So this was Kevin's first 24 hour race. He went out on his first ever 24-hour lap 2:20 behind the leaders and head-to-head with Thom's team. Thirty-six minutes later, he had dropped Thom's team and could see the leader, so you have to forgive him for being a little excited, with a scant 22 hours and 45 minutes left until the end of the race.
I was there to take the next lap and Kevin comes flying into the tent, totally out of control, throws his bike down (the officials start asking him to pick it up), tries to get the baton out (drops it on the table), grabs his RFID card out of his pocket (I pick up his bike so the officials will stop yelling at us), tries to swipe the card but is in such a hurry it ends up flying across the table, hitting the timer-lady, and falling on the ground. Much to my amazement he didn't dive over the table after it at this point, but actually waited for 3 seconds while the timer he had just beaned with his card picked it up and swiped it for us. I swiped my card and looked at him: "Dude, chill!"
"GETTTTTT HIMMMMMMM" was all Kevin could muster between breaths. Dude was taking his 24 seriously... can't complain about that. So off I went.
Kevin's lap one heroics meant that I was getting onto course with an enraged and extremely fast Jeff Whittingham representing the pro team about 30 seconds behind me, and the overall race lead about 30 seconds ahead. As a result, anything along the lines of "pacing" went completely out the window, I just went flat out from the gun and decided to figure the rest out later. Fortunately the sub-40 laps were basically cross-race intensity, and I've been practicing that lately.
I caught the leader after a few miles, drafted for a few seconds and then attacked going into one of the many carriage-road climbs. No response. I'm leading the 24 hours of Great Glen! I'm leading! Holy crap!
I hit one of the many spots where the course loops back on itself and there's Jeff, 15 seconds down at the most. Holy crap! I'm about to not be leading!
I was still 10 seconds ahead of him at the high point, killing myself in the big ring on the way back down. It was lap three and we were already flying through lapped traffic, I was weaving in and out of solo riders like it was a video game, if I had a dollar for every sketchy pass I made in this race I could cover my entry fee. Hitting the last big singletrack section I was barely holding Jeff off, the gap was small enough you could barely call it a gap.
We both got held up by lapped traffic on the outback section of singletrack. I didn't realize it, but Jeff was actually right on my wheel when I entered the plunge and headed for the alternate line. Unfortunately the main line rejoined it much sooner than I was ready for and I went sliding through another racer. Somehow my bars passed above hers (thanks, off-camber!) and we managed to occupy the same space for a second without anyone going down. Jeff, on my wheel, decided that killing a beginner racer on her second lap was probably not worth it, and ended up bailing instead of t-boning her completely.
The gap re-established, I sprinted out the last two minutes of the lap and tagged Rob with a seven second advantage over the pros.
When I originally asked Rob to do this event, he had just crushed me at Putney and I figured anyone who can crush me is pretty fast (ha!). I forgot that he was a technical specialist on a singlespeed, and Great Glen is one of the most roadie-friendly and gear-friendly courses out there. But, by some awesome coincidence, Rob and Harry (representing the pro team) were both on rigid singlespeeds, so the handicap was mutual.
As was getting to be the norm, they fought a close battle on lap four, and Rob came in leading the race by 14 seconds, putting Curtis back out against Thom.
This is where the race turned for us. After a full rotation of riders we were beating the pros, but that rotation involved a 3-minute run that wouldn't be repeated. Now Curtis had to hold his own against Thom using only his biking skills. The last few years of my mountain biking life have mainly been about not being able to hold my own against Thom, so I wasn't surprised or upset when Curtis came in 40 seconds down.
Kevin was up against Mat Katz on the next leg, and now that Mat had seen the course (he was the only guy not to preride), he picked it up and took 30 more seconds from Kevin. I got tagged over a minute down on Jeff, who was currently leading the "fastest lap" board on the results. So that's a problem.
It's amazing how much your legs can bounce back with two hours of rest, and it's also amazing how consistently faster than me Jeff is. My second lap was only a minute slower than lap one (sub-37 minutes, thankyouverymuch), but Jeff went sub-36 and that was pretty much the last time we had a reasonable chance of seeing the pro team.
Well, except for the fact that they were camped next to us. We saw them a lot when they weren't riding bikes.
Beyond this point, I don't really know what happened. I rode every lap as if it was my last, and I think everyone else did too. Some teams (sane teams) went to double laps at night for sleeping; we did not. I have never been much for sleeping at these things anyway, since lying down can only lead to getting up, and getting up is the worst part. We briefly sketched out a plan that would give each person a 6-lap break while only doing singles (it was complicated...trust me) but once the hurt got going in earnest the team voted to keep the rotation simple and fast.
This is my kind of 24 hour team.
We bled a slow death against the pros: 5 minutes down after 10 laps, 19 minutes after 20 laps, 24 minutes after 30 laps, and we dealt an almost equally slow defeat to the third-place team. There were no heroics and no surprises, just three teams riding every lap as hard as they could, hoping someone else would have a catastrophe.
We finally lapped third place on lap 25, at 4:30 in the morning, and could finally breathe a sigh of relief: at least we had solidified the expert category. At over 20 minutes behind the pro team, we had little left to race for. It would've been a good time to switch to doubles and get some sleep.
No one wanted to do doubles or sleep -- at 27 minutes behind the pros, we were only 12 or so minutes away from being lapped. Getting lapped by our neighbors and their stupid pro licenses was the last thing I wanted, and apparently no one else did either-- the team responded by beating the pros on 3 straight laps and taking five minutes off the deficit.
Such insolence was enough to get Thom and Jeff to wake up and go back to kicking-our-ass mode, as they both pulled sub-38 minute laps the next time out. No one on our team had the legs left for that kind of lap, so the gap went back up, but it was a moral victory -- we were on the same lap, and going fast enough that they couldn't mail it in.
In the end, we weren't winners, but we were worthy competition. The closest thing we had to a "bad lap" was a 2-minute mishap when Rob's lights wouldn't turn on. No one slept, no one took a lap off or easy, and we were still running through the tent for more laps at 11:40 in the morning. Everything I wanted in a team. Thanks guys!!
There's lot of other random notes that didn't fit into the report:
1) The worse the fuel you put in Rob Stine, the faster he goes. I'd like to say "imagine how fast he'd be with a reasonable diet," but I think at this point he's evolved to burn old roast beef sandwiches at 100% efficiency.
2) Jeff Whittingham positively owned me. We were both riding the third leg for our respective teams, and every time I went out and dropped what I considered to be a ridiculous lap time I'd get back to camp and find out he'd just beaten it. My puke-inducing 38:34 at 9am? Yep, he rode a 37:29. Blazing 39:09 night lap? He did a 38:47. The one time I thought I got him (I rode a 40, he rode 42) I realized that he'd done his lap in the dark, and mine was in the light, since they were 25 minutes ahead. Can't really count that one.
3) Thom rode a 39:60 in the morning and trash-talked us about it. I came back with a 38:30 and trashed him right back. He dropped a 37:11 on us. That was the end of the trash talking.
4) After 8 laps, Kevin spent his entire 2 hour break whining about how wasted he was and how he couldn't go fast any more. He had me so convinced he was done that I told him we only needed a 45 out of him to avoid getting lapped, and I was "sure he could do it." We sent him out, praying he'd hold up and keep us on the lead lap -- he was back 38:05, going so fast he overshot the scorer's table.
5) On my final trip through the Outback, while I was climbing through a crowd of solo riders walking their bikes, I passed two seven-year olds spectating. One said to the other, "see, that's one of the really fast guys." Made my freaking day. Next goal: impress someone old enough to not need a babysitter.
6) I came up with the team name "Endo Farmers" using awesome website Band Name Maker. Later I found out that "endo" can be slang for marijuana as well as a type of crash. Oh man, I am so accidentally edgy. Look out.
7) You know that seemingly-innocuous right-hand bend as you come back past the pond at the end of the lap? I was going so freaking hard (trying to beat Jeff on a lap) in the morning that I overshot the dirt, overshot the grass, and very nearly overshot the weeds into the pond. And this was after nearly hitting the bagpiper there on the previous lap. That turn was baaaad for me.
8) Adam, Ben, Alex and Scott did an amazing job representing skirack.com/road cyclists everywhere with a 4th place finish overall and the fastest night doubles I've ever seen. Rich and Brad had some epic suffering on the 2-man team (don't say I didn't warn you!), and an awesome finish to win 2nd place after being tied with 3rd at 10am.
9) I spent most of the 2nd half of the race unable to eat anything other than gels. I felt horrible when I was off the bike, especially when it was cold out and I was sweaty. The worst part was just before dawn, sitting in the timing tent shivering and bloated. Somehow, twenty pedal strokes into the lap, it was all forgotten and I was just hammering yet again. It happened all morning -- I felt much better racing than not racing.
It's hard to explain why this event rocks so hard. I didn't sleep at all, and no amount of coffee or slapping myself in the face could keep me awake on the drive home. Kevin had to take over so I could pass out. I spent several hours shivering and sweaty in my sleeping bag. It took me literally an hour to eat a Clif Bar. It's Wednesday and I just tried to do some intervals -- yeah, not really recovered yet, either.
And yet, it's the highlight of my summer. I don't know why, but most people agree -- do it once and you'll love it. See you there next year. I've got some lights you can use!
I am going so fast here that my glasses have been half-bounced off my face. Otherwise I would look wicked cool, I swear. [from doublehop]