I think I was unprepared for how much fun Old Pueblo was going to be. You might say I was a little unprepared in general. I didn’t know I was doing the race until three days before the start. Half of 2-Epic was sick, and for some reason the guy from Tucson with almost no 24 hour race experience seemed like a good choice to fill in.
I’d have been a fool to say no. I’ve been looking for a good team to race with at Old Pueblo for a while, and I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. Lynda is the current solo singlespeed national champ, and absolutely killed Old Pueblo last year, riding 16 laps in the singlespeed category. She knows a thing or two about these things and is one of the best 24 hour racers, period. I knew I’d learn a lot from her and that we had a good shot at the win — if I could just keep it together and limit my mistakes.
I showed up Saturday morning, with a surprisingly easy drive in and made my way to Lynda’s ‘circus’ tent. She and Dave Byers had quite the set up, and I felt totally spoiled throughout the race.
We talked strategy a bit, and both of us were pretty relaxed. Maybe a little too relaxed — I was almost late to the start. I was walking and talking with Jonesy up the road when someone said, “you guys doing the first lap? Two minutes to start.” We started jogging, which was a good warmup. I shook Todd Sadow’s hand, thanked him for the race, then stood next to Fuzzy (thanks Fuzz) right on the front, with about 30 seconds to go.
I am emphatically not a runner. Running does evil, nasty things to me. My weak little body just can’t handle it. It might be why I’m so impressed by people who can run and run so well (Paula!!!).
I knew I wouldn’t be super fast, but I figured I could handle something so short as the “Le Mans” run to the bikes.
photo by TF user David Halliburton
Oh how wrong I was. If you could zoom in enough on my legs you could see millions of muscle fibers tearing. Just looking at that pic makes me a little ill. It’s Wednesday and my legs are still stupid sore… all from that run.
At the time it was super fun though, all adrenaline and guts. Reality sunk in on the uphill and people started passing me big time (even the guy carrying the pirate flag!). I got on my bike in ~50th with a heart rate of 183 and it took forever to recover from it.
The only good part was that it kept me from going out too fast. With my legs aching and my heart pounding, there was little worry of that. Chill was the word, and I knew that any effort I put into pedaling hard was not at all worth it. I was worried that after taking my first lap off, my legs would lock up and I wouldn’t be able to ride at all.
photo from Clutch Photography
That pic is from lap 1. Do I look like I’m chilling or what?! I was trying to talk to people, thanking volunteers, cheering on people that stopped for whatever reason. It took a while for me to realize I was pretty much the only one doing that kind of thing.
It really took me several laps to get into 24 hour race mode. It’s not a self-supported enduro with a handful of people, many of whom are your friends. I had to constantly fight the urge to stop or ask people if they were OK when they were on the side of the trail. Had to remind myself that there were hundreds of people around to help. I eventually settled on saying something encouraging, and then finally moved to not saying anything at all, which felt strange for a while. I even stopped trying to make dumb jokes and chat with people. I even learned how to be a little more aggressive with passing! It’s an interesting phenomenon, racing around in circles with so many people.
Super fun though, as I would learn as the race wore on. My eyes usually glaze over when I start reading a 24 Hour race report that breaks down the laps, so apologies in advance if you are the same as me!
It totally felt like cheating to be able to stop racing and attend to whatever needed to be attended to. (Lynda and I traded off every lap). After the first lap I was very glad to be off the bike so I could assess the damage to my legs. Yep, they are sore beyond repair, and I would just have to deal with it for the rest of the race and beyond. At least they were not cycling specific muscles, so shouldn’t slow me down too much? I have to say that it wasn’t very inspiring to have trouble bending over, or putting on my shoes… knowing that the race had just started.
I kept the same average heart rate for my first three laps (seriously, the average was exactly the same) and I got faster on each one. 1:13, 1:12 and 1:09. Other than feeling the soreness in my legs on all the “rough” sections (thank goodness for the 4″ Lev) all three felt pretty reasonable, a pace I could sustain indefinitely, but I knew night time and long term fueling would change things up.
Meanwhile Lynda was consistently churning out the same or faster lap times than me. That was pretty inspiring right there. You definitely feed on the energy of your partner, even though you only see them for a second.
Paula found our tent before my first night lap, which was great because the night transitions are more critical, or harder. She helped a lot, especially since the dumb soreness made it more difficult for me to move around and find things. My pit setup was also anything but dialed… unlike my pit mates who were so well organized and efficient it was almost scary. I got to talk to Dave B. during a few transitions as he came by our tent, and man was he focused and smooth. I wasn’t surprised later when I heard he had moved into 3rd place solo.
My first two night laps were super consistent and again I felt better with each one. Despite being a local, I don’t know the course, given that I only ride there during the Antelope Peak Challenge, and only in 2008 did I do the bonus 24OP lap. So I kept the speed reeled in for the first two laps as I learned the lines in the dark. Luckily I had the best lights of anyone out there, courtesy of Mr. Harris, the light wizard. As I transitioned for my third night lap I was planning on finally pushing the pace and going for fastest night lap. We were halfway through the race and it was time to let loose a bit.
Unfortunately, I got a little excited about how easy it was to fuel between laps. Throughout the race I ate almost nothing on the bike, and instead drank and ate on the transitions. And it was working really well until I overdid it and ate too much. Usually getting enough fuel is a challenge for me, so Paula was eager to feed me, and I was eager to eat. Pasta, veggies, hot chocolate, an apple, some gatorade? Yum yum.
Standing in the transition tent the burps started. Oops. After a few minutes of pedaling it was clear my stomach was unhappy and this was going to be a slow lap. I bordered on the edge of nausea most of the time, but I’ve ridden through much worse. I focused on using energy where it mattered, and kept it easy otherwise. For some reason I would always get stuck behind people on the His/Hers trail. There’s nowhere to pass and people really get limited by their skills there. But it’s also the only ‘rough’ section of the trail, and I learned that taking it easy there led to a much faster/easier climb to round out the lap.
The lap of a thousand burps came in respectably for being in the wee hours of the night, but I couldn’t eat anything on the next transition, or the next lap. Again the slow down was not significant, though these two laps were definitely the hardest.
Luckily Lynda was still going strong, and had moved us into the lead. It was a very close race, with 2nd (with Jeny on the team!) and 3rd right on our heels.
photo by Lynda Wallenfels
Sitting back in the transition I felt super lucky to have the tent, a space heater, lights, dry clothes and a comfy chair. I was a total wreck. I shivered for almost an hour, dehydrated and hypoglycemic. My toes would not come back no matter what I did, and the thought of riding another lap made me nauseous. “I’m so sick of riding that course and passing people all the time,” I thought.
It’s not a good race unless you think about dropping out at least once. So, there it was.
I have pulled myself back together from much, much worse, so I just stayed focused on what I needed to do to recover. I made it to the transition tent more than five minutes before I expected Lynda to be there. As I walked in I heard, “Team 224!” Wooooo, just in time.
“Lynda just rode a 1:12!!” I heard someone say. I didn’t process it until I was on the bike again, and at the same time it was clear that I was reborn. Let’s get this thing going, maybe I can match the 1:12!
photo by Ed Ellinger
Once again feeding off the energy of my partner, I kept the pace comfortably high and had a blast ripping around the course. I still had to keep it easy in a few places, so as to not activate my roasted supporting muscles, but on the ‘high point’ climb I really laid into the pedals, and it felt oh so good. This is what racing bikes is all about.
It wasn’t enough to match Lynda’s smoking lap, though. But we were suddenly looking at the possibility of 20 laps. Previous record for co-ed duo was 18. We had enough of a lead that 19 would do it, but the prospect of 20 was pretty exciting.
Both of us would need to ride comparable (1:12-1:13) laps to what we just did, and even then it was going to be close. I felt like I could do another 1:13, but even that would put it down to the last minutes. (We had to finish our 19th lap before noon in order to head out on a 20th lap).
I kept checking the clock and looking for Lynda. She came in with a 1:13, leaving me the cushion (I had ~1:17 to finish the lap). I grinned and asked her, “do you want to do another?” Of course she did, so I got to it.
The wind was pretty murderous heading east, and I feared I was going too slow. Despite this being my 10th lap, I had no concept of the splits, or how fast a 1:15 lap really was. All I had was the clock on my GPS, telling me that twelve noon was coming fast. I really pushed it at the end, and I finally figured out the most effective way to let people know you are coming — grunting. Whenever people heard me suffering they’d clear out of the way before I got anywhere near them! Too funny.
I wasn’t sure I’d make it even as I was getting close to the high point on the course. I don’t know how long the descent takes! Without a GPS track and TopoFusion to tell me, I’m useless. I was totally surprised to see I had five minutes to spare when I entered the tent to lots of cheering. Lynda was off on lap 20! Yeah!
That’s the only pic I took, of Lynda finishing lap 20 in style!
The race seemed too short — though I had killed it at the end of my last lap, I was still just getting started, getting dialed in, and wanted to ride more! Was that really 24 hours? The sun is still up and it’s beautiful out!
photo by Paula Morrison
But I guess you gotta go stand on the podium sometimes.
What an awesome time! It was too fun to be Lynda’s teammate. Paula was awesome on support — always encouraging, checking times and helping me immensely during all the transitions. Dave Harris’ advice and lights (and by extension, wealth of experience) sure helped a lot too. Thanks a bunch guys.
Here’s an article on Mountain Flyer that quotes me saying something I don’t remember saying, but is definitely true:
Some awesome pictures by Brian Leddy there, too. Our lap splits are here:
And finally, here is something kinda fun. A TopoFusion comparison of my laps:
Red dots are day laps, black are night. Unfortunately I lost the GPS data for my first two laps due to using Paula’s GPS which was set to record a point every second. So much for being the GPS expert, but it did record my average and max HR for each lap.
It’s pretty cool to see how fast laps 9 and 10 were, and even how solid a couple of the night laps seemed. The wind on 9/10 is very evident as well — major slow down whenever heading east. I’m totally geeking out on the TF playbacks these days, having done a number of SPOT replays for Yukon Quest and other events we are tracking.
Thanks for reading and granting the indulgence of another long blow-by-blow race report.