Glad to have this one out of the way...OP has become my annual throw away race. This edition was no different - and again, I come away with new lessons.
Expectations were high for this event. By the numbers, fitness was at an all time high. In the past 5 weeks I've basically rebuilt my normalized MTB MMP curve from 7 min on out to 8 hours. Combine that with a leaner frame, more experience, 3 bikes, a crack mechanic, Anna serving up the best support imaginable, and you see what I mean. There would be no excuses this year. It was an all or nothing event.
Last year I decided to take the run easy, save the legs, and start easy. The problem with that was 7 miles of bottlenecked singletrack and givning up 20 min on the first lap. So this year I ran for my life and took off down the road with the lead group. It felt great and it was pretty easy to hang at the front.
About 10 min later here comes Tinker, his back wheel making funny sounds. His pit was right next to mine, and I was surprised to see him still standing there when I came in. I figured he'd do his usual plan and rip the start, and if I saw him at all it would be much later in the race. Not one to look a gifthorse in the mouth, I picked up the pace a bit for 2 more laps. I knew he'd go into chase mode, and I wanted him to burn those matches. Cool, playing cat and mouse is fun!
Of course he caught me. Sometime towards the end of lap 3 the energizer bunny came by with authhority, and since I'd been going harder than usual for the start of these things, I backed it down and ate a bunch, settling into a more sustainable pace. From there it was all about keeping the pits short and the pace steady. During one of the pits, there was Tinker, so we were within a couple minutes of each other.
Steve: "Dave, are you having fun?" "F-ck yea! We've got us a horserace"
Sometimes the littlest things provide big motivation. There's a section on the course called the corral trail, a twisty, fast, cactus corridor with incredible flow. Before hitting this section I put on the MP3 and great tunes had me moving a lot faster...before I knew it, there was Tinker, then just after him was Lynda! What are the odds...things only got better from there. Tinker rode my wheel for awhile on a dirt road section, so I just backed it down to crawling speed. No wasting energy then. In the next section of singletrack, I kicked it in and soon found myself riding with no lights behind me. In the next lap I widened the lead to 13 minutes.
Houston, we have a problem
Sometime during the 9th lap my bike handling was apparently heading south. Blowing off course, hitting cacti, getting stalled in sandpits, what is going on? I felt fine and didn't understand what was going on. My HID headlamp seemed too bright and was washing everything out, so I turned it off and went with a bar halogen only. That seemed dim like the battery was dead. What is going on??? The 10th lap I ended up going off course a few times and even ran right into a guy in front me. Wow. Back in the pit, I took my glasses off cause I couldn't see through them, but it turned out it wasn't the glasses. Blind in the left eye and could only make out shapes with the right. Every light source created a blinding halo. We tried some eye drops, all to no avail. Night riding, typically one of my strengths in 24s, just became my nemesis with no eyes. So just like that, I couldn't continue.
Tinker went on to win in 18 laps. His fiance, Terri, came over to inquire about my wellbeing. She was genuinely concerned, and perhaps dissapointed as well to learn of my fortune. She said the race was "quite exciting." That it was!
Deja-vu, it was just like last year, sitting in the pit as the race continued on. I don't much care for that...it was certainly more interesting this time though. Lynda was crushing it!! I think she had lapped the field by midnight, so was pretty relaxed in the pit. She had time to let Damian dial in her preferred bike, and eat some magic speed cookies. She was so in the zone and never wavered the entire race, going on the win with a 3 lap margin and a lap count that would put her 3rd in the men's field...when results are posted, check out her 14th and 15th lap times. Wow!
16 Hours in the Old Pueblo
As for myself, I gave up on returning eyesight about 3am and crawled into the sack. The next morning I was getting super ancy. I could see pretty well out of the right eye, that's good enough for daylight. The race goals were of course out the window, but the race was still going on so what the hell, might as well finish strong. So that's what I did. The eyes came back after a couple of laps and I still felt great. My OP finished at 12:08 & 14 laps.
Post Mortem thoughts
Damian Leuck turned out to be more than just an awesome mechanic...we hope to do more races with him!
Anna dials in support like none other. I'm a lucky guy in that respect.
Fitness-wise this was my best 24 to date. 12 hour PB power by 7%...
Can you say goggles???
Lynda is the real deal. There ain't a gal on the planet that could have touched her in this race.
In case you're interested in the 26/29 debate, I have data for all laps. 10 laps on the Fuel, 4 on the Dos. That tell ya anything?
The event in pictures...
It takes a lot of gizmos to do a 24. Check out the 18 gram mp3 player that rocks for 10 hours per charge.
Ours was a popular pit...
...and also a family affair.
And with that this edition of the OP comes to a close. A somewhat painful experience...perhaps it's time to move on. It's got me 3 times now, will I ever learn?