Thursday, August 23, 2007

24 Hours of Great Glen

Another race, yet another way too early morning, might seem funny that I always complain about the same thing, it’s just that I am designed on a biological level to wake up no earlier than 8AM, regardless of when I went to bed. I never ceases to cause me pain. It was up at 5AM for this one, had to make a 10Am meet time up at Pinkham Notch, NH, no problem right? Stay tuned.

I went around the corner to pick up my neighbor Greg Montello who had, after a long and nearly fruitless search decided to be our fourth man on our four man pro team.
Already the car was looking jam packed and we still had to pick up Andy Sanidas, we began streamlining the gear in anticipation. We met Andy at the park and ride in Newbury port, packed the Volvo to the gills, even compression strapping three wheels to the roof rack horizontally to get the job done.
OK, everybody in the car, turn the key and go! And…go! Nothing. The battery was dead, oh crap. First thought was to run across the street and see if the gas station had a portable jumper, Andy went ahead and ripped the battery out of his car and had it in the Volvo and nicely gift wrapped before I could even make it to the curb. And…go! We were off. Of course the stereo wouldn’t work without the code (which I didn’t have) all the sweet playlists I’d made for my ipod were rendered useless. Bad breaks, set backs. Natural fact is, brother that I can’t find my chapstick.

We made it to registration with a modicum of time to spare, met our remaining teammate Jeff Whittingham, and began to set up camp. It was hot as hell as Jeff lined up for the Lemans start, the rest of us were off pre-riding the course, hoping to wrap it up before a charging Whittingham came bearing down on us. We got back in time to watch Jeff come in, hot on the heels of Matt Boobar (fast guy from the competition), we were off to a good start. I’ve learned that you basically don’t pay any attention to what’s going on until half way through the race, that’s when lap times start to matter, until then just ride your ass off, go as fast as you can, hopefully you can recover and do it again…another eight times before the day is through.

32 X 17, that was the gear I had decided to start with, I didn’t recall that this race was very hilly, that gear made it hilly enough, after two laps I dropped down to a 32 X 18, familiar and much more comfortable, whatever I was losing on the flat fire roads I was making up by not being bogged down on the climbs so bad. The course was dry, fast, and only slightly different than the previous two years I’d done this thing. They’d put in a little piece of nastiness on the bit of trail across the road, a couple super-steeps that put the “stupid” in single-speed, I had to run it on a couple of the laps which actually left me more recovered for the next climb and the singletrack which followed.

We lead the race until dark, at that point the other Pro team had begun to hack away out our lead, then Greg had a light mishap which cost him a few minutes, his headlamp was stuck on blinking mode which is more dangerous than not having a light at all, turns the trail into a bike disco, not ideal. The tables had turned, MTB Mind took the lead and went with it, we’d bring it down to a few minutes then they’d take it back, it was always just out of reach, like an invisible bunny rabbit.
My first couple night laps were significantly slower (4 or 5 minutes slower), oddly enough on my fourth and final night lap my headlamp went out almost immediately (I hadn’t charged it after my prior lap…hey it’s got a three hour charge right? Right.) leaving me with only a bar mount light. I don’t normally run two lamps so it was good I had this at all but having your only light source attached to your bar is pretty silly, you go over a bump, it illuminates the trees above, you twist through some rocks or roots, it shows you the rock three feet to your right, not the one directly in front of your wheel. Sweet! That said, this was my fastest night lap (the first doesn’t count it was really a dusk lap, hardly used my light at all) I think this was due to the fact that I crashed blindly through all the singletrack then in a state of panic absolutely railed the fire roads and climbs, taking every chance available. That was a 42 minute lap, the two before were about 45’s, go figure.

The night laps were kinda magical, the Mica in the soil reflected the light off your lamps, the sky looked like a planetarium, and the mist in the early part of the course was so dense it was hard to stay on the fire road. It’s inevitable during a 24 to have a sort of down lap, a low point where it’s hard to get motivated, near impossible to peal yourself off your sleeping pad and get your ass back on your bike. Usually it’s around dawn for me but I hit my low early on this night, every bone ached, my muscles were seized, I thought I’d overcooked it way too early, that I wouldn’t get it back, I was going to let all my teammates down, let myself down, I got on the bike and did a 45, I wasn’t stoked. I did end up getting it back and my remaining laps were as fast or faster than the earlier ones, funny how that happens.

The food situation was great, it’s important to keep it light, a 4 Man relay isn’t an endurance event so much as eight or nine ‘cross races with a two hour break between each. I was mostly doing PB & J, cereal with blueberries and banana, chocolate milk, and cookies. A highlight was Chris Igleheart coming up and cooking hot pasta and sauce, stuff like that is key. Even more spectacular was the tar black coffee he brewed up in the morning, thanks Chris.

By morning the other team’s gap was still holding, we were still fighting but hope was fading. It had been down around fifty degrees during the night, by eleven O’clock it the temperature skyrocketed to over ninety. Andy had to have had the hottest lap, Montello came in just before noon, standing on the other side of the start tent, taunting Andy “do you wanna do the lap or not?”. If he waited until noon Andy wouldn’t have to go, Andy coaxed Greg across the threshold of pain and he took off on what was basically a ceremonial lap, just so we would finish on the same lap as the other team.

Breaking down camp was perhaps the hardest part of the weekend, all of us began feeling lightheaded and sapped in the midday heat, it was slow going.
When we’d gotten things pretty squared away we started to walk over to the big tent to see what was going on, I grabbed my phone to see if I could get some reception so I could call Miriam. As I walked I heard the text message beep, I checked it, it was from Miriam, it was this vague message telling me to call her after the race, it was important, but not to worry. This left me bemused and I thought I should walk across the street and see if I could call her. Just then Darcy McGuire ran up behind me, she had received a message from Miriam as well, she told me M had been an accident, that I had to call her. Oh crap. I called her, she told me what happened. She was riding at Massabesic in New Hampshire, she had attempted this thing called “The Log Roll” she cleared it then ate it in the run out, her leg connected with something hard and sharp, it acted like a Hutu’s machete, peeling back a three inch deep, six inch wide, ten inch long slab of her lower thigh. Crazy. She had gone to the ER in Manchester, they sewed her up too tight with bacteria trapped inside, I’ll spare you the rest,
Long story short, she’ll be OK, she just needs to spend a couple weeks attached to a vacuum dressing system.

Wait, did I say that breaking camp was the hardest part of the day? Perhaps it was… after the drive home which was prolonged by weekend traffic, I didn’t sleep at all, not since 5AM Saturday, the only thing that got me through was a huge Coolata from Dunkin’ Donuts, those things are good for something. When we stopped for food I wanted to put my head down on the table and pass out in a puddle of my own drool like I was back in remedial 7th grade math class. The stereo was still out so Montello kept me awake by serenading me with some wonderful songs from the eighties, I knew he was good for something (that and some scorching fast laps during the race) .We still had to deal with the battery swap mess back in Newburyport, this involved a trip to Kmart where I made my self useful by buying Dora the Explorer slippers for my niece while Andy figured out what battery we needed. To make matters worse Andy had left his car keys in a bag which had found it’s way into someone else’s car. Luckily his wife came to the rescue and Greg and I continued on to Somerville ready for hot showers and clean sheets.
Team Go Ugly Early went to Great Glen to win, this didn’t happen but it was an honorable and spirited defeat, we didn’t let the other guys walk away with it. This was a great group of guys to ride with, the team dynamic was flawless, moral was always high, I can’t wait to roll with this posse again.

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