Froggy Time!

It's never a good idea to plan a trail riding vacation after a 25 hour race. Nick and I figured that out this weekend when we started our trip off with the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow. We had a fairly aggressive race plan - and were hoping for 24 laps in the 25 hours. A solid performance, but one that would have left us unable to enjoy the first half of our vacation. After two pre ride laps on Thursday and Friday, we also knew there was a rough back half to the course that would be brutal as the laps wore on. We talked about it briefly before the start, but opted to stick with the plan. Take it out aggressively then regroup after midnight and see how things stood. Nick started - a short run and I gave him his bike. The field was larger then the size of Frog Town indicated, so Nick getting me out early would be important on the JEM trail. There was a slight breeze blowing, stirring up small puffs of the reddish tan dust that coated everything. It was early in the day so the sun was just starting to banish the nights chill. I kept a watchful eye on the expansive Mesa where the course ran as I got ready. Every so often, I could see a brightly colored speck speeding along the horizon line - a rider flying down the road before the final section of single track. Not that I could tell which rider it was from that distance, but it was cool to see the little specks maneuvering along the cliff edge. It also meant I really needed to get ready. 
One "official" number and the backups. My art project for every race!
Nick was about the fifth rider in. Without a baton, I was able to fly the minute he entered the timing tent. None of the teams were doing true handoffs that early in the race. Some just made some noise or waved their teammate out since we could see the approaching riders for a while on the road climb into transition. Most teams honestly did wait until the incoming rider crossed the line, but some left a mite early. Saw no huge "anomalies" as Nick put it the entire race though. Low key as it was, people were respecting the rules of the race.

Off into the desert I went. Our last pre-ride had been about a 1:05 lap so my goal was just a few minutes faster. With the long road climb and easier terrain, it was tempting to just hammer and sprint up every little gully wash. I knew there was a long way to go and burning too many matches in the first half of the first lap would be folly. Another time I was happy for the power meter and the studying I'd been doing on what all the numbers meant. I didn't focus on my Garmin - kept my eyes on the trail, but I was able to monitor effort and tie it to my perceived exertion so I didn't over cook the climb. I race on perceived exertion and have gotten really good at internally regulating for the length and intensity of events. Even with keeping a tight rein on my effort, I was dancing up the road. Only a few guys were catching me, which was even nicer. It didn't take long to reach the turn onto JEM. Time to ride my bike. Took the first two launchers smoothly and made the right turn approaching the drop. An audience had gathered and was hooting and hollering as every rider attempted the descent. I got extra loud cheers since I was the first woman coming around on lap 2. And thankfully I made it nice and clean. Now came the fun section. Eyes on the trail as I weaves and darted through the bushes. I didn't quite have a the mental map of the course yet and came into a few things a little to fast. Managed to wrangle my way cleanly up the rocky climb and through the bumpy, tricky descent without issues. I did a good job of picking the smoothest line through that section. Only one more rough patch to get through and home free. I was a little sloppy on Hurricane Rim trail, but got the job done. I was also much faster then I'd though I'd be, cruising up the road in just under an hour. 

Nick took off as I rolled into the tent. All the volunteers loved our team name this race. We were playing off the struggle all duos face when racing. Without a plan, it's sometimes hard to figure out who gets to ride the next lap. Therefore, we went with "No-u-go." Yep, always finding funny team names that will make people laugh. Some of the volunteers were a little stricter with the rules then others. We were supposed to call out our number, then check in with the volunteers and tell them who was going out next. Sometimes we did, sometimes they didn't want the info. But it's hard to get annoyed at the volunteers who are up all night, making the race smooth for us. It's gotta be a hard job. That and the course marshals. The volunteer medic at the JEM drop was awake all night. Seeing his fire from the road was always nice. He stood up and watched everyone safely down the drop. There was one aid station on course and Judith was also up all night. She had a different mask, wig and outfit on every lap. And food. Lots of food. A welcome sight to any tired rider. They all made the race really nice.

My second lap was a comedy of errors. Ahh - it's such a good thing Nick has (sometimes) patiently made sure I can fix most mechanicals on my bike. I had such a good climb up to JEM, a smooth ride down the drop and was making good time for another fast lap. And then... At the road crossing, I took the bigger line and landed a little rougher then I wanted. Oops. Gave myself a nice talking to, and kept riding trying to be smoother and more focused. There was a lot more coming to pay attention too. Unfortunately, I didn't pay enough attention. Took one of the launchers a little fast and felt the tire burp. A few more pedal strokes as I pondered if it was okay to ride. Nope - too soft - I wasn't gonna make it back without adding some air. So I stopped, got my pump out and... Crap! My pump wasn't working! It was filthy from all the dust and me not cleaning it for a year. And I'd let most of the air out of the tire fussing with my pump! There I was, standing on the side of the trail, no pump and flat. Luckily, someone took pity on me and stopped to loan me a pump. Got the tire aired up and off I went again. Something still wasn't right. There was an odd hiss at certain points in my pedal stroke. At the top of the rocky climb, I stopped again. Upon closer inspection, I found the sidewall tear. Just enough that every time that point in the wheel hit the ground, it bulged to let air out. Time for a tube. Booted the sidewall tear and efficiently got the tube in and filled. But I'd lost huge time with the debacle - over 15 minutes. And Nick made a point of mentioning it when I finally rolled up. (He always gets worried when I'm late - not about mechanicals but about crashing and getting hurt.) I gave him the short version about the tire issue and rolled back to camp.

Fate went into the bike stand and I gave it a quick cleaning. I wrote Nick a long note about the whole incident and got the Stumpjumper ready to go. Yep - we brought the big bikes as our spares since we had a trail riding trip planned. I was waiting for Nick on my Stumpy, actually looking forward to that lap. Nick nodded when he saw me and told me to ride it like I stole and use the whole machine. Oh yeah - I was planning on it. I set the suspension in climb mode and the fork in trail mode and took off. Ahh... Like riding on a pillow compared to my Fate. Even in climb mode, the Stumpy soaked up all the water rut chatter on the road. I kept the tempo under control but still managed a fast climb. Then came the JEM trail. I took Nick's advice, dropped my dropper, flipped from climb to trail mode on the suspension and descent mode on my fork. Took the first two launchers, catching some air with a giggle. So much fun! I love that bike and it made the JEM trail even more fun. I was bouncing off the edges of the trail and the bike absorbed everything. All the rough, rocky climbs and choppy descents were so much smoother and I wasn't much slower on my big bike. 

I was debating continuing on with my Stumpy for the rest of the laps - I honestly had so much more fun and wasn't feeling beat up when I finished. But Nick had checked out my Fate and given it the all clear. There was still a tube in the rear tire, but he had shored up the boot so it would hold. I couldn't see pushing the extra weight up the hill for the rest of the race. So I put a new tube in my tool kit and parked the Stumpy. Back to the Fate. I just needed to make sure I was really smooth on all the rocky sections. With a tube in that rear tire, I was at risk for getting a pinch flat. Something I kept reminding myself every rock and every bump.
Home for the race - getting ready for sunset
We were six laps into the race, with Nick out for lap seven. Solidly in first in the Co-ed duo and nibbling on the top three duo overall. If we kept the tempo high and rode smart, we might be able to pull up into second overall. First duo was out of reach - almost a lap up on us already. My next lap was the near sunset run. Not enough that I would need lights, although I saw some riders heading out with them. I was happy to have a hat on this time as the sun dipped closer and closer to the horizon. Dialed the pace down just a little and was fairly smooth through the entire course. One more hour done - only 16 left to go. And as the sun vanished, leaving mauve tinged clouds and a deepening darkness, the chill began seeping into Frog Town. It was as enveloping as the dust that coated everything. 
Sunset over Frog Town. With the darkness came the cold
Preparing for that first night lap was simple. The Exposure lights are perfect for 24 hour racing. I had a Reflex on my bars and a Diablo on my helmet. No cords, no mess. Just easy to use and super bright lights. Dressing for my first night lap was the hard part. I knew the temperature was going to drop and keep dropping. But with a long climb to start the lap and then the descent, the layering would be key. I didn't want to be sweating on the climb and then freezing on the drop down JEM. Luckily, I have good clothes and was able to get the right combo of base layer, jersey, jacket, knee warmers and wool socks so I was comfortable for the entire lap. Even better was the little heater Nick and I have in our pit tent. We kept that baby burning all night with little five pound propane tank. Without it it would have been a long and very cold night. One of the best things we got when the turtle died before 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. 

My first night lap went fine. Had no issues, just slowed a little since I didn't have the sense for the course yet. It was pitch dark out on the Mesa, with nothing but the lights of other riders glinting off the canyon walls. Stars filled an expansive black sky, challenged only by the reflections of my lights on the dusty trail. Just fun. I honestly love the night riding and stillness the night provides compared to the frantic pace of the day laps. But it was getting colder. I dressed a little warmer for my second night lap - our 12th lap of the race, knowing any issues would mean a shiver inducing stop. Nick sent me out for the that lap with the admonishment to ride smart, remember I had a tube in my rear wheel and not get another flat. I think he cursed me... I made good time to the top of the climb, only two minutes off my fastest trip. Said thanks to the medic at the JEM drop and was trying to pick the smoothest lines through the rocks. I was starting to get tired and sloppy and was debating swapping to my Stumpy for the rest of the night laps. The hardtail was starting to beat me up. That momentary loss of focus was all it took. I felt the rear tire smack a rock and go soft. Pedaled to the top of the climb, just hoping that Judith, the volunteer at the aid station would have a floor pump. No luck. I made the best work I could off putting a new tube in the rear tire and used my hand pump to get it filled. And felt the minutes ticking by. All the momentum we had rolling through the dark was slipping away. I took it really easy on Hurricane Rim, knowing I didn't have a second tube and that it was really cold out.

As we had discussed, Nick was waiting at our pit instead of the tent. With the bone numbing cold settling in, neither one of us wanted to be out standing around. It was warm in our tent. I could tell he'd been worried, but he tossed off the blanket when I arrived. I told I had gotten another flat and was swapping to the Stumpjumper. He nodded and was out the door. He was also riding his Stumpy for rest of the night, complete with bar mitts due to the cold. I sat down for a bit, frustrated at my flat issues. It was wholly my fault, my sloppy riding and not slowing enough to respect risks of the course. I'd lost us 30 minutes - nearly half a lap, as well as the momentum we usually take into the witching hours of a 24 hour race. But I couldn't sulk and feel sorry for myself. I still had to ride. Fresh Reflex on my Stumpy and into some warmer clothes. We were 13 hours into the race and needed to keep the focus. I checked the results - a few laps up on Fixie Dave and his partner and actually into second place overall duo. Doing some math, I figured I would have four or five laps left to ride. Get through the night and then stay strong as the sun rose.

When Nick came back, he told me to really dial it down and stay safe. I agreed and took off. The number of riders on course had dropped significantly so it was actually easy to just pedal up the climb. I had no one to chase but my own demons. And on the Stumpy, I was definitely winning. I should have swapped bikes well before that - it would have saved a lot of wear on my body. I'd been dreading going out for that lap, but was energized and excited when I got back to camp. My next lap was more of the same - but with a warmer jersey and my winter gloves. I was enjoying the course on my Stumpy. The fun was back. I was looking forward to a few more laps and the sunrise. We had 16 laps total and could easily get 22 or 23 by the end of the race. Then Nick hit me with an even bigger surprise. Normally, we race through the night and for the whole 24 hours. We've never stopped before the race is over. But this was different. We had a fun vacation planned and he rightfully wanted to be able to enjoy every day of it. And that meant stopping early - as soon as we had completely locked up the Co-ed Duo class, we were done. I asked about the duo overall since we also monitor that. Nope. We were pulling the plug as soon as we could. One more lap each.
That's how cold it was outside the warm tent!
The cold was digging in, biting though every layer of clothes when I stepped outside the tent to clean my bike. I had dressed in one kit, then completely changed my mind and went with my new wool jacket and gore jacket over that. Combined with a craft base layer and hat, wool socks and toe warmers tucked into my shoes, I felt ready to face the enveloping darkness. Nick returned and told me to take my time and be smart. My last lap was the quietest I've ever had during a 24 hour race. I saw only the occasional light splintering the night time and passed very few riders. I was on the road, looking down below me into blackness - no train of lights, no voices. Just dark, still and oh so quiet. I could see the welcoming glow of the medic's fire at the JEM drop though and made a point to thank him before rolling over the grate and descending the cliff face. Judith was also still away, manning her post at the aid station. I thanked her as well. I don't know how she stayed awake all night - or how many layers she was wearing. I just comfortable in my wool jersey and gore jacket!

Nick had a warm rag waiting for me when I retuned to pit. He was already dressed in fleece jammies and down coat, ready to crawl into bed when I had changed. I cleaned up, washed my face and bundled up in warm clothes. Nick heated some food for me as I changed and we decided that we were done. No getting up with the sunrise and knocking out a few more laps. We had a vacation to enjoy. I scarfed down my fish and rice and we headed to the van to sleep. Just shy of 20 hours, with 18 laps to our name and we were done. It was time for a nap. First time for that!
Sun rising on Hurricane Mesa - good morning Frog Town!
I woke up with the sunrise and went to check results. Getting a most recent copy meant sitting in the timing tent for a few minutes while Cimarron updated the computer. There were plenty of people still out on their bikes, having braved the cold and dark. I cheered each person on as I entered the numbers into the computer. Even that short stint gave me better respect for the timing volunteers and how long their day is. Wow. And how important it is to shut off lights before entering the tent! I wouldn't have been able to see the numbers at all! The lap counts hadn't changed - in fact it looked like a truce had been called! Both teams had stopped within minutes of each other. I reported the info back to Nick and settled in a chair with some coffee to watch the race. It felt kinda nice to just chill out and not be riding. I also felt a little guilty for just sitting there, especially when I saw Fixie Dave heading out for a final lap. But every hour we didn't ride during the race meant an hour or more of play time later.
Nick and I took first, Fixie Dave Nice and Jarmila Gorman in second and the Raven Riders in third (they went to bed early...)


And we would take full advantage of that...

Comments

  1. Enjoyed reading your adventure, Awesome job of supporting each other.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. We've learned a lot about each other and racing through the 24 hour.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular Posts