Rolling in the Sage - 24 Hours in the Sage
|2012 24 Hours in the Sage - CoEd Duo Podium|
Nick and I -1st; Brynn O'Connell and Dan Loftus - 2nd; Jeannine Anders and Ryan Sullivan - 3rd
Photo - Patrick Cross
|Bring it on! We are ready to ride!|
Photo - Justine Gehrett
|Nick and Lane - waiting for the start|
Photo - Justine Gehrett
|Taking the first turn onto Gold Basin Rd in 2nd place|
|"Oh - that's the line!" Says #33 - I say, you just got Chicked!|
Photo - About the Shot (Thanks Russ!)
After a clearing up a mix up with results, I was ready to ride when Nick came rolling in. Another hot lap coming up. I paced myself on the road again, looking towards the steeper climbs that would need the bursts of energy. Some spectators had arrived and were setting up a camper on the top of the Punch Bowl. They would be there all day and night, cheering for the riders. And when they went to sleep, there was still encouragements from a friend of theirs. A new arrival, leaning against the rocks with a camera in his hand. It was only the weird angle of his arms that gave it away. The photographers mannequin! Nick admitted to saying hello to the dummy and getting a little annoyed he didn't respond! The mannequin started out with the camera, then had a sign saying "Will ride for beer!" with a pile of empty beer cans at his feet, then later at night "Don't stop! Ride faster!" Just one of the reasons 24 hour racing in general and Sage in particular are so much fun. People make the race enjoyable with the silly little things that happen. I almost made the corner on Rocky Ridge, but messed up the slab again. Really frustrating at that point - I felt like I should be able to ride both of those easily. I made the left hand turn into the Notch, but bobbled at the first rock step. Getting closer! The ravine behind the Notch was really starting to get loose and sandy already. I hate that section to begin with so I wasn't riding all that fast on the way back to the road. Better slower and on the bike then faster but in the woods! And then the headwind. Like every year, the afternoon wind had picked up - blowing all the way back to the KOA. I was more then happy to relinquish the baton to Nick.
|Waiting for Nick to finish his lap - game face on!|
Photo - Justine Gehrett
But the third lap was the charm for the Rocky Ridge. While I didn't get the slab - which was already starting to get really sandy at the approach, I did remember the line for the corner. Finally! I would make that little section for the rest of the race. As for the Notch... Well, I ended up walking the whole approach. I hit my hand on a tree just before the final rock slab and lost all speed. Oops. Silly mistake. Obviously, there are plenty of things I need to work on still - like avoiding the trees!
Once again, I would have the sunset lap. Three 24 hour races, three sunset laps this year. And this was the best of the three. Armed with my Exposure Lights - Toro and Diablo - I set off for my fourth lap as the sun started drifting low in the horizon. There were enough clouds in the sky to provide beautiful color with the sunset - yellows, oranges, magentas and purples painting the deepening blue sky. I kept stealing glances away from the rock gardens to look at the clouds! The wind had also died down and it was perfect riding weather. Then the sun dipped below the horizon and the sky darkened from blue to purple to black. With the touch of a button, the Toro roared to life - flooding the trail and sage brush with light. We'd just gotten the remote switches for the lights, so there was no more fumbling in the dark for buttons. I had the on-off switch right by my thumb, which was so nice. But the nicest part was floating down Sea of Sage in the darkness - nothing but a ribbon of trail illuminated by my lights. That has to be one of the most exhilarating aspects of 24 hour racing - that awareness of the trail that only comes at night. And this lap, I cleaned Rocky Ridge - from start to finish - from the climb to descent down to Becks. I'm not sure how I made the slab, but I did that one time. I didn't get the Notch though - just made the left turn then dabbed badly. Oh well - a clean lap would be nice.
|Making the exchange - with me heading out into the sage|
Photo - Justin Gehrett
But the fun of the ride made up for the chill in the air. A new moon meant the only lights on the trail came from the racers. I had plenty of lumens for my night laps. And I cleaned the Notch. Up the rock slabs, passed the tree, made the left hand turn into the crack, up the two rock steps in the crack... Whoo-hoo! Almost cheered aloud, but I didn't want to scare anyone out there, or make the riders behind me think I'd crashed. But I was super excited about that - my first time riding that whole section. And I'd make a few more clean run through before the end of the race. Overall, I really had fun on the night laps this year. It was quiet, save for the yipping of coyotes and the antics of Chickens. Scattered dots of light pinpointed the trail for the entire lap. Tracing the switchbacks up Jacks - a reminder of the climb approaching. The occasional flash of light at the top of the Notch, only visible from Gold Basin road. Beams winding in and out of Behind the Rocks, down Alonzo's, up Luge and Broken Shovel. The lights on Sea of Sage and the climb to Rocky Ridge as I entered Broken Shovel. It's a lot of fun riding out there at night. I could be all alone on the trail but never feel alone thanks to the lights meandering around the course ahead and behind me.
So far, we were doing really good, hitting nice consistent lap times. I hadn't yet started to feel that deep fatigue that precipitated the implosion at Old Pueblo this year. I had slowed down by a few minutes, but was still running faster then the planned lap times. But I could feel how tired I was as the sunrise lap approached. Hopefully, the infusion of light and warmth from the sun would keep me riding fast. But on the road, I could tell - it was going to be slow. At my check point about halfway through the lap, I was four minutes slower then my last two laps. Ugh. That meant I might lose upwards of 6 minutes on this lap! I kept my focus on the trail and on riding, not on trying to make up time. Through Rocky Ridge and I was walking the slab every lap now - just too sandy and loose. The time lost in walking was far better the crashing for sure. I was getting better with the Notch though, at about 50% success rate with the left hand turn and a few mostly clean runs through with only a small dab. Amazingly, when I returned to the KOA, I hadn't lost any more time. I was still only 4 minutes slower then my prior two laps. Hopefully for my last two laps, I would be able to regain my speed. Some clean clothes and warm food at the turtle lifted my spirits. I love the night riding, but the cold was wearing on me.
|Back of the Pack founder Judd,|
hydrating for the race....
One more lap. That's all that was left in the race. And unlike 2010, where I left transition being chased, with the race on the line, all I needed to do was finish. Somewhere in the night, we'd distanced ourselves from the second place team. I don't know what happened - if one of the riders got hurt or there was a bad mechanical or what. Up until the 10th lap, it had been less then 30 minutes between us. Now, we were nearly 2 laps ahead. So Nick told me to just ride smart and make sure I finished in one piece. That was my plan, but on Jacks, I saw another woman behind me. Only in Sage - when she finally caught me at the base of Luge, just before the Cottonwood grove, we both recognized each other! We'd both done the last lap last year - with her catching me in almost the same spot. We talked for a bit on the double track, then I followed her up Broken Shovel. And unlike last year, where i was suffering and wanting to be off the bike, I was feeling good. I had no clue how hard or how fast I was riding - my Garmin battery had died on Broken Shovel. Oh well - I didn't need to worry about pacing anymore! But mentally, I was ready to ride. I passed her back on the road between Broken Shovel and Sea of Sage. A smooth, fast fun down Sea of Sage, up along Rocky Ridge and down into the Notch. I didn't get a chance to have one final attempt at the Notch - there was some traffic and I didn't feel like being rude. But that was fine. I'd conquered the Notch - my fear and dread each time I looked up at the rock slabs had been replaced with confidence. I know how to ride it now, and how to get down the other side safely. Confidence on technical riding that I will need come the end of September.
|Champagne Shower! Time to party!|
Photo - Justine Gerhett
Nick greeted me at the finish line - we'd successfully defended our Duo title and had a much smoother race then last year. And had a much more enjoyable weekend, thanks to the rest of the crew from Ascent showing up this year. We had a great time after the awards, cooking gigantic marshmallows, telling stories and enjoying the other great part of 24 hour races - the party after the race!