I had been excited about 24 hour Nationals for months. Ever since I made the commitment to race back in the late Spring all of my riding had been with the aim to go as fast as I could around and round the 13 mile lap in Palmer Park. Of course I was motivated to try and win the title on home turf and represent in front of so many friends, family and other supporters. Having been to the start line of a Solo 24 hour race 15 times before, I would be lying to say that I was not motivated by fear as well. You do not just go into the pain cave, you go inside set up camp and stay awhile. If you are going into one of these races with the objective of “try and win” you better make sure you have physically prepared to the best of your ability to hopefully shed a little light into the darkness.
Through the summer my form steadily improved, I continued to hit the benchmarks I set for myself in training and bring in the results at races. Hands down this has been the most successful race season I have ever had. I was happy with all the Wins but because my mind was constantly thinking about the next thing and further ahead to Nationals I really had not taken the time to reflect back. It is a satisfying feeling to think back on the season now and be proud of all that I accomplished. Already I have that void inside me that preparing for 24 Nationals was filling. It used to scare me to have this emptiness of having completed something that had been driving me forward for months, I want and need the feeling of being alive that training for a goal provides me. But getting older now I understand that it is OK to feel that peace for awhile and I know the season for battle will come again. For now it is time to recycle. Looking out the front windows of my house at the reds and yellows of leaves reminds me how obvious that hard learned (for me) lesson is.
24 hour race strategy is pretty straight forward from my standpoint. You try and break all of your competitors somewhere in the 1st 6 hours and then you try and hang on and finish the ride out. I often reference the late Mike Janelle when I talk about 24 hour racing. Mike is a hero of mine and his memory is always an inspiration to live life to the fullest, by that Mike would mean “Race your heart out.” He told me once that no matter what speed you start the race at you are going to be tired 6 hours in and even more tired 12 hours in, so you might as well go hard from the start line because that is your only chance to do damage. Tinker Juarez and I went hard from the start, until I flatted on my 4th lap I was in the lead of the entire race and set the fast lap for the event on my 2nd lap. Yes I was going hard but I was staying inside myself as well, there is a big difference. It worked for me this time. After coming in from lap 4 having fallen behind a bit while putting a tube in my flat tire I got news that Tinker was abandoning and I had a big gap to 2nd place. So it was time to settle in, for roughly the next 18 hours.
I wish I could say that it was an uneventful 24 hours and I enjoyed riding my bike the whole time. But that was not the case. I was stung by a bee or something like it on my collarbone that still hurts today. I could not keep any food down and several laps in a row I threw up right after eating and then I just did not eat for about 12 hours. I was dealing with some weird back spasms that seriously hampered my ability to make any power while sitting on the saddle. But I did find a good place in my mind to go to, repeated my race mantra over and over again, and leaned heavy on my support crew to keep me positive. I fought the normal 1-4AM weariness off and had a great lap somewhere just before sunrise. I thought I was going to cruise into the morning and finish strong. I guess the lack of nutrition caught up with me. My last lap was a whole world of pain, on top of the lack of fuel in the engine room my left knee was hurting pretty bad and already visibly swelling. I was not really even paying attention to my surroundings as the course slowly passed by for the 18th time, I was simply plotting along without thinking. But I did eventually come to the finish, all of my support crew was there beaming happy and right then and there it was all worth it.
I have written a lot about the Why of 24 hour racing, I do not want to regurgitate it all here. I will simply say that it is my vow to honor all the positive life that mountain biking brings me. For better or for worse, In sickness and in health, in darkness or in light, till death do us part, I won’t stop pedaling.
It could not be a season wrap up without saying a few of the many Thanks that I owe sponsors and individuals. To sponsors first; Niterider Lights, Xpedo Pedals, KMC Chains, Honey Stinger Nutrition, Sand Creek Sports, Carmichael Training Systems, POC Helmets, Rotor Components, SRM Power Meters. Thank you all so much. It simply can’t happen without this support. To be the best you have to partner with the best, and I know that I am. And to the people; My wife Amber who I can’t even operate a normal day without let alone win a National Championship, my chief support crew Bob and Ruth (hands down amazing, words cannot describe or convey), my Mom and Dad who drove out from Kansas to race and support me, and my Uncle Chris. The Thanks extends on so far before and after this race.
And to you, if you have cared enough to read to here, then I seriously Thank You as well. Enjoy yourself.