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24 Hours of Gold, Lake Oroville

Oct 29-30, 2011
  "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 24 Hours of Gold held at Lake Oroville was over 2 weeks earlier than last year, which meant Daylight Savings Time was still in effect. This doesnít affect the 24-hour racers of course, because we have the same number of daylight & night hours no matter what, but it did allow the race start time to be pushed to 10am. The 8-hour racers donít need lights since their race is over before sundown.

vertical profileThe course was the same as last year, which is a really fun, easy, and relatively short course at 7.6 miles per lap.

There is about 900 feet of climbing per lap, which is on par with most courses. Most of the climbing was in the first 2 miles, with some fun and rapid descents mixed in with smooth single-track.

The weather was perfect - low 70s in the day, and maybe a little on the chilly side around 45-46 at night.

helpI was fortunate enough to have my family along for this one. The town of Oroville is only about 10 minutes from the race site, so we got a hotel room for Boy & Mom. I stayed with them Friday night after a nice dinner at the Western Pacific Railroad restaurant. Mike, Mark, & Grace stayed at the campground in the trailers.

With a 10am start, it was easy to get up Saturday morning, get a nice big breakfast, and make it to the campground by 8. 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. It was cold but we had fun! That boy loves to ride.

zoomAt registration they let you choose what number you want, so I chose...#1! I know, I know, you are supposed to wear the number of your finish from last year's race, and I was 4th or 5th last year, but the guy that won last year wasn't there and I thought I would choose the number I wanted to be this year. Next year I'll choose the proper number.

Start time was 10am on the dot, with a large digital display at the start/finish line next to the timekeeper's table. They had computers onsite this time so were displaying real-time results for awhile. First couple of laps went pretty fast, maybe a little too fast (recurring theme?) and the field spread out quickly.

There were several 8-hour teams, and those guys always go all-out since they only have to ride a lap or two each team member. Most of the course is really wide so those guys can rocket by with little interference from us "slow" guys.

My fastest lap last year was a 42, so it was nice to start with a 39 and then rattle off several 41's. In fact the first 9 laps were 42 or better. Zoom zoom.

zoomWe had some bike issues, starting with a loud creaking coming from the crank area which continually got worse. People started recognizing me for that alone, of course they could hear me before they could see me. When I passed people I would just smile at them and say "It's a stealth bike!"

I reached a point where I didnít think it was wise to continue, so I spoke with the on-site mechanic, who agreed to take it apart and look things over. Luckily I had brought Bud's bike (Specialized Stumpjumper 29er Hardtail), complete with platform pedals, his iBert child seat mounted on a stem riser, and totally different saddle position. But, with the speed and precision of a Formula 1 pit crew, Mike & Dale prepped the bike and had it race ready with all the adjustments and a race number - it was ready after my next lap. It's a fast bike, but no shock meant a much bumpier ride. The course is mostly smooth so while that wasn't a big problem, I had no desire to race the next 15 hours on the hardtail.

Dax, the mechanic, was also racing on a team but he still managed to get the bottom bracket and cranks apart and found some areas that were rubbing, so after a good cleaning and lube, put everything back together and had the bike running smoothly (and quietly!). It was nice to get back on the Epic after 2 or 3 laps on the hardtail.

Many many thanks to Dax from Greenline Cycles in Oroville.

Sometime in the middle of the night I started hearing a clanking/rattling sound. Great. It sound like a pivot bearing because it only made the noise going over bumps. We stopped and bounced the bike and heard the sound, but saw no obvious problems. Continue on...only about half a lap later it starting getting much worse, so we decided to get the bike tool out and put a wrench on all the pivots...all were tight, so after some head scratching and more bouncing, we discovered the reservoir for the frame shock was coming loose. The mounting bolt was hanging on by 2 or 3 threads. A few more bumps and it would have come off! Probably into the spokes of the rear wheel, and since the reservoir is secured to the front of the frame by a hose, probably would have locked up the wheel and sent me over the bars. That would have been bad. After tightening that down nice and firm, we once again carried on. Thankfully that would be the end of the bike problems.

helpThe first 5 minutes of each night lap was VERY cold. The campground/pit area is in a depression of some kind, with this weird little micro-climate that is easily 10 degrees colder than the rest of the course. It got harder and harder to emerge from the warm, toasty, comfy trailer into the dark cold and get on the bike for another round.

Mark & I rode most of the night laps together, and let me say - while we may not wear the same team kit anymore, we are very much still teammates. I could not have gotten through the night, or had anything left for the morning, without his help. If there was anything left of the ribbon after giving half to Mike and the other half to Dale & Bud, I would give it to Mark! Thanks Man...

Lap times had slipped to the high 50's and even an hour flat. Ugh.

As usual, perhaps a little more so than ever before, sunrise was a huge boost. I really can't explain it - but when we left on the last night lap around 6:40am, it was pitch dark, freezing cold, and two very grumpy & tired riders. I was ready to quit. In fact, Mark had to keep me from laying my head down inside because if I had gone to sleep I likely would not have gotten up. Everything ached...back, butt, wrists, legs...everything. I was going to be happy just to get around the course, who cares about the lap time, or the standings, or anything. But at the top of the first climb, we noticed the sky was lightening. About halfway around, you could start seeing your surrounds. By the last 3 miles or so, it was almost completely light. I could almost feel my spirits lifting, and a strange re-invigorating of muscles and joints.

We started talking about end-game strategy. Mark wanted 20 laps and that was all, no matter what the standings - he was almost done and quite happy about it. I was trying to mentally prepare for 2 more laps, but the remaining time would make that very, very difficult.

At the end of the sunrise lap, my 21st, I was 20 minutes ahead of 4th place, and 30 minutes behind 2nd. I decided to go out and burn lap 22 as fast as I could, then re-access. So I ditched my Camelbak, and stripped the lights off the bike and helmet as fast as I could. I donít know where the energy came from, but I was able to hammer out a 44 minute lap, which I hadn't done since mid-day on Saturday. As I rode by the pit I asked Mike to meet me at the start/finish with a full bottle.

It was 8:40am, race ends at 10 - I had time for one more lap, but did I need it? I spoke with the timekeeper about the standings. The 4th place rider had left for his 22nd lap at 8:12am. He was turning 58-59 minute laps at that point, so I figured he would get back around 9:15, and not have time for a 23rd lap. So, I figured 3rd place was in the bag since I already had 22 laps, and would have won on time. But, just to be sure, I went out again. I was in no particular hurry, because I had 75 minutes to finish, plus I didn't want to do anything stupid like crash out. I got around in 47 minutes which wasnít bad especially given it was the end of the race.

Good decision...the 4th place guy also found wings and burned out his 22nd AND 23rd laps just before the end. So had I stopped after 22, I would have lost 3rd place. Just goes to show, you must keep riding until the END. No, I didnít want to do that last lap - I wanted to go take a damn shower, sit down and eat, but if I had stopped and lost the podium spot, I would have been devastated.

the bikeFinal stats:
* 23 laps
* 175.6 miles
* 21,414 feet of climbing total
* 13,585 calories burned, maybe
* 17 hours, 39 minutes in the saddle (mostly)
* 3rd place overall out of 12

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 LOBO site.

I am very confident that I left it ALL out there. While pit times were too long as usual, we rode all night, didnít bonk (thanks again Mike), and didnít do anything stupid. No real mistakes, and except for the bike problems, I donít think the race could have gone much better. This race doesnít divide into categories at all - not age groups or rider levels like all other races, so we were racing 30-yr old Pro/Expert level riders. So given that, I am pretty happy with 3rd place. Well, I would have been happier with 2nd or 1st, but we take what we get (and earn).

None of this would happen without my family's tremendous, unending support. It was so nice to have wife and son at the race with me, even if they weren't onsite the entire time. Race day is really just the icing on the cake - there are many many hours of training that go into these efforts, and having such a supportive family structure behind you is essential. Thank you Honey, and Bud - I couldn't do it without you.

smile   my boy

What now? It's the end of the season...clocks roll back, weather's time for a little break from training. I am greatly looking forward to doing some more riding with my son. He loves it, and don't tell him, but he's getting his own bike for Christmas!

Written by Cris Flint, Team Kinetic Cycles