10.12.05 - 24 Hours of Georgia (long write up)

here it is, the much anticipated long version.... enjoy.

10.06 - Travel day to Georgia.
Two short flights this day, but a one hour delay in Washington doubled with another one hour wait in the plane made for one unhappy camper. Good thing they foiled the mutiny on the plane by serving us water.

Got to the hotel and got one bike together and got a spin in for about an hour. My legs and body have been feeling tired for over two weeks. Worlds and Interbike really beat me down and I was starting to worry that I was a little fatigued during my spin in the dark.

10.07 - A ride in the rain.
Rain was the menu for today and we got several helpings. With temperatures in the high 60's to lower 70's, this somewhat unphased me because of the low 50's and heavy rain we saw a few weeks ago at Whistler. 65'ish? Jeez, that was balmy.

I waited until the rain lessened to a drizzle and went out for a ride on the course. It was a basic figure eight course that started right in front of the hotel we were staying at.

The first of the figure eight's was less grueling than the second. This was filled with lots of fun/fast single track, super short and steep climbs, switch backs all over the place. Nothing too bad, but the tendency of all the climbs were that you came into them with absolutely no speed. Flying down a section at twenty miles an hour you would come up on a sharp turn that would scrubs off all your speed and then shoot you straight up a climb.

Second section was a ton of rock. Imagine riding on a huge rock that is bumpy and unforgiving and throw in some silly drop offs. One rider told me that the 24 Hour course at Moab had a ton of this stuff too. Up and down on the rocks. Seemed like (on this section in general) that whenever you went up, you went down. And the single track on this side was much tighter.

Still feeling tired, I opted out of the travel to pick up Dan the Man and Jennifer and had my dad go solo. During my trip to Whistler in 2004, I went with my dad to pick up Dan and it turned into a nightmare. On the trip back the road was closed - completely. Yep, construction crews had the road shut completely down for something like 3-4 hours. Totally sucked. So, feeling the need to rest, I stayed at the hotel and slept.

Woke up and got the free breakfast at the hotel. Legs were feeling good, pit crew (Dan, Dad and Jennifer) were busy getting things together after breakfast. We went over my magic potions that would get me through the upcoming 24 hours which consisted of mostly Hammer Gel products, Coke, Red Bull and two cans of Campbell Chicken Soup. Yummy.

Clothes packed and sorted, bikes checked, everything seemed in order. Signed in and talked to Rob Lichenwalter for a bit - I race against him a lot. He was actually surprised to see me at Georgia, he said he thought I was going so good that I would be going to Moab. Rob is a good guy and it would end up about 22 hours later that I would ride my last two laps with him.

Line up for what I believe was about a 200 mile run before we got our bikes. Seriously, this was by far the longest run to the bike I have ever done and it had to be at least a 3-4 minute run from my recollection. Had a really bad run, but got on the bikes and sprinted past most of the riders that had passed by me in the run. It is critical to get in front of slower riders before the trail gets into singletrack. Otherwise, they stand a good chance of slowing you down and letting other riders you catch up to you.

Laps 1-5
Lap times were blazing fast and my heart rate was screaming. At one point I looked down and saw my heart rate at 192, average was at 182. I can hold a 185'ish average if need be, but this was a little too high for my comfort. This course was grueling and it was going to be hard on the body, and temperature was getting warm. Or at least very warm for this Ohio'ian, as I was sweating like a maniac and had several little twinges of cramps. Luckily, I had some Hammer Endurolyte tables packed with me and I downed 3 of them every time it happened. I took this super dose two more times during the first 10 hours.

Eddie O was flying, I caught up to him around the 5th lap, then passed him, but was having a hard time loosing him in the fast single track. He seemed to know the perfect lines. (I didn't know until after the race that he had raced this course before and that he is somewhat local to it) and when I was trying to follow him, I washed out and went down really hard and bent my rear hanger. Derailler was OK, so I reached into my saddle bag for my spare hanger, installed it and continued on.

Fifteen minutes later, I flat. This actually was somewhat a good thing as it gave me a break - the heat was hard on me and I really didn't feel good. Most races, I get into my "race zone" with a couple of hours after the start. This is the point where I sort of feel out of my body and I am just concentrating on going as fast as I can. Pain is pumping through me, but I seem to feed off of it and go harder. At this point, I was in a "I feel like hell" zone and was having a hard time wanting to put myself through more pain.

Laps 5-10
Temperatures start dropping, and my spirits start lifting as I was picking riders off one by one. My goal was to hopefully lap everybody by nightfall, or shortly thereafter.

As nightfall came, Dan put on the lights and I put on some dry clothes and had some Chicken Soup even though I was literally eye sight distance behind lapping Eddie. Dan and Dad got me through the pit stop super fast and when I got back on the trail, Eddie was just in front of me. Eddie was still riding the technical really fast, but he looked pretty tired on the climbs. I rode behind him for a long time and towards the end of lap (I think this was about the 8th lap) there was a really tough climb that some riders couldn't make, so they had to walk the last 20 feet or so. When he got off his bike, I made my pass. Good guy, though I really don't know him very well. And his support crew was cool too - they even cheered me along several times during the race. Hats off to him and the Kona boys.

Laps 11-15
The dreaded night. Well, this felt like my best night riding I have ever done in my life. The big thing with 24 hour races is that when the night sets in, lap times go up because your vision is drastically cut down (dah). So with that in mind, one of my goals is to literally memorize the course in my head so that when I am riding at night, I know every little rock and root that can take me down during the night. (This tip I picked up on in an old interview Tinker Juarez that I read years back).

Well, I must of memorized every pebble on that course because I was riding at high speeds and never went down. I was loving my Lights & Motion Lithium Ion battery setup too, a lot of light with not a lot of weight. I think I made up a lot of time on a lot of riders as I think I ended up lapping the field again during the night.

Laps 16-20
Daylight comes and the lights go off, along with my sweaty clothes I was wearing during the night. This would be my last clothes change. I was still going at 100% race pace as I was feeling really good and was somewhat thinking of Mark Hendershot's 25 laps on the course last year. I was offhand thinking of going for 26 laps so I could joke with him next year about beating his course record.

Good thing is, temperatures stayed cool for the rest of the race. When it is in the 60's, it is the best for me as I do not have to worry so much about dehydration and it also provides a little more fuel in the fire to keep my tempo high so that I will stay warm as I tend to dress pretty light. Sounds odd, but it works for me.

Laps 20-25.
At this point, I am starting to get a little out of it. Riding, I am fine. Whenever I get off the bike and my feet touch the ground, I feel a little dizzy. And the bottom of my feet feel like they are on fire (I guess this was because I was climbing a lot out of the saddle and was pushing down really hard on the pedals).

I start having dreams of ice cold Coca-Cola and tell Jennifer to get me some for my next two laps. For the entire 23rd lap all I could think about was an ice cold Coke. It was going to be like heaven, I just knew it. For some reason at this point, I was still in my "race zone" and going hard. Towards the end of the this lap, I went down really hard on a bridge. I go flying and so does my bike. Bike is OK, I am bleeding and I get a wake up call to slow down and play it safe.

I log my 23rd lap, and plan on stopping at my tent to pick up my fresh water bottle and Coke. Just as I look up, Rob L was telling my pit crew that if I keep on with the pace that I was on, that I would pass him a third time. They all laughed and pointed to me about 15 feet behind him.

So, I ride the next two laps with Rob. Nice guy. He is from Pennsylvania and this was really the first conversation I ever really had with him. We were both pretty beat at this point, so riding with him was a nice change of pace. I normally don't like talking during a race, especially when I am going hard, but conversation was taking my mind off of the pain.

We log my 24th lap, and Rob's 21rst lap and find out that Eddie is close behind and turning one hour fifteen minute laps. Not much difference to me, but Rob my have to go out again after this next lap. Dan the Man tells us that he will give Rob split times at a point right before the start/finish line to tell Rob whether or not he has to go out again. I down another Coke and grab a bottle of Heed. Rob downs a vegan donut.

We talked constantly the previous lap, but we don't talk as much this lap. I kept the pace somewhat moderate as I just wanted to get the lap done as safe and as fast as we could.

We get out of the last section of woods and Dan tells that Rob is done.

I ask Rob if he wants to sprint to the finish line and he agrees. We pick a spot to start our sprint and let loose, but it pretty much ends up a tie. I end up with 25 laps and Rob finishes in second with 22 laps. We were both happy to be finishing at around 23 hours and 40 minutes.

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