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.

Monday, February 18, 2008

After Math

Just a quick post before I head down the highway towards home. My Old Pueblo race was excellent. I achieved my goal of 13 laps, just over 200 miles. The results on the web site said that my partner did a lap, but she wasn't here.

I was called up to take the 5th place trophy for co-ed duo, but I forfeited since it was against the rules to compete in duo without having a partner do any laps. It would have been 8th place if I'd been in men's solo as I wanted to.

I'm tired and sore of course, but very content. Talk to y'all soon.

Tom P the tired.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Big Mushy

Last night around midnight it start to rain cats and dogs. A little unofficial catch basin outside the camper caught at least half and inch of water. The road in here is almost impassable. I've heard some horror stories from those who have arrived this morning.

Friday mid-morning just before the big snow flakes started flying.

The venue is packed, and there are lots of moist tent campers and lots of warm and content RV campers. But the mood around my camp is great. We have new neighbors from Tucson and Phoenix, some from Taos and Santa Fe, and another from Boulder City, NV. Good neighbors all of them.

If the moisture doesn't keep up, there will be a fast packed course. Lots of it will be like a steel rail. If it keeps up, there will be mashed potato consistence.

I probably won't post another report until it's all over. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Land Rush is On

The 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo is still a couple of days away but already there are hundreds of established camps. Almost all the really good real estate has already been snapped up, and a few boundary disputes have been noted.

Normally Thursday night is when the real land rush gets resolved. From my memory, last night was about the equivalent of last year's Thursday night.

Tuesday afternoon from up on Wahoo.

Thursday morning from the same rock.

Today is pretty durned windy, and there's a system due to move through here sometime in the next 18 hours. It's not too cold, but not shorts weather either.

Yesterday afternoon I had a pleasent surprise when my good friend Sean McGuiness and his friend Lee rolled off Wahoo Rock, saw me standing around look goofy behind the camper and came over to say hey. I don't think I knew Sean was going to be here, Great and Happy Surprise!

Last night I put on lights and did a little shake out night ride. And before I'd ridden 5 minutes I shook myself right off the bike and onto a barrel cactus. DUMBASS! Very lucky to only have gotten two spines in me, but I did tweak my left knee a little. DUMBASS! I think it'll be fine by Saturday. A little tender this morning. DUMBASS! Kind of like driving on ice for the first time of the year--you have to remember that you'll need to slow down a little. DUMBASS!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Sorry I haven't posted for a while. Been up to things. Shot over to California to ride the Tour de Palm Springs with my dad and sisters. It's a spectacle, with near 10,000 riders. I did the century, there are also 55 and 25 mile options.

Now I'm back in Willow Springs. The Venue is filling really fast this year! It's Tuesday and already many of the killer spots are spoken for. I know already that Chad Brown will be one of my next-door neighbors.

I had the honor today of doing racecourse trail maintenance with Phil, creator and maintainer of much of this little slice of heaven for over 10 years. We did some very good things. Water control for the most part. Of course my little contribution today adds up to about 4% of what Phil has already done this season.

It's beautiful. About 68, sunny, little breeze, no clouds. One of those days when you sit in the shade with sunglasses on and a cool drink.

Four days until race day! Woo Hoo!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Clear and Calm

Today has dawned sweet, sunny, and cold with white sleet everywhere. It'll warm up soon. Then it'll be time to ride again.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Cold Day in Heaven

OK, I needed a rest. I rode 160 miles in the four days I've been here. Both of the last two mornings, my quads have been pretty creaky. Of course that's the best I think I can do in terms of training for a 24 hour when I only rode a trainer for most of December and January--put the hurt on as far in advance as possible, then just try to keep getting rides in so that at least my body is relatively used to riding again. I know I'm not going to be optimally trained. But even if I start out a little tired on race day, I'm better off having shocked my system than to just get up off the couch and ride it.

So Monday I knew some weather was supposed to be on the way. I headed to town Sunday afternoon to stock up on provisions and then figured I would just lay around reading Monday, maybe take a little walk.

Weather came. Boy howdy. I woke up this morning to gusty wind blowing rain. It came in squalls during most of the morning. Then at about lunchtime it turned to sleet, then big fat snowflakes.

All day, wind, rain, snow and sleet on and off; sometimes really harsh.

Just at sunset blue sky appeared overhead. There's still plenty of weather all around, and I know better than to assume that we're done getting barfed on here at Willow Springs, but it still make for a glamorous ending to a really nasty day. It's going to get REALLY cold tonight.

(Click here for a wide panorama view of the view east at sunset).

I'm nearly all the way through my book.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Out There

Saturday morning the racer boys started pouring in to Willow Springs Ranch to ride the course. I can ride the course during the week when it's deserted, and in fact did ride it for much of Friday. So I decided to take a long adventure. I rolled out of camp on my singlespeed at around 10:45 and headed north on the Willow Springs Road out into the empty desert.

After I left the venue I saw nobody at all for over an hour. When I did see someone it was a cowboy in a pickup truck. I rode about 12 miles to the intersection with the Freeman Road, and east/west dirt thoroughfare that can take you deeper into the desert. I went east to find the place where the Arizona Trail intersects Freeman.

Last year I did this then road the AZ Trail south for hours, all the way to Oracle, then back to camp via highway 77 and the Willow Springs Road. That was something like an 11-hour ride. Today Phil and June urged me to ride the trail north. So that's what I did, and it was a treat!

At first I followed some renegade dirt bike tracks. It was either two-strokes or they were making a point; lots of roto-tilled trail. Not all bad though I guess, since that trail does not see much traffic, and parts of it have grass growing in the tread. Then there was a brief doubletrack section, and from there it just got better and better. I went out and back about 9 miles. About 6 miles from Freeman it got really good; nice rhythmic singlespeed trail.

When my GPS odometer read 25 miles I turned around. I had meant to have a more leisurely ride, a nice aerobic spin. But then the adventure of never seen trail took over. By the time I got back to Freeman I was feeling worked. And I had 15 miles at least of return trip.

I got back to camp with about 5.5 hours of saddle time. The hamburgers tasted REALLY good.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Old Pueblo Race Course Day, Evening Slide Show

Friday I had the pleasure of riding a lap of the OP course with friends, one of whom is a German man named Walter who is 69 years old, has toured on his bike all over the western US, and is signed up to solo the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo.

We rode a sociable lap together, then I grabbed my GPS and carefully rode an official lap so that I could get the new course's distance and map it. There are two sections of singletrack which will be joined to bypass a bit of service road that has traditionally been part of the course.

By my measurements, the course change will add about a mile and a quarter. But more importantly, one of the sections of trail "His" (the other section is called "Hers") is very twisty. I have found myself skidding and blowing out of a few distinct hairpin turns almost every time I've ridden it. And not because I was going terribly fast--these turns are super tight, and they appear suddenly. I need to ride that bit pretty often in the next two weeks to get dialed to how quickly it can be ridden without loss of control. It's much more strenuous to blow out of a turn than it is to corner smoothly through it.

After my 35 or so miles of singletrack riding Friday, I was invited to join a little dinner party with a slide show after. I brought half a dozen bratwursts from my stash, but the dinner went way beyond that. Grilled chicken breasts, salad, tasty corn relish, scalloped potatoes, and then some of the best chocolate cake I've ever had smothered in vanilla ice cream.

Six of us packed into a little box trailer and Walter showed us about a hundred of his photos from bike travels around the west on June and Phil's TV. It was a really fun; lots of laughing.

I flopped at 10 o'clock, amazingly late for desert camping in winter. I usually don't see 9 o'clock. The large dinner and full day laid me out, and I slept until after 8 am. I woke to a beautiful calm morning, the second one in a row.

Friday, February 1, 2008

I scream you scream we all scream for ass cream

I left Salida with a very comprehensive set of stuff. Bikes, tools, lights, warm weather clothing, cold weather clothing, food, etc. But I did not bring a single bike water bottle, nor did I bring a single gel flask. I needed to go to a bike shop, but I didn't want to do any more driving after running winter's gauntlet getting out of Colorado and through raw New Mexico.

So today I jumped on my Lenz and rode 22 miles to Oro Valley Cycles just south of Catalina, AZ. It took me about 90 minutes to get there, and I dropped about 1200 feet of elevation. Sure, most of it was highway shoulder riding, but that's really what I needed. A long-ish day of aerobic riding was just what I needed to loosen up and leave that drive behind me.

When I got back to Willow Springs I rode half the race course for good measure. So it wound up being a nearly 47-mile day, and nearly 4 hours of saddle time. Of course I forgot to bring food on my ride. I had one hammer bar and then just clear water. I bought two clif shots at the bike shop, but for the most part it was a classic long-steady day. No intensity, borderline starvation.

But more important, I forgot to lube up my chamois before I left. Just a little discomfort down there. Ouchies from not having spent much time on a bike for a while. But it's OK, I need to build up my ass callus anyway.

Tomorrow I'll have some fun!