Tuesday, September 9, 2008

24 Hours in the Sage

For the folks who have been reading this blog for the past few years, sorry to have left it to go stale lately. It's been a busy summer, and I have been doing some different things. Starting in about January of 2007, riding mountain bikes was pretty much what I did. Long solo rides, events. More long rides.

I now have somebody very special in my life, and I have been spending less time riding, and more importantly and very happily, less time alone.

After the Cream Puff, I decided to move away a bit from training for events and making those events the punctuation marks of my life. I felt the need to do at least one more solo 24, and I love the Sage race, so I signed up for that one.

I decided to ride it on the singlespeed, for the experience, and because I remembered the blurring speed that I achieved last year on my geared full-suspension Lenz Leviathan. I'm in injury avoidance, since I'm still sporting some of the effects of some key crashes between March of 2007 and May of 2008. I'm getting too old to keep on busting myself up. It's fun to ride fast, but also fun to be able to keep riding in general, and avoiding the arthritis and other pain as I head into older age.

I raced at Gallup in April on the single, and it was good. Didn't totally kill me, and especially wasn't hard on the knees and legs, as conventional wisdom might have you expect.

So off I went. My goal for this ride was to have the experience, and nothing more. Last year I rode my first three laps fast and then kept up as brisk as possible a pace. This year I just rode.

The singlespeed was much harder work, or so it felt at least on this ride. All went well, it just took more energy. I rode almost everything the first two laps, then started pushing some of the steeper bits. By my fifth lap, there were several key hills that I just jumped off and walked without even any attempt to ride. But it was going OK. I just seemed to keep getting hungry, more often than usual during this part of a long race.

I stopped for quite a while when it was time to mount the lights. I was tired, and I did not feel particularly driven to get back out there. But I did, and the sun went down. Soon a huge full moon appeared from behind thunderheads on the horizon.

I rode a couple good night laps, and felt pretty good energy. The night almost always energizes me. I started my eighth lap feeling the same. Good. It was about midnight as I headed out from the start/finish.

About two-thirds through the course, the Sea of Sage downhill came along. I rocked it as fast as a singlespeed can. It was great. I felt alive and exhilerated. I noticed that the air had become really chilly, and thought about putting on more clothing when I returned to the start.

At the end of the downhill, I started the climb up Rocky Ridge. I had been able to pedal it on every previous lap. I stood up and started grinding through the steepish first part. Out of nowhere, my body sent a big Ugh up my spine and into my brain. I stepped off the bike and started pushing it. With every step I felt worse. Hungry. Very cold.

I saw a big rounded rock off to the left of the course. I laid the bike down and staggered over to it. I sat down and grabbed an extra layer from my pack. I started eating a hammer bar. It tasted like sugared sawdust. I sat on that rock and looked at the clear, beautiful sky. And I thought to myself, what the hell am I doing out here? I was pushing my body hard, but I didn't really have a goal. The world was so beautiful, why was I making it so hard? Do I need to race to enjoy riding my bike? Do I have to enter 24 hour races to go ride at night?

Cold. I pushed my bike for a while. People asked me if I was OK. I thanked them and said yeah, just got the staggers for a while. Eventually I rode on and off. I wanted to get back. I wanted to go to my camper and get warm. And get really warm clothing. And maybe eat something that tasted good.

Descending through "the gap" and back down the road to the start/finish I got even colder. I felt like I was turning blue. When I got there I checked in the lap and then went to my camper. I crawled into the sack. Once I was in there I knew I wasn't going to get out. I was pretty sure I wouldn't even go back out after the sun came up and it got warmer.

In the morning I put on street clothes and we went over to the start/finish. I was done. I did 8 laps. Fine. It wasn't that I had missed making my goal. I had not started out with a goal for how many laps I would do, my goal had been to have the experience. And that goal was met.

I ran into people that I know who I rarely spend more than a few minutes talking to when I go to solo these things. I got to hang out. I had some of the pancakes that they were handing out--pancakes that I would not have had if I was still out there doing circles on the course. I took pictures of friends who were coming in from their laps. It was fun.

Here's a picture I got of my good friend Anton:

Townie 24 Hour World Champion Anton van Leuken rolling to the finish

Not sure where this is going for me. Right now I'm not planning to do any races. Not planning to not do them, but I'm happy for now just riding and doing my thing.

We'll see where this blog goes. I'm guessing it will be different. Hope that's OK with y'all. Just my life going somewhere a little different for a while.

I may post some back-dated stories about fun things I did. Some did not involve bikes. Most did involve some beautiful rocky mountain scenery. Hope everyone had as good a summer as I did.

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