November 16, 2008

12 Hours of Temecula Race Report

I did not have any expectations for my solo endeavor at the 12 Hours of Temecula this weekend beyond trying to complete the entire 12 hours riding my bike. I had decided to sign up for the race after realizing I did not have enough running miles behind me to do the Catalina Eco marathon that we were already registered for this weekend so this race would be “just for fun”. Besides I had been on my bike more than ever and it would be a good test to see if the extra miles would help. Whatever lap times I would roll and my overall placing were second to steady persistence with no excuses. I was there to race my race. That simple goal and the people who helped me throughout the day would lead me through a race that ended much better than it started off and carried me much further than I had ever expected.

The race started with a parade lap which would determine our order getting into the course. I wanted to move up in the pace line but I resisted the urge because I did not want to start out too fast. That turned out to be a mistake… The first lap was a mess with people backed up all over the trail which was now covered in a cloud of dust. People were piling up all over the place! I got caught behind a lot of beginners by holding back and on one of the downhill pile ups I jumped off the trail to avoid the carnage and went over the bars. Two minutes later I busted my chain. Not a good way to start off a long day.

the madness of the first lap chaos

Unfortunately, I continued that theme through the next few laps. I went over the bars again and managed to drop my chain between my cassette and spokes two times until it broke… again. Lap three and had broken my derailleur hanger and chain for the third time, I really started to think it was not going to be my day. Then I managed to catch a bee in my helmet and I got stung right above the eyebrow. Ouch!

I had to laugh and remember that this was a long race and I still had a lot going for me. I had the heroic work of Sean Clancy keeping me going every time I got back from a lap and he even managed to string together two chains and keep me fed so I could focus on the race. I pressed on remembering my goal of just riding the entire day/night and not giving up. I started seeing more friends through the laps and settled into my ride. After all, this was perfect training and I really got to practice passing people and I still felt fresh.

cramming the fuel in between laps

From this point on I lost track of what lap I was on and just started riding to a rhythm. Somewhere around the seven hour mark things started getting better. My chain was holding and I started making complete laps without any issues. At this point I started hitting our transition tent only long enough to switch bottles and load up my pockets with fuel. A few laps later I passed Keevin working his way up a climb. He had been suffering from cramps all day in his quads but he was not going to let it stop him. He is always keeping me motivated! I found inspiration in so many people throughout the day. If I learned one thing from my first solo it is that it is a huge TEAM effort just like everything in life. . . . Shortly after passing Keevin I busted my chain again! When I stopped to get it fixed I realized that I left my chain tool back at the transition after the first few fixes and I was out of a tool… I was not out of luck however and Keevin showed up right behind me and handed over his min-tool. Saved again! I broke it off right at the point where I had a link bent and removed the next three links. My chain was now too short to get it around the largest chainring in the front but it was now back up and running with no more bent links. I was praying that it would just hold on for the rest of the race.By now the sun was starting to set and I knew the end was near.

The changing of the day to night made passing much easier and I still felt great. I started focusing on everything in the day that went RIGHT! Maybe all the stops from the mechanicals were a perfect chance for me to get some rest on the early laps? I still had plenty of power in the legs and was well hydrated and fed. I started doing the math for how many more laps I could get in… I still had no idea how many laps I had behind me at this point but I figured I was at seven or eight. I had about four hours left and I knew if I wanted to get in three more laps I would have to power the next two so I would have some spare time on the last lap or another issue. At this point I started focusing on "the race". I asked Monique to check my placing the next time I came through… the final hours and things are getting interesting! Monique told me I was heading out for my ninth lap and I was in the top 2 for the solo pack.

Number 9 and 10 was no holding back... I was at about 100 miles and 11 hours in the saddle. Maybe 15,000+ feet of climbing so far... If I really wanted that last lap I was going to have to push it. When I checked in after lap 10 I asked the staff how much time I had left. One hour twenty minutes.. Aghh… I was off again and knew I could make another lap in that window of time but I was going to have to dig deep. I was spent from the last two laps but this would really be my last lap so I gave it all I had left as I headed out into the night.

It would be too easy to just crank out another lap. About 20 minutes into the final lap my helmet light went out. Doh! I didn’t plan on riding over three hours with my lights and that was about the max battery charge for lights on my helmet and handlebars. I still had some charge on my handlebar lights but I noticed the light starting to blink, signaling they were almost gone too. Less than two minutes later my handlebar lights faded away. . . Darkness. Complete black and alone on the top of the ridge. I looked over the lake and saw the reflection of the moon lighting its way across the water. I don’t want it to end like this. . . If I could not make it back before the 12 hour mark the attempt for another lap would not count. Please let me finish this lap I prayed!

I stared pushing my bike through the darkness now contemplating my choices. Just when I was ready to give up on myself and the task at hand I had another unexpected helping hand. This time it was from a complete stranger. Someone else was making a late night last minute lap and I saw his lights as he crested the hill behind me. Light(S)! Please, Please, Please can I use one of your lights!! PLEASE. “ahh..Ok. Sure”. I think he was kind of in shock and with a plea like that was not going to say no. I think I said please like 50 times… I was so stoked and could not believe I was back in the race. Unbelievable!! Thank you God.

We had a fast pace to push if we were going to make the last lap under the 12 hour mark and I had already lost a good chunk of time. I was in such a scramble to get his light on my bars that I didn’t wrap the cable around my frame and ended up pulling the plug on it two times. That could have been a complete disaster riding the ridges at night… Even if I felt like I could ride the loop with my eyes closed by this point the fear of those two close calls snapped my adrenaline right back into my body. I stopped and fixed the light like I should have the first time and hammered with everything I had left in me.

I crossed the line in my final lap, made the cut and was the only expert class solo rider go get in 11 laps. My second longest ride ever distance wise on road or mountain and I think I was more shocked than anyone. Eleven laps and a 1st place finish. Two things I really didn’t think were possible and could not have happened without the help from so many people. Stoked!

Results and Pics over Here

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