My Stab at the Burning Man of Bike Races: 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo – 2016

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24 Hour Town – Life in the Old Pueblo.

It’s been over two years since I did a 24 hour race (24 of Halloween in Los Olivos, CA).  Honestly, I’ve grown bored of the format for solo racing.  I don’t really get stoked to do lap after lap of the same 10-15 mile loop.  I’d much rather be bikepacking or doing one big  100+ mile loop, where I get to explore more terrain and enjoy solitude – like the last race I did (JayP’s Fat Pursuit).  ps – some pics are mine, some I stole from instagram.

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The lamp zone – where you decide to go for the rock garden, or bypass to the right.

But the magnetism of “The Old Pueblo” was just too much.  It’s been on the radar for way too long, and this year, I woke up at midnight to register before it filled up.  The mayhem takes place on Valentine’s weekend, and my daughter gets President’s Week off from school.  The perfect excuse to rally the fam bam in the Suby wagon and make road trip memories –  away from snowy mountains and off to 80 degree heat and Sonoran singletrack bliss.  Tucson, baby!!FullSizeRender (5)

Here’s how it went down:

Got a motel room 1/2 hour from the race venue.  With a 2 year old and a 7 year old, 24 Hour Town isn’t ideal for 3 nights, especially for a solo racer who’s wife is also the pit crew, who’s also tasked with taking care of the groms while I ride.  So we minimized our camping to one night, and went civilized leading up to the race.  Good decision.  Set up my pit area on Bag It Rd on Thursday.   Believe it or not, all the decent spaces were already taken, so I was a little bit off course, which is a bummer for solo racing… oh well.   On Friday, I threw back some In and Out before the pre-ride… after pre-riding, watched Collateral on tv in the motel room, kicked the legs up, ordered some pizza, and got a good night’s sleep.IMG_3531IMG_3614

Race Day:

Got pulled over by the fuzz while driving to race venue on Sat. morning – gave me a fix it ticket for the crack in my front windshield.  Some rookie with his boss watching on.  Comedy.  Anyhoo, soaked in the vibe, went through all the pre-race rituals, got to the start line and before long, the shotgun sounded… 400 yard Lemans run at the start, with a nice beer handup to keep my hydration game strong… found my bike in the sea of anarchy, and off I went.  Single dingle with 32×20.  There were 47 peeps in the Solo Singlespeed field.  Awesome!!  This was the easiest 24h course I’ve done.  16.2 miles with only 1200′ of climbing per lap.  Never had to hike my bike once.  But it felt like I was on a crowded Los Angeles freeway.  For a rider that longs for solitude, this was tough to handle.  Constantly getting passed by the speedy team riders, or making passes myself, I felt like I could never “relax” and get into the flow… right when I would, I’d hear “on yer left!!” — It’s one thing to yield and let riders pass, no problem.  It’s another issue when they expect you to go off into the cholla to let them around.  Not gonna happen.  Some douches would get agro about waiting 10 seconds for a safe place to pass.  I saw a couple crashes in front of me because of this, and I tangled bars on more than one occassion… luckily never went down.  I did have the “Good Times” afro pick in my jersey just in case I had to extract cholla.  Luckily, never had to bust it out.  I saw one dude get air lifted on the bitches (a part of the course with steep climbs and super fast descents), and was forced to walk my bike another time by an evacuation crew as they took a bloody bloke out on a stretcher.

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Mi Chorizo – My team name.

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All in all, my favorite lap was the pre-ride, sans rush hour traffic.  Of course, the sunset lap and sunrise lap were magical with the desert sky, and the night laps were not as crowded… but it made me realize why I don’t do 24 hour races… it’s just not my style.  So I stopped at the whiskey tree.  That’s my style.  Wished I was on a team, so I could drink some beer and watch people endo on the Sierra Nevada rock drop.  That’s my style.  Anyhoo, I’m not a negative nelly, so back to the awesomeness.  The singletrack was fast, flowy, and narrow.  The camaraderie of participants and stoke factor was off the charts.  I loved all the motivational signs that lined the course.  My favorite was “Ride Smooth” right after the exchange tent.  That was basically my plan.  Ride smooth.  Ride consistent.  And do what another one of my favorite signs suggested, “Keep on keepin’ on”.FullSizeRender (31)

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Beer can corner. It got bigger and bigger as the race progressed

Saw countless flat tires, and other mechanicals – very happy that my bike performed flawlessly, and I only crashed twice.  Once around 2am, I was reaching for my Camelbak hose and looked down for a split second trying to get the nozzle open – next thing I know, I’m face down in the dirt.  Luckily, I avoided cacti.  Shook it off, adjusted my light mount, and back to the grind.  The other crash was absolute bullshit.  Last climb of the loop, on my last lap.  Only one mile from the finish line.  I got behind two guys and was grinding out of the saddle, up the narrow singletrack.  All of the sudden, they completely stopped.  I slammed my brakes, and went to dismount – but my cleat wouldn’t disengage.  I fell over into a cholla.  I made it through the whole race without touching a cactus, until then.  I was livid.  The cholla in my leg didn’t keep choice words from flying out of my mouth to the schmucks in front of me.  I got the barbed pricklies out, and didn’t let the negativity consume me.  After all, I’d ridden almost 200 miles and climbed about 15,000′ – and I was a short descent away from the finish line.

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Whiskey Tree

I got a shot of fireball and a gooey chocolate chip cookie as I passed by the DrunkCyclist pit area. Then, one final time down the rock garden to hoots and hollers from the hecklers before being handed a Dale’s Pale Ale and turning in my baton at the tent.  And so it was.  12 laps.  I had time to go out for 13, but I was content.  10th place out of 47.  I had fun.  I rode long and hard and steady.  Memories that will not soon be forgotten.  Another adventure on two wheels in the can.  Oh yeah, here’s some other random stuff-

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Banjo tunes through the night laps

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Lucy posing at a pit stop on the way to Tucson

What I Ate:

PBJ’s, bananas, macademia nuts, sausage, blackberries, pickles, strawberries, a gu gel, some gu chomps, naked juice.

What I Drank:

Water in a camelbak, and a water bottle filled with gu in a cage.

More Random:

Watching the sun dip over the horizon at sunset was magical in the Sonoran Desert.  So peaceful as it transitioned to night.  Night laps are always tough mentally as the sleep demons get at you and your pit area offers a nice napping opportunity, especially when your wife and kids are asleep.  So quiet, lonely, warm, inviting you go just take a short nap.  Get in, get out.  As long as you can get back on course quickly, the demons don’t win.  Some laps go by fast, some drag on forever.  Hallucination kicks in.  The rodent road kill is like nothing I’ve ever seen.  Tons of dead animals laying in the singletrack.  Weird.  Next thing I know, I’m getting pulled through one of the flowiest parts of the course by EndlessBikeGirl  around 3am, after almost bonking, and my spirits are high again as the buzz from her hubs and glowing angel wings keeps me honed in.  Before long, ambient light overtakes 1200 lumens of man made candlepower and you know it’s gonna warm up… just like Gandhi said, “Every night I when I go to bed, I die.  Each morning, I am reborn.”  The sun streaks over the barren landscape, warms your core, and you wake up.  Recharged.  Riding fast and strong.

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Someone offering a beer handup to EndlessBikeGirl

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And just like that, poof.  It’s over.  Some nagging neck pain, foot pain, and some numb fingers linger for a bit.  24 Hour Town is but a distant memory.  Everyone is gone in one big dust cloud.  Lucy and Molly and Angela and I.  Off to the next –  adventure on two wheels seeking singletrack and solace and peace with this gorgeous earth.IMG_3583

Figured out the design for my first Maven t-shirt in my head somewhere along the ride too – stoked to get it made soon.
Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.

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5 Responses to My Stab at the Burning Man of Bike Races: 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo – 2016

  1. Nice blog entry! This race is on my list–maybe–but like you, I would rather be up high and mostly alone. 🙂 New Niner?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tom says:

    I gave up 24 hr solos long ago for the same reasons (in addition to getting old and lazy), but still have many happy memories of the times I raced 24 ITOP. Thanks for allowing me to relive it a little through the post! My fave memory is having some jackass cutting me off trying to save 10 seconds only to see him hugging a barrel cactus when he missed the next turn 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. johnsalmon says:

    Nice post, always love your write ups as they help me with the already overflowing bucket. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

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