|11:58 am: SO HYPED|
This was it, the final year of the 24 Hours of Great Glen. I remember my dad doing this race the first time it happened, when I was 14, in 1996. There were 22 teams. There was a hurricane. The stopped racing in the middle of the night because the camping area was flooding.
Let's just say that going into every single turn trying to remember when the rocks on the exit were is not the fastest way to ride.
And of course, because I was flustered by my lighting situation, I fell off a bridge (a bridge over nothing, thank god) around mile seven.
And then I rode directly into some poor woman's butt while trying to pass her, knocking her (and me) over. Turns out that standing in the woods saying "I'm sorry I ride like an asshole" is ALSO not the fastest way to ride.
So yeah my first time out at night was not the fastest night lap.
Luckily I was able to borrow a helmet light from Regina Legge as she finished up the 12-hour race, so my SECOND NIGHT LAP was surely going to right the wrong of first night lap, now that I could see and maybe wouldn't ride into people's butts randomly.
And it's true, second night lap was totally mistake free, except for that spot when I laid it down hard on a gravel corner. Lying on the ground in shock at how abruptly you just crashed: also not the fastest way to ride.
By the third night lap there were no dreams of glory, it was 4am and I was fueled purely by ramen and banana chips (you have no idea how many banana chips I ate during this race, those things are amazing). Even without shooting for glory, I still managed to be tired enough to not see a rock on one of the fast downhills. My punishment for this was hitting my foot on it so hard that MY SHOE FLEW OFF from the impact, and I had to stop, put my bike down, and run back up the hill to find it.
Night laps are still the greatest thing, though.
When the sun came up, it was time to finish the job, but just like last year my darkest hours were from 5 to 7am. Maybe there's something about the sun coming up that makes your body realize you just stayed awake BIKE RACING for THE ENTIRE NIGHT. Waiting around, trying to eat, trying not to sleep, trying to stay motivated... there's always that hour when it all seems so difficult. And that hour is never spent on a bike.
As soon as the lap starts, everything is fine. After 18 hours, your body is getting pretty used to the pattern of racing. It's the sitting around that it can't handle.
My final race lap, and final Great Glen lap EVER, I knew it was going to be special. We were still over ten minutes away from getting lapped, and we had just lapped third place. I left the tent just ahead of Kyler Walker from the third-place team and had my first head-to-head racing of the entire event.
I had been putting a minute or two on Kyler most laps, so I wasn't expecting him to catch me and stay with me on the first long climb, especially because I hit it harder than any lap since my first one of the whole race. But he did.
I also didn't expect him to pass me going into the descent, and I definitely didn't expect to ride off the trail and hit a tree trying to stay with him on the descent, so hey we're just over 2 miles in and this lap is already quite special!
Walking back to the trail from the woods is not a fast way to ride so Kyler got a pretty good gap on me there, but it was good in that it helped me refocus on riding my own pace. By the time we reached the bottom of Blueberry Hill at mile 6 I had closed the gap back down to five or ten seconds. I liked my chances.
Then I shifted to my biggest cog under a bunch of torque and.... CRUNCH. The chain went over the top of the cassette and wedged DEEPLY between the cassette and the spokes.
(Did I mention that my rear wheel was basically a potato chip when the sun came up so we put a different wheel on the bike for my last lap? And didn't check the high limit screw because it was 9am during a 24 hour race? Yeah)
I tried to pull the chain out. It didn't work. I got off the bike and tried harder. It didn't work. I decided to run the last 2.5 miles of course pushing my bike... but you can't do that when your back wheel won't turn.
I put my bike on my back and started running.
Thirty seconds later I stopped, because I had realized that running a hilly two miles with a 25-pound bike on my back might actually cost me the forty minute lead we had over third place.
In retrospect, at this point, I had probably burned two minutes. I think one or two riders had passed me, and Kyler was obviously long gone. But in my panicked haze, it felt like I'd already lost ten minutes, and we "only" had a 40 minute cushion.
I realized I could probably get my chain out of the wheel if I broke it, so I took out my chain tool and broke a link. Then I neatly packed up my chain tool and put it away because I'm an idiot. Then I tried to get my chain out and of course it still didn't budge.
I got my chain tool out AGAIN and cut off the other end of the chain, leaving a 12 inch piece of chain stuck under the cassette. The wheel would roll (and savagely whip the chain into my seat stay sometimes, yikes) now. We're in "business!"
So then I ran/scootered/coasted the rest of the course. Did I mention the panic level? I was pretty sure I had given up 30 minutes through my mechanical work alone and now I needed to run as hard as possible just to keep us in second place.
It wasn't until I got lapped by Pure Adrenaline right as we reached the floating bridge (and I had to take the detour because you can't run on the bridge, boo) that I realized I had somehow kept the time loss on that disaster to less than fifteen minutes.
Ross had had an extra fifteen minutes to charge up his adrenaline level, so he RIPPED the next lap, putting almost a minute into Pure Adrenaline's fastest rider (!) and getting us back onto the lead lap, albeit just barely.
Jay a mere ten seconds slower than Ross on the next one, beating Pure Adrenaline AGAIN, and finishing up just a few minutes after noon for us with 34 laps ridden in 24 hours.
|Michele took this rad photo of my Aaron Gwin run on the plunge.|
|Even a 3-man podium gets pretty busy when each "person" is a 4-man team.|
|No one had any fun it was terrible|
So, anyone got a good venue in central Mass for a 24 hour race? I'm thinking some kind of farm or state park with a big field for camping and.... wait. Didn't I just say how much work this would be?