Monday, June 24, 2013

The 2013 Coolest 24 Hour Race Against Cancer --3rd Place.

I had one goal coming into the Coolest 24 hour, to ride more miles than my first (and only) 24hr solo event 2 years ago. I knew I was in the best mountain biking shape of my life, but I was worried that my longest mountain bike ride leading up to this event was ~62 miles. In order to meet my goal I was going to need to ride more than twice that. 

I felt well prepared; I had my beautiful 18.8lb One9, and my wife’s former 1x9 SIR9 that I stripped down to a beautiful 22.5 lb single-speed. The SIR9 would serve as a back up bike should a major mechanical occur.
For food I brought half a pizza, two pbj’s, two roast-beef sandwiches (loaded with mustard), jar of pickles, Nutty Bars, Red Vines, Licorice, chocolate covered espresso beans, and of course 8 bottles of Infinite drink mix (1.5 hours of calories in each bottle) and plenty of water.

I showed up to the Olmstead loop on Friday evening and set up my easy-up next to another single-speeder who happened to be Sean Sullivan, who had just won the Hammerstein 24hr a few weeks ago and was a former podium finisher years ago in the 24hr Single-Speed World Championships. One thing I purposely did NOT bring was a tent, a mattress or any comfortable place to sleep. I had a small, uncomfortable camping chair and my cooler for a seat. If I was to pack it in and sleep, I would need to be so tired that I was willing to curl up and catch some Z’s in the foxtails and star thistle.
Next, I did something the importance of which cannot be underestimated: I went home and got a good night’s sleep in my own bed. I am sure that was better than hanging out, camping, drinking beer and crashing around midnight under a full moon that was like trying to sleep with a 100 watt bulb above you (I mean, did you see that moon, wow!). I woke up refreshed, loaded up the bikes and food, and headed out.
Let’s get to the race. I knew it would be a dusty start but I settled near the back because, well, I am gonna ride slow. As to be expected it was a log jam for the first few miles, and by mile 5 I settled in on the wheel of another biker and followed them until the big final climb. Time for the SS to shine. Up the climb I went, feeling good. I was surprised when I came across the line at 1:06 and realized that I needed to kick it down a notch. So much to my surprise I came across the next lap in 1:05 (doh!). I realized that on the final climb I was working a bit too hard and decided to pick my spots to push a few areas to save the legs. My new strategy was to push hard the first ¾ of the course as it was fast and flowy and and then literally push a few spots on the final climb and repeat. Of course as the laps came and went, the two spots I chose to push became three, then four and at one lap (maybe two) I hopped off the bike seven times. Still, to me it was irrelevant how many times I pushed as long as I kept moving. Even as night settled in, surprisingly, I never really felt tired (like I did two years ago), I just kept moving; but my hands, feet, knees and butt were getting really sore. My knees worried me the most as I have not experienced knee pain like this before. It was the same pain in both knees so I figure I am just overworking the knees leading to sore joints. I had the typical tightness in the right inner thigh that caused a few issues, and naturally some cramping in the quads and some stomach issues (threw up once, while walking, no big deal), but I was able to fight through that (o.k., walk through that) and keep moving.
One really cool thing happened just before midnight. It was ~11:45 and I looked at the speedometer and saw that I was at 99.8 miles. I could not believe I hit 100 miles before midnight. That was pretty cool. Still, by the time I was in the 11th lap, I was hurting pretty good. I knew I would reach my goal, so at this point, I started thinking, could I do 15? As I headed out for Lap 13, I realized I probably could not. I was suffering. It hurt to sit and pedal. It hurt to stand and pedal and just as bad, it hurt to walk. I was having a tough time braking because of my sore hands and I won’t even mention my sore butt. I knew all this went with the territory, but I had been suffering pretty good and had been managing the pain for a while. I just got to the point where I wanted it to end. Because It was so early I went out for one more lap, thinking I HTFU’d for 14 laps and over 157 miles…I could be proud of my effort. I crossed the line after 14 laps and stopped at the scoring tent, done. Some people were telling me good job etc. But one guy, a pit crew for another team, was not so convinced. He told me I had time for at least one more. I gave him my excuses, but then he did something odd; he grabbed my bike and started walking away with it and said “Your doing one more!”. I stood there looking at him and then I looked at the other riders who seemed as befuddled as I was. What seemed like only a minute later, the guy returns with my bike. He had cleaned and lubed my chain AND he brought me some pancakes with syrup folded up like a burrito. I ate the pancakes flexed my legs, arms and back and said, you know what, I am going out for another. He gave me a smile, patted me on the back and off I went. It was not a fast lap. I had no strength. The lap took me ~1:45 and I actually finished with enough time for a 16th IF I could do it in 1:45. I was not convinced I could so my race was over. I returned to my pit and it was not long before I saw Sean Sullivan cross the line and head out for #16. Because I did 15, he had to average ~1:13 a lap for his last three in order to take 2nd away from me. He averaged 1:10. He is a seasoned, experienced veteran, and a nice guy so I was actually happy for him. I more than exceeded my goal and know that podium spots are trivial to this event. There were three of us. I could have done one lap and take 3rd. Instead I far exceeded any goal I had with riding ~170 miles in 24 hrs and actually (inadvertently) making a tight race out of the SS category. I finished with 15 laps, 2nd place with 16 laps (with only 10 minutes to spare) and 1st place with 17 laps. What a day!
Getting awards, I'm the chubby guy in the middle. ;)
Big thanks again to Sean Sullivan  and his friend Kenny who kept me company in the pits and gave me a lot of support and encouragement. Big thanks to Pilar M. who kept coming over to my pit and moving my food and drink out of the sun as the day went on…and someone from her crew cleaned and lubed my chain after the 5th lap…and her corporate group and those around her kept cheering me on every lap, it was very encouraging. Thanks to my wife for helping me set up, showing up at night with our girls to show support and for allowing me to take the time to enjoy my hobby that means so much to me. Also, thanks to my buddy  Kane for showing up at the end (on his new carbon road bike) and helping me break down camp.

Thanks to Global Biorhythm Events for putting on this meaningful Cancer fundraiser. The course was well marked and the event seemed well run. The only real issue I had was that as a solo rider you are pretty much not going to get a meal. Dinner was provided at the Pizza place outside the event (no solo rider is going to do that) then breakfast was served at 8 a.m. so again, you would need to stop racing for breakfast. At least I got some pancakes, thanks to a kind stranger. It would be nice to be able to finish the race and have some hot food available, but no biggie. At least there was still some beer in one of the kegs that I used to wash down a burger my wife went out and purchased.
Still, the event wasn’t about the food. It is about challenging oneself and raising money for cancer victims. I am proud to be a part of this event and will look forward to it again next year...with a goal of 16 laps.
Good Times!

Pics to come (hopefully).


  1. James,

    That far into the pain cave and you pushed yourself for another lap? You did not HTFU my friend. You HTMFU.

    Well done.

    Mark S.

  2. Thanks Mark. I few days after the event, I was down on myself for not trying for one more lap, but then on a ride a week later, I was still hurting, so maybe it was for the best. After lap 10, I was sufferin' and wishing every lap was my last. I am stoked I made it as far as I did.
    Now I have a goal to aim for next year. ;)

  3. You should have done another lap. ;)