if you don't want the full details, here's the quick scoop: fun course, great weather, excellent teammates. rode out way from 12th overall (thanks to my slow start) to 1st (thanks to the rest of the team) in 4 laps and held on for the entire race. going into the night laps there was only a minute and a half separating us from the two teams behind us but with some good luck on our part and bad luck for other teams we held our lead and slowly built up over a full lap lead. at the end of the race i went out for one last lap with a 1/2 hour left to go before noon to give us 21 laps and a 2 lap overall and expert win.
now for the details, at least as many as i can remember...
since i'd never done the run at a 24-hour race, and this is probably my last one this year, i volunteered to run. i didn't realize when i did it that this would be the longest run we'd seen all year. there'd been some rain the day before and the skies looked threatening all morning. as i started to get ready for the start the rain started and we all thought this was going to turn into a repeat of the mudfest that we had heard this race turned into last year, but as i made my way down to the start the rain stopped. other than a shower or two in the first 2 laps that was the last we saw of the rain all weekend.
the run was kind of a long one, so i tried to take it fairly easy. i stayed in the front half of the pack on the run. there were only 38 teams/solos so it wasn't too crazy. i'd planned on taking the first lap fairly easy, since i hadn't seen the course at all and on top of that the run had put a little more hurt on my legs than i expected. out of the start/finish the course crossed under the killington access road and immediately started climbing up and across a couple of ski runs. after traversing over a short way on to the main base area, and then another shot of climbing we got the first, allbeit short, taste of singletrack. the trail was narrow, slick, rooty, twisty, and a total blast to ride. this pattern (fireroad climb, singletrack downhill) repeated over and over for the rest of the course.
another climb, this time a long one, up to the top of the course, interrupted by a short-but-sweet section of singletrack. but once at the top it was a mile and half of super tight singletrack back down. every 20 feet there was another technical puzzle to be solved: a little rock garden here, a tight 180 there, a slick hump of criss-crossed roots, a long boardwalk, a skinny, and a couple of bad mud-pits. there was a short run-up where the trail ran straight up a small muddy gully, but overall the trail was in great shape. a couple more repetitions of the up on fireroads, down on singletrack pattern, though with less and less elevation gain each time and i was dumped out at the lake by the venue. around the lake, over the bridge, and into the start to hand off to kent. 1:12 for 12th place.
even after seeing us move up to 6th, then 3rd as kent and mike came back in i was surprised to see matt come in before any other team finished their 4th lap, so i went out for my 2nd lap in 1st place and very worried. without the lactic acid from the run in my legs the 1st climb seemed easier, and the singletrack was more familiar. climbed the big climb at a nice steady pace, starting to catch and lap slower teams, always trying to give some encouragement while passing. some rain that hit the top of the mountain on the 2nd lap of the race and the effect of many bike tires softened up a bit more of the course and the mud was worse on this lap. a good lap though, 1:07 to hold 1st place, just. after this lap there was about 1:30 between the top 3 teams in expert.
the mood in the camp was a little weird after we took first. none of us were quite sure what to make of the situation. were we going to be able to hold this lead, or were we just setting ourselves up for disappointment. but the skies were clearing, the air was drying out, and over the cycle of laps kent, mike, and matt managed to open up the lead a bit over 2nd and 3rd. going into my first night lap things were looking a little more comfortable. that lap was going fairly well until about 2/3rds of the way around the lap. after the run-up, my hamstrings started cramping, a big thing to see this early in the race. the downhills were getting more slick and riding them at night was much more challenging that during the day. i kept moving and made it back in 1:21.
after my cramping on the previous lap i was worried. i tried to do as good of a job as i could recovering after this lap. i didn't want to mess up my body clock with any sleep, so i made sure to get some extra food (instant noodles in a cup could be the best 24-hour race food), take some extra sportlegs (something i'd forgotten to do before the last lap), and keep drinking water. i also went down to the start and got a 15 minute massage from the masseuse that was set up in the start tent to try and get my hamstrings and back to relax a bit. the next lap was ok... a couple of technical bobbles, and a little bit slower than the first night lap, but still decent at 1:25.
ah, back in daylight. caught a little sleep after my last lap and woke up slightly refreshed. hit the course with almost an hour lead over 2nd place. the downhills were so much nicer in the daylight and seemed to even be getting a little drier. rode strong and felt better on the climbs that i had since my 2nd lap.
sean sullivan (from the 2nd place team) catches me at start of the big downhill. they're a lap behind, but i try my best to keep up. he's flying down the singletrack with a grace i don't even pretend to have. near the end of the course i catch back up to him (i think he stopped to take off his jacket) and then pass him going into a section of singletrack. i rode that last mile of the course fast but ugly as i'm riding it faster than i should. the rest of the team rode hard to put that lap on their team, and even if it's only a matter of a few pointless seconds, i'm not going to be the guy that lets them get back on the same lap. i'm sure if he really wanted to, he'd have been able to pass me, but he didn't.
the 5th lap goes into the books at 1:10 and as i'm doing the math in my head i start to realize that we're going to finish the next rotation of laps well before noon... leading to the question of whether i'll need to do another lap.
by the time the last lap comes around we've lapped every team in the race. there's no way we can lose, but if we stop racing early there's a chance that another team could get in before noon and get another lap in to get up to the same lap we're on. matt and i talked about how we'd both like to finish a full lap ahead. in the end it all came down to me to make the call.
i checked the standings while i was waiting for matt. he's out on lap 20, and 2nd & 3rd place are both out on lap 19. checked the times they started and 2nd place won't even be able to start lap 20 unless they beat the fastest lap of the race by 10 minutes, so we've got our 1 lap victory already. standing in the tent waiting for matt i got some ribbing from the announcer and the kid behind the table to go out for another lap and then matt comes in pulling off a great 1:05. it's only 11:30 and it feels anti-climatic to call the race early, plus i feel like i'm letting the team down for having ridden so strong, and then i find myself swiping my RFID and running for my bike.
the climbs hurt, but they have every lap. the power isn't quite there, and i'm spinning in the granny gear a little earlier on every climb than usual, but i'm feeling pretty good. i'd ditched the hydration pack for a waterbottle so i'm riding light. the course was drying out and i'm taking it fairly easy. rode the singletrack the cleanest i did all race - maybe not the fastest though. saw the rest of the team out on the course. they'd driven/hiked up to one of the singletrack sections to hand me up a beer, but i figured it'd be best to wait until the finish line for that... there was still singletrack to ride and i'm a bad enough rider with 2 hands on the bars.
crossing the finish line as the overall and expert winner was pretty damn cool. there's really no other way to say it. matt, kent, and mike all made it back to the tent in time to hand me a beer as i scanned out of the course and celebrate in the tent.
it wasn't my fastest lap (1:15) but it was the sweetest. we got the expert win in temecula, but we were 5th overall. after 3 top-5 overall finishes the overall win is what i think we all wanted this weekend, and we got it.
we've got 725 points in the series now, two first places and a 2nd. the wrecking crew have 2 firsts and they're talking about going to moab. if they win there they'll have 750 points, but that's a much more competitive race and even though they've won in style at big bear and conyers, a win for them at moab isn't a foregone conclusion. there's talk about getting a team to go to lanadahl to try and get more points, and talk of going to moab, just to go there. not sure that i can swing another 24 with the sm100 and my wedding coming up.