This post should have been put in place at least a month ago. But every time I went to post up I would see my previous post about Pico, and I just couldn't get motivated to talk about anything else. Well I suppose enough time has passed, and I'm finally sitting down to talk about other stuff. Sorry about that...

My last race of 2013 was the 24hrs of RHR, a great 24 hour mountain bike race put on by Terra Firma Racing, just outside of Austin. This was my 24th 24hr Solo race, and I was pumped to get at it. My lead-up to the 24hr race in Texas had been going well, I was riding strong and I had a good feeling about grabbing the podium again. All my wattage numbers looked excellent, and my volume was solid, my local trails were feeling easy and I was confident. Then things changed. With only two weeks till the race, I got handed a bit of bad luck courtesy of a bad wipeout which was totally my fault. Without getting into details, I found myself flying over my handlebars and smashing into a rock, my ribs taking most of the impact. It happened so fast that I barely had time to get my hands in front of me to brace against the fall, so it was a pretty hard slam. When I stood up I knew I had hurt myself, but I didn't realize how badly. I just jumped on my bike and started bombing down the trail again to reel in another rider up ahead. 10 minutes later I had dropped the other rider and was spending more time assessing my injury as I rode along with my own thoughts which consisted of 'Wow, that really hurt'. 30 minutes later and the injury was bothering me enough that I got off the bike to try and figure out how bad the ribs were messed up. A few pokes later and I knew it wasn't good, time to start heading home. Every little bump on the trail was hurting me and to stand up out of the saddle was a bit concerning, that's bad news as a singlespeeder. By the 45 minute mark I knew it was hospital time, the pain wasn't easing up, it just kept increasing.

A couple of hours later, some x-rays and an ultrasound, and I walked away with a diagnosis of fractured ribs and a recovery time of eight weeks until they would feel good enough to compete again. Huh? Wha? But, uhmmm, I have a 24hr race in two weeks.

Now the smart thing to do at that point would have been to put my feet up and recover, but I don't do smart. I had six of my 24hr Solo athletes in the race and I wanted to be there for them, and if I was going to be there I might as well be there with a bike. So the podium plan went out the window and my new plan became 'The rules of fractured ribs don't apply to me, I'm going to race and ignore this stupid injury and see how many hours I can pound out while gritting my teeth'. It's always good to have a plan, even if it's a bad plan. ;-)

That first week after the injury was awful, I was getting approximately one hour of sleep per night because every time I moved I woke up groaning. The daytime was no better, my eyes would automatically start watering if I felt a cough coming on, let's not even talk about sneezing. I was a mess. The second week wasn't much better, my ribs were showing no signs of improvement and my riding volume was almost non-existent. Lack of sleep, the usual 24hr Solo preparation scramble, and having to put our dog down two days before flying to Texas was a bit stressful. Uugh.

Looking at my training log I only rode 2hrs in the two weeks leading up to the race, and that saddle time was mainly to try and figure out how to setup my bike so I could try and race with the messed up ribs. I went with the strategy of a big fat Ardent 2.4 LUST up front, completely unnecessary on the Texas trails but I knew I could run it at a really low PSI to gain some extra front end cushion effect.

Can't believe I'm running an Ardent 2.4 LUST up front at the Texas 24. Doing whatever it takes to protect the rib fracture.

The flights down were uneventful, though sleeping overnight in the car in the airport parking lot wasn't a ton of fun. It was great to finally arrive in Texas, the warm weather and sunny conditions took my mind off my complaining ribs. Johnny had everything sorted out for airport pickup (thx buddy), and since the last time we had all raced together in Texas he had completed most of his home renovations and they looked fantastic. It was good to settle in to a pre-race atmosphere with like minded athletes and friends. Like a race homecoming.

Friday we got out for a pre-race lap under awesome conditions, it was during this lap that I started to understand how bad my ribs were, and I began to consider how many hours I would be able to endure before my ribs blew up.

Pre ride at Rocky Hill Ranch.

Saturday unfolded smoothly, everyone got the pit areas setup quickly and started dialing in to race mode. Dave, Johnny, Julie, Sean, Brian, Philip, and myself all lined up in side by side pits right next to the singletrack entry, also joining us as a Solo athlete... Johnny's girl Laura in her first 24 Solo. For sure she was with the right crew. Pit support came in the form of Antonio, Thad, Sarah, Tony and other attached racing family members or friends. I never get tired of saying it, pit support is key to a great race, I've raced a few 24hr Solos by myself and it's hard - a huge thanks to the hard working pit crew! It's always great to watch a bunch of my athletes and their support working together as a large team, combining resources and getting ready to race with a common focus of excellence is worth a million dollars.

pit setup

A couple of hours before the race start I had the pleasure of shaking hands with one of my long time Texas athletes, Shane had driven up from Houston to come and cheer us on and generally check out the scene for a few hours. Shane is a great guy, and it was real good to see him. He crossed over to singlespeed nearly a year ago and he's loving it (does that improve his great guy status?), after spending a few hours with us and checking out the scene I think we will see him toeing the line of a 24hr some time in the future.

The noon time start was pretty relaxed, I opted to skip the Le Mans run as my ribs couldn't accept the jarring effect of carbon sole mountain bike shoes running around on Texas hardpack. Once on the bike it didn't take too long to work my way through the rear elements, everyone seemed upbeat and courteous, and that's one of the reasons I love this particular race - the distinct lack of cutthroat racing mentality like you see in the World Championships or some of the really big races. I was trying to ride smooth and choose flowing lines that wouldn't upset my ribs, but it wasn't working out very well. I think I'm a pretty decent flow rider but no matter what I did on that first lap the ribs were taking a pounding on the hardtail. In an effort to try and modify the punishment, I decided to pick up the pace a bit to see if a faster flow might help adjust the eye watering affect on the ribs, no luck with that strategy but it did have me clocking in the fastest lap time (54 minutes) of any Solo racer.

As annoying as the ribs were, I was loving being in Texas and racing in warm weather on fun trails. And sometimes that's all that you need to survive tough scenarios in a 24hr Solo race; focusing on the positives, forging ahead through the adversity, and minimizing the negative internal feedback. On one front I was making efforts to convince myself that I could race a punishing course all day and night with fractured ribs. I was telling myself that I've done harder things. BUT waaaaaayyyyy back in the recesses of my mind I knew it wasn't a smart idea and that I was going to have to reassess after every lap. Three hours of racing later and I knew I would have to switch strategies again in order to stay in the game, so I decided to try and ride some of the laps with each one of my Solo athletes, helping them out with positive reinforcement, sneaky fast line choices, and general coaching observations. It was fun getting to ride with them. After every lap I would ask myself the same question... how many more hours will my ribs accept and am I damaging them further? As it turns out, I only had seven hours of racing in me. Pretty weak sauce.

As weak as that was, those final few hours of racing were really rewarding. I had made a new mental goal of suffering till nightfall, which meant I had loads of fitness reserves in the tank and a fresh race mind to charge down the trail as hard as I wanted to. With a suffering limit in place, that I knew I could achieve, all I had to do was ride my bike next to great people I really like.

With the last rays of the sun disappearing, I pulled off my race helmet and put on my coaching hat. I love racing, but I also love coaching. Watching my athletes tear up a course is always a great feeling, it's a mixture of pride and excitement to see them executing at such a high personal level. I know racing isn't just about hitting the podium, it's about much more than that, but it helps to taste the podium from time to time... in this race five of them hit the podium. That probably tasted pretty good.

After the race we all moved into the usual pit teardown and packup.

Breaking down the pit area after the race.

How many racers does it take to pack a bike?

Eating (and maybe a bit of celebratory drinking) was on everybody's mind. Hanging out together, laughing at the race craziness, knuckle bumping and head shaking, quiet nods of respect and fist pumping became the routine for the rest of our time in Austin. That time spent together is as important and rewarding as the race itself. A million dollars.

Julie and John hanging out at Ruby's.

Ruby's BBQ after 24hrs of Rocky Hill Ranch.

Antonio BBQ

Dave getting his Pollo Regio on.

Digging in to the Pollo Regio.

Sooner than we all would have liked, it was time to head for airports. I like Texas, gonna have to get back there. ;-)

So what's up with the ribs three months after the wipeout? Well, I've got three really cool calcified bumps on three of my ribs, I still can't stretch properly, and the ribs are still sore if I push them too hard. The good news is overall I feel pretty good, and training for the next 24hr Solo in mid-Feb is back on track again. And that's a good thing.

Coming up next... the November trip to Ireland.