Last weekend was the last 12 hour race of the season down in Temecula. Jason and his crew put on another awesome event and pieced together a fun and challenging course with some pretty techy sections and some tough climbs.
I drove down south on Friday before the race and about the time I was in the grapevine I realized I had forgotten my waterbottles in the dishwasher... Well, no turning back now, I would just have to buy some when I got to Temecula. Between the grapevine and Temecula, I did the math on how much my little mistake was going to cost me and if I planned on buying enough bottles so that I could run the race without a pit crew(as I planned on doing), I was looking at like $60 just for bottles- Dang it!I decided to buy four bottles instead of a dozen and just hoped that I could find someone at the race who would be willing to fill them up every few laps.
The drive was pretty smooth, didn't really hit traffic in LA which is great and I actually got to Temecula while the sun was still out and with plenty of time to find some dinner and hit up the local bike shop, where my sob story failed in getting me any kind of discount on water bottles. Oh well, they're nice bottles. I was feeling amazing considering I had just driven for seven plus hours, the new 2XU compression clothing was certainly doing its job! After a quick dinner ($5 footlongs!) I went out to Vail Lake where the race was taking place the next morning and I was greeted by freezing cold temps and a fee to camp.
It was now dark, but certainly not late enough to think about going to bed, so I jumped back in the car and got back on the freeway and headed south for San Diego where I knew I could find a warm place to sleep as I had a few good friends in the area. I figured it would be well worth the extra hour of driving in the morning to get back to the race venue if I could get a good nights sleep in the peace and quiet of someones house. I found a house, but it was somewhat less than quiet. My buddy lives in the landing flight path of the SD international airport... So about every 7-10 minutes the roar of jet engines would shake the tiny apartment as I tried to get some rest. I shoved some cotton balls in my ears and called it good.
Highway 15 north between SD and Temecula should be known as the freeway of no facilities. I thought I was going to miss the race because I spent so long trying to find a freakin bathroom on the way to Temecula. I stopped for gas, no restroom, I went down the street to BK, someone is using the restroom (in hindsight I should have just waited), and I eventually wound up back on the freeway and never found a bathroom until I was actually in Temecula.... Three stops are always better than one when you're trying to get somewhere on time!
I hooked up with a couple of Steve Kwait's buddys who had driven out to the race in the Cdale truck with a few demo bikes. They were racing a two man team and agreed to help me out with the water bottle filling situation. I made all of my food in advance and laid everything out on a little camp table before the race, but apparently I took a little too long in my preparations and I missed the start by a few seconds. It was a rolling start through the camp ground and I was probably a couple hundred riders back by the time we hit the dirt. Oh well, I was just here to have a good time, I had no idea who was in my class or what they looked like, I figured I would just ride my bike all day and see what happened. I didn't have a crew to keep track of time gaps and results, so worrying about where I was in relation to everyone else would have done me little good anyway.
There was tons of room to pass on the course, lots of fireroad climbs separated by super sweet, often dangerous ridgeline singletrack descents. I have raced here four times now and Jason always puts together a new loop using different bits and pieces of the different trail networks so you always get to do a new course, but it always has some familiar pieces as well. The infamous Dam(n) Climb was included in this course and it was as tough as ever. Also included were the gnarly little rock obstacle at the top, the sandy switch backs, the roller coaster drop and the three bitches towards the end of the loop. It was a tough course, but it was the fun kind of tough.
I was having a great time, I've cut back my riding to about 14 hrs a week, so I hadn't really done anything long since my last race at the beginning of October. It's fun to ride when you feel well rested though, I felt like I was moving pretty quickly, but I was still having little chats with other riders and just genuinely enjoying my day. There were a couple of tough laps when I considered walking a section of the Dam(n) Climb that was getting super loose and steeper (for real) as the day went on, but I pushed through the tough times and finally made it to that point you get to if your lucky where the pain seems to melt away and you're just flowing over the course like water over river rocks. You become smooth and fluid and you start to feel as though you could flow forever so long as nothing stops you from moving.
The sun dropped behind the horizon and the temperature dropped right along with it. I didn't notice too much, but my feet certainly got cold. I decided to put on full leg and arm warmers when I stopped to put on my lights. I was good for the most part as far as temperature went for the rest of the race and I was able to keep flowing over the course through the darkness. My new Lupine lighting system was phenomenal. I felt bad for any rider that I came up behind because I knew that no matter what they were running for lights, all they were able to see while I was behind them was their own shadow cast out before them. I had programmed my new light to burn at 40% on low and ran it on that setting until the last half of my last lap.
I finished my 11th lap and for the first time that day, I asked the time keeper what time it was. I needed to know how long my next lap took so that I could figure out if I would have time for a 13th lap or not. I'm not sure if his watch was off but I was told it was 6:53 pm when I embarked on my 12th lap and when I came back in, it was 7:57 pm. I had one hour and three minutes to complete my 13th lap of the day. I didn't think about it, I just went. I didn't pit, didn't grab food or water, I just tore off into the darkness with the cheers of the pits all around me.
I pushed it pretty hard on the Dam(n) Climb and told myself that it was smooth sailing from there. This was mostly true. I had cased just about every technical section of the course on my 12th lap and I knew that more crashing meant a slower lap so I switched the light to 100% and cleared all of the tricky sections on the course. It's like riding with the sun tied to your handlebars when the Betty is on full blast. I tore through the rest of the course, passing riders who had set out on their last lap well before I did and wondering if they knew how close they were cutting it, how close we were all cutting it.
I finished the 13th lap of the day at 8:52 pm, eight minutes to spare. Guess it wasn't so close after all. I felt like I had wings on that last lap though, it was awesome. My race day buddy Tom, who I'd ridden with for 3 laps earlier in the day and who had taken 2nd place at the 24hrs of Hurkey Creek race, missed the time cutoff by 48 seconds after trying to complete his 12th lap of the race. So close, and yet, so far!
About two minutes after Tom crossed the line, I realized something; it was freakin freezing! My hands, feet, face, ears, all numb, and not just a little bit, no they were painfully numb. My casual clothes had been sitting outside of course, so they didn't help matters much when I put them on, but after a few minutes in the bathroom playing in the sink (warm water, modern camping kicks ass!) I was able to feel my face and fingers once more and I went back out into the cold to finish packing up camp.
I had one thing on my mind after the race, actually I had one thing on my mind for like the last half of the race, a burrito from my favorite 24 hour taco stand down in San Diego. After awards, I hightailed it back down the 15 toward the border for some artery clogging, gut busting, good ol' fashioned mexican food. As I sat beneath the socal stars outside of Sun Tacos just before midnight, meticulously enjoying every succulent bight of my pollo asada burrito (Chicken, beans, lettuce, guac, rice, salsa verde, and sour cream - heck yeah!), I realized that I was enjoying what was most definitely the greatest post race meal of my entire life and that Northern California is in serious need of some good mexican food.
All in all, it was a great race and a wonderful interruption to my off season. I certainly had my doubts about racing for 12 hrs when I was supposed to be resting up for 2010, but I have not a single regret. Well, actually I regret getting another burrito for breakfast the next morning on my way back home as I drove through Santa Ana, it ws a little too much for my Norcal stomach to handle apparently; but other than that, I'm pretty stoked on the way the weekend turned out.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot! I won the race, Pro Solo. I think that some of the four man teams got one more lap than I did, but I'm pretty sure I was right there with most of the three man teams, that's a good day! Thanks again to Cannondale for putting me on the fastest bike on the race course, to my new sponsors: Lupine for allowing me to go fast when the suns not around, and to 2XU compression clothing for getting me to the race feeling fresh, and of course to the rest of my wonderful sponsors for all of your continued support.