Once I found that The Hammer had upped her goal from merely destroying the women’s Solo SS record at Frog Hollow to being the outright fastest Solo woman — gears or not — at Frog Hollow, I wanted to get some intel on where she stood on objective, and I asked Zach and Brooks to go to the timing tent and find out.
So when we came into the pit at the next lap, I asked, “Where does The Hammer stand?”
“We’re not sure,” Brooks said. “The timing computer isn’t showing women solo racers correctly right now. They’re working on it.”
“What about Kenny?” I asked. “How’s he doing?”
“Jamon is a lap ahead of him. It looks like Jamon’s going to do 19 laps; Kenny will wind up with 18, and that’s going to for sure be good enough for second.”
“And how about me?” I asked. “Do you have any idea where I stand?”
“You’re doing good,” Zach said. Which is nice pit crew chief language for, “You’re not in the hunt.”
Which I knew already, and was — to my own actual amazement — completely OK with.
I Have a Conversation With Ulterior Motives
This is going to come as a bit of a shock to you, but I am not above sneakiness. No indeed.
Allow me to demonstrate.
Toward the end of our fourteenth lap, on a technical singletrack section I always led The Hammer on, we caught up with a woman solo rider (solo riders had bright ribbons tied to their saddles to identify them).
“Hey there,” I called out.
“You want by?” she replied.
“Nope, I’m great right here for now,” I said. “Congrats on doing this race solo.”
“Thanks,” she said. “Right now I’m barely staying on my bike.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet. Doing this race solo must be really hard,” I said in my very best “sympathetic and admiring” voice. “So, how many laps will this be for you?”
“Twelve. I’m in third place right now.”
“Way to go,” I said. “Is Bec still in first place? How many laps has she done?”
“Yeah, she’s about half a lap ahead of me.”
Which was exactly what I needed to know.
“Have a good race,” I said, which is code for “OK, I’m ready to come on by now.”
“Oh, and by the way,” I finished as I went by, “The woman right behind you now is my wife. She’s finishing her fourteenth lap right now. On a singlespeed.”
A few minutes later, I recounted the story to The Hammer and asked, “Was I a jerk right then? Getting competitive info from her without explaining why I cared? And then bragging about you as I came around?”
The Hammer assured me I was not, in fact, being a jerk.
But really, what else could she say?
The Final Lap
The final lap — our seventeenth — of the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow was harder than all the previous laps, combined.
“Why?” you ask?
“Well, that’s a fantastic question,” I answer. And I have a theory. When your head knows that you only have to go around one more time, it can finally stop fooling your body. It can finally stop saying, “Hey there, butt, you’re OK. Really, you are.” It can stop saying, “Wrists, I know you’re pretty battered, but your pain has plateaued and you’re not getting any worse.”
It can stop saying, “Shut up, legs.”
I also have an alternate theory that I was just really tired and the seventeenth lap was therefore really hard, and if I had had to do an eighteenth lap, it would have been even harder.
I have a third theory that the final shred of all my hopes and dreams were crushed when, as The Hammer and I were headed out, Brooks told me, “The Hammer has first place all sealed up, both for single and geared women solo riders. But,” And here he paused sympathetically, “third place for solo SS men is about half an hour ahead of you.”
“I’m sorry, Fatty,” The Hammer said. “You could have had third if you hadn’t waited and rode with me.”
“This was way better,” I said. And I meant it. I had started this race burned out and without motivation. If I had ridden the whole thing alone, I would have been miserable. Instead, I had had a terrific day. Wonderful weather, incredible course, inspiring hardcore racing wife to keep me company.
But there was no getting around it: the final lap was hell. For both The Hammer and me. “I might walk up some of the climbs,” The Hammer told me.
“Me too,” I replied, completely honestly. So when we managed to do all the climbs without getting off our bikes, it felt like victory.
When we got to the rocky downhill section, I nearly cried from the pain in my wrists and I couldn’t feel my right hand at all.
No, that’s not quite right; I could feel my right hand, because it hurt. What I couldn’t feel was whether I was holding onto the handlebar or whether my fingers were actually on the brake lever.
And neither of us sat much during this last lap. Our butts hurt too badly.
There was one fun little moment, though. There’s a spot where you have to go up and over a series of tricky ledges. It’s a rideable move—when you’re not tired. But as the day went on, I had noticed more and more people walking this section.
But I always rode it…because I had discovered a line I think hardly anyone had seen. An easy-peasy way up, if you just knew about it.
So as I approached it, on this final lap, I said to The Hammer, “You’ve been going up this way, right?” and rode up my secret line.
The Hammer rode up behind me, then said, “I cannot believe you waited until now to show me that line.”
A fair point.
The final stretch of the Frog Hollow loop is an easy, fast, downhill mile, followed by a mild climb up to the timing tent. And on the final lap of the race, I could not have been more grateful for such an easy finish.
Trisha took all the pictures in today’s post. Be sure to check out her photo site, crookedpinkie.com.
“We did it,” The Hammer said. And we had. Seventeen laps in 25:48.
Zach gave me a wet towel to clean up and cool down with:
The Hammer just wanted to lie down:
Meanwhile, Kenny was already dressed and was relaxing with a beer:
Yeah, Kenny looks kind of tired, too.
Now all that was left was the the award ceremony, and then heading home. Neither of which would go as expected.
And that’s where we’ll pick up (and finish off, I promise) tomorrow.
It was two in the morning. Or maybe it was three. Really, I don’t know. I was just grinding along, riding with The Hammer. And we were having a conversation about how many laps we would end up riding during this race.
“At the rate we’re going, I think we’re going to do about eighteen laps,” she said.
Which sounded really good to me. Eighteen laps would be a huge number.
Then, a couple hours later, The Hammer gave me a revised prediction. “I think we’re going to ride sixteen laps.”
Which sounded really good to me. And I was happy to have her make predictions, though I was long past having any idea of how many laps we had ridden, nor how many we would end up riding.
My goal was much simpler, and I stated it for The Hammer: “I think we should just keep riding nice, steady laps, taking reasonable eating breaks in between.”
The Hammer agreed. But you know, it’s still fun to predict. It gives you something to think about. A way to —sort of — start counting down the laps, instead of just counting up. You know, like, “Just four more laps to go!”
Then, at four in the morning — or maybe it was three, I really don’t know — we came into the pit, and found out that Kenny had blown up. He was wiped out, suffering, and needed a rest.
“Awesome,” I said, very charitably. And The Hammer and I kept going.
And on that lap, we saw nobody. Really: nobody. As it turns out, most people like the idea of riding their bikes through the night more than they like the reality of riding their bikes through the night.
But we kept plugging away. Not fast, but not really slowing down much, either. I was enjoying — and slightly awed by — the way I no longer needed to hold back for The Hammer at all (well, except for the switchback drop-in, where you go over a grate, then a couple of tight switchbacks on a technical downhill). We were just riding together, with me pulling ahead a little in one or two places, and her pulling ahead wherever there was a rocky descent, due to the fact that my wrists were killing me.
Then we’d regroup and keep riding. Just ticking away the hours and laps together. Even though The Hammer didn’t need to ride any more at all to win her division, and even though I had no chance at all in podiuming in my division.
We were just living our shared philosophy: if you’re going to do a 24 (or 25) hour race and you can keep pedaling, you should keep pedaling.
Here Comes the Sun
If you ride in the dark, you learn to either love or hate your lighting system. And I can say now, without reservation, I love NiteRider. The Hammer and I were each equipped with Pro 1800 Race lights on our helmets and Pro 3600 DIY lights on our bars. (Full disclosure: While I bought our light systems at a regular retailer, NiteRider set us up with extra batteries for for our use at both this race and the Salt to Saint race.)
We never ever ever ever had too little light; even on the low setting our lights were more than sufficient for riding on both climbing and the technical, rocky descents. And the batteries lasted for hours and hours. We each only had to swap batteries once during the whole set of night laps, in fact.
And in short, I strongly recommend NiteRider lights to anyone who’s going to get into night riding (although if I were to make my purchases again, I’d probably go with Pro 1800 Races for both bar and helmet; the 3600 is overkill).
But no matter how good your lights are, when you’ve been riding in the dark for twelve solid hours, your world starts feeling really closed-in. Small. Time elongates. You have a hard time remembering what the terrain looks like in the light.
So when the sun comes up, it is wonderful. Somehow, in spite of the fact that you haven’t gotten any sleep, you suddenly feel renewed. Like you’ve somehow punched a reset button.
Plus, I knew that we only had a few more hours to go.
Sixteen Plus One
And then, as we got close to the pit—where we’d be taking our traditional eating break—The Hammer told me, “We need to start taking shorter breaks.”
That didn’t sound all that great to me.
Here is a picture of The Hammer, telling me it’s time to go, even as I am clearly in the middle of eating a muffin and drinking a Redbull.
“Why do we need to hurry?” I asked. “We’re going to have no problem getting sixteen laps in.”
“Oh, I changed my mind. We’re back to seventeen,” she said. “I don’t want to just win the women’s solo singlespeed division, I want to win the women’s solo division outright.”
That woman can be a pretty darned tough taskmaster.
But I still finished my muffin before I got back on the bike.
Which is where we’ll pick up (and possibly conclude) tomorrow.
PS Bonus Picture: Here’s Kenny, starting his morning lap, dressed as if it were freezing cold out. Note that at this point, The Hammer and I were down to shorts and short sleeve jerseys with arm warmers.
Here’s a very useful tip for you to keep in mind if you ever want to do a 24 (or 25) hour race, solo. Don’t have this thought as the sun goes down: “I’m going to be riding my bike in the dark for the next twelve hours.”
Because, while perfectly accurate, it’s not a particularly productive thought.
Luckily for me, I was no longer riding alone. The Hammer and I would be riding through the whole night together. We’d watch the sun come up together.
So with Imagine Dragons playing (like I said, The Hammer got to pick the group for the first lap), we took off.
Then Heather came riding by us, flying. Doing her team proud. Not realizing that she was coming by us on the right, The Hammer moved right and they nearly collided.
“I’ll see you guys soon!” Heather shouted.
“No, Heather, wait! Ride slow and hang out with us!” I yelled back.
Nope. She was gone.
A Short Review of the Boombot Rex
The Boombot Rex we were using to play music was fantastic. Loud enough for both of us to listen to — although we had to decided between listening to music and talking, since if the music was loud enough for The Hammer to hear, it was too loud for me to hear what she was saying.
Oh, and the volume buttons are tiny — difficult to sense when you’re wearing thick gloves in the middle of the night — and placed in a hard-to-reach position on the underside of the speaker.
Oh, and the speaker kept falling off the mount when we were descending fast down rocky sections, to the point that I finally stopped putting it back on the mount and just stuffed it in my jersey.
“OK, this thing is not for mountain biking on the Jem trail,” I said, after it fell off the mount the third time.
In its defense, however, I’m not sure anything is made for mountain biking on the Jem trail.
The Evolution of my Eating Philosophy
After each lap, we’d stop and eat something. Which—as I sit here, comfortable and relaxed—sounds great. Eat whatever you want, every hour or two, with no penalty, no guilt.
But when you’ve been riding for fifteen (or sixteen or eighteen) hours, it’s really difficult to find something you can tolerate eating.
“What’ll it be?” Zach or Brooks would ask as we pulled into the pit. And I would have no idea. We had brought all this food — two ice chests and two bins full of food — and I’d say, “I don’t know. Nothing sounds good.”
But little by little, I figured out what I liked to eat. The food just had to pass a surprisingly simple test:
It needed to require absolutely no effort to chew and swallow.
Pizza? Too hard to chew, and required you to wash it down with something to drink.
Mac and cheese? Perfect.
Subway sandwich? For sure, as long as you drown it in mayo.
Granola bar? No way in hell.
Riding Through The Night
As the night wore on, I lost track of how many laps we had been on. Was it twelve? Or eleven? Maybe thirteen?
It didn’t matter anymore, anyway. With every pedal stroke, The Hammer was increasing her new record for women’s solo singlespeed on this course. The previous record — ten laps — was way behind us now.
“And how am I doing?” I’d ask our crew as I pulled into the pit after each lap.
“Oh, you’re fourth or fifth or so,” they said. By which they meant, I figured, that I was far enough behind that it wasn’t really worth them keeping track.
Fair enough. My stated objective for this race was to simply keep plugging away, and I was doing it. Even better, I was now actually helping The Hammer as she utterly destroyed the women’s solo SS record.
And it was so nice to get to our pit after each lap together. We’d sit at the fire and have something to eat and drink, while our crew treated us like royalty — cleaning out chains, cooking us food, and making us hot chocolate.
And then, after a 10-15 minute break, we’d head back out. Riding and talking together, both of us alternating between saying how nice it was to be doing this thing together, and rolling our eyes at how cheesy we sounded.
The Hammer was riding so strong that I did not need to hold back at all. I was incredibly proud of her strength and toughness.
And then, around four in the morning, the race changed.
Which seems like a good place to pick up tomorrow.
A Note from Fatty: My race report for the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow is taking a break today because I felt like making a video this morning. I’ll resume this story on Monday.
Everyone I suspect that everyone has a special place in their heart for the ride they do most often — the ride they do when they have a not-huge amount of time for riding…but still enough to have some fun. Get their heart, legs, and lungs going.
For me, that ride is Corner Canyon. I believe I’ve mentioned it before.
But I don’t believe I’ve mentioned the trail I love most of all: Rush. Which is stupid, because it’s the most incredibly, ridiculously, outrageously fun “flow” trail around — it’s fast, with dozens (hundreds?) of little woopdedoo jumps, banked turns, and quick, steep drops.
And to think: until yesterday, I had never bothered to film it.
But yesterday, during lunch, I finally got out the GoPro, attached it to my handlebar, and filmed the whole descent.
Through some piece of luck, I didn’t run across a single person during the entire ride (except at the intersection, toward the very bottom — and they were not on the trail. Which meant I got in nobody’s way, and nobody got in mine.
So, here it is: a top-to-bottom video of Corner Canyon’s Rush trail. Put — appropriately enough — to a Rush soundtrack.
Not bad, eh? But I’m sure your standard lunch ride is just as good. Right? Right?
Once in a while, I do something that is absolutely, completely, positively right. I’ll get to what that was in just a moment.
First, though, you need to understand how the first eight or so hours of the race went.
By the time I had finished the first two laps of the race, I had absolutely no idea where I stood in terms of ranking for the solo singlespeed men, but I was pretty sure that I was in fifth or sixth place. Far enough back that I was not a factor in the race, and unlikely to see the podium.
Meanwhile, however, Kenny was having a banner day; he and Jamon were neck and neck, duking it out. Every time I pulled in to our pit, I asked Zach and Brooks how Kenny was doing. “He is going so hard,” they’d say. “He’s in, he grabs something to eat, and he’s gone.”
“And how is The Hammer doing?” I wanted to know. “Is she happy and having fun, or is she silent and riding with her game face on?”
“She’s having a blast,” they’d reply. “Chatting and laughing every time she pulls in.”
“Am I putting time on her, or is she catching up with me?” I wondered, as I pulled in after the third lap.
“Neither, really,” they replied. “Your times are all over the place, while she’s clocking a very consistent 1:10 lap. She’s about half a lap behind you.”
As I went around the fourth lap, I started picturing The Hammer and me, doing the same race, but on opposite sides of the course. If the course were a clock face, I’d be at 12, and she’d be at 6. I’d be at 3, she’d be at 9.
I was on Denver time; she was on Beijing. (No, I didn’t [and still don’t] know whether Beijing time is really 12 hours different than Denver time. It was [and still is] a metaphor, OK?)
“This is stupid,” I thought, and resolved to speed up and catch her, then ride the rest of the race with her.
So I started riding harder. And on the climbs, that worked. I’ve got good legs and enough power to motor up any climb the course can present.
But on the descents, my good intentions fell apart. My wrists have become increasingly sore lately. Even on short mountain bike rides they hurt. So with each lap on this rocky, technical descent, my wrists hurt more.
My arms would ache, my hands would go numb. I couldn’t help it; I was slowing down on the descents. Whenever I noticed someone approaching, I wouldn’t even wait for them to ask for a yield; I’d just pull over and put a foot down for a second.
Still, though, I tried. And occasionally, I’d catch someone. And—similar to me—they’d almost always move over without even being asked. The politeness was beautiful.
I had caught a racer on the smooth desert portion of the descent (it wasn’t all rocks and ledges). She didn’t yield—“She probably doesn’t know I’m here,” I thought—so I settled in behind her and waited for a good spot to ask her to move over.
As we got close to a spot where I knew the singletrack crossed a dirt road, I called out, “Please let me by when we get to the intersection.” She nodded that she heard me, and we kept going.
Then we got to the intersection and–instead of slowing, pulling over and letting me by—she just flew through and kept going. Without her cooperation, there was no way I could pass in that space…not if I didn’t want to force her off the trail.
She called over her shoulder, “Well, I’m not going to slow for you!”
I thought about what she had said for a second; rolled it over in my mind to see if there was any way I could have misunderstood her. Nope.
So I called back, “I’ve slowed for you for the last three minutes.”
At which point, she moved over and let me by, as I marveled at how grumpy I can be sometimes.
Beijing and Denver, Still
I got through the next lap and asked how The Hammer was doing. “Awesome!” Zach and Brooks called out. “Riding like clockwork.”
And was I any closer to catching her? “No, doesn’t look like it.”
And that’s how it went, lap after lap, ’til, as I did my dusk lap, I started thinking. “What if The Hammer were to wait for me at the pit, for me to lap her and then we could continue riding together.”
No, that wouldn’t work. Because if I were to lap The Hammer, she’d be thinking that I was in full-on race mode, contending with Kenny. It wouldn’t make sense for her to wait for me to come around when I’d just be riding away from her.
But what if, when I finished this next lap, I waited for her? Then she would know I wanted to ride with her, and we wouldn’t have this stupid situation where we were half a lap apart for the entirety of a 25 hour race.
So when I pulled into the pit after my eighth lap, I had a nice little rest, and set up my bike with a surprise: a Boombotix Bluetooth speaker.
We’d have some rock and roll on our night laps.
Oh The Blood
The half hour went quick. I sat by the fire, greeting Kenny as he pulled in, having officially lapped me. He was suffering; going so hard makes it hard to eat. He didn’t know if he could keep this pace up.
I had Zach tape up my wrists, hoping that the support would make riding a little less painful.
And I had a big plate of spaghetti.
I tell you, there is nothing in the world quite so luxurious and indolent-feeling as sitting around and eating when you know you should be out on your bike, racing.
And then, in came The Hammer.
She didn’t see me for a minute, which was cool, because I got to see how she acts when she isn’t around me.
With a big smile on her face, she said, “I just had a great lap!” And then she held out her hand, showing that there was blood running all the way down her arm.
“Also, I crashed, and I think I tore off the tip of a finger.”
You know, sometimes it’s especially wonderful to have a hand doctor as your crew chief.
As Zach cleaned and bandaged The Hammer up, she noticed me. “Hi honey!” she called out, happily. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to ride with you,” I said. “But are you OK?”
“Oh, I’m fine,” said The Hammer, so chirpily that I thought she must still be in shock. “You really waited for me so we could ride together? I was worried we weren’t ever going to see each other or ride together the whole race. You are the sweetest husband who has ever lived.”
Like I said, once in a while, I do something that is absolutely, completely, positively right.
And even more occasionally, I do two things that are absolutely completely positively right, because the next thing I said was, “And I’ve got my bike set up with a Boombot Rex speaker, too. I’ll let you pick the artist for the first lap.”
Which doesn’t sound all that smart until you consider that I had just mentally rejected saying, “You know, you wouldn’t have gotten your finger torn up like that if you’d have been wearing full-fingered gloves.”
See what I mean? Brilliant.
« Previous Page — « Previous Entries Next Entries » — Next Page »