12 Hours of Humboldt went down this weekend in Redwood Park just outside of Humboldt State University. The course was just about 8 miles long with 1300-1400 ft of climbing per lap. A mix of double track, gravel roads and sweet singletrack wound around nearly entirely underneath the cover of 300 ft tall redwoods. Temps were in the low 60s in Arcata, but probably in the low 50s on course, as we were on the dark forest floor all day, morning and evening fog are standard issue on the northern California coast, but i think the sun was out throughout the day, it was just hidden from us racers by the towering trees. The course wasn't entirely closed to other users and a healthy number of Hippies on course added an interesting flavor to the race.
I decided to race with a 1x9 on my Taurine instead of racing it as a singlespeed. I figured that since i don't race the single speed class anyway, i may aswell have at least some of the gears that my competitors have. The race started on time at 8 am and myself and another solo named Sean Allen(known to spank Tinker Juarez in the past) proceeded to churn out 4 sub 40 minute laps. Sean was racing the 40+ class so it was just friendly riding. We had almost 15 minutes on the next solo going into the 5th lap and i could tell that both Sean and I were waiting for the other to slow up a bit, we were averaging around 17mph and realistically that wasn't going to last with the amount of climbing on course. I didn't want to be the first to slow the pace though.
Then, midway through the 5th lap, a nasty noise coming from the cranks on my bike gave my a half second warning that the shit was about to hit the fan. I looked down just in time to see my chain ring/bash gaurd explode off the crank spider and send crank bolts flying into the woods and my chain flying off the outside. My race is over. I haven't got the parts to fix this, and this is the first time that i didn't bring a spare bike with me. We've been raicng for 2 hrs...
Enter Sean Allen, who was right next to me when things went bad. Without hesitation, he told me to run it back in and grab his spare bike to finish the race. Sean is as much a Cdale junkie as any of us and his spare bike was a nicely built 1fg, geared on the tall side for this course at 34x18, but it would have to do. After running back to the start, finding Sean's bike, switching pedals, adjusting seat, blah, blah, blah, I'd lost a solid 1/2 hour on Sean, and now sat 15 mins behind the other guy in the pro class. I was worried, I'll admit it. I was now riding an unfamiliar bike(with a terrible seat!), one that had only one speed and I now had 15mins to make up on my competition. Yikes!
I told myself to forget about Sean, catching him was out of the question unless he completely popped. He was riding so smooth and strong that i didn't see that happening. So, i just focused on trying to catch the other Pro Solo rider, telling myself to stay calm, I had almost 10hrs to race, plenty of time to make the catch. The catch happened after only two laps on the single speed. What a relief!??
After catching my competitor, I tried to slow up, I'd been really huffing it since gettin on the single speed and i knew that catching him would be worthless if i blew up before the end of the race. The thought of catching Sean was still in the back of my head, but i figured if it happened, it happended, if it didn't, then oh well. Riding a super tall geared single was beginning to wear me down toward the midway point in the race, I tried not to pit except when totally necessary, I wanted every bit of extra time i could get, the smooth fire road descents really favored riders with geared and the steep upill pitches got harder and harder on that tall gear.
In the end, I wasn't able to pull Sean Allen back in but nearly lapped second place in my category... And I Finished!!! That's what i tried to remind myself of as i felt slightly bummed about not getting the overall. Sean and I did finish with the same number of laps. 15 laps and somewhere around 20,000 ft of climbing. A good day overall, looking back i'm proud of how calm i stayed through the technicals, but i know that had Sean not been there, the weekend would have been lost. Lesson: never leave home without a spare bike, or enough spare parts to build yourself a new one; anything can, and eventually will happen.