2007 Mountain Bike XC Wraps up for the year...

Sunday was the final event for the IMBCS via the Sycamore TT event which actually ended up morphing into the Squirrel's Nest TT at Greenwood Park in Des Moines. Hats off to Chris and Squirrel for combining their efforts and getting things organized for a final event of the season. Urban sprawl, tons of rain and what not had combined to eradicate the event from taking place on the Sycamore trail - so Brian chipped in with his excellent nest of trails for the event.

The IMBCS president and racer extraodinaire, Cam Kirkpatrick, informed everyone that with the 7 events for the season one could eliminate the 2 low score races from the 7 so that the best 5 races counted in tabulating the series points. By my math, that put Kyle Williams up from his spot in 3rd place for the series to 2nd place by 10 points over me going into the TT. So I was up for giving it everything I had on Sunday to see if I could gain those 10 points back and then some. However, Kyle did not show up for the TT. Hmmmmm....Stay upright and finish the race became my new goal. Of course, had young monster legs/lungs/heart Chris Hansen stayed in Sport Open for 2 more races - he would have changed the results drastically, but he moved up to expert at the Sugar Bottom race and cleared the way for some of us non-genetically gifted "athletes" to get a door prize.

I kept the Fire XC Pro on the front tire for grip in the corners and ran a Nanoraptor in the rear. I considered running the diesel (Sugar 293), but opted for the Dos Niner with 0 psi in the Relish Shock and about 30 psi in the rear Nano for cush on the roots. I pre-rode the roller coaster portion of the course since it included some sections I didn't know and skipped the hillside since I thought I had seen all of that before (wrong!).

My pre-ride consisted of making sure the rear Avid disc brake was not rubbing as fellow Team 14 member Paul Varnum awaited his turn:

Rear Brake Check

My turn finally came up and off I went. I tried to kick up the tempo on the pavement climb to get me drooling and feeling more uncomfortable than I usually do at the start and it worked. I was feeling more uncomfortable going into the dirt. I had to recover a little bit before my momentum got going again through the roller coaster. Coming out of the roller coaster I passed the guy that started 1 minute ahead of me. I headed up into the hillside with seated climbing searching for a nice rhythm. Familiar sections of trail up in this part that were in tip top fall riding shape and I was moving pretty well. I passed the guy that had started 2 minutes ahead of me and kept on motoring with the rhythm I had going. Two times I thought the trail was headed for the finish, only to head back into the woods on sections I wasn't very familiar with or was riding in a reverse order than I had taken when riding before. Oy! There was a big moss covered log that I wasn't expecting and it was too late to take the roundabout.

I came to another log and sharp turn to the right where The Mostly Reverend Kim was sitting with his canine pal. I hopped off the bike and walked it over telling Kim that I was too old for that log and had to go to work on Monday. He nodded with understanding and said he could relate. I was drooling as I pushed my limits and gave what I had left to get over the finish line. Finished the TT around 23:54 which was 1:12 or so behind 1st place Sport Open winner Bruce Reese. Hey, finally a race where I didn't get lapped out there on the trail by Cam! '-)

We all headed over to Rasmussen's Bike Shop for the IMBCS party and awards ceremony. Beer, eats and conversation filled up a pair of hours on a fall Sunday afternoon. The category I competed in - Sport Open - shook down with final standings that looked like this for the season:

1st Place - Bruce Reese
2nd Place - Bruce Brown
3rd Place - Kyle Williams
4th Place - Paul Varnum

Congrats guys! Paul wrote on his blog that he actually was in front of Bruce Reese 2x this season in races. That's way better than me. I managed to pass Bruce at the Kanesville Krusher when he was pulled over for a mechanical which allowed me to be ahead of him for about 2 minutes before he came roaring back on my rear wheel and went around me when I wisely pulled over and got back into my own reality pace. Other than that, I never saw Bruce once the race got underway all season long except as one of my teammates for the 24 Hour race at Boone. Way to ride Bruce!

I belong in the 45+ crowd, but what the heck - I can do that when I hit the 50's. ;-) I think Paul has convinced me to try one cross race this season, but I don't know if it is exactly my cup of tea. I'll try to give one race a shot on my Karate Monkey though to see what all the fuss is about before going into hibernation and fall/winter riding mode with my dogs.

A special thanks to Chris who overheard me say that the pair of socks and handlebar light I chose from the prize table were nice, but I missed the Ergon grips when choosing. When his turn came to grab some swag, he picked up the Ergon grips and brought them back over to me. I tossed the socks back on the table and was happy with the grips. I see I have just as much trouble choosing swag as I do lines out on the course....


46 and counting..

Yup. The big odometer of life rolled over from 45 to 46 today.

In celebration of that mileage change - my wife baked red snapper for my birthday dinner with a rich stuffing, green beans, fresh baked whole grain bread, and corked a bottle of 1991 Louis Martini wine we had in the cellar. We finished the meal off with a Blizzard Oreo ice cream cake from DQ. Indulgence!

Here's to another year of ripening!

On the bike riding front:

I managed to work in an interval session on the paved bike path last night and even got in an hour recovery ride on the mountain bike with the dogs around the lake tonight after work. I'm going Dave Morris bivouac in the off season this year and will do all 4 phases of his program this year rather than skip what I did this year.

It looks like the season ending TT will be in a different location this year than originally planned. The season was shortened to 7 races instead of 9, but I read that the rule of dropping out the worst 2 races will still be in effect even though the number of races are down this year. Rats! Too bad, as I pretty much get screwed by the pooch with that ruling this time around as 2nd and 3rd place will flip-flop by taking me from a surplus of points to a deficit of points for 2nd. Oh well...there's always a chance I can pull off an amazing TT and earn back another 10 points to get to parity. I don't know if the somewhat clogged left anterior descending artery in the old ticker will comply with that kind of performance though. Regardless, midpackitis did me in this year - whether I finish 2nd or 3rd in the series for points. I hereby set a goal of reaching upper midpackitis in more races for next year. '-)

Time to walk off the wine and ice cream cake before bed...


IMBCS #7 Sugar Bottom Scramble Race Report...

How does one jump back on a mountain bike to do a race only 6 days following the 24 Hour Boone Race to race at Sugar Bottom? I don't know, I guess you just do it. And many of us just did it. I guess my motivation was a little off this weekend because of it, but I went through the motions nonetheless.

I didn't ride much this week leading up to it. I had a cold which didn't bother me too much at the Boone race as I was just catching it, but it hit me hard Monday - Wednesday of this week. I took those days off the bike and added Thursday to my days off list as well since I had to sing a performance Thursday night. My son had his 2nd Freshmen Football game as well against Newton and I managed to catch the 1st half before going to sing my performance. My son plays QB and I hate to miss any part of a game - let alone an entire game. His team one 42-0 against Newton and they are now 2-0 heading into this week's game against Valley. Back to the cold and singing. Luckily, swabs of Zicam in my nose and plenty of hydration allowed my voice to be in fine form Thursday night. Friday before work, I went out for an hour ride and threw in a few shorter duration intervals to prime the pump for Saturday's race. Not an ideal pre-race training week, but that's all I had in me for the week and how it fit my schedule.

I drove over to Sugar Bottom Saturday morning along with the usual Hawkeye Football fan base on I-80 that were heading there early to get oodles of hours of tailgating in before the game. Once I parked and got suited up, I headed out for some warm-up time on the kiddie trail. I got in just a few hundred yards and ca-doink! - my chain broke. What the...? I figured maybe it was the SRAM Masterlink that had snapped because I hadn't installed it correctly after cleaning the chain on Thursday. I picked the chain up off of the ground and examined it. Nope, the Masterlink was fine as the chain broke a few links away from the Masterlink. So I headed over to the maintenance tent and was quickly taken care of for the race. Thank you dearly for the chain repair. I did have a new spare chain in my Element as well as a 2nd bike just in case something like this happened. However, it quickly looked like we would not be doing a 12:15 start, but more like a 12 noon start. I barely had time to warm up and get my drinks all ready to go for the race as I was planning on those extra 15 minutes. I had contemplated running the Sugar 293 to soak up all the roots at Sugar Bottom, but I let some air out of my tires on the Dos Niner while warming up until it felt comfy going over the roots. I decided to risk the chain repair and hope that the rest of the chain was good to go for the race. Fingers crossed, I headed over to the start.

As always at Sugar Bottom, we get a little bit better turn out for the race than some of the other IMBCS races. 39 lined up all in a bunch for the Sport category (included Open, 35+, and 45+). I was more in the back of the group after having placed my 2nd water bottle. Off we went and it was really jammed up back where I was in the group. We couldn't get going very well. Somebody almost went down and that caused more of a bottleneck as we watched the first 20 riders buzz on ahead of us and disappear in the singletrack. Well, there goes 2-3 minutes lost I said to myself waiting for the jam to get going again and back into some sort of a line on the singletrack. That's something I need to work on - getting off the line quicker to not get stuck in these bottlenecks. I'm always afraid of burning too many matches by doing it, but it is a well known area I need to improve upon - soon. Even after things got going and the first section of singletrack started to work things out, the first 20 riders were so far gone that those few minutes would have been impossible to make up over the course of the race. Been there, done that way too many times before this season. The only time I used to jump off the line and give it my all from the get go was in the beginner races I rode in 2005. I need to revisit that strategy now that I've experienced all of these sport races.

Oh well, bottlenecks continued on the first section of singletrack with a couple of those short, sharp left turns that go up. It's very easy to ride those two, but for whatever reason - everyone was getting off their bikes to go up both of them. What's up with that? The pace picked up and groups started to branch out a little bit. This helped the passing begin as things opened up. I was able to pass about 11 guys and work my way up the singletrack ladder one by one. I finally got behind Sterling Heise who had a nice pace going that I actually liked. Sterling is a great descender and handles the technical parts of the trail very well. There were about three or four others behind me, and I just latched on to Sterling's wheel to follow along at his pace. I have not ridden Sugar Bottom this year - nor did I ride it last year, so my memory of the trail was not as good as I would have liked it to have been. I had no time for a pre-lap, so I had to re-learn the trail on this first lap. I mentioned to Sterling that I liked his pace and I think he took it as me wanting to get around him, so he pulled over and I went around him. The guys behind me stayed with me and I felt like the blind leading the blind. All of a sudden, there was a yellow tape barrier that was broken and I didn't know whether to go straight or right. Luckily, there was a rider there working on a mechanical and he told me to go right as somebody had ridden through the barrier. So right it was. If that rider had not been there, I would have gone straight.

A little while later, the trail made a sharp U-turn that went down and to the left over some roots and I did not even see the trail going that way at all in spite of my searching and scanning with my eyes as to where I should go at that race speed. I headed straight and missed the turn completely as I forged a new trail at Sugar Bottom. The 4 guys behind me turned left and yelled at me that I had missed the turn. "What turn?" I yelled back. I stopped, turned the bike around and followed them. No markings to be seen at that sharp turn and I shook my head in frustration. Sure, a full warm-up lap would have clued me in, but there was just no way I could put in a 10 mile warm-up lap before a race on this weekend and still be able to have anything left for the actual race. Especially being only 6 days after Boone. I couldn't come down on Friday afternoon to pre-ride either, being so far away.

A little more yellow tape or some painted arrows on the trail at those critical turns wouldn't hurt now would it? I like the way the Psycowpath races are set up in Nebraska. There is never a question as to where you should turn thanks to all of the arrows, tape and signs they use. Even without a pre-ride on the Nebraska courses, it is always crystal clear where you need to go on the course as you ride it. That's cool - at least in my book. Not to rant on ICORR, but I remember doing my first ever race at Sugar Bottom in the Beginner class a few years ago. There was a lot of broken yellow tape barrier at a crucial turn, but it was impossible to figure out from all the broken yellow tape which way to go. So a bunch of us went left (which was the wrong way) and did an entire extra loop of a section of trail that was not even part of the race course. That added about 10 minutes onto that lap for each of us. All I am saying is that a few more arrows to help would be welcomed since this barrier tape gets broken from time to time - that's for sure. A simple orange or yellow arrow painted on the singletrack pointing out the proper direction does wonders and answers all questions.

Coming through the finish line area I stopped to grab my 2nd water bottle and toss my 1st one. Sterling had snuck back on my wheel for the past 15 minutes, but as I rode down the gravel road to head into the back half of the course, he was no longer following me. He later told me he had to back off at that point as his cold was hitting him hard and he wasn't feeling very good. Coming off the gravel road and heading back into the singletrack, again - signs and lack of help on where exactly to turn came into play. I saw a little cardboard cut out taped to the "wrong way, do not enter" permanent sign that said "Exit". Exit? Is that what we are looking for as we race along an XC race course trail? A sign that says "exit"? Hmmmm....I decided to take it anyway and finally found another rider who confirmed we were on the correct path. Spun out on a rock climb as the rocks were still a little moist from all of the rain and walked the hill. I was enjoying this entire section as it was a little more technical and took some more legs to get the short and steep climbs out of the way.

There it was. That steep hill I remembered from 2 years ago in the Beginner's race. The one with all the people on top watching down to see who could clear it. Well, not me. I wasn't even going to try with a chain that may be suspect and had already broken once before the race. So I dismounted and cyclo=crossed my way up the hill as fast as I could exclaiming that such hills were not kind to those of us who were born with bird legs. That was worth a couple of chuckles from the crowd. I got back on the bike and took off and decided to pick up the pace now that I had just about seen the entire loop. This time, there was no bottleneck to clear the sharp, left turns that went up.

I was out in that "middle of the race and all alone" zone where you have to be careful not to let the pace drag down a notch or two where it easily turns into a nice recreational ride. I found myself doing that a few times and forced myself to pick it up. Just when I did that, I dropped my chain. Rats! At least it wasn't broken, but it had slid too far to the left of my 2x9 drivetrain and I couldn't get it back on as easily as I thought I could. So I had a few choice words as I fiddled with it. And here came Sterling again. He had caught back up to me. I finally got the chain back on and off I went a few seconds ahead of Sterling. I crossed back over to the other side of the gravel road and tried to get some steam going again. Coming off of the gravel road and heading into the latter portion of the 2nd lap, I heard "tinker bell" in front of me. I'm not sure of his name, but he had a bell on his handlebars that ding-a-linged on every bump and root. He was a few hundred feet in front of me and I heard and saw him take a nasty fall off of those rocks/stones in the middle of a descent. He looked to be okay as he stood up and announced to everyone "I knew that would happen!". I came over that section and probably disappointed the two spectators standing there expecting another dramatic wipe out as I just gingerly rolled over them in my conservative fashion as I had done in lap one. I caught up to "tinker bell" on one of the steep and root filled climbs and went around him. I passed a couple of guys who were fixing flats and I reminded myself how happy I was to be running tubeless. I'm not sure why I was running the Fire Pro XC monster truck tires front and rear, but they were great for Boone. Not bad here as well, although a Nanoraptor on the rear would have been a lot better roller and saved me on wattage output. Oh well...no flats and plenty of grip.

As I stood to climb one of the final steep climbs, I felt the very slight beginnings of what could be cramps, but I had 'em covered with my intake of SportLegs as I started lap two. So no worries there. There was that steep climb with the photographers standing there this time waiting to separate the men from the boys. Should I have a go at it. Nope. Not with this chain. I'd be a boy this time around as well. No man stuff for me today. "Tinker bell" behind me gave the hill a go and cleared it. "That's the first time I've ever cleared that hill. Whoooooohoooooo!" he screamed as his bell tinkled.

Okay, off I went with the "bell man" on my wheel. I finally was able to open up the gap and decided I was not going to let the "bell" sprint past me at the run to the line. I came out of the woods and into that grassy section where the singletrack meanders around before you see the finish line. All of a sudden I heard a bike right on my wheel (but no bell) and the rider say "rider up" as he went around me. It wasn't "tinker bell", but Mark Iverson. Oh well, a sprint is a sprint and I didn't know which category he was in, but points could be on the line. I was about 2 inches from his wheel in the big ring giving it my all to stay with him. I saw the finish line and stood up to crank. I pulled even with him and was starting to pass him. I had him! My legs were working and this felt good.

Dang it, I forgot we were supposed to finish on the right - not the left. The guy from ICORR on the microphone told me to go right a few times before I actually heard what he was saying. It's not like that big white and black sign saying "Finish" was hard to read or anything. I guess when I stand and crank during a sprint with my head down I lose both my hearing and my eyesight. Hmmmm....I had to make a huge sweeping turn at the last moment, barely avoided hitting the van and we crossed the line exactly with the same time. Turns out it wouldn't have mattered if I did pass him as he was in the 45+ Sport Class. Still, pretty cool that a 46 and 48 year old were sprinting it out to the line. And Rick Wrel and Tom Eaton were the only two older guys that finished ahead of Mark and I in the Sport Categories. I felt spent at the end. I can't say my heart felt all opened up and happy. It took a toll and that final sprint may have taken me too far over the edge than my body was ready to do.

All in all, I felt pretty good throughout the race. I had enough cush in my tires to absorb the roots and I felt like I rode a pretty decent pace in spite of that several minute handicap of being in the latter half of guys getting into the singletrack. I ended up in 12th Place for Sport Open out of 21 and 21st out of 39 overall for all the Sport Categories combined. Midpackitis no matter how you count it. That's been my disease this year. Yup, good ole midpackitis syndrome. Ah, only 26 minutes behind the 1st Place finisher this time. Let's see now, 1st place could have finished, hopped in his car and been to Williamsburg by the time I crossed the line. Or, in other words, the top 15 guys out of the 39 overall sport categories were showered and on their way home before I rolled in. ;-)

I thanked the guy who fixed my chain, apologized to Mark Iverson for nearly sliding out next to him at the finish line, balked at the $5 price they were charging for a little old pork sandwich (okay, does anybody want some cheese with my ICORR whine?), and headed off back to Indianola. I got my grilled chicken combo meal at the Wendy's drive through before getting back on I-80. $4.29 included drink, chicken burger and a side salad. ;-)

In spite of all of my whining about the course markings, hats off to ICORR for getting the trail ready to go after the rains. I do - believe me - I do appreciate everything you guys do for that sweet singletrack and for hosting the always fun and challenging Scramble. I will try and get in a pre-ride lap next year so I can keep my yap shut.


Golden Voiced Pavarotti yields to cancer...

I got home late last night from auditioning all of the voice majors at Simpson College for our upcoming operas this fall and in the spring. Popped a bottle of liquid carbs and turned on the television in the kitchen at low volume so as not to wake the family at 11pm. I turned to Larry King and a breaking news story from the BBC filled the screen and usurped Larry in mid-sentence to say that Pavarotti had lost his battle with the deadly pancreatic cancer at 5am Modena, Italy time today. I guess we all knew it was coming as that particular cancer has a nasty prognosis, but he took a turn for the worse this past month and lost the battle.

This was the single most important voice and personality to the operatic world in the past 45 years. I own oodles of his recordings and judge all tenors and their technique based on the skillful and masterful singing of Luciano Pavarotti. I started listening to him on a daily basis in 1979 during my undergraduate days of musical training. I first saw him sing live at the Metropolitan Opera in the 1985-86 season when he was still in his vocal prime and the hottest ticket in town. I probably attended at least 25 of his performances at the Met in the 80's and was mesmerized by every note of every performance. The man had the goods and could deliver them. Then I got to do the same in Vienna, Austria since I was living there and singing in the opera houses in Vienna from 1991 - 2003. Personality and voice to spare. Superstar and rock star of the opera world.

The voice will live on via recordings as other great tenors have (Caruso, Bjoerling, Tucker, Corelli, etc...). It will be a while before another voice and personality such as Luciano comes along again. It's a rare combination that usually only happens once every 50 years.

I bow to his career, his life, his gifts, and all he shared with the world through his music.

Rest in peace Luciano...



Boone 24 Hour Newbie Race Report...

24 Hours of Mountain Bike Racing on one of Iowa's toughest and sweetest loops?

Yup, that's right. 24 hours of racing from Saturday noon to Sunday noon.

This weekend of September 1st and 2nd was Iowa's 5th Annual 24 hour MTB Race at the Seven Oaks Ski Area outside of Boone, IA. Although I have lived in Iowa for all 5 Labor Day weekends this event has been held, this was my first time to participate in this 24 hour gruelathlon.

I teamed up with Mike Lebeda, Bruce Reese, and Jacob Naumann to enter the 24 Hour 4 man event. There were options of doing the 12 hour race or 24 hour race, but I opted for the Full Monty being that it was my first time participating in this event. Mike, Bruce, and Jacob had all done it before - so they knew what they were in for during the race and told me what to bring along for the weekend. I knew I had the mental and physical capacity to put in the effort based on all the marathons I used to run and racing in the Dakota 50 mountain bike race (also held on Labor Day weekend out in the Black Hills). I wasn't worried about that and I knew what to expect on the trail at Boone which is demanding even for a recreational ride. I was more concerned with cramping, traction, and handling as fatigue set in during the latter part of the race. I had also caught a cold on Thursday, so I was hoping it wouldn't totally wipe me out for the ride. Turns out it didn't bother me.

My goal going into the event was to finish 6 laps for my portion of the 4 man team event. Of course, that was my own personal goal going into the event. I think our team telegraphed it well before the event that the focus on fun was the most important issue and I was fine with that being my first time doing the event. Riding Seven Oaks is always a fun ride - so fun was a given as I was going to get to ride 6 laps. I had never ever ridden in the dark on singletrack before - so that was a new goal to achieve. I didn't even own any lights. I had never ridden a bike at 3am - so I was interested in what that would feel like. I had never tried to balance nutrition, rest, recovery, and then riding yet another lap again in any kind of a 24 hour event. So I went into the weekend with total newbieitis. Plenty of firsts for me.

I loaded up the Element with my Dos Niner, Sugar 293, sleeping cot, folding table, cooler of beverages, Soy Crisps, Chicken Noodle Soup, Bagels, Cliff Bars, Hammer Nutrition Products, SportLegs, Recover-Ease, towels, changes of cycling clothes, pillows, bike tools, air pump, and campground chairs. I drove up to Seven Oaks and settled into our pit area for the event. The weather was perfect for a great event.

A couple of pictures of the mad dash start of the race:

Boone 24 Hour Running Start

Boone 24 Hour Start

I was slated to ride 2nd, so when Bruce Reese turned in a nice 1st lap and made the hand off to me, I went out and rode my first lap with the mindset of pacing and doing lap one more on the conservative side to test out the new Fire Pro XC's. The tires felt great and I finished my first lap in 52 minutes. Mike took off for his first lap following mine and I loaded up with some rocket fuel (baked beans and some pork loin). We rotated through our group in this manner and kept at it in the early evening hours.

My first night lap was around 8:30 pm. I had arranged to borrow a light set from Thad Neil, but decided to invest in some MiNewts.X2 Duals from the NiteRider van that was there for the event. I've always wanted a set of lights, but would always get overwhelmed with the research when I started reading about the various light systems available. Everyone seemed to agree that NiteRider was a great company with good products, so I talked to the guy from NiteRider and settled on the MiNewt.X2 Duals as my starter set. He charged up the battery and let me borrow a helmet light as a demo for my first night lap. Vision was great with the set, but being my first ever night lap - I was a little timid and found myself struggling with balance more than I do in the daylight hours.

Here are the MiNewt.X2 Duals on my Dos Niner:

New Night Rider MiNewts

I got back to the NiteRider truck after my first night lap and praised the lighting system. Then I found out that the helmet light he had let me demo - the Flight - was on sale for a mere $465 during the race!!! Okay....scratch that luxury item off of my shopping list. Great light, that's for sure, but I can't justify that kind of dough for my entry level into night riding. $465 for a little light that sits up one's helmet? Dang, that's nearly as much as a set of DT 240 or Chris King hubs. Okay, I can see that if one were doing a lot of these events in the dark the expense is justified. I just couldn't justify it for myself. Yet. ;-)

I headed back to the Element, had a snack, cleaned up and climbed into the E for a nap on my cot. Ooooo....it was comfy. I slept/rested/drifted off until about 11:45pm. I got up and found out Bruce Reese was out for 2 consecutive laps. So I had some pasta with everyone at the midnight feed. I saw Matt Gersib eating a bowl of pasta and snarfing a slice of white bread (Matt, don't you know there is no nutritional value in white bread?) following his excellent 12 laps on the Dos Niner and claiming of 1st Place in the solo 12 hour race. Congrats, Matt! Way to ride and represent the spicy Salsa. I know you could have done another 8 - 10 and competed for the 24 solo $1K.

After that I went to borrow a helmet light from Paul Varnum who was already a few ounces of adult beverage into his celebration following he and Sean Meyers having won the 2 man 12 hour race. Congratulations Paul and Sean! Way to go! Paul handed me the light and said it should last for a little while. How long it would last, he didn't know and laughed.

Aha! Lesson #1 learned: never borrow a light from a tipsy teammate.

I got suited up and headed down to the starting line to wait for Bruce to come in from his 2nd lap. At about 1:30am I took off for my consecutive two laps and told both Mike and Jacob I should roll in about 3:30am for their turn. By now, the dew had fallen and things were thick and heavy. Lots of smoke was in the air from all the camp fires and the dew had turned the dry singletrack into "not so dry" singletrack. Climbing out of the pit area on the first set of climbs I hit a patch that required me to walk because it was too muddy to climb. Pretty hard to walk as well as I was slipping. There were only about 3 of these spots thanks to the dew, so it wasn't too bad at all out on the course. Things were very peaceful out there. This night riding stuff is okay. I couldn't go very fast being a newbie at it and my trust level will need to rise, but it was a fun experience.

I passed a gal who was out for a night lap with her dog. The dog's eyes looked freaky blue in my lights. Paul's light was nice, but I could tell a big quality difference between it and the NiteRider demo Flight. Just as I started thinking about the difference between the two types of lights and half way through the lap, Paul's light petered out as the battery pack ran out of charge. Paul was right. He didn't know how long the light would last. Not quite half a lap is the answer. ;-) Oh well, the MiNewts were burning bright and although having a helmet light is a real plus, I was able to adjust and ride with just the handlebar lights. I had to put a lot of faith into the corners and rely on my memory a lot as to what kind of corner it was and what followed the corner. That's where the helmet light is essential to point out what follows. But, I had to ride with what I had.

I came into the start area right on time at 2:30am and headed out for my 2nd consecutive night lap. I stopped by my Element and took Paul's light off of my helmet and got the battery out of my jersey pocket. No sense in hauling extra weight with me on the next lap. Off I went for the lap. I had a little more confidence now with this night riding and the lights - so I picked up my tempo and knew where the problem spots were. The first half of this course has no let up with lots of grunt climbs. I always get a real sense of accomplishment after turning up hill and climbing in that open area where you can see down to the ski lodge before heading into the next part of the course where there is not too much climbing left in the loop.

I made it through just fine and was way back in the latter half of the course doing a fast descent when my MiNewt's suddenly went off. Somehow, I was able to stop without hitting anything or flying off the trail, but that experience raised my heart rate. Paul's light kind of faded out for a few minutes before shutting off. These suckers just blacked out with no warning. Dang! Where was I? I had no flashlight or backup light to get me out of the forest. And man was it dark. The moon was of no help as the trees blocked the moonlight. One rider came along and told me to hop on his wheel to follow him out using his lights. That lasted for about 10 feet as it was just too difficult for me to see. I started hiking step by step along the trail thinking that I had already done about 3/4's of the lap and if I could walk it in, I would get credit for it. After about 10 minutes of hiking - or actually placing one foot in front of the other to feel around for the trail, I figured it was going to take me nearly an hour to get back down at that silly pace to the start tent because I just couldn't see. Why wasn't I carrying a flashlight????

Along came the 3rd place 24 hour solo rider, Jacob Espey. He stopped and asked about my lights. I told him I was dark and was having to hike out. He said he needed a break from riding anyway and offered to walk me to the paint ball field using his lights. So he did and I thanked him then and at the awards ceremony for helping me out of the woods. I was in a jam and he saved me. Thanks Jacob! Once to the paintball course, I bagged the lap and rode down the gravel road to the start tent to tell them my lap did not count. "Oh, that's too bad." said all of the ladies. I concurred.

It was exactly 3:30am and there was nobody from my team waiting to take over. So I went back to the pit area and knocked on Mike's van a few times. No answer. He had told us his back was really hurting him and that because of that, he probably wasn't going to ride. Nevertheless, I wanted to check with him just in case. Then, I knocked on Jacob's van and he woke up. I told him the situation and he said he would head out for some night laps. It took him about 1/2 an hour to get suited up, get his gear in order and head out at 4am.

I was really frustrated my lights didn't make it the full 2 hours, but I was running them on high and had no idea they even had a low setting. Lesson #2 learned - don't use gear in a race you haven't tried out before and know how it works. That's an obvious thing that I know all too well, but I had no choice when it came to lights. Whether I was borrowing somebody else's lights or using my new ones - they were not tried and tested by me. My bad, but again - I owned no lights until a few hours earlier. I had not even read the user's manual. Using the low setting would have allowed me to finish my lap and then some. I was feeling great physically and felt like I could have done 2 more laps right then and there had I had lights. Jacob said he was shooting for 3 laps and off he went. I didn't eat anything and went to bed to try and grab about 3 - 4 hours of sleep. I couldn't fall asleep right away because I was too wound up from my 2 laps (which, of course, only 1 counted). Oh the shame....

I heard Jacob rattling around about 7:30am and got up to see what our status was. He had just gotten in from 3 laps and said Bruce Reese was walking around thinking about going out for a lap. I grabbed a coffee, visited the Kybo and headed out for a lap on my Sugar 293. Trail was in good shape and the dew was burning off in most spots which meant there was only 1 climb I couldn't make it up due to the mud. It felt good to ride up to speed again now that I could see.

I got back to the start tent and there wasn't anybody from my 4 man team waiting to ride, so I headed over to the pit and Mike was suiting up to go out for a lap. I talked to Bruce Reese and he had decided he was done after jamming his fingers on a fall during his night lap. Jacob was loading up his van to head out as he had put in his 6 laps and said he was finished and heading home to spend some time with his 3 lovely daughters. I ate some breakfast and sat around visiting with folks. I headed back over to the start area to put in another lap when Mike came in as I had only done 5 official laps. The unofficial lap I had to bail only had the portion from the paint ball area to the start line to do (the easiest part), but my body had paid the price on the majority of that lap since I did all the climbing. Regardless, I wanted to make my goal of 6 official laps and get one more under my belt. So out I went at 10:20am when Mike came in and I did one of my fastest laps of the race on the Sugar 293. Even though this bike weighs about 28 pounds, I just bore into those 180mm cranks and used leverage to tackle those hills. I cleared everything and was amazed that I was this strong on what was now my 7th time around the course. I guess I was finally warmed up and in the sweet spot.

I got back to the start area and the ladies told me there were still 47 minutes left if I wanted to go out for one more lap. I laughed and thought it over for a few seconds. Nobody else from my team wanted to do another lap and since we were sitting at 21 laps, adding another lap would have been little value to our placing. The next group of 4 were sitting at 25 laps. So it was pointless to use standings as a reason to continue. Not to mention, I didn't exactly have a 47 minute lap left in me. Come to think of it, do I ever have a 47 minute lap at Boone? I had met my goal of 6 laps and would have to deal with the frustration of not finishing what would have been my 7th lap when the lights crapped out on me after 3am. Why did I not even think about carrying a flashlight to walk myself out of the woods? Oh well - another newbie lesson learned for next time. All this education over the weekend...

And the goal of having fun was met as well as dealing with all the newbie issues I had to take on with night riding, gear issues, nutrition and pacing.

Final lap count for our foursome:

Jacob Naumann (6 laps)
Bruce Brown (6 laps + the infamous busted lap)
Bruce Reese (5 laps)
Mike Lebeda (4 laps)

Here's a shot of the Dos Niner following the race. The bike was great and ate up the course. The mud is from the dew as we only had one small water crossing which splashed some mud on everyone's bike:

24 Hour Race Mud from Dew

The Fire Pro XC's were everything and more than I expected. I wanted an aggressive, fast roller that would provide grip at Boone. Boone is such a tough course, I've washed out with Crows, Nano's, XR's and Karma's there before. I couldn't have that on this race where I needed some "help" with grip and cornering ability at speed. I needed braking bite for snubbing speed and railing all of those switchbacks. I wanted a tire that I had confidence in and would keep me upright because I figured as the race went on my bike handling skills would waver with fatigue. These tires gave me everything I asked for and more. I never washed out with these tires and was very impressed with them. The extra 200 grams per tire over my regular XC race tires was worth it in my opinion for the peace of mind and confidence they gave me in my gear choice. I heard that the latest issue of M.B.A. gave these new 29"er tires a 5 Star rating (that's perfection by the MBA Wrecking Crew) and now I know why.

Kudos to Singletrack Promotions for their excellent work on the Seven Oaks trail and their running of this event. Talk about a well run and organized event. I'm now no longer a newbie and will be back. Kudos to Bruce, Mike, and Jacob for letting me hook up with them and providing all the answers to my newbie questions. I think we met our goal of having fun. I enjoyed sharing my Soy Crisps with one of Bruce's triplets. I called them "cookie shaped chips" and he thought that was pretty cool. I was stoked to see him munching away on heart healthy soy crisps and really enjoying them. He kept asking for more and we downed the whole bag. ;-) Bruce - your wife, kids and parents were a delight to visit with in the pit. I hope they slept in the car on the way home... '-)

I enjoyed talking with everyone and meeting some folks face to face for the first time after all the MTBR.com message boards. A lot of good, positive energy from the participants in spite of all of us being drained from the 24 hours. At the awards ceremony, they drew our names out of a box to hand out prizes. My name got drawn and I won a T-shirt and a Camelbak Mule (SCORE!!!). That was a pretty sweet door prize to be taking home since I think they cost more than my entrance fee. A big thank you to the sponsors for donating the prizes. That does not go unappreciated, believe me.

Here's a shot of a soon to be 46 year old man who needs a shave, a shower and some sleep after I got back home Sunday afternoon. My daughter took a photo of Dad holding his Camelbak Mule prize:

Camelbak Mule Prize

It's now time for some Labor Day dry rub ribs, beer and salad. I was going to clean the bikes up, but unpacking and washing all my clothes was enough for today. Time to relax and charge up for the remainder of the work week.

Over and out, but not down. As Arnold would say....

I'll be back.