Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

24 Hours of Moab Race Report - PreRace and Lap 1

The best laid plans often fall victim to random events. Such was the case for me at the 24 Hours race. Not long after we set up camp, the wind started to pick up. Wind had not even featured heavily in the weather forecast, which called for a 40% chance of rain and highs in the 60s, but it came to figure heavily in the race.

Still, conditions were still pretty pleasant on Friday night, as I got ready to turn in early (about 10:00 PM). I was feeling pretty good, well fed on steak and baked potato prepared around the fire, and I fell asleep easily.

Just before going to bed on Friday night. Probably the last time I relaxed, all weekend.

About midnight, I awoke to the sound of wind and rain. Not too worried, I just rolled over and went back to sleep. Then, I did the same thing every 15 minutes, or so, for the next 4 or 5 hours until, finally, the howling wind was all I heard.

Then, about 5:00 AM, the tent blew down. Well, not entirely, but one corner folded over and the tent pole hit me in the head. Now, this is a big ole Columbia tent, which belongs to Rich, and it is kinda large; about 6 feet high in the center. So, it has a relatively high profile.

I was lying in the center of the tent, with my feet at the door flap. As Rich went out and tried to stake the tent back down, I lay on my back and held the floor down with my legs. The ground was so hard that Rich was unable to drive the stakes deeply enough to hold against the wind. Eventually, he gave up and came back into the tent. We spent the rest of the night rocking in the wind, hoping that we wouldn't actually blow away.

I checked, on my cell phone internet hookup, and it said that winds were blowing at 40 to 50 mph, with gusts to 60 and 70 mph. Even better, it wasn't forecast to calm down until that night, with wind peaking between 3:00 and 6:00PM!

Finally, around 7:00, we all (Rich, Carol, Colin and I) emerged from the tent to a scene of destruction. Ten by ten sun shelters were scattered all over the campground, with their telescoping frames twisted like paperclips. A lot of tents were flat, and there was a cloud of dust and sand blowing through on the wind. It reminded me of the sand storms I saw in Saudi Arabia, back in 1982 and '83.

With no way to secure the tent against the wind, we dropped the tent poles, and flattened the the tent out with all of our bags and equipment on top of it to hold it down. Rich decided he had to go to town and get new, better, tent stakes right then. Since we were unable to cook breakfast, Colin wanted to go, as well, and get something to eat. So, Carol decided to go as well.

As the others were discussing going to town, I told them I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving the venue. It was already close to 7:30, and the Rider's Meeting was scheduled for 10:30. I didn't want to risk missing it. So, I started trying to figure out what to eat for breakfast.

As I looked through our stuff, I realized that I couldn't find my helmet. All of the planning and plotting I had done, and I got to Moab without my helmet? With that, I sent the other three off with instructions to buy me a size L/XL Specialized helmet, while they were out, and get back before the start of the race. In the meantime, I removed the pads from Carol's helmet, took the plastic mallet that Rich used to drive tent stakes, and made Carol's helmet fit well enough that I could at least get through the first lap if the others didn't make it back.

As the minivan disappeared down the road, I went in search of pancakes, or some kind of nutritious breakfast from the vendors in camp. Unfortunately, all of the vendors were trying to recover from the windy night, and I couldn't find anything other than a cup of coffee.

Back to the tent site I went, and dug out a cold bagel, smeared some cream cheese on it, and sat on the cooler feeling quite out of sorts. I chased the bagel down with one of my PB&J sandwiches I had made to carry with me on the trail, and drank my coffee as the clock ticked.

The time came that I needed to go to the Rider's Meeting, and I got a call from Carol that they were on the way. I told her I would be at the meeting and, taking Carol's mutilated helmet with me, I got on my bike and rode up to the Start/Finish area. There, I parked my bike in the LeMans-start bike rack, and went to the meeting.

As Laird Knight was speaking, I saw my crew walking up...with no helmet. My heart sank.

"Where's the helmet?" I hissed, none too pleasantly. The stress of the windy night, loss of my helmet, lack of a hot breakfast and impending race start was beginning to get to me.

"It's back at the camp," Carol answered.

"I need it!" I was getting perilously close to petulant.

"Can't you get it after the meeting?"

"I won't be going back to the tent before the start!" I was almost shouting. I didn't mean to be a jerk, but I was in near-panic mode at this point. Sometimes, it seems that the people around me just aren't taking things seriously enough when, in reality, I am taking them too seriously.

"Oh", Carol said, finally seeing the panic I was trying to hide, "I'll just go get it."

So, she did, and brought it back while the meeting and instruction session was still going on. I got it all adjusted, had Rich do a couple of fine-tunings on it, and called it good. It was roughly 40 minutes to race time, and I already felt exhausted.

Here I am at the Start line with my new helmet.

We stood around at the sign-in tent, after I scanned my RFID tag. We met Jim, a 63 year-old cancer survivor who enters as a solo every year, and saw Dave Nice and Tinker Juarez (along with a bunch of people Rich recognized, but I did not). The wind blew so hard we couldn't stand still, much of the time, as it would push us off-balance enough that we would have to take a half-step to maintain our balance. The whole crowd looked like the audience at a Fallout Boy concert, quietly shuffling our feet and keeping our heads down (in a vain attempt to keep the dust out of our faces).

Finally, with 5 minutes to go until start time, we lined up for the 200-yard running LeMans-style start.

Over 350 riders lined up for the run...(check out the dust cloud visible in the background)

I am just right of center, with the knickers. I don't run well, and I think this picture reflects that fact.

For the first lap, we rode up the access road until we took the turn-off for the Needles climb. Skipping the initial singltrack, which parallels the road on that section, allowed the front runners to get to the front of the pack before the whole group ground to a crawl on the first climb.

I started the first climb in about the middle of the pack, and was riding pretty strongly. I remember dropping into the small ring pretty quickly, back in 2002 when I did this race as part of a 4-man team, but I was riding easily in my middle ring and 2nd or 3rd cog. I passed a good number of riders, and pulled up behind Dave Nice (who was riding fixed-gear, as always).

I have been following Dave's blog for a while, and lately he has been travelling through Utah trying to find a place to settle down for a while. I asked him if he had found a place to move to.

"Nah," he said, "I've been kinda enjoying wandering the desert."

"Oh, yeah!" I said, "Like Moses! You're the Fixed Gear Moses!"

Just then, Dave got stuck behind a slower rider and I passed him. I never saw him again. He was probably avoiding the stupid chatty guy with the jingly bell...

Speaking of the jingly bell, it was playing a veritable symphony on the rough trail surface. It dings quite a bit, on the road, and it was just raising hell on the trail. I got quite a few sideways glances, because of it, and a couple of friendly comments (almost exclusively from female riders). Most people saw my Solo number plate and just assumed I was crazy, I think, and gave me a pass on the bell.

I stayed on the gas as I went around the 15.5 mile loop. (In fact, I never used the small ring ,at all, through the first two laps.) I was trying to hold back and reserve my energy, but I had first-lap nerves and couldn't hold back. I think my official time on the first lap was about 1:50, which is pretty fast for me (although the fastest lap of the race was just over 1:01!).

I swiped in, then back out at the Start/Finish and headed for the pits. I needed some fuel before going back out.

NEXT: Lap Two!



At 3:36 PM , Blogger Apertome said...

Sounds like while the events leading up to the ride went a little rough, your first lap was good. You don't really mention it, but I bet the wind made riding difficult, too!

At 6:24 PM , Blogger Jon said...

Yeah, I kind of address that in the Lap 2 post.


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