Saturday, February 27, 2010

24 Hours in the Old Pueblo

Team #421, "Tucson Tri Girls and a Token Guy." (L-R) Liane, Krista, Zac, Me, Anne.

This year we were a 5 person co-ed team, Team "Tucson Tri Girls and a Token Guy." We were one of the rare teams made up of 4 girls and a guy, which is the exact opposite of what most of the co-ed teams do. Mountain biking is still dominated by guys, so many 4 man teams pick up a girl so that they can have 5 and race in the co-ed division, and get more rest between laps. So I think it's cool when we steal more of the eligible women mountain bikers and put them on our team. :)

For the 2010 team we had myself, my husband Zac (the token guy), Liane, Krista, and Anne. Originally Liane's friend Nicole was to be on our team, but she had come down with a serious injury and we decided it was best for her to focus on recovery. During a mountain bike play day at our house I asked Anne if she could join in on the fun of our team. She did some schedule checking, and thankfully was able to make it. Our team was complete!

Zac and I loaded up the van and headed out to the race site on Thursday in the late afternoon to stake our team's claim on the campsite. We had our fingers crossed that our favorite site was open, and sure enough, it was! We love our site because it's not far from all the race happenings, but far enough to get some sleep, and it usually has terrific lakefront property. This year was no exception. We set up camp, I texted the info to the team, and we headed off to bed to get some rest and bank some sleep hours before the craziness of the event started.

Friday afternoon the rest of the team arrived, and we set to work setting up camp. Our camp includes important features like the official Junk Food Table. It is a tradition that we started last year and carried into this year, and this year it was quite impressive. Chocolate, salty chips, candy, and anything made of sugar or fat went on this table. In fact, it was enforced by our team NOT to put anything not junkfood related on the table. Zac tried to squeeze an orange in there and I told him to keep fruit like that inside away from public view. Liane tried to put chain lube on the table and it quickly ended up on the grill table. Over the race weekend, the mountain of junk food grew to where it was impossible to see the table underneath. I'm proud of my team!

Friday is the rest day before the big event, so it was spent around the campfire and watching things like a team of guys trying several times over to erect a tent. They would try, and it would fall, and then they would put it back up only to take it down again. It was great fun to watch. This year we decided to hike to the top of the mountain that overlooks 24 hour town. There is a little shrine of rocks at the top, and you can see the entire town and riders on the course down below.

Saturday morning we had breakfast by the campfire, and while the team went to the race meeting I tuned in to KEpic radio and listened to the race meeting while I got my race gear ready. Hard to believe in the middle of all this camping fun we actually had to get on our bikes and ride! I would be the first rider for our team, and I still had to pack my Camelbak and get my helmet ready. This year I made team schwag bags that included glow sticks, knee high socks with bikes on them, Snicker bars, a purple beaded necklace, and a foam TTG crown/buzzsaw/sun to adorn the tops of our helmets. When the group got back we set to work on our helmets and got our decorations on. Then it was time to park my bike in the transition area, check in our team, and head to the race start.

With 2000 riders it would be crazy to force them all onto the singeltrack all at once. So the race has a LeMans style start where we run several hundred yards to our awaiting bikes to start the race. I seeded myself towards the front of the middle, but everyone joined in at the front and I ended up further back than I wanted. When the gun sounded I was stuck behind a lot of guys, so next time I'll be up closer to the front. I ran down past our campsite and waived to my team as I headed to my bike. I grabbed my bike and officially started the first lap of the race.

The first lap is insane, and you have to be able to hold your own out there with the crowd. This is why we don't send the newbies out for the first lap. I rode down the dirt road with the crowd and wove through the bikers, and made sure to pass quickly where I could. We reached the bottom of "The Bitches" which is a series of 7 steep hills on the gasline road. Thanks to XTERRA training, this was the first year I could hammer up and down all of The Bitches. Normally I would slog up and get passed on the uphills, only to pass on the downhills. So it was great to finally be able to do both. I reached the Corral Trail, and this was where a year of racing in the MBAA series paid off. I was able to pass quickly and get around people, and hold a lot more speed in the corners than last year. We would form trains of people because someone would get stuck behind a slower rider and not pass, and then that would hold up the next person, and the next person, etc. So I would stay in the train and wait until it was my turn to pass. I used the time in the trains to do my eating and drinking, since there wasn't anything else I could do.

After the Corral trail it was the Rattlesnake trail, then the His/Hers trail. We had a few more trains of people on this trail before it cleared up for a bit on the Junebug trail. The Highline trail is where we start another long climb, and I still had the legs, so I kicked it into high gear. Somehow in all of this training I developed a high cadence spin that works wonders when climbing on a mountain bike. I just sat there and spun the legs and motored over the rocks and up the hills. The descent on the Highline is my favorite as it is fast and twisty, and I caught some air a few times. I rolled into the timing tent and handed the baton off to Liane. New for our team this year was our baton hand-off. We duct taped our little wooden baton to a small purple feather boa, and exchanged the feather boa between each rider. I looked at my watch and I had finished the 16.3 mile course in 1:28:55, for an average speed of 11 mph. A new record for me! And that was with being held up in the trains of people!

I got back to camp and was greeted by TTG visitiors Leslie and Robin. Leslie had brought her famous chocolate chip cookies, and I was so hungry I downed 3 at once. My heart rate was still high, so this probably wasn't the smartest idea. No matter what, I always feel like crap at 24 hour events after my first lap. I was all jittery, had a horrible headache starting, and felt like I was ready to puke at any minute. I took the only aspirin we had in the RV, which was Advil that expired in 2006. Oh well, take 3 and hope it works. I tried to take a quick nap, but that didn't work. So I got up and started sipping on different things. When the Root Beer I tried made me nauseous I discovered it was the sugar causing it and nibbled on some salty snacks with water. I also wandered over to the exchange tent with Anne, and the walking seemed to help.

Liane is an experienced mountain biker, so we put her out 2nd to deal with the remaining crowds. She did great and came in in record time, for her own personal record. Anne was our newbie, and we sent her out 3rd where she would have guaranteed daylight for her first lap, and the crowds would be a bit less. Most people are nice out there, but lately there are more and more jerks entering the 24 hour scene and violate the number 1 rule of 24 Hour Town, which is "be nice." Anne had a few of them come up on her, and one guy tried to force her into a cholla. She shoulder checked him into a bush, and he learned not to mess with her. Even the photographer on the course exclaimed at one point to a guy behind her "Dude, you're being a dick." When the photographers say that, that has to tell guys like that something. Anne successfully made it back to the exchange tent in one piece, and a total of 20 minutes faster than her projected time. I walked back with her and told her the nauseous, jittery, exhausted, "There's no way I'm doing another lap" feeling was totally normal in this 24 hour thing. It takes some getting used to, but happens all the time.

Krista was up next, and she had the split lap of part of it being in daylight as the sun was going down, and part of it at night. She had been doing a lot of night riding over the year so I knew she would have no problem out there on the course. She had also done the MBAA series last year, and her riding has really improved over the year. So much in fact that she also turned in a record lap for her first lap of the race. Our team had a whiteboard in camp for recording times and writing notes, and we had stars around the first 4 laps for everyone's record times.

Zac was up next after Krista, for the first night lap. The last rider on a 5 person team usually has their first lap on the course as a night lap, and Zac never has a problem being the first one riding in the dark. After this, we pretty much stayed in rotation, and kept notes on our team whiteboard so that everyone could estimate when they needed to go out.

Once Zac came in, I headed out for my first night lap. I normally use a Niterider HID for night riding, and as soon as I went out my light seemed a bit dim. But, I hadn't ridden at night in awhile, so I figured it was my eyes adjusting and I'd get used to the conditions after a few minutes. When I got to The Bitches, I noticed it wasn't as bright as the other lights around me, even lights that were much older than mine. I finished up The Bitches and decided to keep going, as turning around would mean riding all those hills again. When riders came up behind me I hoped they would stay there, as their lights lit up the trail and for a few seconds I could actually see. But then then would pass and I would be left with my light that wasn't much brighter than my camp headlamp. I rode the trail by feel and memory, which apparently wasn't that good because I missed turns and went off trail a million times. When I got to the His/Hers trail my light started dimming even more, and I doubted I could make it back to camp. On the trail there are "aid" stations that are radio points. They don't hand out food like the triathlon stations, but instead are there to help in getting first responders out on the course. They each have a letter assigned, and about halfway through the course is the Golf station (Golf for G). I had already passed by Golf, and the next point was Hotel. I got to Hotel and called Zac and asked if we had any spare lights charged and ready to go. As a registered racer, he could meet me on the course with lights. The next station, India, crossed the main road, and he could meet me there with lights. So I ate my Snickers bar at Hotel, donned my camp headlamp for more light, and hit the Junebug trail with the dim light that I had left.

It felt like it took forever to do the Junebug trail, which is rather twisty and tough to ride with failing light. About 20 minutes later I made it to India and pulled over just in time as I saw Zac walking up with lights. We pulled the failed lights off my bike and put an older Halogen set on. They turned on right away and seemed like daylight compared to what I had. I told him to get a message to Liane that I was running late due to the lighting issues. What a difference light made! I rode along the Highpoint trail, happy to finally have descent light. At this point a duo guy rode up behind me and sat there. I asked him if he wanted to pass, but he said no, his legs were fried and he liked my pace and cadence. So he fell in behind me and matched the tempo and we cranked along. Then a solo rider came up behind him and fell into our little train. Apparently my cadence is appreciated by those with ailing legs, so I'm not sure if I should take that as a compliment or what. The three of us chatted and the guys behind me mentioned that they had both gone out too fast on the first lap, which is why they were dying now. We finished up the lap, and I met Liane at the exchange tent. My total lap time was 1:58, but ride time was 1:45, so I only lost about 13 minutes due to phone calls and making the lighting exchange.

I got back to the RV and immediately got out of my sweaty clothes and crashed. Zac had his alarm set, so I set mine for an hour later. I got about 4 hours of sleep before waking up. Zac was getting ready for his next lap, so I decided to stay up and get ready for mine. I checked the whiteboard to see if Anne had survived her lap. She had, and turned in another time 20 minutes faster than her expected time. She left a note that she was fried and had gone to bed, and Krista was now out on her next night lap. Zac went out, and would be coming in with the sunrise. The wind was picking up so clothing is always tough to figure out. I decided on my TTG jersey and arm warmers, with my wind breaker over the top. When I went out for my lap the sun was up, so no need for lights. I warmed up right away on The Bitches, but decided to keep my wind breaker on as we headed into the wind after that. Once on the Rattlesnake trail I decided I was getting too warm, and made a stop to take it off and to get my Snickers bar from my Camelbak. I finished up my 3rd lap with a 1:50 lap time, and total moving time of 1:45 (5 min lost for taking off the windbreaker and getting the bar).

I handed off to Liane and rolled into camp. I had hoped to do a 4th lap, but my legs were too tired at this point, and I couldn't stand sitting on the seat anymore. I had climbed most of the Highpoint trail out of the saddle because it hurt too much to sit down. And, looking back at my training I wasn't doing the long epic rides anyways. Zac was way too chipper when he had come in during the morning, so his punishment was to go out on a 3rd lap. He met Liane in the exchange tent and went out for what would be the final lap for our team. The most important rule in the 24 hour race is to have someone for your team cross the finish line after 12 PM. If your rider comes in at 11:59 AM you have to send another rider out or else the team DNFs. At about 11:30 AM, riders start to gather outside of the exchange tent so that they cross the line after 12 PM (that means no one else wanted to go out). Zac left at around 11 AM, and I knew he wasn't going to turn in an hour lap, so we were in no danger. Anne and I met him at the end and walked back to camp to start the packing process.

Overall our team did 13 laps, and everyone did great. It was a great time out in the desert, and our whole team was all about going out and having fun. Turning the pedals on the course was challenging for each of us at some point during the event, but in the end we came out of it alive and smiling. And, I have to say, this year was by far the best for weather. Usually this event can have a mixed bag in the weather department, with past races being cold and muddy. This year it was sunny with highs in the 70s, and at one point we were comfortable in shorts and flip flops! When the weather is good, that adds to the fun factor. As always, when we finish this event we are all tired, hungry, and dirty, and never want to do another one again. Until November rolls around and someone brings up the idea of forming a team for the next year's race. :)

There are too many photos of the event to post here on my blog, so I'll point to the links:

1 comment:

Jamie said...

Hello! Another Tucson runner! I just discovered your site. It's always nice to hear about other people running in my area. I'm impressed with you Tri ability. I couldn't even imagine doing one of those! Good job! :)