Wednesday, October 5, 2011

24 Hour Nationals Race Report: 7th Place

First and foremost, I have to thank all those around me that helped me succeed at this race. Brett Ebben, Amy Welnak, Ben Welnak, Jari Kirkland, and the Trek Bicycle Store team members: Curt Wilhelm, Erick Erickson, and Jonathan Davis. Jonathan let me borrow an extra team jersey which I was psyched to wear for some extra mojo. I had so much amazing support I had no choice but to give it everything. Unfortunately, Ben had an untimely crash going into lap eight that forced him to pull the plug. He and others then dedicated their time in the wee hours of the night to tend to my bikes and my nutrition needs. They took shifts sleeping so that they could support Jonathan Davis and myself and for their effort, I am incredibly grateful and still totally blown away. You guys rocked, thank you so much!

The weekend got off to a great start when I made a course recon on Friday. I had already completed 45 minutes of openers before I ran into Jonathanimal who was about to preride. Sonya Looney, Rebecca Rusch, and Kelly Boniface then showed up for pointers and a ride led by Jonathan. How the hell could I have passed up the opportunity to ride with them?! I ended up riding for two and a half hours that day just so I could hang out with badass endurance heroes from Colorado and Idaho.

1st single digit plate!
That Friday evening I traveled back to Denver to pack and for a night's rest before returning in the morning with Brett Ebben. The twenty four hour race started at noon on Saturday and the course covered approximately 13.4 miles and 1100 feet of climbing per lap. The race was held at Palmer Park in the center of Colorado Springs and the course was incredibly well chosen. I heard it was one of the tougher 24 hour courses comprised of mostly singletrack with all mountain features. For the morning until the race start, it was a lot about setting up under the easy up tent, discussing logistics, soaking in my first 24 hour solo, maintaining my bike, and well...not eating enough which was my first mistake that I later paid for. Just prior to the race start, I was able to speak with Jari Kirkland who was the female winner for the nationals last year. She didn't hesitate at all to give me loads of advice that I held close throughout the race. That's what I love about this discipline in mountain biking, the enduro racers are so down to earth and supportive. Thank you Jari!

The race was underway with the typical and traditional, but completely unnecessary le mans start which fortunately was only a short dash on grass to our staged bikes. I'm not sure why this has to be but I'd rather not run in carbon soled shoes if I don't have to. At the time of the run, I noticed Jonathan's head on a swivel since he was keeping an eye on Josh Tostado, another down to earth champion who won last year's male 24 hour nationals. In mid run, my thought was "badass!" We're about to race for 24 hours and Jonathan has been focused for so long on making the podium, that in the first seconds of the race, he has a watchful eye on the competition. That's exactly what direction I'm heading with racing and I was inspired by what I witnessed.

Once in the saddle, I immediately found my rhythm which I seemed to settle into for the next three laps. Brett was killing it with great exchanges at the lap throughs regarding bottles and nutrition. Amy, as usual, was ultra helpful and made sure I got what else I needed in the pits, whether it be food, drink, or motivation. Due to not getting down enough grub before the race, I felt compelled to make up for it during the race and instead I paid the price on laps 6, 7, and 8 (lap times here). GI issues hit me intensely and gave me haunting episodes of time loss and terrible scenarios I won't discuss for the reader's benefit. I'll take the lessons and move forward. I did learn to trust what worked and discovered some trustworthy foods at least for this race. I ultimately minimized my "nutrition" to CarboRocket and Honey Stinger Waffles, amongst junk food options like Papa John's and hot bacon (yeahhh buddy!) which made for long lasting energy plus my typical products that I wouldn't race without. I later learned from from Mark Ruda at Golden Bike Shop that I should have been taking ammonia blockers to counter the pH spikes from animal proteins.

A gorgeous shot at the camp at night.
By the time the frustrating GI issues subsided, it was a few hours into the night and I was relieved to find my rhythm again and fortunate that it didn't sap energy from my legs. I continued to push through the night with only a few things in mind like "stay home" and "don't think." I knew I had to stay home by cycling through only a few principles throughout the entire race and primarily focus on the singletrack beneath me, not the singletrack ahead of me. I've never been more mindful of every moment in a single day and I'll never forget how that felt because it'll need to be exercised again in four weeks at the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow in Hurricane, Utah. I am so amped for this race and hopefully I'll be outfitted in a full Trek Bicycle Store kit!

I'll never forget one of the last corners of the race. I didn't anticipate Amy standing there, camera in hand, and screaming at me for the entire city of Colorado Springs to hear. I started cheesing out from her energy and the elation of finishing well at a race of this caliber and also because it wasn't just me I was racing for out there. It was also for my team of supporters.

Ultimately, I raced for 15 laps equaling 201 miles in 22:36, good enough for 7th place.
Garmin results here: Part I, Part II. Missing lap 13 due to being charged.

I am tremendously excited to ride with Trek Bicycle Store and it has been my secret goal to get on a team of this talent. As much as I enjoyed racing for Rocky Mountain Racing, it was time to transition to a team that would better suit my goals with the ultra endurance racing scene. Next year's races will look more like hundreds, 24's, and the Breck Epic. I've been warmly welcomed by its team members who are very family oriented and I'm excited to meet the rest of the team, shop, and sponsors. As for for the team's race results, Jonathan Davis rocked the course and made his goal by reaching the podium for 3rd place. Michael Scott and Jeremy Young were on fire and snagged second for the duo category. Jill Hueckman and Eric Lord also nailed second place in the coed category. Congrats team!

As I crested a corner, three chickens were meditating like Mr. Miyagi. I gave a "howdy" and they responded with silence. It was so eerie that I couldn't believe its randomness. Thanks for the heebie jeebies.
Four days after the race start and I'm already amped for 25 Hours of Frog Hollow!

XXC Magazine pre race article (pic of me in the Springs)

Cycling News

All Things EPIC (Jill Hueckman)

See you out there,