Standing upEleven days after "the big race" and I'm finally getting around to blogging about it. It's been interesting to let the experience of this event settle in and spend lots of time thinking about what it was about and would I do it again etc, etc, etc. I smile when I think back to pretty much a year ago when I told Doreen I had decided to sign up for a 24hr mountain bike race; she thought that was pretty cool, so did I but of course I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

What did I get myself into???

I got myself into much more than I expected, both good and bad (well maybe hard is a better choice of words than bad). A year ago, when I knew nothing about 24 Solo's, I silently nodded my head to myself as I hit the send button on an email to Doreen to let her know that I had just signed up for my first 24 Solo in Canmore. With that nod I was already planning further down the road, past the event I had just signed up for and mentally targeting a bigger event - the World Championship. Boy was I naive, but, I've nodded my head on crazier things in the past so this didn't seem like it should be insurmountable. As I write this, instead of nodding my head I'm shaking my head and smiling as I realize what a total rookie I was and how little I knew about what I was in for.

Lots and lots of time on a trainer, in the basement, in the middle of a Calgary winter. Riding in the basement at two in the morning, sweat dripping off my nose in the dark. Solo riding. Physically and mentally hard. Of course there was riding with friends, both road and mountain bike, but unless your friends are doing a 24 solo it turns out you do a a lot of riding by yourself. Through it all I started to really enjoy riding.

Crossing the finish line

Reading, researching, experimenting, learning, making mistakes, cursing, smiling, laughing, gritting my teeth, crashing, climbing, sweating, sprinting, grinding, spinning, freezing, dehydrating, fatigued, confused, embarrassed, annoyed, focused. These are just a few of the words that pop into my head as I reflect back on the year. A good riding year.

Of course I couldn't have thrown my efforts into something like this without the support of those around me. Doreen was always fully behind me on this crazy idea, that meant a lot, I'm lucky. Dave Crewe gets a thanks for coming down to the race course and supporting me in the pits; if he hadn't have been with us I'd probably still be sitting there trying to figure out what was wrong with my bike. Thanks to Alan at Pedalhead for letting me "fly the colors". Cheers to all my pals who sent emails or called to wish me good luck, too many to list, I miss riding with you guys. Ok, I'll stop there or I'll be thanking into the middle of the night.

Night beforeDSC_5135

To the race... What a stressful way to start the race - A not so funny moment was after doing a pre-ride with Dave the day before the race I got back to the hotel and started fiddling with my Giant Trance 0 and then asked Dave the innocent question of "hey, should this be grinding like that?". Turns out my Raceface bottom bracket was pooched. What are the odds on that, a failure 12hrs from lining up at the start to World's. At 2230hrs we were tearing the bike apart in the hotel parking lot. After some Google-ing we knew the first and nearest bike shop to open was at 1000hrs which was exactly 90mins before I was supposed to be lining up at the start. Doreen had a 2008 XT crankset in hand as soon as possible and got it back to Dave in the pit who went into wrenching-blur mode. New cassette, chain and crankset in place and almost ready for me to ride but Dave wasn't completely happy with it so I did my first lap on my back-up bike - a sensible decision. Dave got Tinker Juarez's mechanic to give him a hand with a couple of minor issues and the Giant was good to go for the second lap and it rode great for the rest of the race. As a bonus, Tinker's mechanic did discover a warranty issue with the freehub body and some slop in the cassette, oh the Texas shops will love me. Sigh.

Dave and crankDSC_5136

First lap injuryDSC_5139I wasn't really nervous at the start, I just wanted to get going. From the pre-riding I had done I knew it wasn't my kind of course. Lots of climbing and not enough technical singletrack. I had decided that I had to ride hard and fast in the technical to put some time into the climbers. On my first lap I did just that, pushing the pace down a twisty singletrack section that lasted for about 10mins, unfortunately I was stuck behind a pro who didn't want to let me pass; she blew a corner and wiped out, I wiped out as well trying not to hit her. I got banged up pretty good. She just got on her bike and didn't even look back. From that point on I had to ease it back a bit in the technical as I kept telling myself I almost ended my Solo race with just one lap.

Here I am just after my first lap, pointing at my forearm gouge and still a bit angry.

Probably about the time I was eating a dirt sandwich on my wipeout, Evan and Keegan were playing in the pit next to my nice, clean Giant and waiting for me to return.

Kids in pitDSC_5138

Pretty quickly after getting back to the pit, Dave was handing me my newly fixed Giant and I was happy to get back out on it.

Second lapDSC_5140

ClimbingBy now the temperatures were peaking and it was hot! It was over 100 degrees for over four hours in a row at one point. That's freakin' hot for endurance racing!!! It was completely exposed like a desert for most of the race course and the sun was reflecting off white sand-covered hard rock or hard-packed sand. With the heat waves shimmering off the white sand it felt like the race had been moved inside a convection oven. It was really hard to keep pushing it at race pace.

As the race wore on and with each lap consisting of approx 2500' of climbing the intensity was starting to take it's toll early in the game. A few laps in and lots of riders were starting to have a hard time of it. Guys were vomiting and riding at the same time. It was interesting to come to the top of yet another climb and see a new vomit wet spot in the sand from the dehydration, heat and intense efforts (none of the wet spots were mine by the way). The heat was relentless, the sun just blasted you on the hill climbs.

Coming down bridgeBut I just kept my nose to the grindstone and keep turning over the laps. Mentally what worked for me was setting small goals for myself like "I'm going to put in a decent effort through this section and take a break on that section over there", or "I'm going to ride this out without touching my brakes". I found myself always doing the math out there, "Ok, that's six hours down and only 18 hours to go, cool I'm already 25% complete". Sometimes the math would only change by a few percent but any change was good change as it got me closer to having 100% done.

Upon almost completing the lap and just before you hit the transition tent and pit-row you had to ride down some stairs. I saw quite a few riders walk this section. This was one of my favorite sections to ride down, not only for the fact that the lap was done but simply because it was such childish fun.

After reporting into the transition tent it was a quick ride on to pit-row, here's what it looked like for my pit crew.

Telling them what I needed...

Coming in from a lapDSC_5141

Rehydrating, waiting for the bike to get tweaked and cleaning glasses...

Cleaning glassesDSC_5215

Heading back out for another lap...

Leaving pitDSC_5236

To go and ride on this...

Dirt bridge

Pretty soon day had turned into night and I was still feeling pretty good.

Night light

My attitude was pretty positive considering the heat and an increase in humidity.

Night lapDSC_5185

No matter how upbeat you are things can change pretty quick on a race of this magnitude. My worst laps of the race came during a bad night lap when there was some confusion in my pit and I was handed a partially recharged battery and sent out for another lap. A very big mistake. The laps usually took me approx 95-100mins per lap, but on this particular lap my light switched down to battery protection mode only 30mins in to the lap. My eyes bugged out as my light moved from car headlight intensity to a very pale yellow and very dim 10' throw. I cursed aloud several times. I went into panic mode and threw everything I had into that lap fearful that I would lose all light and be stuck stumbling back to the finish line in the pitch black losing way too much lap time. Each minute that I raced the dimming light I had no idea when it would totally die so each minute was raced harder and harder. The downs were done by brail and memory, the flats and ups were out of the saddle as much as my legs could take. It was a total blow-up, every single minute. I got back to my pit and could barely talk, semi-coherent, a mess. I had to pass out for 30mins to pull it back together. That lap hurt me for the next two laps, I was totally drained. In fact on the following lap I got 15mins in and pretty much fell off my bike, I had to sit on the side of the trail eating race gel and drinking fluids until I could finally get back on and start wobbling up the trail again. Uuugh. That was good character building stuff.

With the oncoming daylight the heat stared to pickup again, until it was back to furnace hot. I didn't mind so much now that the end of the race was in sight. On my second last lap I came back in to see a view something like this. It's good to be a kid.

Boys eating yogurtDSC_5151

At the 22hr mark I sat down and ate some solid food, that banana tasted pretty good.

Happily eating a bananaDSC_5228

Even as good as that banana tasted I was really just thinking about pounding off just one more lap.

Eating a banana before last lapDSC_5225

The last lap was pretty cool, realizing I was on my last lap at such a big event. At one point on the lap I got passed by Tinker Juarez, Nat Ross, and Ernesto Marenchin, it was a highlight for me to realize I had been racing in the same event as those guys. There were some superstar riders and I was riding with them (does being lapped count as riding with them, haha) it was an impacting moment. Guys like Tinker would pass me like I was standing still but where else do you get to ride with Tinker Juarez?

I learned a lot at this 24 Solo, different things than the first 24 Solo. I'm going to do more ultra-endurance stuff that's for sure. I'm already planning my next race. ;-)

Here's a couple of good closing shots. Just after I got back to the pit Doreen took these photos.

The boysDSC_5262

Giving my boys a sweaty hug. Wonder which one of these two little guys will be the first to do a 24 solo.

Sweaty hugDSC_5261

And for those of you who are interested in results... Drum roll please... I placed 5th in my category against a bunch of sponsored riders who have done lots of this kind of stuff in the past - so I guess I did pretty good. The math shows I raced nearly 290kms and over 30,000 feet vertical gain. I'm pretty happy with my results but of course I would have liked to be on a podium just to wave at Doreen and the boys. I'm told that placing my results against the Elite Men (Pro's like Tinker Juarez, who placed first) and I would have placed 16th. Not bad for a weekend hack. ;-)

After two weeks my body is finally starting to return to a state of normalcy, my legs are still a bit tired but my cuts and bruises have all pretty much healed. I'm starting to look at my bikes and think about throwing a leg over one and going for a ride. That's a good sign. Think I'll get on with that.


bobbyk said...

hey shaun and doreen... congratulations on your race. interesting to read all that stuff about your race and the trip down -makes me want to get outta here and get into shape. i will be in houston sep 23. will call you to see if you'll be there. bobbyk.

Shaun Taylor said...

Hey Bob! Good to hear from you, we are arriving in Sugar land on the 15th, Doreen had to spend a few days at the Aliso Viejo office. Give us a heads up on how long you are going to me in town. We may still be in a hotel - maybe you can stay in the same one as us, hahaha.

Shaun Banys said...

Once again bro......a herculean feat! Congrats is an understatement bro.....
Can't wait to hear about the next adventure!!
Enjoy Texas.
And don't wear your 'short shorts' around the good ole boys!!


Shaun Taylor said...

Yo Banner! Killin' me with that, LOL!!!

Good to hear from you bro. Mi casa es su casa.