Yup, it's taken a few days to get THE post up. What the heck took so long anyway?
Well, I had to eat my body weight in potato chips and beer, pizza, dessert, hamburgers, fries and other assorted tasties - junk I normally don't eat, some I haven't had in 7-8 months.
Plus sleep kinda came in handy so I did a bit of that. Hanging out with Doreen in Canmore post-race was good so blogging took second place to that and oh yeah, it took a while for the whole event to sink in to a point where I could finally try and write up my second Worlds.
24 Hours of Adrenalin World Championships. Wow! Epic conditions!!! I've never raced in conditions quite that bad. Somehow the weather turned an already tough gig into an adventure I can tell my mountain biking grandchildren about as they sit on my knee staring into my eyes and wondering if Granddad makes this stuff up.
So, in standard fashion of a picture tells a thousand words, here's how it all went down...
Lets start with the day before the race, the pre-race brief.
Usually these things aren't very inspiring or organized but I have to say, 24 Hours of Adrenalin did a good job of making a typically painful process far less painful. Leading into the briefing there was an hour long ceremony and some speeches which recognized five notable pioneers of 24hr Solo racing. Each story was entertaining and I think the athletes were well deserving of their recognition. What I found particularly interesting was the endorsement that each nominated athlete gave the 24hrs of Adrenalin Founder - Stuart Dorland - it gave me a new appreciation for how difficult these events are to setup, well at least when they are done to the magnitude of the Canmore event. Congrats Stuart.
The video below should tell you a little bit more about the event.
We had fantastic weather arriving at Solo Pit row on race morning. With approx 200 Solo athletes from 15 countries competing and their associated support crews and/or family it made for probably 600-800 people in a condensed area all focused on one thing - racing hard. Of course surrounding this epicenter you had the team racer campground areas, probably 2000+ people when you include the support crews for the team racers. Conservatively over 3000 people all about the dirt.
I was setup in my pit with lots of time to spare and as you can see here I even started mixing my own fuel. I was feeling pretty relaxed and in the zone, well as relaxed as a person can be. I race on my own custom blend of Infinit Nutrition which I created myself, I used three different formulas throughout the race and similar to previous races I didn't use any other fuel during the entire 25hr period - just water and Infinit - that's right, liquid nutrition. Perfect!
Lots of guys dropped by to say hi and wish me good luck, it was good to see them all but I must admit the closer the race start got the more intense I got and I probably wasn't much of a congenial host. ;-)
Soon enough I was in my race gear and dosing out the chamois cream and in the blink of an eye I found myself standing behind the start line chuckling to myself and shaking my head as I thought back a year prior when I had toed the line at my first Worlds, boy does that seem like a lot of races ago. With a countdown and a GO! we were all off and running on the Le Mans start which took us on a big running loop till we finally hooked up with our bikes and then tore off on a prologue lap down into the town of Canmore and back up into the Nordic Center, a pretty fast pace already being set.
The race soon settled into a predictable pace, a lot of fast racing but not so fast that it couldn't be maintained for the 24hrs.
The course was in great shape and my tires were hooking up great, my Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper was riding soooo well and with zero issues it is always a big load off my mind. So the first few laps were enjoyable.
My lap times were coming in at sub 1:30hrs which was competitive for sure. Then, the weather moved in, yikes!
Lightning and thunder, wind and rain, temps dropped and the course started to get muddy.
It wasn't too bad... until the storm hit again and this time there was enough rain coming down that the course was starting to get tricky.
Then, disaster, approx an hour into my next lap my chain blew up at the furthest possible point on the course. After trying to fix it with no success I had a decision to make, should I take a shorter route back to the pits and have to redo that piece of the course or should I run, push, crawl my bike up the hills and try to ride the remainder of the lap with no chain; I chose the no-chain push-fest. Not fun.
I looked at my watch when the chain blew up and after pushing my bike for 100mins I finally managed to get back to my pit. Gah, a 2:30hr+ lap, that sucked. The weather didn't increase the enjoyment factor during the pushing.
Here's a little bit of that weather.
That broken chain lap was a tough one for me, it was a bit demoralizing sitting on the side of the trail as loads of riders went tearing past. When I finally made the decision to get at it and start pushing my bike for the rest of the lap it was equally as hard on the head when a solo rider would fly by me pedaling like mad. A chain, a chain, my kingdom for a chain.
When I got back just before dark I grabbed my backup bike which was an Ellsworth Truth that my pal Dave Crewe had kindly offered up and I headed off for the next lap. The problem with the rubber on the backup bike soon became apparent, the Ellsworth was wearing worn-down front and rear Maxxis Crossmark rubber that Dave had used for the BC Bike Race. For the remainder of this lap I couldn't climb up hills without spinning out (no traction) and descending was scary with no front wheel bite, even on easy terrain the bike was going into sideways drifts from the mud hydroplaning. It turned this lap into a lot harder effort than I wanted, a lot more running the bike and mentally it was pretty tiring, another 2+hr lap. I was cooked.
Day turned to night and the racing continued, by now there were Solo racers crawling into their tents due to the really bad storming and rain. The image above shows Doreen updating me on how the race was going. Craig Peacock was holding 1st and I had 2nd place. With a reasonable gap on 3rd position I felt pretty good but it was hard to get back on the bike when the course was so nasty.
At this point the race became a war of the mind - who wanted to ignore what their body was saying, who wanted to ignore what common sense was saying. Doreen hit me with a couple of "You've trained too hard to..." or "Just think of the people you came here to represent..." or "Deeds not Words", I guess that was enough to get my wet, cold, muddy and lazy butt back out on to the course.
I'm including a photo which pretty much captures the essence of what it was like to keep racing during those night laps under those conditions. This Aussie won his category and is a heck of a good racer and a funny guy. Like most of us he wasn't having so much fun at the time.
I typically enjoy night riding and usually I turn in some fast times, the conditions had other things in mind.
And as Ryan Draper so aptly put it the conditions basically separated the boys from the men.
Morning time started to come around and the course was still a mess. It had been cold all night and with the rain it became a matter of dressing smart.
I never changed my socks, shoes, bib shorts or jersey during the entire race, I wore the same ones the whole time. I only took something off to put on a different layer or remove a layer.
The daylight didn't remove the mud-fest, as you will see.
One of the things you look forward to is heading towards the transition tent and seeing the smiling faces of the volunteers manning the timing stations, those guys did a great job, all the volunteers did. The volunteers out on the course handing out water or taking numbers were always quick to cheer on a soloist. I know I appreciated it.
Watch this clip, the Aussie says it best.
As the morning progressed I was informed by Doreen that I had secured 2nd position and only needed to go out and ride a final steady lap to finish things off. So I hung out at my pit for a little bit and talked to a few people that were dropping by to congratulate and such. It was nice to relax and laugh a bit.
Here's some shots as I headed out on my last lap.
The fella standing in the background is Doreen's dad. George was a tremendous help in the pit and this is his 2nd time at Canmore that he has 24'd for me. Thanks George.
Doreen grabbed this shot as I was coming through on my last lap, at the halfway point right next to the feed stations.
The boys who were being looked after by Auntie during the race (thanks Irene) showed up towards the end of the event and managed to watch me haul it across the finish line. I think it's great the boys get to see these kinds of events and hopefully in the not too distant future they will be able to haul across some finish line's themselves.
As soon as I crossed the finish line I was grabbed my Ryan Draper (a fast and competitive ultra-junkie) and got interviewed, hope I managed to form complete sentences because I don't remember most of the conversation.
After the interview I got back to the Pit and was mighty glad for it. Here's a shot Doreen took of me talking to Evan after giving him a muddy high five.
And no 24hr event is complete without a little bit of self-mockery. Here's my best Monty Python eyeball.
So, when it was all said and done and with approx 24hrs of racing complete I managed to grab onto a 2nd place finish within my category and I think 16th place overall against the Elites. The stats look something like 280kms of racing and approx 28,000 feet vertical gain. If I hadn't have had those two bad laps I'm still sure I couldn't have reeled Craig Peacock in, the guy is totally world-class, but I could have moved up the overall standings. I'm happy with the results though, we always want better but I'll take second and be happy with it.
In closing off this piece I'll quote MonavieCannondale who raced as a team on the shorter course and rocked it hard, winning the team overalls. I quote this because it's well written outside commentary:
"I’ve always held 24 Hour solo competitors with a certain level of esteem. It was part admiration, part bewilderment, and part astonishment that a rider, a person, could and would push themselves to such limits... Fast forward from then to last night, when I’m taking my 5th lap in the rain, wind storm, lighting, and fighting peanut butter mud, a lattice work of roots and rocks, poor visibility, and only sampling a tiny fraction of their fatigue as we pass rider after rider racing in the solo category - their identities easily recognized by both the steady and measured pace of their movement as well as a behind-the-seat number plate, much like our childhood bicycle license plates we used to all mount... Each of the solo rider’s efforts pales and eclipses anything the team riders did, ours not the least included. We rode 27 laps of the 10 mile course, 4 more than the next fastest team…but I’ll say it again: That’s only seven laps each…and with 2+hours between each effort. I can not imagine doing that race solo. Matt Ohran, who competed in the 1999 event here in Canmore gave it a go in the solo category again in 2008. Conditions, physical effort, pace and old man time took the better of him and he also retired by night fall. These are tough cookies racing solo."
Post race consisted of eating. Eating the nearest thing possible. Eating stuff that I normally don't eat.
That evening we went to the Awards ceremonies which I thought was well hosted. Quite a lot of the athletes were there and awards were presented to the podiums in each category.
In my category the placing was Craig Peacock - Australia in 1st, Shaun Taylor - USA in 2nd and Mario Roma - Brazil in 3rd.
See that jersey Craig is wearing, that's what you get when you win, it's the Solo World Champion jersey. It looks like it would have fit me, it's mine next year and that's all I'm gonna say. While I was up on the podium I took a brief moment to mentally thank the folks in Texas that helped cheer me on during this quest - you know who you are. Soon enough we were heading out to the parking lot and heading back to the hotel to get some well deserved sleep.
When I woke up the first thing I did was crack a Chocolaty Stout and then crawled back into bed, I chuckled to myself as I rested a pint of Stout on my chest with one hand and got my other hand in a bag of potato chips - ahhhhhh, post-Worlds breakfast. Some of you know I stopped drinking beer, wine or any alcohol for that matter quite a few months ago as preparation for and partly as a mental reminder of what I was training for. Chips, haven't had them in ages.
It was with great pleasure that I got to tuck into these beers after all that training and racing. Have to say the Stout was a personal fave but I am looking forward to getting back to Texas and cracking a quality beer with my buddy John (thanks again for looking after the mutt while we were away). Sitting down and watching some UFC and a beer sounds pretty good to me.
Sometime after the beer breakfast I got to check out the state of my racing gear. What???? You mean I raced in mud??? ;-)
We hit the jackpot post-race, Irene volunteered to look after the boys for three days while Doreen and I got to hang out and spend some quality time together in Canmore.
We hung out in coffee shops (where I got behind the espresso machine to pour latte art) and ate casual meals, rented videos and drank wine. It was a great time and I'd race another Worlds next week just to get some more of that relaxed hanging around. I owe a lot to Doreen for supporting me in these adventures, she is a big part of my success and if I get that World Solo Champ jersey next year I'm for sure going to give her half of it. ;-)
I'm sure I'll add some more images and thoughts to this over the next few days. Since the race has ended my swollen legs and feet have gone back to normal, I can now feel all my toes again, the bruising is gone and the cuts and scratches are healing. My deep fatigue is subsiding and my hyperextended thumb and little finger are on the mend. Pretty soon I'll have forgotten all the tough times and only remember the fun and challenging times and I'm positive it'll be right about that time that I'll sign up for the 2009 World Solo Championship.
Yup, it's taken a few days to get THE post up. What the heck took so long anyway?