Five laps. Five.
I had done five laps (including the pre-ride lap) at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. And I had one more to do. Which would set me up to about 96 miles, all told.
I should have been tired. But I wasn’t. I was excited. Because I was doing this race the way I like to race. Which is to say: whether I’m in contention for anything (we weren’t) doesn’t matter. Giving it everything matters to me.
I’ll talk more about this in a minute.
The Queen of Exhaustion
The Hammer and I walked back into camp and found Rebecca Rusch, once again getting ready to do a lap.
“How are you doing?” I asked.
“Really tired,” she answered.
“I’ll bet,” I said. “The last time I saw you I thought you were saying that would be your last lap.”
“It turns out I have to do another one,” she said, not sounding all that happy about it.
“How many laps have you done?” I asked.
“I don’t even know anymore,” she answered.
I could tell that Rebecca really just needed to rest and not be pestered by rabidly goofy fans. But I made her take a picture with us anyway:
A few years ago, Brad Keyes — the inventor of CarboRocket and one of my best friends — moved to Chicago. I don’t see him anywhere near as often now as I would like to.
So it was awesome that he had come down to Arizona and set up a booth at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. I had seen him a few times during the race, but wanted to check in with him one last time before my final lap. So I changed into a fresh kit quickly and The Hammer and I went out to Brad’s tent, where we took this completely unstaged photograph:
Wow, Brad’s starting to get gray hair. How did he get so old?
Brad also hooked me up with some of the new Lemonade CarboRocket 333 Half Evil Endurance Fuel. Best race-day drink ever.
I got to the exchange tent at 11:30 — way too early. At 11:43, though — meaning he had done a 1:08 lap for his fifth lap — Stan came flying in. That guy is as fast as he is consistent.
I took off, and immediately noticed that for the first time during the race, the course was almost empty. Sure, I’d still catch and pass the occasional person, but clearly there were a lot of teams that had opted to not go out on a late last lap.
I started asking myself if I were being silly — pushing myself like I was in contention for the podium or out to set a new personal record, when clearly neither were in the cards.
So why was I going hard?
I had a very good reason. Because a race is meaningful if you give it meaning. That’s circular, but it’s absolutely true. When I’m training, I’m almost always thinking about racing. Thinking about extending myself. Being faster than I ought to be. Going at my absolute limit.
So when I show up at races, if I didn’t honor that image I have of myself when training, I would be cheating myself, in a way. If I didn’t do what I had signed up to do, why take a day off work, get all my gear together, and drive all the way out here?
What I’m saying, in my own muddled way, is that I like every part of racing: the training, the planning, the excitement, and the effort of going above and beyond myself.
And frankly, I worry that if I ever didn’t give my all at a race, I’d beat myself up endlessly about it for months to come.
I finished my last lap in 1:12. Not as fast as some of the laps I’d done, but feeling that incredible well-being you get from having left it all out on the course.
Team IMBA – Featuring the Fat Tire Five had taken seventh place out of 34 teams.
And if I hadn’t gone out on that last lap? Well…we still would have taken seventh place. I hadn’t changed a thing, team standings-wise.
But I’m still really glad I did it.
It’s Awesome to Have a Cleaning Lady
The Hammer was at the finish line, and got this picture of me as I finished my last lap:
We walked back to where the camp should be…but there was no camp. During my last lap, the rest of the team had headed home, looking to beat the rush.
And The Hammer had completely broken down our own camp and loaded the camp. As in, completely. All I had to do was change clothes (which The Hammer had thoughtfully set out for me), and we were out of there.
Have I mentioned recently how awesome The Hammer is? Well, she is.
“Let’s get moving,” said The Hammer. “We should try to get as far as Vegas tonight.”
PS: Remember, if you’re going to sign up for the Rockwell Relay: Moab to St. George during this month, you’ll get a very cool combination FatCyclist / Rockwell Relay jersey. But you’re down to the last couple days. So go get yourself signed up right now. You’ll be glad you did.