The idea to race 24 nats as a duo team took root at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. My teammate Jeremy Young and I got 2nd at Old Pueblo after an all night duel with the Speedgoat.com team. They finished a little more than 20 minutes ahead of us on the same lap. We decided to try our shot at 24 hour nationals, this time in Colorado Springs.
Fast forward to the end of September and we had still not registered for the race. Jeremy and I had talked a little bit over the summer but had not seen each other much since I race mostly endurance and he races mostly cross country. I ran into Jeremy at a CX race at Valmont Bike park. It was the week after the Vapor Trail and my results were predictable. I was cooked. Both mentally and physically. Jeremy and I talked a bit about racing nationals. I wasn’t convinced. I knew I wasn’t going to be as fast as I had hoped. A couple of texts over the next day and we made the call. Might as well race.
We had a pretty big crew heading to the event. Jon Davis, Tim Lutz and Ben Welnak were racing solo. Jeremy and I were racing Duo. Erick Lord and Jill Hueckman were racing Coed Duo. Erick Erickson from the Trek Store Bicycle Store was going to be there wrenching for us. Add some additional friends like Curt Wilhelm and Brett Ebben along with the Davis and Wilhelm family and last but not least my uber helpful and supportive wife Lacey and we had a giant swath of the solo pits occupied. Game on.
The race was at Palmer Park, an urban park in Colorado Springs. It was supposed to be on Falcon Trail at the Airforce Academy but terrorists thwarted that possibility. The new digs were less than ideal for a 24 hour race. No pre-race camping or set-up and no alcohol. Typically, people show up days before one of these races to set up their camps and get everything ready to go. It adds to the atmosphere and the excitement of the event. Racers were not very happy. Lacey and I showed up around 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and started to get ready for the race that began at 12:00 p.m. Jeremy and Erick had rented an RV and a generator for charging our lights so all I had to do was show up and get ready. The course was said to be pretty technical. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to pre-ride. I guess that is what the first lap is for.
For the bike setup, I decided to take a break from the singlespeed and instead go with the comfor of the Trek Superfly 100 Elite for this race. As with the Vapor Trail, the Superfly 100 handles the rocky and technical sections with ease and climbs like a hardtail when I engage the propedal on the shock. For wheels, I decided to go with the NoTubes ZTR 29er Race Gold wheelset. I have a heavier (but still pretty light) wheelset built with NoTubes Crest rims and I was a little worried to run these ultra light weight wheels on such a rock course over such a long period of time, but they held up really well at the Breck 100 and they did not disappoint at Palmer Park. Lots of step-ups and 1-2 foot drops and I had no problems even though I am only 15lbs under the weight limit for the wheelset. To dress up such an awesome wheelset, I’ve finally found what I believe to be the perfect tire for Colorado racing – the Maxxis Icon. This is as close to a set it and forget it tire. I’ve raced them in all conditions on really rocky trails and have yet to suffer a sidewall tear or other puncture. Though I do choose the EXO carcass that is a little heavier but more durable.
As always, I ran ergon grips. In this case, the GX2 Carbons. Besides having a comfortable platform to rest your palm on, I’m convinced that the Ergons keep me from overgripping the bars. This helps to maintain control in the technical sections and prevents hand fatigue that can make it difficult to brake and even drink. True story: last year at the 24 hours of Moab, my hands were so fatigued that I had to drink by squeezing my bottles between both palms. That meant riding off-road with no hands 18+ hours into a race. Pretty dangerous.
We knew our competition was the Honey Stinger team of Cameron Chambers and Daniel Methany. A couple of local pros riding on their home turf. They were going to be hard to beat. They were the ringers.
The race started with a le mans style start: a run to our bike set up across a field. Surprisingly, I was at the front of the run. I hopped on the bike and rode the front of the field up the pavement toward the singletrack.
The first lap was really fast. Lots of short, punchy climbs, technical drops, twisty singletrack and step-ups. I finished the first lap and handed the chip timing bracelet to Jeremy.
Between each lap I had about an hour to refuel and relax. I started off drinking some recovery drink and trying to eat a little something. After the 2nd lap I at a huge brat covered in onions. That gave me some pretty serious heartburn. Jeremy’s family brought us some pizza so I started eating pizza between laps followed by a couple of rolaids to stave off the heartburn. The waiting is always the hardest part. It is too quick to really sleep and too long to stay warm. Beyond that, you have to get to the transition at the right time so that your partner isn’t left waiting. When your partner rolls in, you have to grab the timing chip and get your lap started.
Jeremy and I kept our laps really consistent. We were riding strong, but the Honeystinger team was faster. By around the tenth lap, they put us under a lap. With no sign of slowing down, we just put our heads down and kept pushing it.
In a 24 hour race, or any multi-lap race for that matter, you get to know the course intimately. You anticipate every technical section, every sand pit, every climb and every descent. There are sections that you love and hate. On this course, I dreaded a climb about 2/3 of the way through the lap. It started with a road climb, turned to sand and eventually wound its way to another road. That began my favorite part. A fast climb that lead to a technical descent/climbing/descent/climb that ultimately dropped you into the staging area.
On my third lap, I rode the section with Cameron Brenneman and Russell Kappius. We rode wheel to wheel and just jammed it. Every time I rode that section I remembered that lap and tried to emulate the speed and style that we rode on the third lap. That section saved me on every lap.
As the fatigue mounted, I started to concentrate on spinning the climbs and riding super smooth. The lap times were surprisingly consistent even with spinning the climbs.
I rode both the sunset and the sunrise laps. The views were spectacular. East to the plains and West to Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak. We rode hard but Honeystinger kept pulling away. In the end our ride was good enough for 2nd place. Once again, Jeremy and I made a great team. Our laps were basically mirror images. We are both fairly low key so we were able to avoid the drama that some teams are prone to. Plus we just have a blast doing it.
Big thanks to Erick Erickson who kept my bike going and my wife Lacey for getting me everything that I needed in my sleep-deprived state. Mountain bike season is basically over and now it is time for some CX and relaxation before the snow flies.