeting up with everyone and riding a bunch. we do look forward to the next ride/race/feast.

Mark McD

ps- demons? well, i had a few conversations with trolls out there. pretty normal i suppose.