Monday, August 27, 2007

The Kingdom

You know what I love about mountain biking? It's so much fun, you train by accident.

Like this weekend, I was up at Kingdom Trails drinking beers and riding 10 hours in 2 days. I thought I was just hanging out with friends and railing some sweet flow, as the kids say, but it turns out I was actually training for the Vermont 50. Sweeeeeeet.

Getting some stealth training while everyone else sits on a bench

Any good mountain biking trip has its share of shenanigans. For us, these happen on Saturday night. After 5 hours of sweating out pounds of liquid in 85 degree, 85% humidity, the weather broke with a line of thunderstorms for the ages. For 45 minutes East Burke was battered by driving rain and lightning bolt after lightning bolt that measured less than a mile away. We observed all this from the safety of a restaurant window, and just as our food came out the power went out. Score!

But then Bryan casually mentioned that he might've only staked one corner of his tent. We assumed that the campsite was basically a tornado on top of a river at that point, so his tent was probably being shredded in the trees a few miles away by now.

So we headed back to survey the damage. We arrive at the campsite and, lo and behold, Bryan's tent has weathered the storm. It is upside down but its lone stake is still clinging to the soil. Much mocking of Bryan ensued, until we actually examined the tent -- the floor of that thing was so waterproof that a three-inch deep puddle had collected in the overturned floor. We flipped the tent back over and guess what -- all the stuff inside was still basically dry!
Andrew is a big fan of that stake

Meanwhile Ralph was suffering some karmic retribution for ragging on Bryan for 30 minutes straight. It turned out that he'd neglected to fasten about half the rain fly on his tent and it had blown back during the storm, exposing a skylight...and his and his girlfriend's sleeping bags were now 10-pound balls of soaked down.
Ralph receiving some heckling for his tent's performance

Who's got two thumbs and set up the only tent that performed flawlessly? This guy.

We ended up in a hotel that night. Such a "city folk" moment. But it takes a hell of a lot more than wet tents to make a trip to the Kingdom not worth it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Carrabassett Challenge Debacle Report

This weekend I was faced with a difficult choice -- Hampshire 100k, Holiday Farm marathon, or something else.

Well, the Hampshire 100k was $100 and only 5% singletrack, whereas Holiday Farm was $50 and 95% singletrack. Ok, so that makes that decision easy. But do I really want to race for six hours? Uh, maybe.

I decided I didn't, so I ended up heading north to stay with Linnea and her family and go race a little event up at Sugarloaf called the Carabassett Cycle Challenge. Apparently it was the only mountain bike race in New England that was less than 6 hours this weekend. Anyway, after nearly a month on the sidelines I wanted to get back to it.

The big problem was that my bike is still broken. How is this possible, you ask? Well, an exciting combination of incompetence from all parties. So first I broke it, and I called the nearest Jamis dealer (Cambridge bikes) to order a new one the next day. So 9 days later I figure it's time for my part to show up, so I call the guys over a Cambridge Bikes. Where's mah part?

The guy on the phone looks through the list of stuff and finds my name. "Colin Reuter...2001 Jamis....Dakar...Pro....2?? Er... you didn't want two frames... right?"

Surprisingly enough, no. I wanted two derailleur hangers. Luckily for me the clown I had talked too couldn't be bothered to write down the item I needed nor order it for me, so pretty much nothing had happened for nine days. But it's ok, the dude on the phone is gonna take care of things.

Well, I did get a derailleur hanger 3 days later. Unfortunately it was definitely not for a 2001 Jamis. So someone at Cambridge Bikes and/or Jamis has no idea what they are doing. It's entirely possible this could be Jamis' fault, but the track record of Cambridge Bikes is not so good at this point. In fact, I'd say they've pretty much reached the "boycott" level of satisfaction with me. Your mileage may vary.

And then I ripped my knee open and was on crutches and basically forgot about this for a week. So I'm just as much at fault. Anyway, my bike was still inoperable, but lucky for me Linnea's dad has a hardtail I can ride. Sweet!

This bike had actually been tuned up pretty recently and rode pretty well, at least for something that came from a dumpster and probably wasn't worth more than $600 new. I figured it would be a good test of my "equipment doesn't mean jack" theory of racing, so next thing I know I'm lined up with a whopping 14-person expert field at 10am.

I forgot how hilly races at ski areas are. This course was 7.5 miles long and featured a nice 2.5 mile middle ring climb. Yup, 15 minutes of grinding it out and wondering when it would end. I knew the area well enough to be not too surprised by this and was actually feeling pretty good by the top. I was ahead of 5 or 6 people by then so I guess that put me... 7th or 8th.

As soon as you hit the top you descend some really hard singletrack, big rocks, drops and lots of erosion. The hardtail was feeling okay, although really soft in the front end, when I came around a corner, jammed my front wheel on a rock and did a nice side-endo. Next thing I know I'm on the ground and I landed on my knee that had stiches taken out less than 24 hours prior. Marvelous.

I get back on the bike and something is WRONG. Every time the front end hits anything it makes a terrific racket, and the brakes are rubbing pretty hard too. I ride out the rest of the singletrack with my bike going clunk every second and get off to inspect the damage. Weird, it almost seems like the hub is "broken." Can a hub even break? There's a ton of slop in the front wheel, I can grab it and shake it side to side. And the front brakes, what the heck, they're rubbing and look totally loose... like the centering tension is just... gone.

So I don't really feel like racing anymore, but whatever. I get out the tools and loosen up the brakes a bit so they don't rub a much, and I up the centering tension a bunch. It doesn't fix things as much as I'd hoped but it seems a little better. It still makes a sound like I have the quick release open every time I hit a bump, and during this pit stop I've moved into last place.

What is actually wrong with my bike is left as an exercise to the reader! Can you figure out the culprit from the symptoms? I sure as hell couldn't so I started riding again. It will be revealed later on.

Unfortunately, the 2.5 miles of climbing left me with a lot of super-rough singletrack descending, and a front end that sounded like it was going to break in half at any moment. The fork was too soft so I was bottoming it a lot, and I couldn't shake the feeling that one of these big hits was going to end with the front end collapsing and me breaking my collarbone. These are not the kind of thoughts that make you go downhill fast.

I thought about dropping out after one lap, but what the heck, my legs still feel ok and I'll probably get a prize if I just finish. So I rolled through the finish still in last place and kept going. I could see a guy in front of me, which gave me a bit of a reason to ride.

I caught him on the long climb and passed him by the top. I kept an eye out for someone else to chase but the field was really strung out by now, so I was just riding alone in the woods. But I was still feeling pretty good, save for my back which was finding the dead-forked hardtail to be much harder to pilot downhill than a dualie. My bike was still clanging metal on metal for every bump but I was used to it by now.

Apparently my new bike-kryptonite powers were not done, because near the end of the second lap I flatted my front tire on one of the few smooth sections. The whole thing was out of air in probably five seconds. I pulled over, sat down, and tried to decide if I actually wanted to fix this thing. I figured it would be good practice even if I was pretty much done racing, so I busted out the levers and started work. During this time I got passed back to retake last place.

I was diligently stuffing the new tube in when I glanced over at my fork, now free of the wheel. This is what I saw:

Sooooo yeah, that's probably not good, huh? Even though I'd ridden an entire lap with it like that, I really couldn't convince myself to ride a third lap in last place with a broken fork. So I walked it in and took a seat.

I decided I found a flaw with the Manitou fork design -- because the fork crown is behind the legs, it's almost impossible to notice if it breaks, whereas if the crown on my Reba broke (which it won't, because it's not crap) I'd see it every time I looked down.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What the Roadie?

So I was out riding tonight around dusk, because that's when it's safest. And I see this dude gingerly walking across a gravel parking lot to his car. He's walking a little funny because he's carrying a road bike and wearing road shoes.

This perplexed me. Are his tires and tubes made of paper mache? Or does he only think they are? Or am I actually an idiot for not knowing that modern road tires are punctured by the simple of act of riding on gravel?

I've logged several hundred gravel road miles on road tires in my life so I'm hoping it's not the latter.

Anyway, this kind of foo-foo bike coddling forced me to take action. So I veered off into road into the dirt shoulder, and yet somehow did not dual-flat my ride. So then turned around and rode up the curb, smacking the back wheel against the it, and yet my bike persisted in functioning. I tried bunny-hopping onto a glass bottle but that didn't flat it either. So I was like, maybe this thing isn't flatting because it's a cross bike. Yeah, that's probably it, because cross bikes are awesome and road bikes are so lame you can't even roll one across a parking lot without having the frame shatter into infinity pieces. So I threw it in the lake. Just to show that roadie how hardcore my bike was. The funny thing was that the water parted and it fell all the way to bottom, but it landed on its wheels and just rolled up the other side. Then it jumped some barriers (I don't even know why they were there) and put out 5000 watts for like 10 hours, upgraded to cat 1, and busted Lance for doping. It was pretty cool but the walk home sucked.

Monday, August 13, 2007

24 Hour of Great Glen Pit Crew Report

Random: Jess Ingram (I think) being chased by a shark during the Le Mans start

I had to pull the plug on Great Glen. Linnea's brother Nils is a sick athlete and wanted to take my place, so there was just no good reason to try to ride 12 hours with seven fresh stitches in my knee. I was relegated to pit crew. As I rode and ran around during the race my knee throbbed a lot, so I think it would have been a bad one had I tried to race.

Anyway, here's a collection of memorable things from the weekend.

1) This year there were two "Pro" teams throwing down intense laps the entire race. For the last 12 hours of the race they were about 10 minutes apart. They beat the next team by 3 laps. One of these teams featured Thom P rocking the singlespeed to some 40-minute laps. I was pulling for them, not so much because I "know" Thom through the internets as much as because their team name was about 100x cooler than their opponents. "Go Ugly Early," it sounds both hardcore and comical. I'm still not sure what it means, I think it's about dropping the hammer from the opening gun, but it could also be about Thom's strategy picking up women at bars. Who knows. Anyway, these guys rode insanely fast the whole time, it was fun keeping tabs on their head-to-head race.

2) Justin and Ben dominated first the double-single category and then the rest of the pairs field. We shared a campsite with them so I was intimately familiar with their progress. After four laps they were leading their category by only seven minutes, but they barely slowed down and stayed rock solid for a whole 24 hours. They eventually beat their closest opponents by seven laps and finished second out of all pairs teams, 21st overall! The leading pair team was only a lap ahead of them and had at least one "pro" on it, so they were really that fastest normal humans.

3) Melanie Brown proved once again that she's pretty much the terminator when it comes to a 24 hour race. I don't really know much about her except that she should really think about competing in 24 hour events at the national level. This year there were only 3 women riding solo. She rode 23 laps. Second place rode 7.

Since she had no women to race, she ate up and spat out the men's field instead. After one lap she was way back, not even in the top ten. When the sun went down she was up to maybe 5th or 6th, and one by one the men in front of her cracked and slowed down. Meanwhile, she kept banging out 60-70 minute laps all freakin night and when the sun came up she was 2nd overall.
Nils with the thumbs up before he's even taken a pedal stroke

4) Linnea and Nils fought for the entire race to get to 24 laps and a huge victory in the mixed pairs category, winning by 10 laps. They ended up as the 5th place pairs team. I ran my ass off all day and night supporting them, and ended up sleeping less than either one due to all the force feeding, waking racers up, setting up lights, etc that I did while it was dark. They actually wasted an hour due to mechanicals, lighting mishaps and a missed exchange in the morning, so they could've been even better. 11 laps for Linnea meant that she rode the 2nd most laps of any woman there, behind the bionic Melanie Brown. I am super proud of her for hanging in there to ride respectable laps all morning even with no competition, plus she gave me a lot of practice in trying to get deliriously tired people to do simple things like get the hell up and get dressed or you're going to miss your lap.

Ok, you have to be there in 10 minutes, eat this sandwich

Yes I filled your camelback. Here's your jacket. Eat the sandwich. You have five minutes

We have to go over there, he could be done by now. Stop staring blankly into space and eat the sandwich

Here he is. Ok, I'll meet you at mile 2 with some gels. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD EAT THAT SANDWICH
Linnea finishing lap 24, hence the smile

But seriously, it was fun to help. I know how hard it is to function when you're that tired, I can't even think straight after a two hour race.
Cleaning the campsite was low priority for me and zero priority for the racers...

5) Alex had a typical Alex-type experience with a blown lap (no timing chip) and a crash that broke her helmet and light. I'm sure she'll talk about it so I'll let her have at it.

6) When the sun went down and the dew came out, no one could ride the steep singletrack descent at the end of the lap. I went up and hid in the woods in the dark and watched, seriously, one out of every six riders eat it. Wet roots + scared riders stiffening up in the dark = crashtastic. I tried so hard to get my video camera to work but it was pitch dark. No one got really hurt so it's ok to laugh about it.

I have some video I might edit up later, I video'ed the entire field descending "the plunge" on the first lap and of course no one crashed. Maybe I can find some good stuff anyway.

7) C Todd packed it in in the morning because his IT band was rebelling against his body. This kept him off the course at noon so he didn't get an official finish, which is kind of a BS rule. In any case he did 12 laps and was as high as 5th out of 15 in his category at one point. Since I rode zero laps he wins the challenge, although I feel compelled to note that my replacement rode 13 laps and thus I would've had a real chance at the win.

But I did get to meet him and he gave me a wicked nice beer, which was cool, even though it doesn't really make any sense. Maybe he was delirious too.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

This is why we can't have nice things, part II

Night ride last night in the Fells. One last shakedown before Great Glen. I'm riding down this rock face, with a turn in it, not really paying too much attention since it's pretty rideable during the day.

But, I kind of get stuck, so I decide I need to dismount. Unfortunately I'm running handlebar lights so I can't see anything to the right side of my bike. Ordinarily I would jump the bar, but I can't see the landing, so I kind of just lay down.

On the way down I bash my knee on a rock. It hurts. A lot. I start swearing, loudly. Alex asks me if I'm ok. I say I'm ok, I'm ok, I've definitely felt pain like this before. I think it's subsiding.

Then I look at my knee.

Did you know that your kneecap is white, far whiter than your skin? Yep. Kind of remarkable, although I wish I could get that image out of my head.

I would have been in much bigger trouble if Alex wasn't there. I call Justin, mainly because involving other people seems like the right thing to do. He's going to meet me at South Border Rd, a little over a mile away. Alex walks with me, taking one bike -- it's not like she can really help since I am hobbling, bend over with both hands holding my knee together.

After the least fun 25 minutes of my life, I make it to the road and into Justin's car. And off to the ER I go.

I won't get into the details of what happened at the ER, but I almost bit through my finger trying to distract myself from the pain when they actually started fixing me.

Anyway, I'm not dying of blood loss in the woods, so I'm trying to be happy, but all I can think about is how I'm not going to get to race Great Glen after getting pumped about this race for 2 months!!

The doctor said that if I could deal with the pain the 3 days I could ride. As I sit here, I have trouble believing that will actually happen, but you never know. If Vino can do it, so can I, right?

Pass the extra blood cells, please.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

City Drafting

This post by "Gwadzilla" reminded me of something that I let slip through the cracks during my previous bike commuting post -- people who draft in the city!

Alright, so let's think about this for a second. We've already established that riding around the city is dangerous. You need all the help you can get to control the risks you will inevitably encounter, so the last thing you should be doing is adding a new risk -- like, say, another object directly in front of you, that could stop or turn without warning you.

And yet, so many riders do this. Some of them are roadies who think that the proper location to ride is 4 inches off someone's wheel regardless of conditions -- after all, no one panic-stops on a group ride in the country, right? Some of them are overly competitive commuters, who think that sitting right on your ass in the draft is proving something about their biking abilities, and some of them are lazy commuters that want a free ride.

So, one question for everyone who thinks this is a good idea -- what is going to happen when something unexpected happens?

If you think the answer is anything other than "rear-ending the guy in front of you," then you must have better reflexes than me. Or anyone else on the planet.

This is the same reason you don't tailgate people on the highway. When you're driving down the highway with a car 10 feet off your rear bumper, you're annoyed as hell. "Why is that clown right behind me? He's driving like an idiot!" So why would this be acceptable on a bike? The risks are the same, except I have car insurance.

So don't ride right on people's wheel in the city. If you don't know them, it's an especially rude move. It's like standing with your shoulder touching someone in an otherwise empty elevator, it's an intrusion on their personal space. Plus, it's the only way to make an already dangerous activity more dangerous. "There's not enough stuff to worry about in the city, let's add a moving wall directly in front of me!"

It goes without saying that half-wheeling someone, especially on the right, is just as dumb. Dumber, if you don't know them, since they might just turn right without warning you. Or swerve right, or left, or whatever. You're not a bunch of TIE fighters magically staying in formation as you make an assault on the rebel forces. Don't try to be.

So where is it ok to ride? I'd say 3+ feet back. At this point you still get some draft, if you're really just doing it to be lazy, and you have enough cushion you have a chance of reacting. If you ride 3 feet behind me for two miles on an empty road, ok, that's a little weird, but I can deal with it.

What should you do if there's a random wheel sucker behind you on your commute? This is a difficult question. You can try just putting the hammer down to get rid of them, but this is risky. If they're sitting on you because they think it's a game, then you're only piquing their interest. Even if you drop them, they'll be right back on if you get stuck at a light. If they're on a decent bike (aka not a mountain bike with knobbies) they have a pretty good chance of staying with you unless you make a sudden jump in speed, and what the hell man, you just want to ride to work. I didn't come out here to race.

Personally, I just turn. There are enough alternate routes on my commute I can always go right in the next 60 seconds or so. The other choice is to sit up and not care, which is fine if you're out in the country, but what happens if you slow down and they stay right behind you? I dunno man, I think at that point you have to say something like "Can you not ride directly behind me? It's really creepy" to them. I think "creepy" is better than "dangerous" since it makes them sounds like a serial killer, instead of making you sound like a wuss.

"Oh yeah, I usually ride around with 20 tons of 18-wheeler drafting me, with spikes on the front...driven by a trucker on crack... but you, man, you're just creepy."

Monday, August 6, 2007

Stoked for 24 hours

So I finally had a weekend without racing or riding, which is why I have nothing to blog about. I was actually in Vegas, for the curious, paying several hundred dollars a day to inhale secondhand smoke.

But I'm still totally pumped, even if I haven't been on the bike in 5 days, because it's almost time for the 24 hours of Great Glen. That's right, this weekend from noon Saturday to noon Sunday it's going to be a non-stop adventure in the pain cave. This was my first race last year after moving from Florida so it also serves as my 1-year anniversary of coming back to bike racing.

I've done this race twice before so I've got some solid experience racing all day and all night. In 2004 I was on a 2-man team with my dad called "Somewhere Over the Handlebars" that clocked 23 laps on the way to 4th out of 12 in the men's pairs class. In 2006 I was on a 4-person men's beginner team called "Dirt Waffles" that rode 21 laps (of a longer course than 2004) and finished 3rd out of 7 in our category. It was only my 8th time on a bike in 14 months and we had two girls on our team, which is why we rode beginner.

The Great Glen course is really unique. It's about 8 miles per lap and probably 5 miles of that are on the smoothest dirt road you'll ever see. If it was a regular MTB race you'd call it the lamest course ever, for good reason, but you'll find a lot fewer people complaining about it when they're riding lap after lap throughout the night. The other 3 miles are some legitimately technical singletrack, so it's not like you can just rock the cross bike, although I wouldn't be surprised if some idiot tries it. The crowd gathers around a steep downhill near the end of the lap called "The Plunge," which like the rest of the course seems easy when you're fresh and impossible in the dark. Last year I went 4-for-6 on it, crashing at a good clip by hooking a tree by the bars on lap 1 (that will put you down fast) and eating it on some roots in the dark on lap 3. At night, you can see lights slowly bobbing in the woods as rider after rider decides discretion is the better part of valor and walks down.

This year Linnea and I are on a mixed pair team. I've already been talking smack about the race, telling CTodd I might ride more laps on a pair than he could solo, and claiming that our two-person team was going to beat Alex's four-woman team. Basically the only person I know in the race I've avoided challenging is Justin's two-man singlespeed team, because singlespeeders are crazy. Linnea raced this last year on a 4-person team so she probably thinks this will be twice as hard -- having done it before, I'd say it's more like 4 times harder. You have to ride 2 times as often but also only get to rest 2/3rds as much as you did before.

Alright, before this becomes any more of a stream of consciousness, let's try to pull it together with a top ten list.

Top Ten Reasons you should ride 24 hours

10. Racer Camaraderie. This is the last place you're going to find hyper-aggressive racers. When time gaps are measured in hours, people get a lot more relaxed. When you're riding in the dark, everyone with a light is your friend.
9. Bragging Rights. Telling people you're "going to do a 24 hour race this weekend" is about 100 times more impressive sounding than "a bike race." Sure you might only be riding 6 hours (or 12, or 24) but they don't know that.
8. Night Riding. If you've never ridden a mountain bike at night, you don't know what you're missing. If you're a weak technical rider, this is probably going to go badly. Last year one of my teammates slowed over 50% on her first night lap and refused to ride any more. Good times.
7. Le Mans Start. Yeah, the race starts with a 3-4 minute run around the pond. Jogging in bike shoes with a helmet and camelback bouncing all over the place is part of the experience.
6. 130 riders on course. This equates to at least one rider per 30 seconds spread out over the course. Some of the smaller 24 hour races get really lonely, but this isn't one of them. There's always someone out there to chase or be chased by.
5. Solo Riders. On top of 90 teams there were 40 solo riders last year. I don't know what's wrong with these guys but they make everyone else feel a lot better, as they walk their bikes through the night with that glassy-eyed stare. Don't worry buddy, only 12 more hours to go!
4. Builds character. It's 4 AM. You've been asleep for 2 hours and it's 35 degrees out (seriously, this was the overnight low last year). Must be time to get up, get dressed, and go ride some laps.
3. So many lap times. You ride with a chip, so every lap is clocked with precision. Afterward you get to look back and see how your performance degraded with time, and you can compare against other teams (try putting 186,101 into that form). It's no surprise that the owner of likes this a LOT.
2. Slow Teams. It never ceases to amaze me how many teams seem completely unprepared for this. Plenty of DNF's and teams that just quit riding at like 10pm and wait for morning. Solo riders doing 4 laps (wtf?!), pairs riding 8 laps, people turning in 2 hour night laps. It's not like a Root 66 field, there's plenty of people here to just chill out and ride bikes. Why would four guys ever pay $500 to hang out at a campsite and ride their bikes slowly...?
...Because of 1. The Memories! If you can do this race without acquiring at least one "war story" then you probably just can't tell stories.

Colin's Favorite Great Glen Story: "The time I rode 4 night laps"

In 2004 my dad and I were on a pairs team. The old man doesn't like to ride short efforts any more so we decided on a plan that would let him ride the majority of his laps in three blocks. So I started with 2 laps, then he rode 3 laps, then I rode 3 laps, then he rode 4 laps, then I rode 4 laps, then he rode 3 laps. This got us through 19 laps and into the morning light with him only getting on the bike three times -- the catch was that he rode almost 3 hours each time, and maxed out at 4.5 hours.

Of course, since I'm the other half of the team, that meant I was out doing the same thing. I started my four lap block at thirty minutes after midnight, expecting to ride until 5 AM. I was scheduled for a light change after 2 laps since I didn't have battery for 4 hours. I had 3 gels and a full camelback.

While this task seemed daunting, it actually went down surprisingly well. It was a beautiful, cool night, and I'd already ridden five laps so the spring was well sapped from my legs. I just took it steady and focused on finishing each lap, so I could eat my next gel. Every once in a while the woods around me would fill with light, much brighter than my meager lights, and then one of the expert teams would blast past at twice my speed. I could barely take advantage of the heightened visibility before that rider would be disappearing off ahead of me in the trees, sending me back to my little tunnel of light.

On the second lap I had my first excitement when my bar light came loose decending some rough singletrack. One second I'm blasting down the trail trying to pick a line from the shadows, and then next thing I know there's 15 watts of light on my handlebar pointed straight into my eyes. I was completely blind, the only thing I could do was lock 'em up and pray that my memory of the line was good enough to keep me out of the trees until I stopped. I did keep the bike upright, and after taking care to tighten things down enough to prevent a repeat occurrence I was back on track.

The course had started out muddy, although thousands of laps being put on it were definitely drying things out. Where there had been unrideable mud bogs at noon there were now packed down lines through the bogs, but all that mud had to go somewhere -- specifically, into everyone's drivetrain. This was back in my grip shift days, and I noticed that upshifting my rear derailleur was getting harder and harder as the laps went past. I was developing a nice blister on my thumb from twisting the grip with all my might to get back up the cassette for the hills. Then, finally, the inevitable happened on the third lap -- I was wailing on my shifter when suddenly there was a pop and the resistance was gone. I easily twisted up to my easiest gear, while at the same time there was a "ching, ching, ching" sound as my gears shifted instantly in back. Unfortunately, the change was going the wrong direction -- I had broken the cable and was now in the smallest cog I had. I had to finish the lap riding the worst-geared singlespeed ever, and then headed back to the campsite after 3 laps to pick up the spare bike, a hardtail Raleigh.

I tried to quietly get the bike off the car and switch my pedals, but of course my dad wakes up, and when he realizes I'm outside the tent he starts panicking, thinking that he has to go ride a lap right now. After a 15 minute break I get everything fixed up, but in the rush I forget to change the number over to the new bike. Meanwhile my dad is in no danger of falling back asleep (amazing how hard it is to sleep during this event) and gets to lie in the dark for another half hour before getting up to race again.

I rode the fourth lap on hardtail with a noticeably longer reach than I was used to, so my back was pretty much destroyed by the end of it. I was also pretty surprised at how much rougher certain sections were -- apparently dragging around that dualie was actually worth something. With one mile left, I could see a little glimmer of sunlight in the sky and heard the bagpipes across the field -- it was 5 AM. I'd been on the bike for 4.5 hours, but it felt like thirty minutes. I could've kept going.

Before my saga was over I had to figure out if I was going to get penalized for riding a lap without a number, something that they had definitely suggested was possible. I stopped a hundred feet before the finish tent and started to dismount to climb the fence and run back to camp for the number, but then I heard my mom (best support crew EVER) yelling at me from the tent. She had gotten up and used her motherly inclinations to sweet-talk the timing volunteers (mothers themselves, I'm sure) and got everything smoothed over. Then she took my broken bike to neutral support, while I sat down at the tent and ate a little food. After all... there were still 7 more hours to ride.

I didn't feel really tired, but I decided to lie down for a bit anyway. I was lying there, thinking about the race, and then suddenly someone starts shaking my foot. What the heck? I'm trying to fall asleep here!

"Colin, it's time to get up."

Yep, it was 7:15. I had just passed out for two hours. Time to chamois back up and get on the bike again... oh wait, I'm still wearing my chamois.

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