Here comes the rain again... 2014 24 Hours in the Sage

This was my sixth time racing at 24 Hours in the Sage and Nick's eighth. In all those years, we have had nothing but perfect weather - sunny and warm with just some wind during the day, a few rain sprinkles as sun set, chilly and occasionally humid nights and then beautiful sunrises to end the day. I've never needed arm warms until after dark and then hardly needed a jacket. So when I packed for our foray into the 12 hour offering, I debated leaving most of my rain gear and such at home. After all - shorter race, less clothes needed, right? Last minute I opted to bring the new rain jacket Nick got me for my pack, as well as my Gore jacket and the usual assortment of gloves, wool socks and booties. And when the rain moved in Friday, I was suddenly happy to have it all...
Yep- Ready to go for 24 (er, 12...)

12 Hour Duo class
Race morning started with a quick downpour followed by some sun. I knew we weren't out of the woods. Anytime there is a rainbow to the west, it means trouble. The skies spat at the KOA throughout the morning, letting up every now and then. But the heavy clouds never lifted even up to the start. Nick was doing the first lap and took off well. Without the usual suspects charging up the blacktop, I had a feeling they would all tuck in behind him for the tow up to Hartman's. And I was right - even before the race was out of sight, there was a train behind Nick. Oh well. I didn't ponder it as it was time for me to get ready for my lap. My first race in my Stars and Stripes. If only deciding to wear arm warmers or not was as easy an decision! There was a nasty wind howling through the KOA, but the sun was peeking through the clouds. With arm warmers and jacket tucked into my jersey pockets, I rolled up to the transition tent.
Racers charging from the line

Nick making the turn onto Gold Basin Road

Nick was in the top ten as usual and the first of the 12 hour duo riders. With the class changes, it was duo open, so we were honestly racing against the guys. They knew it too. The second rider of eventual winners caught me on the road. He didn't seem to happy when I tucked onto his wheel and stayed there almost all the way to Hartman's. I knew I wouldn't be able to stay there once we hit the singletrack, and I was right. I could climb with him, but not descend. A little hesitant on the Punch Bowl still and just not feeling settled on my bike made for a slower start then I wanted. And the new chunk of Behind the Rocks didn't help. It's a great addition with some good rock gardens and fun lines - I just wasn't smooth on it. Add in the wind on Sea of Sage - I had to pedal! - and on the black top and it was a much slower lap then I wanted. Our original lap goal was already out the window and it was only two laps in! 

I had wind on my first lap, but also sun. The sun wasn't sticking around much longer, with sheets of rain filling the valley between Gunnison and CB. Only the fourth lap of the race, and I was already donning leg warmers and arm warmers. It was that cold. The trails were in good shape from the rain, but the rocks were slick in places. I was more settled on the bike for my next lap, finding the ebb and flow of the rocks and climbs. Up in the rocks, the approaching weather was evident. It was going to get colder and wetter before the day was done. No faster then my first lap, I handed off to Nick. The down jacket was already making an appearance at 4:20... 

My third lap started out good. I'd adjusted my rear brake and the rotor was no longer grabbing with each pedal stroke. Maybe I could get my lap time down to where I wanted them! Confidently up thru the Punch Bowl, along Behind the Rocks and down Alonzo's. Onto the road... And that's where I got a little cocky and paid the price! I didn't realize until I almost landed in it that there was a three foot ditch hiding in the sage along that road. Yeah, over confidence was my weakness and I lost control, executing a high speed bail into the bushes to avoid the ditch. As I flew through the air, I felt and heard the phsht of my tire burping. Whoops. Luckily, no physical damage except to my pride - stupid wipeout in my champions jersey in front of two guys... I still had to deal with my now soft front tire. I couldn't tell if I'd dented the rim or just had pile of dirt in the bead. But it wasn't holding. I was a minute away from  putting a tube in when it finally held. I added like 10 psi more then I wanted to make sure it held (not easy with a hand pump) and headed back onto course. Still didn't trust it and rode so easy on every single rock left on the course. Which was a lot. Got one rock wrong and heard another phsht.. Sweet talking to the tire works, right? Finally made it back to the KOA - 10 minutes late and sealing our second place. 

Pre-riding up the Punch Bowl
Time to break out the Camber. With only two laps left, I wasn't going to deal with fixing the tire on the Fate. It was also time for warmer jersey, clean shorts, dry wool socks, booties and rain jacket. As well as lights. Nick was leaving for the sunset lap, which was underwhelming this year thanks to the rain. It went from grey and damp to dark and wet. Not much of a change! It was drizzling again when Nick rolled in, telling me to be careful and things were slippery. Still a little shaken from my crash, I was riding cautiously to start with - but loving the suspension. Even with the damp, I was able to ride everything but one little rock. A little rock that has eluded me on nearly every lap I've ridden out there... 

There is something out the night that I love. I was almost sorry that we were doing the 12 hour - I would only get two night laps. Add in the rain and it was mystical out there. Quiet trails with lights dancing off in the distance - nothing like watching riders plunging off the Notch as you approach from the road to highten the anticipation for the next hour. I love it. The rain drops glinting in my lights as I climbed and descended. Pitch darkness surrounded the course - no stars or moon to be seen. It was some of the best night riding I've done. 

The rain was even stronger when I started the final lap. I'd swapped my light weight jacket for my heavier rain coat was getting drenched. The riders weren't liking the rain, but the salamanders were. I have seen plenty of rabbits, squirrels and mice - both flat and still hopping. But I have never seen salamanders. Yet there they were, baby godzillas slithering across the road. I couldn't ride more then 20 feet without seeing one. Nick said he also saw some on the trails, but once I hit the dirt I was focusing on rocks. No time for salamander spotting. It wasn't fast, but it was clean for a final lap. And fun. I was smiling in the rain, comfortable in my jacket and feeling confident with my riding. It was dark, it was wet - but it was fun.

Nick was already changed and ready to party when I finished. One reason we were doing the 12 this year - the faster recovery and ability to enjoy parts of the race we usually miss. Because of the rain, there wasn't as much late night partying as normal, but plenty for us. I ended up going to bed about 1:30, only to be woken up by rain on the roof of the van at 2:30. And the 24 hour racers were still cranking laps!

The other 12 hour duo teams didn't stick around for awards....


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