Sunday, May 26, 2013

Burn 24

I had always wanted to do the Burn 24 Hour Challenge.  As a team.  I had talked about it with my friend, Jon.  But with other racing commitments, I was never able to do it. 

This year I had the opportunity.

Jon did not.

This being the last Burn 24 - I decided to do it solo: This one's for you, Jon!

My awesome Cycle Works team loaned me a fully equipped trailer and some bike lights for the event, and my son was going to be in town for pit support.  I would have no excuse.  Except for the little issue of not having trained for a 24 hour race.  But then I looked at it from a different perspective.  Although I made the choice to enter the race, everyday people are faced with challenging circumstances.  How we react to them is up to us.  I would do my best.

Raceday starts at Noon on Saturday with a LeMans style run to the bikes.  I guess I was the only one that didn't know you wear running shoes, then change shoes when you get to your bike.  So, a slow run and a slow shoe change saw me enter the woods near the rear of the field

But I am quickly passing people.  Perhaps too quickly, I think.  So I try to follow some other riders.  For about a lap and a half.  At that point I can't take it anymore.  I have to run my own pace.  I hammer the descents, but avoid over-powering the climbs.  I'm riding at what I feel is a sustainable pace.

For the first 10 laps I am just logging miles.  Being smooth.  Being careful to eat and drink appropriate amounts.  I am running 2nd, but no sight of leader Morgan Olsson.

As the daylight hours come to an end, I hop onto my full suspension bike which is already equipped with lights.  At first, lap times remain largely unchanged.  The night has a re-vitalizing effect.  It becomes increasingly important to stay focused on the trail.  But as the sunlight fades completely into oblivion, my lap times slow.  I am more fatigued, so the climbing is slower and I can't see far enough ahead to bomb the descents.  I am a bit unsure of battery life and recharge times, so I am a bit tentative about running my lights on full power.

When it's time for a battery change, I swap back to my hardtail bike which has been set-up with a more powerful set of lights - even on low power.  This would be my weapon of choice for most of the duration of the night.

At some point in the night, an alien invasion occurs.  A nice touch by the Burn crew.  Plus it signified the final major climb of the lap and that a sweet descent was just ahead.

At 3:20am the leader of the race catches me to lap me.  Although it doomed my chances of winning, it was a bit of an honor that it took last years winner that long to lap me.

During the night I couldn't help thinking about when Jon did his first race lap at the Burn 24.  It was at night, after a rain so he decide to use his first-MTB-he-ever-owned aluminum, hardtail, cantilever brake 26" Trek 4300 instead of his brand new full-carbon, Trek Fuel because the 4300 had knobbier tires.  To which he received no end of ribbing for running the old bike.

On the last lap before dawn it rained.  Just enough.  I look up briefly and smile.

As night time drew to a close I was in pure survival mode.  My goal becomes to keep riding until dawn.  My pace seems ridiculously slow.  And though I am getting passed more frequently by the team racers, I am still passing riders in worse condition than me.  It's motivation to keep pedaling.

Pretty soon the sun begins to rise, as it always does.  The birds begin to sing.  It's time to ditch the lights.  As I set out for what I hoped would be my last lap, I have my son check with scoring to see where I stand, and how many laps I have to do to lock into 2nd position. 

On fully sunlit trail, I become a markedly better rider.  I can once again hammer the descents.  Even the climbing is better as I can pick and choose the best line over the rocks and roots easier.  I have delusions of riding all the way until Noon last lap cutoff.  But, as the lap comes to an end the effects of the last gel and Red Bull wear off and I once again realize how fatigued I really am.

Fortunately, my son informs me that I am solidly locked into 2nd place, even though it's only 7:30 in the morning.    After 23 laps, I call it quits.  When the leader sees I have stopped, he also calls it quits.

The whole final lap I feel a bit bad about the possibilty of ending early.  Upon further thought I decide to leave the unraced hours for Jon.  My way of leaving an opportuniy open for what might have been.  And what could be.

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