Monday, February 21, 2011

24 Hours of Old Pueblo - Tucson, AZ

Going to Tucson, AZ mid winter is not the worst thing in the world. But only if Tucson holds up its end of the bargain!!!

It at first sucked me in with its 60-70 degree days. Zephanie my teammate took me to a ripping place to mountain bike called Fantasy Island. And it was just that, with rolling, swooping singletrack through cactus. It was fun but I couldn’t help but think it was called Fantasy Island only if you fantasize about cactus!!!

It was time to hone in those mtb skills of looking at something like a broken off cactus in the middle of the trail and teaching your brain to NOT to go right towards it. This was the maiden voyage ON DIRT sitting in the saddle of my brand new Orbea Team Alma 29r and Stan’s Crest 29r wheels. What an unbelievable ride! I had the bike working for me in no time. I sat back and put it on autopilot as it took me down steep rock drops, fast tight turns and up and over the punchy climbs that make Fantasy Island what it is!

After that we met( where else!?!!) at Trader Joes with our team manager, Shannon, to start thinking about the needs of the weekend and pick up our sparkling fresh and clean team kits and wardrobe. Pink and white! I love it and its super well done. I think I have enough stuff for 20 people though! Wow, Verge clothing really dialed us in and set us up really nicely!

Then in no time it was time to head up to the Old Pueblo course, check it out and get our camp (of tents, cars and one box truck) set up. The course was mostly fast hard pack singletrack in the beginning, a bit of fire road to break it up and at the end there was “the climb” which was actually quite gradual and nice. The sun was still out and it was still relatively warm when we pre-rode. I should have reveled in it when I could have not knowing what was to come for the weekend.

Team Camp

After taking a bunch of team photos along with filling some sponsor obligations, our team of 4 (Zephanie Blasi, Kaila Hart, Nina Baum and myself) in our total and complete seriousness met at about 11:59pm before the 12pm start on Saturday to figure out who was going to do the La Mans Start (a race start when a person has to RUN to their bike). Luckily Nina was the winner.

And she was the right gal for the job because once the race started I have never seen someone looks so “together” as I did when I saw Nina near the front of the race, daintily jog up and delicately grab her bike and go hit the course for the first race lap. It was truly impressive.

The bikes lined up waiting for their owners to come grab them after a nice run

I was up next after her lap and the wind was fierce. I was fighting it all the way out to the end of the course waiting patiently for the moment I would reap the rewards of a tail wind back through the cactus. Ahhhhhh….

I unfortunately passed a few people that had gone down hard and were being taken off course by medical. The word was that one person face planted and had a new feature in his cheek (a marble sized rock) and the other gal reportedly hit a cactus and the 4 inch prongs were only sticking out of her skin maybe an inch. Oh my!!! For me as I meandered thru the same cactus, it served as a HUGE reminder to BE CAREFUL out there. All my best to those athletes and I hope they are on their way to good health soon.

But that is all it took for me. I turned the “I don’t want to hit a cactus” mantra into “I WILL NOT hit a cactus”. I made that happen thank heavens.

By the time Kaila and Zephanie did their laps and Nina did another it was time for my first night lap (2nd race lap). It was just as fun as I remembered too not having ridden at night for about 7 years when I last did a 24 hour race (24 Hours of Moab). The lights helped out extremely well with that one – thanks Light & Motion!!!

Zephanie and Kaila ripped some awesome laps next and Nina even rolled in a great lap after having a bit of a mechanical. The rain had started in and the temperature was plummeting.

We were ahead in 1st at this point!!

And...that’s about when I got to head out in the pouring rain. Well, I guess it was good to have the cyclocrosser do the nastiest lap to exist in the 24hr race because I ripped one of my fastest night laps!!! What is seriously wrong with THAT picture? I mean really.

Throughout the night I would return to my tent to either find that I needed a dust buster from the high winds that had completely loaded my tent with silt or that I needed a shop vac to get rid of the water that had poured in.

Luckily for us Verge clothing had set us up with so much race gear and I had to use every last piece. I had to start really planning ahead and picking and choosing what I would be wearing each lap because things were NOT air drying in the AZ humidity. I couldn’t believe it!! Thanks Verge for the support!!

The “Baum Bros.” and Alex (mechanic) served as our race support, logistics coordinators, alarm clocks and cooks throughout the night and they were absolutely positively invaluable to “Operation we want to win”. Could NOT have done it without their support and help. They also stayed up all night long getting our sorry buns out of the respective tent at the right time. On that note, I NEVER EVER went to sleep and was up all night. Too hyped up I think.

Alex working hard

Jack B. after supporting us all night long

During the 4th lap at around 4am I pulled a rookie move and didn’t check my tire pressure and by the 2nd turn on the singletrack race I was bottoming out. Oops – ee – daisy. That was a moronic move on my part. But that’s what the first race is all about-working out and remembering all those details.

If that could have been the only thing to go wrong on that lap I would have been happy BUT my light started flickering about 20min into the 1hr 10min lap. Great…..I think I remember what that means from racing Moab ages ago….low battery!! It must have somehow not got charged in between laps. DOH!!! So I really picked up the pace not knowing how long I had and yep, the main light on my handlebars went out with about a half hour to go. At least it faded out and didn’t just go dark on me. And also thank heavens I had a helmet light still that weighed as much as a paper bag. That Light & Motion “back up” light could have been run on its own really. It was a strong light. On that note our lights from Light & Motion made it so that you didn’t even really notice that it was dark out! Pretty amazing how far the technology has come!

In between laps it was KAH-KAH-KAH KOLD!!!!! I was hanging out in my knee length down jacket that I use for Cyclocross, rain boots, wool base layers, hat, etc. IT WAS NOT WARM by any stretch but thankfully there were a few camp fires around to get some heat from.

By the time my last lap came around at 9am I was excited to do one last lap in the daylight. It was a blast!

Kaila Hart brought in that last, final and winning lap effortlessly! The award ceremony was freezing and windy but well worth hanging around and celebrating with everyone to a job well done!

Stans NoTubes teams take two 1st places in Single Speed Solo Female and 4 Person Women's Open and 2nd in the 5 Person Co-ed 200+ Comined Age!!!!

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