So, if the only time you have to blog in a week is during a 24 hour race, that's kind of funny, in a sick sort of way.
Let's see if I can remember how it all went down. One of the cardinal rules of blogging is not to talk about your job, but we'll have to break that one since it's half the story. You should already know that I'm a software engineer by trade, and that's all you'll need to know.
Last Wednesday found me rushing frantically around trying to finish my current work project in time to be out of the office by 3. I had to be out by 3 to make a 5:20 flight out of Providence. I eventually made this flight by 20 minutes, while learning a few things:
1) Never drive on 93 south from Boston. Never. It looks shorter, but is it NOT.
2) Never fly out of Providence to save $130 bucks, because you will lose most of that savings in gas and parking, especially if you get there with barely enough time to throw it in airport parking.
3) The sign on I-95 that says "TF Green Airport use 295 Exit 4" is the worst sign in the world, because (a) 295 is longer and (b) it's Exit 3, guys.
4) Powergels must be in a clear plastic bag if you want to keep them in your carryon. Fuck you, TSA.
Two flights and two hours of delay later, I was on the ground in Boise at 1 AM local time... or 3 AM EST. We had another 2+ hours in the car back to Sun Valley/Ketchum Idaho, so it was nearly 4 AM by the time I got to sleep. I was back up by 9 because I made the mistake of checking my crackberry and the ole work project was not, in fact, out the door.
It wasn't out the door at 11 AM either, but through the miracle of the internet I told everyone I "really had to run" and "would work more later" so I could join my brother and the rest of our 24 hour team on a ride.
That night I came home, tidied up a few more work issues, had a nice dinner and went to bed early. Ahhh... finally my vacation feels like a vacation!
Friday morning I woke up around 10 AM and made the mistake of opening my computer. I was immediately attacked by IM windows and emails, all with the same question: where the hell are you?
It turns out that the people who deal with vacation requests were on vacation when I submitted my vacation notification and thus I was never officially granted any time off. I told the people from my main project I was leaving, so no problem there, but I kind of forgot about the other one I was on...
See, there was this secondary project that I had only assignment for: "watch how it goes and make sure it's on track." Guess what I didn't do for two days? Watch it. Guess where it went? Very off track.
So I basically wrote code as fast as I could for four hours straight trying to cover my ass Friday morning. Then I had a nice, relaxing, hour long conference call. Then I swapped the bars on my loaner bike, set the bike racks up, packed up again and got in the car for the four-hour drive to Grand Targhee resort. Ahh... now it's a vacation, right?
At this point I knew I was in minor trouble over just up and leaving work so I had to keep checking the crackberry. It was full of good news, like "your app is failing to run in user mode, do you know why?" and "will you be available for support this weekend by phone?" and "we need more work on project #2 for the demo on monday, can you help?"
The answer to the first one was no. The answer to the rest should have been, but it wasn't.
Oh right! There's a race report in all this. I made three posts during the race so maybe I can keep this one on target for once.
Meet the team:
Strengths: Serious runner.
Weaknesses: Fourth time on a mountain bike.
Strengths: Wearing a helmet cam
Weaknesses: Sharing a bike with Steve
Strengths: Faster than me
Weaknesses: I might slash his tires because he's faster than me
Weaknesses: Altitude, sickness, might have to write code mid-race
As soon as the race got started we realized that with everyone turning sub-40 laps, your number comes up disturbingly often. Two hours is just barely enough time to stop feeling ill, shovel some food down, talk some codshit to the next guy and then go wait for your turn again. At Pete's request I built us a high-tech monitoring system that would keep us on schedule:
This had the added bonus of preventing me from working.
After 8 laps we had put the other four man teams in the rear view, but we were still trailing the lead solo and lead duo. Those mothers could ride.
I ended lap two with a gel-squashing crash that put jersey #1 out of commission:
Losing those gels was doubly bad because I went on to near-bonk of both of my night doubles due to lack of quick fuel.
When the sun went down, the lap times came up. In addition to playing "musical bikes," we were also playing musical lights, so Pete and I were swapping his NiteRider back and forth. It had 1:30 to recharge while Steve rode, which was allegedly enough time.
With 20 minutes left on my second lap, it made a soft little pop and was gone, with no warning.
I'd been slowly chasing someone down for the lap and was only 30 yards back. The daring move was to sprint full gas through the dark until I caught them, then ride their lights back to safety.
I whimpered and locked up my brakes.
As I stood there in the dark wondering what to do, my eyes started to adjust to the moonlight and the three backup LEDs on the light. I looked down at the ground -- I could see a slightly lighter-colored strip extending a few feet in front of me -- the trail.
It blew me away how successful I was riding with just the 3 LEDs. My visibility was only about 5 feet, and I had to keep my head low and my eyes locked open, but I had enough of the course memorized by then I could keep things moving pretty safely. The worst part was when I passed a solo climbing and I lost my night vision because of his lights right before a rock garden -- that was pretty much the ugliest line I've ever ridden.
I made it back with a positive split of only six minutes, yelling and gesturing about how awesome I was for riding with just LEDs. It's funny how people never think you're as awesome as you do.
After that it was time for a proper nap. I took a shower, fixed a chain jam on the shared bike by taking of the chainrings (!!), and headed down to the tent in the camping area.
2 sleepless hours later, I really appreciated the "quiet hours" at Great Glen. And I really wanted to kill the duo teams that communicated by shouting at the top of their lungs as they rode past. And the pit crew that cheered for every single rider. Loudly.
I did get to ride the sunrise lap, which was nice, but being the first lap of a double it was hard to enjoy. I made sure to get one more crash in during the night by trying to "rail a turn" while "riding through a giant pile of sand that looked like packed dirt in the flat light." That's my story and I'm sticking to it, and yes, the dust tasted great.
After that double I was pretty wasted, and running up a hefty calorie deficit. I was only the verge of cracking but a quick math/time check showed that I had only one lap left to ride. I grimly forced down some lasagna and yogurt and waited to see what kind of lap times we could turn in the morning.
See, John had been smoking my laps the first day, but I had a couple things in my favor on day two -- I'd had another 24 hours to get healthier, another 24 hours to acclimatize, and most importantly, he didn't know we were racing. And he had to ride twice more.
His first morning lap was a 38. I could barely shift the loaner hardtail, my wrists were so pummeled, so I took Steve/Pete's dualie for the last lap and gave it all I had, taking it as far as adjusting the seat height while riding (thanks, quick release!) to save time.
The bike rode like a dream, a brand new Fox RLC is miles ahead of an old-ass SID on washboard. My wrists barely even hurt as I descended everything 20% faster than any other lap. I gave it everything I had on the uphills, failing, alternately mashing and spinning as I tried to find a rhythm with my only slightly-refueled legs.
I crossed the line in 38 minutes and nearly threw up. John went back out and rode another 40. If only the timers had cared to post lap times down to the second, we would know if he avenged the Flying Moose.
We ended the race in second place -- the duo team was just too strong, they settled into doing morning laps at 39 minutes and we lost even more ground. They were just better. It happens.
After the race ended the challenge continued -- repack the car and drive 4.5 hours across the desert on virtually no sleep. It sounds hard, but it's not, thanks to 90+ degree temperatures and no AC. Extreme discomfort is even more effective than caffeine... plus I drank a coffee to be safe.
Back in Sun Valley at 6pm, I had 8 hours of programming to do for work by noon Monday. So I stretched it out to 38 hours without sleep and did half of it. Then I passed out. Then I did more work... as fast as I could... and then got in the car to drive to Boise.
Landed in Providence at midnight... without my luggage... to finish the busiest vacation evar.