A Note from Fatty: I just got confirmation that I’m in for my fifteenth Leadville 100. Which means I should probably start training and dieting in earnest. I’m curious how many Friends of Fatty also got in, or are planning on to come up to watch, or support a friend / family member. Maybe we should have a barbecue? Leave a comment and let me know.
Another Note from Fatty: Back in early January, Kenny asked me for a favor: appeal to my readers to help him get into Kona Bike’s 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. My condition to him was that in return, he’d need to write a race report, with awesome photos. You delivered, and now he has too. Enjoy his story!
Kenny’s Race Report: Kona Bike’s 24 Hours in the OIld Pueblo
One of my favorite races is Kona Bike’s 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo put on by Epic Rides – a fast, swoopy, desert single track mountain bike race outside of Tucson. It’s the largest 24 hour mountain bike race of its kind.
The logistics involved in getting to the start line of the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo are time consuming and difficult. You need shelter, food, heat, a generator to charge lights, all of your bike stuff – tools, helmet, shoes and clothes to ride in. You need to coordinate everyone’s schedule and everyone’s stuff.
And you need to be mentally prepared to spend many, many hours behind the wheel. Racing for 24 hours following a 14 hour road trip is probably not the best pre-race preparation strategy. In fact, I’m convinced that it could easily cause a psychotic break and/or medical crisis leading to death.
But it had been a while since I had done this race with my team, the Jack Mormon Militia, and the memory of the painful drive had faded, and the memory of the super fun race had grown. So, when I was looking for an event in February, I decided that the 24 hours of Old Pueblo would be fun to try again.
My racing buddies Chucky and Josh said they were interested, but when I checked on-line registration, I discovered that the race was full. Later that same day on facebook, Epic Rides posted a contest for an entry to their race – write a “comment” on the Epic page, and whoever got the most “likes” on their comment would win the last entry of the race.
Yes, a popularity contest! And since I am a pretty big deal in the biking community …
OK, OK, maybe I’m not such a big deal – but I know someone who is. Sometimes, it is a good thing to be a Friend of Fatty. [Ed. Note: Is it ever not a good thing to be a friend of Fatty?]
Five hundred and eighty “likes” later, and it was time to get the JMM crew back together. Thank you, Fatty and to all the readers of the fatcyclist blog who voted me.
Getting the band back together
With a few calls and e-mails, I re-united with my old JMM team mates: Josh Wolfe, Chucky Gibson, and Matt Harding.
And because my winning entry was for a 5-person co-ed team, I added the first woman to serve in JMM ground combat – pro racer and fitness trainer, Lynda Wallenfels.
My team is fast. Very fast. But the 5-person co-ed category is extremely competitive. Since every minute of our lap times would count, I did some research and discovered a recent biking invention – these strange shifty bits that fit on your bike, allowing you to change between different gear ratios by just pushing a little lever. I know, it’s a radical thought, but I was thinking with the help of these things — I’m going to call them “gears” — I could pick up a few minutes on each lap. And we would be just that much more competitive.
And secretly, I was a little worried about having slower lap times than our token female JMM.
We packed up all our gear and headed down with a stop in St. George to pick up Lynda. OP town was crowded, but thanks to my girlfriend Heather and the cutthroat team, we had our spot reserved.
Pre-ride and course
We arrived just in time to pre-ride the course. We had all done the race before, but it always helps to refresh your memory. Especially in this race, where every living thing seems to have a thorn on it. The Cholla bush, in particular, is a nasty little desert creature that lurks just around every off-camber singletrack turn, waiting to hurl big prickly chunks of itself onto unsuspecting riders.
The OP race is not official, in fact, until a racer crosses the finish line dripping blood from a cholla-skewered appendage.
We finished our pre-lap just before the western sun set the sky on fire in one of the most amazing desert sunsets I’ve ever seen.
It was a good omen, and it turns out, riding a bike with gears is just like riding a bike: you never forget.
Wind. Dust. Rain
We woke up the next morning to menacing clouds, great gusts of wind and lots of blowing dust. Pre-race nerves were replaced with hunkering down so all our gear didn’t blow away. Josh took the LeMans start, followed by Chucky, then Lynda third, which would hopefully allow her to complete her first lap before we started lapping other teams. It’s harder for women to pass in these races, because all of us ego-maniac men hating being “chicked.” The team line-up would finish with Matt and then me.
Despite wind gusts of over 50 miles an hour, Josh did great in the run and finished his lap in the top 25. Next up, Chucky pulled off a 1:02; the fastest lap from our team. Lynda survived a wind-induced cactus encounter and also had a great first lap.
By the time it was my turn to head out, we were starting to lap the slower teams. But thanks to Lynda’s daughter, Emma, I had a super-secret weapon – a hamburger bell mounted to my handlebars.
I don’t think my handlebars have ever had so much stuff on them before – they didn’t know what to do with all this mounted hardware. But the bell was totally worth it. Rather than an “on your left,” or “can I pass when it’s convenient,” or a “faster rider coming through get out of my way,” all I had to do was ding the burger bell and riders would immediately start looking for a place to move over. I liked the bell so much, in fact, I tried to steal it from Emma at the end of the race – unsuccessfully, it turns out, because Lynda took it off my bike when I wasn’t looking.
The Race Heats Up
By the end of our first rotation, the No Tubes team was ahead of us by about 10 minutes. We had a race on our hands! The No Tubes team had sent their ringer, pro racer Ben Sontag, out for two consecutive laps – two of the fastest laps in the race. But the key to a successful 24 hour team is consistency, and our team was very consistent in its consistency. With live iPhone results (which can become addictive, causing recurrent and frequent screen refreshing), we could see that we were staying within about 8 minutes of each other in our lap times.
During the night, we put about 20 minutes on the No Tubes team, taking over first place.
My second night lap is always my slowest, and this time was no exception. It’s strange how I always feel like I’m going super fast, but I’m always about 8 to 10 minutes slower than my day laps.
When morning hit, the No Tubes team sent out Ben for two more super fast laps trying to bridge the gap. He came close, but when he finished his 5th and final lap, we still held a small lead.
I felt really good on my last lap. The rain combined with hundreds of riders circling the course had turned it into a hard pack speed track. There were actual skid marks on top of the dirt, it was packed so hard. The wind had subsided and the temperature was perfect. I was overtaking some of the lapped riders so fast that I would have to start ringing my hamburger bell from 20 to 30 yards back.
I came up on a young rider fairly fast and skidded to a slow pace behind him because there just was no cactus-free room to pass. I had already rung my bell before I reached him. I think I made him a little nervous because of how fast I came up behind him. He wobbled his bike around looking for a spot, and just as I was saying “no worries,” he slammed on his brakes, half wheeled me, and turned hard, knocking me to the ground on top of a waiting cactus.
I got up and hopped back on my bike, trying to say thanks for attempting to let me by – but in my cactus-prickled, out-of-breath haste, all I got out was a quick “thanks,” which I’m sure sounded sarcastic — as if I was thanking him for knocking me into a cactus.
Even with the cactus Incident, I pulled off my fastest lap of the race. Matt helped pick the spines out of my back and shoulder, while Josh went out for the last lap – securing us a spot at the top of the podium.
We got our trophies, packed up and headed home. We didn’t have much luck finding the local burger joint, Four Guys and a Super Fast Girl, so we had to settle for the nourishing burgers and fries at Five Guys, where Lynda out-ate us all.
Chucky bought a pack of candy cigarettes, and we all had a celebratory “smoke.”
And then Matt celebrated our win by spending the next four hours throwing up out the window.
This was by far one of my favorite races of all time. Despite the hurricane gale force winds, 28 hours of travel and the fact that a week later, I’m still picking spines out of my back, I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in the Arizona desert.