This was my first "endurance" race. Jonathan Wheaton agreed to ride with me because he decided it was a bit early in the season for a solo 12 hour race. We made a couple of attempts to find a third, but gave up pretty quickly. For me this was mostly preparation for Big Bear, since I have never done a race like this. I wanted to see how well my lights worked, what it was like to ride at 3 am, what it was like to do a lap, then take time off, then do another, etc, on no sleep. I also figured I was going to be there anyway, since Mike was doing it solo, so I might as well ride. And the entry was pretty cheap, relative to other races.
Mike, John and I left DC at about 10 am on Saturday morning. For some reason I got it my head that we wanted to take 66, and it was not until we were on 66 that Mike suddenly asked why we were on 66? We want 395. Luckily we had time to jump on GW Parkway, take a relatively quick detour to Spout Run (with poor Jonathan following, wondering what we were doing) and finally get onto 395. We had planned a stop at REI to get stove fuel, which took awhile, and resulted in a lot more purchased than just stove fuel. But then we were back on the road by noon. The traffic was really awful pretty much the whole way. We all picked up sandwiches at Sheetz, and arrived by 2 PM, only an hour later than we had planned. Finding the race was kind of hard...no signs were up when we started driving in, so we drove up and down Hollywood Farm road a couple of times, picking up more vehicles obviously looking for the trailhead as well. Finally a sign was put up and we followed a dirt road into the woods. After another wrong turn, we finally reached the right field and began to set up camp.
We took a pre-ride and all were surprised at how hard the trail was, and by how long it was. I took two falls, one into a tree bruising and scraping my upper arm, and one on a very scary downhill, which resulted in a few more bruises on my legs and lots of noise that caused Mike to turn around and come back to make sure I was not lying in a bloody heap at the bottom. I quickly decided I would plan to walk that hill during the race.
We got back to the field and noticed a lot more people had arrived and started seeing some familiar faces. We had prime real estate since Mike was riding solo, and some friendly folks set up around us.
Jonathan made some yummy ravioli while Mike and I registered. Then Mike supplemented with some spaghetti. Then we all settled in for a nap. We all got up around 10 to start getting ready. There was a rider meeting at 10:30 when they explained the race to us, how laps would be counted and such and answered questions.
Jonathan and I decided he would do the first lap because we figured he would do 5 laps to my 4. We also decided that we would start out with 1 lap each and change our M.O. if we felt the need later on.
Midnight came, and Jonathan and Mike walked down to the stream crossing to line up for the LeMans start. I stood kind of in the middle of everything and held both bicycles so they would be able to find them easily. I also prepared to take pictures, which proved to be unsuccessful. Mike showed up first and grabbed his bike, then Jonathan. I tried to get out of the way without getting run over or in the way of anyone.
Then I began my final preparations for riding. I filled my camelback, checked my bike over, and attached my battery to my bike frame. I couldn't remember where I had attached it before, but figured it would work. Then I did some yoga to stretch out and warm up.
I stood near the hand-off area beginning about 12:55 to wait for Jonathan. He showed up almost immediately and we did the hand off. I plugged my lights in and quickly realized that this is not where I had it plugged in before and it was not going to work. The cord was too short. I unhooked the battery and tried to attach it to the seatpost, but that was not going to work either. Finally, I threw the battery into my jersey pocket and took off. There were no markings at the beginning of the loop and no one else was around so I became worried I was on the wrong trail. But pretty soon after I saw some tape, and more confidently was on my way.
The first loop went fine. My lights worked great--better than I remembered from previous night rides (Light and Motion Cabeza Logic MV--a halogen digital light, multi-power--not as nice as an HID, but much cheaper). I did not bring an extra battery, which I meant to do, just in case. I had my little LED light hanging around my neck in case my headlight failed, but I hoped for the best. Up in the fields, I switched the power down, just to reserve some power, since the battery was supposed to run for 2 hrs at full power, and in case there was some kind of mechanical, I might need the extra time. I was going kind of slow because I was tired from lack of sleep, and the roots were really slippery, plus I had not done a lot of night riding, so I was a little nervous about that. I decided I would rather finish with minimal injuries than break any speed records. I looked at my computer and I was almost half way done! Awhile later, I looked down and I was only half way done, then it seemed like forever and I was only a little over halfway done. That middle few miles seemed really slow. I came upon a big downhill that I did not remember being so sketchy in the pre-ride. I walked it. Then I came to the first steep down hill that I did remember. I had ridden this twice in the preride so I knew the line I wanted and made it down that hill. Then the sketchy down hill of my pre-ride crash--I walked that.
Finally the lap was over in 1:25, and I handed off to Jonathan.
I sat for a little bit, and suddenly Mike showed up pretty angry. His HID had stopped working 2 miles out from finishing the second lap, so it lasted less than 2 hrs, even though it was supposed to last 4. I offered him my backup light, which was only a 10 watt halogen commuter, and really not bright enough, but if he went slow, it would work okay, but he decided to wait a bit before making a decision.
I drank some soy milk and refilled my camelback. I was not hungry at all, and will definitely bring soymilk to future races. It went down pretty easily, provided necessary nutrients, and a little hydration to boot.
I taped another gu to my frame and went to the porta potties. I came back, swapped my battery for a fresh one, and was getting my gloves and such together to go to the hand off area. And suddenly there was Jonathan! By my watch, he finished the lap in about 50 minutes, but I may have been a little off. It was almost 3:30 am. I grabbed my stuff, and madly put on my hat, helmet and gloves. I did not have a jersey with a pocket, so I again struggled with where to put my battery. By this time, Jonathan was back at the ez-up wondering what I was up to. Finally, I strapped the battery onto my camelback, and I was off.
I don't remember this lap as well. I finished it in about the same amount of time, and the middle few miles again seemed to stretch on forever. I handed off to Jonathan, he asked if he should do two laps. I said I would be ready for him in 50 minutes, but if at that time he felt like doing a second lap, he was more than welcome to.
Mike was still hanging around the ez-up, though he seemed much cheerier now, and had decided to just wait until the sun came up and start riding then. It was still pitch black, though it was now 5 am. I didn't think there was any way it could be light by 6, so I prepared to do another lap in the dark. More soy milk, a couple of darth peanut M&Ms (the greatest invention EVER!). I drank some iced Java Moonshine tea. It is a combination of black tea (caffeine!) and roobios (antioxidants!). Since Mike was not going to use my third battery, I strapped it to my camelbak (I had planned on taking the two partially used batteries, hoping between them they had enough juice left to get me until daylight. But suddenly it was light out! At about 5:45, as I was making final prep for my next lap, I decided to not take my light at all. Mike also got ready to get back on the trail.
I headed to the hand off area, determined to not be late this time and waited for Jonathan. A few minutes later, he arrived. We had both realized at this point that for each of us to do 6 hrs, he would have to do 6 laps to my 4, so he told me he would double up next lap.
I went out happy to have natural light. It was still a little dark in the woods, but not too bad. It was still slippery, and I was totally exhausted. I sped up in the flat areas now that I could see better, but took it very carefully in the technical sections. At some point, I fell, probably slipped on a root, and landed pretty hard on my left hand and scraped up my knee. But nothing serious. In a bit of a daze, I finished the loop, and handed off to Jonathan relieved that I would have a little more time off.
I lay down for awhile, setting both my watch alarm and my cell phone alarm to go off at 9, figuring I should be ready to go by 9:30. I was a little bleary at 9 when I got up, but prepared for my last lap. It was painful and I was exhausted. I realized that Jonathan was going so fast that we actually would probably be able to do an 11th lap if one of us wanted to do it because we would finish our 10th at about 11:50 or so. But there was no way I could do another lap after this one.
As I was riding in the fields my left pedal started to feel really weird. It was spinning all wonky. I unclipped and looked down, nothing obviously wrong. I clipped back in, and it was still off. All of the sudden the whole left crank arm just came off!! So there I am with a crank arm attached to the bottom of my shoe. I stopped and was thinking how would I get back to the campsite? I unclipped the crank arm from my shoe and picked up the bolt that fell off. I was in a pretty narrow area, so I did not want to try to fix it here because I would get in other riders' ways. I walked to a slightly more open space and looked things over. It looked like the bolt just came loose and I could put it all back together if I had the right tool. I pulled my kit out and was quite pleased to find I had the right size allen wrench. I put everything back together and the tools away, wondering how this happened, but pleased that I would be able to pedal back to camp. I tentatively started riding again, a little worried that I might damage the crankset somehow, but everything felt fine.
By the time I passed the camp almost half way through I had forgotten all about it, thinking completely about how I just needed to ride another 5 miles and I would be able to sleep. I finished the lap at about 10:55, and told Jonathan that I could not do another one, so please take his time, unless he wanted to do 2. I was happy with a total of 10 (1 more than I expected!)
I was so exhausted I was barely coherent. I wanted to stay awake to see Jonathan and others finish, but I just couldn't do it. Plus I was going to have to drive home soon, so I crawled into the tent and fell asleep.
At some point, Mike came and woke me up. I told him to wake me up at 1:30. But at about 1:20 or so, I heard the awards ceremony start, so I got up to see that.
Mike had only done 4 laps, after the light fiasco, and he was not happy with his bike arrangement. Matt Donahue was walking around with stitches in his face from the scary downhill. Ricky's team had won their class and Becky took first place for solo women. I think the top duo class did 12 laps, maybe 13. I was happy with Jonathan's and my 10. I had ridden 40 miles in the past 24 hrs with no sleep, and was quite pleased with that. I think it was a good measure for where I am at in preparation for the Wilderness 101--I have a ways to go with the training, but I have a couple more months to increase my endruance and I will be doing that with a full night's sleep in me, which will also help a lot. I also think it was great preparation for Big Bear.
I was very impressed with Jonathan's 6 laps (plus a 7th with the pre-ride!).