|24 Hours of Gold, Lake Oroville
Oct 27-28, 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 24 Hours of Gold at Lake Oroville has become one of my favorites, and this year only solidified that sentiment. The good folk at LOBO do a fantastic job and the venue is top-drawer with very clean bathrooms and showers in a beautiful campground.
We had a large pit area for three racers - me, Kinetic teammate Tom and Ventana USA rider Yvette (the three of us collectively known as Team K"Y"netic). We arranged our two RVs in an "L" shape with a large common area in the middle for supplies and bike maintenance.
This was my third year racing here, Tom's & Yvette's first. As usual Pit Boss Extraordinaire Mike kept everything running smoothly, and he had some additional help from the Crockell Monkeys.
While the three of us all ride at a different pace, it was still really cool to have a mutually supportive group there. We'd see each other in the pit occasionally, and occasionally out on course. Having teammates is a good thing.
The weather was *perfect* - it rained the Wednesday before which made for the best course conditions I've seen. Temps were not too hot, not too cold. Well it's always cold overnight but I think it was warmer than last year. The moon was almost full and really lit up the night - it made for some interesting shadows in the woods. Sometimes I could swear the moon was about to pass me.
Same as last year - 7.6 miles, 2 steep climbs in the beginning, roughly 900 feet of climbing per lap. This course is not technical at all, very fast, and really fun. I think the ideal trail conditions made for even faster lap times.
The trails are all very well maintained, and the rain a few days before beat down the dust but left no wet crossings or any adverse trail conditions that I could see. Thumbs up.
We decided to try something a little different this race. Now before you go and say "never experiment at a race!" - there is really no other way. I never train 24 hours straight, and unless you do there is no way to know how your body will respond over the long period of time. Luckily, I think the new strategy worked. I am completely off Gu and Roctane - no sports gels at all in racing or training - I eat real food.
We started out with rice bars, along with small tortilla wraps with turkey and cheese, then later in the evening & overnight I ate tortillas with eggs, potato, and bacon. Sure, there was an occasional Pop tart or yogurt pretzel thrown in now and then (OK a *lot* of yogurt pretzels, I like those), but mostly I stuck with natural, real food. In the bottle we had a low calorie electrolyte drink by Skratch Labs, also a race first. The Skratch Labs philosophy is "hydration in the bottle, calories (food) in the pocket". While this may not work for everyone, it certainly worked for me. Mike kept the average caloric intake right on plan, and I had almost zero stomach distress - certainly not anywhere near enough to change any fueling strategies next time.
The idea was to use the first lap as a warm up, but I still went a little too hard. Oh well. I donít think that hurt me though, as lap times started in the 39/40 minute range and pretty much leveled off in the 43 range. Nighttime slowed me down just a little as usual. Lap times were pretty darn consistent throughout, which is about the best you can hope for. Couple of peaks and valleys, but on average I think more consistent than I've seen before.
Race results were hard to come by, as they were using a large sheet of paper with rulers and pencils with manual timekeeping. First and second were set pretty early, as the two pros that showed up pulled away from everyone else quickly. Oroville doesn't do any categories, it's just open. But third through sixth or seventh was pretty hotly contested and tightly bunched. We got updated results when we could, but it didnít help much.
The night laps droned on, and on...this time of year the sun sets around 6:15PM and rises around 7:30AM, making for about 13 1/2 hours of darkness, which for this year equated to about 13 night laps - half the race.
Lap 23 was the sunrise lap, and as usual, is accompanied with a surge of energy. I can't explain that at all, but it happens every time. Earlier in the lap, even before the sun came up (but knowing it was near, the sky brightening a little), with full lights on and still pretty dark, I felt a surge. After that lap, we got some disturbing results: we had slipped to 5th place. Unacceptable, and frustrating. I knew the bunch was pretty tight but was disappointed that I had slipped. First and second places were set by a few laps, 3rd place was up one lap, but there was a battle for 4th. Would I bust my hump for 4th place? I asked myself "what would you teach your son to do - would you tell him to give it his all no matter what?" The answer was "absolutely". So I mentally gave up on the podium and shifted focus to climbing back into 4th.
On lap 24 around 8:00am, with about a mile and a half to go, I spotted another rider up ahead. Was this my target? Not sure...I didnít know exactly who was ahead of me in the standings. I accelerated to catch-up, and when I got a little closer I see who it is - a guy named Doug, who beat me last year, and he looks a little rough. I knew he was ahead of me, so was glad it was him. He sees me coming, and when I catch him, he says "Hats off to you Cris...you got it - I'm done". I say "Come on Doug keep going - we have time for 2 more!" (I was kidding but just trying to stay upbeat). He replied that he was completely fried, and congratulated me again. I wasn't so sure, and certainly wasn't about to stop. I still had good energy so I kept hammering and put several minutes into him by the end of the lap. He did stop after that lap, and when he passed our pit he told Dale he was a "broken man".
I was trying desperately to do the mental math required to figure the time left and what was realistic - start/finish time was 10:00AM. My first answer was there was only time for one more lap, but when I got back from lap 24 at 8:08, I realized that there was indeed time for 2 more - if I got back from 25 by 9:00, I would have an hour for lap 26. Piece of cake right? Lap 25 felt very strong, I got around in 43 minutes which put me at the start/finish at 8:52 - I will never forget that number as I stared at the official race clock and synchronized with my watch. 68 minutes left. 68 minutes to turn one lap. I didnít know at the time if that was going to make a difference between 4th and 3rd place. But, as these things go, if there's time, you go out again. Tired? Yes. Tired, hungry, hurting...but you have to push those things aside and go out again. I didn't stop at all after laps 24 and 25 - not even for a full bottle - just kept on rolling. This turned out to be a good choice, as we went from 5th to 3rd at the very end. I had told Mike even before it got dark on Saturday that this would come down to the end, and it sure did.
I set out with 3 main goals for this race:
1) to reduce pit times, especially overnight
2) to beat the guy that beat me last year
3) and of course to stand on the podium
We attained all three, plus a little - last year we did 23 laps, this year 26. The last 3 laps had NO pit at all. Considering I was averaging 10 minute pits up to that point, I am pretty happy about that. Overall, average pit time for 26 laps was 9 minutes...last year it was 15 minutes. Pretty consistently over my 24-hr solo racing career, the "witching hours" for me are around 3am - 5am, so I knew that would be the area with the most room for improvement.
* 26 laps
* 19 hours 41 minutes in the saddle
* 198.5 miles
* 23,444 feet of climbing
* 13,463 calories burned (probably)
* 3rd place overall out of 15 solos
Click for the Picasa photo album
You can also check out a short video from the race
WMV file download
Bike: Specalized S-Works Epic 29er, running WTB Wolverine 2.2 on the front, WTB Nano Race 2.0 on the back, both at 30 psi pressure.
Full results can be found on the LOBO site.
Some things went wrong, but a lot of things went right. I fought through some physical adversity - different things hurting at different times, some things hurting most of the time, but nothing debilitating and no crashes this time.
This was my biggest race effort to date, and there is no question in my mind that I left it all out there. While this season was weird and interrupted with the World Championships being cancelled, I am very happy to close out this year the way that we did.
As always, I could not do this without Mike, Pit Boss and Chef Extraordinaire (well, with egg tacos anyway), my loving and endlessly supportive wife, and most of all my son, the apple of my eye. The three of them provide an endless well from which to draw strength. Thanks Guys, a million times.
What now? Well, recovery first. I doubt I will want to look at a bike for a good week (let alone be able to sit on one). With my son riding more and better each day, I have some trail work to do around the ranch. Aside from that, next year will be here very quickly and it looks like we will have a full calendar with 5 races to plan for. We'll find some off-season activity to maintain some semblance of fitness...maybe pick up a tennis racket again? Who knows. But for now, as George Strait says: "This is where the cowboy rides away"...
Written by Cris Flint, Team Kinetic Cycles