Laguna Seca, CA
June 8-9, 2012
"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
The Hammerstein 24 more or less took the place of Boggs this year, which brings mixed emotions...on the one hand, Boggs is my personal favorite place to ride period, so racing there has been great. On the other hand, Laguna Seca Raceway has its own long list of appeals, not the least of which is its proximity to Monterey. As such, we drove down the Tuesday before to get in a short family vacation ahead of the race.
Even though Sea Otter and 24 Hours of Adrenalin have held their events at Laguna Seca for years, this was the first time I had raced there. I have ridden parts of Ft. Ord a couple of years ago, and enjoyed the trails. I brought Bud's bike as a backup and in case we got the chance to go for a ride, which we did early Saturday. Another photo here.
We were able to secure a great spot right on pit row, with power and water hookups for the trailer. Very convenient. We had a joint pit with fellow Kinetic racer Tom S., and another good friend Yvette. We banded our pop-up tents together right behind the trailer and there was plenty of room for everyone. It should come as no surprise that Mike kept the pit running very smoothly, as is his habit, and helped Tom & Yvette when he could.
Friday was VERY windy, and made the pre-ride fairly miserable. There are several sections of the course that are wide open on hilltops, and at times there was a 20-25 knot wind right in your face. Luckily, the wind would die down a little as the weekend progressed and Sunday was not bad at all. Temps were in the low 70s during the day, and I think in the 50s overnight. It seemed cold, but it always feels cold.
Note: this was a 24-solo event, which means I was the only one riding. I say "we" throughout this narrative because I am only one part of a team.
The course I am calling a "tale of two halfs". The first half was fun, mostly downhill, while the last half, certainly the last third, was pretty grindy, exposed fire road. Easy enough at night, but with the wind it was bad.
The course was 10.7 miles total, with a little over 1500 feet of climbing per lap. That's actually relatively a lot, normally we see about 1000 feet per 10 miles. What made it seem a little harder was a big part of the descending portions were very steep, such that they were over quickly. After the pre-ride Friday I swore it felt like the entire course was uphill.
The Start/Finish was in the Lakebed area of the infield at Laguna Seca, right in the middle of the racetrack. There were car races going on all weekend, which was fun to watch (if not a little loud). We had to cross the track, which meant carrying your bike up 30 or so wooden stairs, across a covered bridge, and down the other side which you could ride as they put plywood down one side of the stairs. Some people just rode down the stairs, but I wasn't into that. The bridge was followed by a half mile or so of 15-16% grade climb on pavement, over to the east side of the track, then down into the BLM / Ft. Ord land.
The next 2 miles or so featured a few up and down sections with one really long fast fire road descent. I touched speeds of 35mph here, at least at the times I risked a glance down at the GPS. It was basically smooth except for a little gravel washboard here and there. Once the course entered the woods, we were treated to a couple miles of narrow, twisty, basically downhill single track. While fun to ride, at night it was a little sketchy. There was a nice wide section of fire road about mid-lap that allowed you to sit up and eat/drink on the bike.
Around mile 7 the single track dumps you out on the fire road. Each time I hit that part, I would always think "I donít like to ride you but I sure am glad to see you". The worst part about the last 3 miles was you could easily see everything you were about to ride (climb). None of it was particularly long or steep, but just seeing a big hill 2 miles away, and knowing that's where you were headed could cause some groans.
Just outside the final half mile was a nice fun downhill and a short climb that led into one of the campgrounds, then eventually back onto the road that lead back to the Start/Finish. This was the psychological end of the lap, because once in the campground, you could coast all the way back. I took this opportunity to sit up and soft pedal hands-off to stretch. The final stretch cruised through the parking lot with pits on both sides, and people always cheered, which felt great. Smelling their toasty fire and whatever they were cooking, maybe not so great but such is life.
Nutrition was a major focus this race, as its importance is becoming more and more apparent. We calculated a target for average calories and carbs to ingest per hour, and thanks to Mike, pretty much kept to the plan. I started out with 22 ounces of sports drink, a Roctane gel, and a rice bar each lap, which comes to about 350 calories and 25 grams of carbs total. The rice bars were homemade from Alan Lim's recipe in "The Feed Zone" cookbook - I highly recommend them for several reasons - taste, ingredients, convenience chief among them.
My caloric burn rate in zone 3 is around 820 calories per hour, so we targeted 300-350 replacement (you can never replace what you use). We varied the menu a little, not much, but switching to a Poptart or chicken noodle soup kept the taste fatigue down. An occasional Ensure drink kept everything topped off. No stomach distress at all.
We were running in third place from very early on, and late afternoon Saturday moved into second. Toward the end of the day Saturday we moved into first place. They stopped posting results in the evening because I guess their printer ran out of ink. Lovely. No matter, we were not going to change anything anyway, just keep on keepin' on. I didn't know any of my competitors anyway, although we did eventually figure out who was in second for awhile - our pit neighbor who was friends with Tom.
Another (attempted) focus was pit time. This is maybe my biggest weakness at the moment. I usually start my stopwatch as soon as I roll in to the pit, and have a budget pit time in mind, and brother does that time go FAST. It seems like you sit down, take a bite and a drink, and BAM 15 minutes has gone by. I am somewhat pleased that pit times were better/shorter than Oroville last October, but the difference in climate basically negates that (Oroville was *cold*). Somewhere there is a happy medium between fast laps with longer pits, vs. slower laps and faster pits. I do feel like I get a little recovery done while resting, even if itís only 15 minutes. We definitely have some work to do here.
The morning dawned which always brings relief and renewed energy. Since the race started & ended at 12noon, a 5:30am sunrise just meant there were 6 more hours to race, but most riders can go faster in the daylight.
By morning we were still in first with a reasonably comfortable lead, but could not afford to kick back. Soooo we kept going. The third and second place riders flip-flopped, and it seemed like the new 2nd place rider was feeling pretty strong. After lap 14, around 7:30am, we began to calculate our end-game and I began to mentally prepare for 2 more laps. Lap 15 was relatively fast rolling time (1:06), and while I felt pretty good, I could tell that wouldn't last long. We were pretty sure 16 laps would seal the deal, but just to make sure I kept the pit between 15 & 16 short, and rolled a 1:08 on the 16th lap which ended at 10:26am. There was time for one more, but do we need it? After some not-so-quick mental gymnastics, we decided we were done. It turns out the 2nd place rider had stopped after 15, so we won by a full lap.
* 16 laps
* 168.3 miles
* 18 hours, 57 minutes on the bike (mostly)
* 25,048 feet of climbing
* 15,050 calories burned
* 1st Place in my division
* 7th overall out of 30 solos
Laps 1 - 12
Laps 15 & 16
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.
Photo gallery on SingleTrack.com
As always, I could not do this without help. Mike (Pit Boss) is amazing...he even cooks! Sort of. Having my son and wife there is also an immeasurable boost. Thanks Guys, for being there, putting up with brain fade, cooking, cleaning, cramming food into me, and in general keeping my wits about me. Did I mention I couldn't do this without you?
Thanks also go to Denise Schaad and the staff at Bodies-N-Balance, and Bruce Kaiser at Kinetic Cycles.
Up next: 24 Hours of Whiskeytown
Written by Cris Flint, Team Kinetic Cycles