24 Hours in the Sage Race Report

This was Nick and my second time racing at the 24 Hours in the Sage as a Duo. The first year, we were racing against all the two person teams, and did well. It was also my first 24 hour race. This year, we came into the race more prepared and with a lot more experience. We also were just racing against other Co-ed teams this year, not all the duo teams. It was a close race, with both first and second teams completing 19 laps. Nick and I - racing as the Pedalin' Fools finished at 11:05:38 with Bo Randolph and Bec Bale of Bo and Bec finishing at 11:08:23. Third place went to Brad Fox and Amelia Jervey of The Tortise and the Hare with 18 laps at 11:57:48. There were many lead changes between the Pedalin's Fools and Bo and Bec through out the race, with the lead never getting larger then 30 minutes.

The racing weather was perfect - sunny, a little warm, with some wind on the mesa. Night was clear and cool, but not as cold at the other years and not as wet. The KOA was awsome this year - tents every - we even shared our campsite with two of Nick's friends who raced solo. There were additional showers set up in the lawn and the KOA had a stove, grill and food going all night. And it was racing friendly food too, like mac and cheese, beef strognanof, and the usual burgers and brats. That's part of what makes the 24 Hours in the Sage such a great event - all the support from the site venue. Having the Turtle at the KOA was perfect - we had everything staged, food in the fridge and a stove to cook on. I raced in my Challenged Athletes Foundation kit for four of my 10 laps as 24 Hours in the Sage served as my primary fundraiser for Operation Rebound this year. Thanks to Mitch and the KOA crew for helping out with this awesome cause. Nick and I love this race and will be back next year for sure.

Race morning started bright and early - for me at least. Nick stayed in bed until I'd finished making coffee and eggs, then got up to get the bikes ready. We just had to put numbers on the bikes - 70 for me and 71 for Nick. Our Turtle was close enough to the timing tent to hear the race briefing, so we just hung out in the shade and listened. It would turn out that we missed an important peice of information that would affect the race the next morning, but at that point staying cool sounded like the best option. Nick was doing the first lap, so I had bike holding duty. I had his bike and Dan's bike and was in a good postion for the run around the lake - or so we thought. Normally in a 24 hour race, there is short run to spread out the field. Well, this was a very short run - not even 10 yards. I just stood still with Nick and Dan's bikes and let the racers flow around me. Nick got off quickly, with Dan not to far behind. After all the riders were out on the road, I headed back to the Turtle to get ready for my first lap. The plan was for Nick to ride an hour lap, then for me to ride two in the hottest part of the day.

Nick was a little early - he finished in 57:59, the 14th fastest first lap. I wasn't quite ready for him - hadn't gotten over to the timing tent yet! But the hand off was good and I was off on my way. I wanted to ride two 1:10 laps, keeping the pace steady and consistant. The road was a good warmup, then up Jacks Trail and the long brutal climb to start the actual dirt riding. I had a few guys pass me on the road, thought about drafting, then decided that I didn't want to risk riding too fast that early in the race. I was comfortable on the climb, took a short breather on the dirt road, then through Behind the Rocks. That's the first taste of technical riding on the course and I had a good crash there last time Nick and I raced. This time, the rocks seemed a little smaller and I felt in complete control riding. Even the descent down Alfonzo's seemed eaiser then in prior rides at Hartman Rocks. I continued along, with a few more guys passing me. Sea of Sage was a blast, flowing through the sage on a narrow ribbon of trail. Then reality again with Rocky Ridge and the hardest technical sections outside the Notch. Nick had showed me a few tricks during the pre ride and I was able to clean more. Riding the rocks was definatly the best line. Off Rocky Ridge, down Becks and it was time for the Notch. My crash on the pre-ride had shaken my nerves a little and I decided to walk most of it. I would be walking through the Notch and down part of the backside for most of the race. I fnished my first lap in 1:08:53 - right about where I wanted. Cruised through the timing tent, waved to Nick and continued along my way for the second lap. There was a little more wind, and it was getting hotter. I made sure that I was drinking regullarly - both my GU, GU brew solution and the water I had. The second lap was uneventful - met Dan on Alfonzo's where he was just enjoying the ride. We rode together for a little, then I continued on my way up Broken Shovel. I walked the Notch again, cruised down the road and handed off to Nick. A little slower, finishing in 1:12:08.

Nick was again riding one lap, and was planning finishing in an hour. That meant I didn't have much time to recover from my first two laps and get ready to head out again. The wind was really starting to pick up and I knew the conditions on the mesa would be even worse. I changed into a clean kit - opting for a light color because it was really warm out, made up my camelbak and gave my bike a quick rinse. Finally I was able to sit down to rest for a a few minutes. Drank an ensure, had some gummies, ate so oreos and sat in the shade to wait. Once again, right on schedule, Nick rolled through in 1:02. Off I went into the wind.

And windy it was. I didn't notice it on the road or the climb up Jack's hill so much. Behind the Rocks was sheltered a little, but on Alfonzo's I could feel the full force of the wind. I settled into a steady pace, choosing a gear that would let me spin easily. That seemed to be the best option given that there were still 19 hours left in the race. The benefit of the wind was after the descent, we got a nice tail wind riding up the false flat of Luge and Broken Shovel. Sure made that section of the course a lot easier! Of course, that meant that Sea of Sage was into the wind. No floating through the sage on this lap! Made it through the all but one of the rock gardens of Rocky Ridge, which was good because I didn't clean that last rock garden all race. This time, I made it up to the left hand turn on the Notch, which is the fartherest I've made on that section. But I still walked the down hill. I did get a tow on the road from one of the guys, which was nice. Back through the timing tent in 1:14 - a little slower then I wanted, but reasonable given the change weather conditions. Out for another lap, dreading fighting the wind again. And for good reason. It was bad. I think I worked a little harder then I needed to that early in the race, given the wind conditions. I was having to pedal down Sea of Sage to get any speed at all. I did however learn something usefull. Nick had tried showing me this many times before, but stubborn as anything I didn't listen. Had to learn it on my own - Riding over the rocks is sometimes faster and easier then trying to ride around them. There was a switch back with several rocks in the middle of it on the descent of Becks. Previously, I'd always tried to avoid them. Not this time, and not again for the rest of the race. That lap took me 1:15 - consistant, but I was tired.

Luckily, I would get a good chance to rest this time. Nick was heading out to ride two laps - the sunset lap and first night lap. My next two laps would be my first night riding since 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. I took care of my bike - quick rinse and clean, then mounted lights. I was running the standard combo - bar light and Ameoba on the helmet. After everything was ready to go, it was time to get some real food to eat. One huge benefit of having the Turtle! I made some salty broth and mixed in some noodles and chicken. With Nick out on course for two laps, I was able to actually sit down and relax for a while. I even tried to take a nap! Too soon, it was time to head over to the timing tent to wait for Nick to come through. I'd poked my nose out when he'd rolled through on his first lap, but not paid that much attention. He finished his two laps in 2:15, so we were still on pace for a good finish.

Night riding it different. Despite the fact that I'd already covered the course four times, everything was different. The narrow beams from my lights narrowed the focus from the trail and everything around it to just the trail. The moon was almost full and the sage cast erie shadows along the trail. My first lap was good. The wind had died down as the sun had set and I was able to enjoy the ride through the sage. The lights of all the racers illumiated the trail from miles away, drawing thin lines through the darkness. I finished that first night lap in 1:14, but the wheels were starting to come off. I just didn't know it yet. I was starting to have problems with my calorie drink - just not wanting to drink more and my stomach was not happy. And that is that hardest part of racing duo - there is another person depending on you to continue riding hard, but the rest is much less then on a four person team. I pushed on into the darkness, riding with my thin ribbon of light to show the way. The climb up Luge and Broken Shovel was hard. My legs were feeling the first five laps and the effort of fighting the wind. It seemed that I wasn't the only one - every rider I met on the trail was suffering. I was hoping for a quick finish to that sixth lap, knowing that I would get another good break afterwards. That lap was 1:23, so much slower then my other laps.

Nick headed out for another set of two - I headed to the Turtle to swap batteries for my lights and try to eat something. At this point, the only thing that was appealing was milk and oreos. I also ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which tasted really good. It seemed to settle my stomach, but I wasn't going to take any chances. I decided to change the calorie solution I was using in my camelbak from primarily GU to a blend of GU and Motortabs. After dealing with that, I climbed up into the bed and tried to sleep. Tried being the operative word. I was just stiff and achey, with my legs expecting to be moving. But laying down still felt good. I must have slept a little, because I did not know when Nick rolled through on his first of the two laps. He was struggling a little on those two laps, but his time was still good for the set - 2:33.

This was my last set of two laps. I could feel the fatigue building as I pedaled up the road. For the first time all race, I broke out the granny gear for the climb up Jacks. I kept that granny gear for the next hill as well. I was starting to loose some of the punch needed for the rock gardens and was having to do more spinning then I would have liked. Still cleaned Behind the Rocks and the descent from Alfonzos, just keeping my focus on the ribbon of trail illuminated by my light. My stomach was feeling better and I was nibbling on oreos every chance I got. The volunteers at the junction of Luge and Broken Shovel were all asleep, and I rode past the circle of tents feeling a little jealous. Then it was back into the darkness. I had a great time down Sea of Sage, riding the berms and jumping the little rocks. Too bad the energy from the down hill didn't last. Came through in 1:20, better then before, but still a little slower then I wanted. Nick was sleeping the Turtle, so I just kept riding. This last night lap would end up being the silly lap of the race. I'm not sure what happened between 3:00am and 5:00am, but people were doing some weird things on the trail. Three times, I had guys just stop in the middle of the trail, right in front of me. Here I am, riding along with two really bright lights and you don't realize that I'm behind you? Really? I have to admit that I was feeling the effects of the previous 17 hours of racing and made my share of silly errors. I was also counting down the minutes until I was finished riding this lap because I knew that I only had two laps left to ride. I was slow on that lap - 1:26, my slowest lap of the race.

Nick had two more laps - one last night lap and the sunrise lap. Back at the Turtle, I took lights off of my bike and tried to get some more food and fluids down. I had a little success with a bowl of Cherrios and some more oreos. Then I laid down again to try to rest. Somewhere in that time, the announcer woke up and started updating the results. We were in first, but only by a few minutes. I heard him announce Nick coming through, but didn't think much of it. After the race, I would realize that I should have had his tinted glassed ready for him. I'd ridden the sunrise lap at Pueblo and it was hard on the eyes. But I didn't - I stayed in the camper, warm in the bed. I would be out to ride when he came through once more.

My first solo lap of the race and I wanted to get my time back down to the 1:15s I'd been riding before. I also knew that we were in the lead, but not by much. I rode hard on the road, stayed in the middle ring for the first climb, then really tried to gain some ground on the technical sections and the descents. I didn't want to loose that much time, since I didn't know who was out on course for Bo and Bec. Using every inch of the trail on the descent down Alfonzos, I carried the momentum up Luge and into Broken Shovel. Ticking over a steady cadance on the climbs, I was looking forward to flying down Sea of Sage. I was feeling really good this lap and was able to make some good time on that descent. I was able to clean most of Rocky Ridge, but still felt like I was lacking a little punch. Finally the Notch. I remembered everything Nick had said, got my weight back, and rode the entire descent. A weight off my mind, being able to ride that section. I was back at the timing tend in 1:15, right where I said I'd be.

Nick took off for what would be his last lap. The peice of information we'd missed at the race meeting was that there were no laps going out after 11:00, unlike at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, where the cut-off for that last lap is 11:59. We had just over two hours and it was unlikely that we would be able to get in 20 laps. Then then next bit of bad news. Bo came flying in only four minutes after me, sending Bec out for her last lap. I realized that if I rode that last lap, I would have a hard charging Bo breathing down my back. The race for the Co-ed Duo would come down to how much time Nick gained in that 18th lap and how hard I would be able to ride my last lap. I wasn't even sure that I was going to ride that last lap - maybe Nick would feel up to going out again. And if he felt that he could ride faster then 1:10, I thought maybe he should go out. I didn't know how fast I would be able to ride.

There was no time to dicuss the choice as Nick came steamrolling into the finish tent. He gave me a push and instructions to ride as hard a I could. The race was down to one last lap. One of the solo riders gave me a tow on the road, which lauched me up the final climb on Jacks. There was no baby ring this time, just middle ring and giving it all I had. Up the dirt road and onto Behind the Rocks. There was no looking back, just powering through the rocks and around the scattered trees. I put the fatigue of the prior 22 hours behind me, feeling the pressure of being hunted down. I dropped Alfonzo's and up the Luge. This time I was climbing in the big ring, just turning over the pedals. Middle ring and standing up Broken Shovel, catching many of the riders who'd started the last lap before me. I was truely flying down Sea of Sage, weight behind my saddle, using the whole trail. Still did not clean the entire Rocky Ridge, but came close. What I didn't clean I ran. Then it was down Beck, over the rocks and up into the Notch. I was still in the lead, still holding my own. But I didn't know by how much. Pushed up the Notch and rode the descent with confidence. Then it was time for the last push on the road. I was digging deep, giving it everything I had. When I made the left turn leading to the KOA, I was still leading. The last section through the trees, a sharp right turn and I was home free. Nick was waiting at the road, still in his cycling clothes. He said later that he was hoping that we might just make that 10:59 cut-off and wanted to be ready just in case. We missed it by six minutes, but I had done my job. Bo had cut a lead of 14:35 down to 2:45 at the finish to make the Co-ed Duo was the closest class of the race. I had completed 10 laps, Nick 9 laps and I was dead tired. Time for a shower, some food and chilling out!!

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