Tuesday, September 7, 2010

And I Thought IM Was Long...

Official Crew Chief Motto
Round about 8:30 PM MST on Saturday, I saw a time on the official race clock that usually indicates I am either finished or very close to doing so.  But in this case, we weren't even halfway done with the event.  Oy. 

Backing up for a second, Team Flatlanders registered and set up camp at the race site on Friday afternoon.  All singles (people riding alone for all 24 hours) and teams (2 or 4 people trading off laps over the 24 hours; every team member must do 2 laps, one during the day and one during the night) had tents and RVs in the same field
Home of High Altitude Suffering Since 1983
at the base of a miniature ski hill - the climbing of which starts each 17.8 mile lap.  It was like an outdoor self-contained psychiatric facility for mountain bikers.  Spandex, beer, and Gus featured prominently. 

Half of Camp Team Flatlanders
Between Friday night and Saturday morning our group grew from 4 to 8, then bumped up to 12 on Saturday afternoon, but was back down to 10 by Sunday morning.  Food, tents, sleeping bags, bikes, clothes, chairs, mattress pads, camping cooking equipment, cars, people....it was good that two team members are West Point graduates as there was some military maneuver precision involved.

The race started at 10 AM on Saturday as Leadville races do - with Ken and his shotgun.  Singles and the first team riders assaulted the ski hill and everyone else settled in for food and their turn to ride.

The early hours were easy going - the weather was pleasant, bordering on hot, so the riders weren't shivering when they come back; riders weren't exhausted and could easily find/gather/identify food to eat; the sun was up so things couldn't get really lost.  Our riders were finishing laps between 1:39-1:51, and our entire group would troop over to greet the returning rider and immediately send off the next.

...wait a sec, this hill is big...
Somewhere in the afternoon the South Africans showed up, bringing an RV, lots of beer, and Waldo, the pig to be roasted for the awards celebration the following afternoon. 

The Support Staff's older sister brought a surprise cake to mark my birthday.  Yes, I was spending my birthday living in a tent next to a line of port-a-potties in a dusty field, feeding shivering, starving bike riders hot soup in the middle of the night.  No, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

But at about 11 PM (13 hours race time) the excitement - and caffeine and sugar - wore off and the grind set in.  Kids disappear into sleeping bags and riders crash for fitful naps between laps.  Between 11 PM and 7 AM my routine went like this:
  • wake-up ~15 min before the current rider was due back to make sure the next rider is up, dressed, fed, and lighted up (night rides required front, back, and helmet lights); and to start heating water and soup
  • go over to the finish/start line with the next rider and whomever else was up to greet the current rider and send off the next - and eat a handful of potato chips myself in the athlete food tent
  • help the previous rider change before they started shivering uncontrollably and prepare hot soup/beverage with cheese and crackers - and have a slice of cheese myself
  • rinse dishes and bed down in the back of the van until 15 min before the now-current rider was due back (anywhere between 40-60 min)

To give you a sense of the weather: a 12-hour team left at 10:30 PM and bequeathed us a partially used bag of ice.  It sat untouched (this story itself explains why) on the ground at the edge of our tarp until the next morning at 9 am, when it was thrown away - entirely intact. 

Our group arrived back in Breckenridge at 2:30 PM on Sunday - after leaving for the race site at 7 AM on Saturday.  I was wearing exactly the same clothes as when I left - minus 1 of the 2 layers I had added during the night - and we all simultaneously collapsed and/or descended into a hilarious stupor.

Some more pictures to better convey what in memory is quickly becoming one big blur:
Where's Waldo?  In the smoker.
How You Fuel A 24HR Race: Chocolate Cake and Gatorade
How You Dress For A 24HR Race: With Everything In Your Closet
How You Feel After A 24Hr Race: Drained...But Smiling

Sunrise (facing west): sun shining over mtns to the East (behind the camera), hitting mtns to the West (seen), but the entire Leadville valley hasn't been touched

Solo Rider Tent Row...the fastest solo rider did 12 laps, our team of 4 did 12 laps...
The Miraculous Bag of Ice
Team Flatlanders - VICTORIOUS!
 But the best way to summarize the entire weekend:

1 Crew Chief (me)
2 Tents
3 Cars
4 Riders
5 Kids
24 Hours of Leadville, The Inaugural Riding


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