Coolest 24-Hr Race 2011

August 27-28, 2011
Royal Gorge Ski Resort, Soda Springs, CA
  "We choose to race 24 hours. We choose to race 24 hours in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
--John F. Kennedy (mostly), 1962 speech at Rice University

Following our win at Boggs 24-Hour in July of this year, expectations were high. Recovery from that race took a good 3 weeks, with some nagging, lingering injuries that seemed to resolve themselves just the week before Coolest.

The Coolest 24-Hr race has outgrown the Olmstead Loop in Cool, CA, and the brand-new course out of Soda Springs in the Sierras (7,000ft starting altitude) was quite different. Once again the good folk at GBE had everything spit-spot for the race. Well, except for the moon dust but we'll let that slide. Literally.

pitThis race, I had the whole Fam Damily there which makes a HUGE difference. Once again our most bodacious Pit Boss Mike was there. I cannot say enough good things about this man, and there are not enough superlatives to describe the job he does and overall roll he plays. Just the best.

There was plenty of space for racers' trailers and tents, as the Start/Finish area was at the Royal Gorge Summit Lodge and there is a huge parking lot right there. We had my travel trailer which was very comfortable and convenient for pit duties.

We have good friends that own a cabin at Serene Lakes about a mile away so the rest of our team could chill out there when not onsite. THANKS AGAIN A&A.

course mapThe pre-ride on Friday was an eye-opener, but necessary in order to gain familiarity with the trails and climbs. The course was an 8.5 mile loop, with about 1,100 feet of climbing per lap. There were 3 or 4 sections that were hike-a-bike, very steep and loose, but most were fairly short. The course was quite bumpy, I could not imagine doing this on a hardtail.

We had a great spaghetti dinner at the cabin on Friday evening, and pretty much everyone turned in early to get a good start on the next day.

Temps were in the mid-70s during the day, into the low-50s at night - near perfect conditions.

beforeThe race started promptly at 12 noon, and first couple of laps went OK. It seems like at most of these races, lap times get faster until about lap 3 or 4 then start to slip. By then the course is familiar and you know exactly what line you want, but after that you start getting tired. Consistency is key here.

We were the most prepared as we have ever been to date. Mike had his laptop with the lap & pit time matrix loaded, and we were able to make real-time modifications to the plan, as well as track several metrics like calories consumed, mechanical issues, overall fatigue level, etc. for further analysis.

The course was tough. It was very bumpy, with very few sections to even grab the bottle, let alone sit up and stretch or grab a Gu. This would lead to problems later on, which we'll get to soon. The CamelBak was a must, and it came back nearly empty each lap. Problem was, I only carry plain water in the CamelBak. The bottle has my electrolyte drink which is also a major source of in-race calories. Strike one.

There were also several sections of very deep "moon dust", which is very common in the Sierras. It's not really dirt, not really sand, just a very, very fine powder that takes a lot of getting used to riding. Turning is very difficult, and just to get through it you have to let the bike "surf" through, often going a little sideways. It's manageable until you hit a rock or something hiding just out of view.

We stuck with the tried-and-true diet of PB&J, bananas, Gu and Roctane gel, and electrolytes. Again for the overnight we switched to chicken noodle soup and an occasional cup of coffee. Again not much stomach distress so I think we'll continue with that plan in the future.

pitThis was the first race on the new bike, Specialized SW Epic 29er. Can I tell you - I love this bike. It's getting broken in, and a few little annoying things like shifting wasn't perfect, but the carbon fiber frame and Brain Fade fork and shock are simply the best. I had zero mechanicals all race which was really nice, especially given the beating the poor bike took on that course.

Around mid-day we climbed into second place in my division. There were a couple of guys I was yo-yoing with at first, but overall I was running the second-fastest laps and had a pretty solid grasp on 2nd. The guy in first was WAY faster than everyone else. Whatever.

Lap times pretty much leveled off in the 58-59 minute range, and we settled into somewhat of a rhythm. The steep climbs were getting tougher, and the long climb in the middle of the course seemed to get steeper. Several times I saved my lowest gear as long as I could, to give as a little "gift to myself" later on in the climb. The more laps you do, the more familiar you get with the course, which is both good and bad. You start to dread the really tough spots. But on the other hand, you can look forward to the fun parts, and wish for more rest sections!

Things were pretty much going accoringing to plan, with lap times and pit times pretty close to estimated. If anything, lap times were under budget and pit times a little over, but they basically cancelled each other out.

It started getting dark in the deep woods way before the official 7:30PM sunset time. I could have ditched my dark glasses much earlier than I did. If you've ever ridden at night you know that even though you have very bright lights on the bike and your helmet, things change in the dark. On my first true night lap, completely dark and full lights on, I had forgotten about a particularly tricky S-turn in some moon dust. I came into that section way too fast, over-corrected at the last minute, and down I went. Hard. Everything on my right side suffered something - my knee was cut, outer thigh bruised most of the way down, and right elbow was sliced open pretty bad. But my right shoulder took the brunt of the crash, and I was worried I had broken my collar bone or knocked the shoulder out of place. I sat for a minute, taking inventory of all the injuries, and decided nothing was broken. The bike had careened down the embankment and my water bottle was down the trail a bit, so after gathering everything up and giving the bike a once-over, I hopped back on to continue the lap. This happened about a mile into the lap, so we had a ways to go before resting.

Several times that lap I passed other riders, or got passed, and each time the person commented on my elbow. It wasn't pretty, the cut was pretty deep and looked horrible. Blood was running all down my arm and soaked into my glove. I didn't really want to look at it until I could do something about it, so I just kept going.

When I got back to the pit, Dale was there, and I wasn't sure how she would take this latest development. I pulled in, got off the bike and told Mike "We might have a slight problem here"...upon seeing my arm Dale immediately sprung into action, and she and Angie walked me down to the first aid tent. The tech cleaned me up as best he could, put a bandage on my arm, and checked my shoulder. He asked if I was going back out, and when I told him "Yes", he looked at me kind of funny for some reason. Hmm. Whatever. Strike two.

The laps continued in full darkness, but slowed a little. Not much, but a little. I was determined not to let this little setback hamper my results. Mental focus is crucial, especially at night, and while the injuires were a distraction, I think the adrenalin helped with the pain. Just one more thing to hurt right. Well, OK, 4 more things to hurt but who's counting!

I guess it was around 2am, during that lap I started making silly mistakes, and in general felt a little behind the power curve (what an understatement huh). Going down some of the rough sections I started to feel unsafe with my bike handling, and had a couple of close calls. And, it didn't seem to be getting any better. At the end of that lap, I discussed it with Mike and we decided the best thing to do was rest a little. I was still in second place, and it killed me to think about letting that go. But thinking back about the previous lap, it became clear that I needed a break. I knew if I stopped for more than 20 minutes I would start to stiffen up, so it was a commitment, and who knows what my shoulder would do. But still, we retreated into the trailer and laid down. Somehow Mike managed to fall asleep on the dinette bench, graciously giving me the bed. I didn't sleep much or very well, and when the alarm went off 2 hours later at around 4:30AM, getting up did not seem like an option. Crap. Bye-bye second place, maybe even bye-bye podium...

We got up right before sunrise, tried to clear the cobwebs with Mike's special form of "coffee", and decided to get back out there. It was cold, and still a little dark, but we came here to race a race, not go camping. The small crowd and staff at the start/finish were always cheering on the solos, and they let me hear it when I rolled out. That felt good.

I rolled a 1:02, which all things considered, wasn't bad. They were updating the results right then, and it looked like I held third place. Unsure, I struck out for another lap, and got around in 1:04. When I got back from that lap, Mike said I was done. Third place locked up, and he didn't want to send me back out if it wasn't necessary. So we stopped. Race over.

the bikeFinal stats:
* 13 laps
* 112 miles total
* 13 hours, 10 minutes on the bike (mostly)
* about 15,300 of climbing total
* 3rd place out of 6 in my division

Garmin profile

Bike: Specalized S-Works Epic 29er, running WTB Wolverine 2.2 on the front, Specialized Captain 2.0 on the back, both at 33 psi pressure.


Full results can be found on the GBE site. Fantastic video here.

eat! eat! Lessons learned? Well, a few. As always, having expert help in the pits makes a ALL the difference in the world. Mike - I sound like a broken record, but I'll say it again - I could NOT have done this without you. Thank you my friend.

The crash was 100% my fault. Overconfidence and inattention can bite you in the @ss anytime, but especially at night. It could have been much worse - could have been a season-ending crash, so thank goodness it wasn't. But it definitely affected the outcome.

The bonk was a caloric deficiency issue, which is equally dumb. One thing we failed to account for was the calories used by the body to respond to a traumatic event like a crash. I did a little research afterward and discovered you will consume 80-90 calories an HOUR trying to heal. Combine that with the rough trail, which made on-course nutrition nearly impossible, and I was deficient at least 150 calories an hour. This accumulated over time and resulted in the bonk. Better tracking and realization will prevent this from happening again. I hope.

I am learning more and more how utterly important nutrition & fueling is. You can never replace what you use during an endurance event - it's deficit spending at it's best, but your body can and does survive. But it is critically important to ingest as many calories an hour as you can process, and falling behind will result in a bonk - every time.

Also a repeat - none of this would happen without my family's tremendous support. Dale & Bud were able to be there this time, and that morale boost is immeasurable. Race weekend is but 2 days out of the many, many, MANY hours and days of training that go into these efforts, and having such a supportive family structure behind you is essential. Thank you Honey, and Bud.


The Team:
* Dale Lisa, my loving wife & best friend
* Bud, my 1 1/2 year old son and apple of my eye
* Mike Radogna, Pit Boss Extraordinaire
* Denise Schaad, Bodies-In-Balance Professional Training
* Kinetic Cycles - most bodacious Specialized concept store

Thanks Guys...

Next up - 24 Hours of Whiskeytown on October 1-2. We are racing 2-man for this one, as Orovlile 24 is a mere 4 weeks later...

Written by Cris Flint, Team Kinetic Cycles