So the last time I checked in with you I was off to the High Cascades 24 Hour race near Bend Oregon.  Well now I’m back with this report. 

Gene in our pit before the dust flew.

My pit man, Gene, and I, after a day of travel, arrived at the site of the race, Wagona Snow Park at about 8:00. 

There were lots of choices for pits and we picked out what looked to us to be a great location right on the course between the finish line and the team hand off area. 

As we finished setting up Mike, the promoter, stopped by to warn us the spot we had picked out would be a “little” dusty. We choose not to move but he was right about the dust. Everything we took with us got dusty with dust on top.

My best LeMans start ever.

The race started right on time at 11:00 with a Le Mans start.  

Running is not my thing; I mean “Why run when you have a perfectly good bike”?  But my coach, Heather Nielson, has been having me practice for running starts and it has paid off in that now, at least, I’m not just in last way off the back.   

So that felt pretty good. 

The course is 10 miles of sweet single track followed by 6 miles of fire road. The Le Mans start did a pretty good spreading out the racers as it’s designed to do but about 3 miles into the race I got in a line of 6 bikes and the leader made no effort to let anyone pass. 

It took a mile or so to work my way thru the dusty group until I got behind him and finally got by when he messed up in a switchback and had to dismount. Smooth sailing from then on.  I had a nice fast lap and felt really good.

Even I added to the dust Gene had to deal with.

Laps 2 and 3 also went great. I’m getting the course down, there is little in the way of traffic, pit handoffs are perfect, my bike is handling and behaving great. This is 24 hour racing as it should be. I’m sure I have a great big smile going on.  

Lap 4 is more of the same. I’m settling into the familiar rhythm of a 24 hour race.  

Lap 5 will be the first lap needing lights.  

Just before leaving home I did a final check if my NiteRider system and it wasn’t working.   So of course I panicked.  I tried my local bike shop but they couldn’t help. Argh.  Then I remembered that NiteRider was going to be at the race and I found their email info and contacted them.   They promptly got back to me with reassurances that they could take care of me and they did. Yay.   Thanks Tommy! 

So with lights installed I’m out for lap 5. There are lots of check points that I use to get thru a 24 hour race: for example, first lap, sun down, moon rise, sunrise, etc. One of the biggest of these is the halfway point and I reached in during lap 6, yay!

Lap 7 was the hardest lap I’ve ever done in any race I can recall.  I was slow and clumsy.  Pedaling just seemed too hard, so I walked some.  I’ve been passed by relay racers lots of times in every 24 hour race I’ve done “Good job solo” but I’ve never had them ask me if I was OK.  This lap I was asked several times. “Are you OK?” “Need anything?”  So my distress must have been showing.  And I was distressed.  I just wanted to quit.  I’d promised my girlfriend a medal and spent some time trying to make up a story for her about why it didn’t matter. I also tried to think of something to tell Gene about why we should just quit and go home.  

I rolled into the pit and told Gene we were done. He said OK but thought that it might be wrong to quit when I was leading.  What?  Leading? As part of my distress I’d convinced myself that I was way off the pace. Leading? Gene had a big bowl of hot chili and drink and chocolate candy ready for me and convinced me to eat and think about not quitting. The food and chocolate gave me a boost and I decided to see if I could do another lap.

It  really was a 5 second lead.
Lap 8.  The rider that had been leading had taken a long break and that’s how I’d gotten ahead. The 24 hour races that I have won have been because I passed them in the night and it seemed as if that might be possible again. At the end of lap 8, after over 120 miles and almost 20 hours I rolled into the finish line in first. But the second place guy was only 5 seconds back. We both resupply and head out for another lap or 2. And I just can’t quite keep up. I finish in a respectable second place. 

Thank you Gene and Heather! I have a medal I can be happy giving to my girlfriend and I’m tired but a lot happier than I would have been if Gene had let me quit after lap 7. 

“Keep on pedaling!”

Lap Seven

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