Tricky Mike thought it would be a good idea for a few of us RUCT alumni to do the 24 Hours of Moab, since he had such a good time at the '97 edition. Planning commenced at the March Taos trip, attended by the same RUCT alumni except for Danimal (off doing his own ski trip) - Tricky, Ma-Ne, and me. Mike was most in touch with the details, so we appointed him team captain. Being on the mailing list, he got entry forms around July, and dutifully sent each of us a copy. We then sat on them for a while - me because I couldn't come up with the $100 entry right away, the others because they are just lazy I guess. But we had plenty of time, entry deadline was September and the event itself not until the second weekend in October. Eventually we all sent our entries back to Mike, and he christened us the-team-henceforth-known-as "Hah, a Tricky 'Ne for Danimal" - note clever use of all our nicknames along with reference to Dan's occasional use of a knee brace.
The rules required that each rider on such a four-person team ride at least four hours, which being in the twenty-four hours from noon Saturday to noon Sunday probably meant riding in the dark. For this I would need a headlight. So with two weeks to go, having finally scraped enough to send Mike a check for the entry, I also ordered a light from the boys at Colorado Cyclist. The NightRider Digital Pro 6-R is a marvel of modern technology, and after a few battery cycles to properly condition the ni-cad I went off on my first lighted night ride once the remote-control rear shock had been installed. Which ride went pretty well until I tried some gully-hopping that I would have known not to attempt in daylight - so the light's defective, right? - and ended up doing yet another superman, landing on the same wrist that was almost back to 100% from the crash way back in August at Mackay. This happened on Wednesday, less than three days to go until the race. Excellent choice. But the light didn't get hurt, being nicely protected by barends. My handlebars were getting a little crowded though, what with the light (near the stem) and its wired remote button (over to the right shifter) as well as the lockout control (between the light and left shifter) and of course the same old cyclometer (other side of stem).
I "Nupe"d and iced my wrist right away, and it didn't seem to be near as bad as the initial injury. Whew. I was gentle with it when loading up the car (the Audi, since the GTI had developed an oil leak at the front crank seal). Took lots of spare parts, clothes, food and camping gear, filling up not only the trunk as per usual but also half the back seat. Super Dave was my co-driver, so I let him fill the other half of the back seat. It was my plan to let him drive back Sunday afternoon when I would presumably be a little tired, but as we loaded his gear he said that he might be on a team via the internet. He had already planned to rent a bike and ride around, but this would involve a little more activity. Good thing his bike was in no shape to travel, because there was no room to take it along.
We zipped off to sit in Salt Lake construction for a bit, he picked up a light (I talked him into a Digital Pro 6-R *just like mine*) at the Provo REI, and we got to Moab in about 7 hours. Tricky and Dan had not arrived at the Super 8 yet, and Ma-Ne was out on the town or something (turns out he went to pre-ride and found a few other people there too) so I dropped Dave off at the campground with Jim and Maggie and went back to wait for someone, anyone at the Super 8.
Not much on the TV in the lobby (weather forecast to be nice, though) but it wasn't too long before Mike and Dan showed up. They asked why I hadn't just checked into the room, and since I had to pay for it anyway to get the VIP-card discount, this was a most pertinent question. Oh well. Then we checked in, found Ma-Ne and Ce-Ce when they came back, and traded some beer for a pre-ride report.
Very dusty with some fun rocks and ravines, was the report. Better than the snow last year, maybe. Mike tried to get out of the Le Mans start right up until 11:45 the next day, but after his amusing story about the last time, none of us wanted to try it either. I'm certainly no runner.
We all vowed to get up early and beat the rush out to the race site, forewarned by Ma-Ne's "LA traffic in the desert" simile. This we did, and after a coffee stop for those requiring caffeine to function, were off to the south. Ten miles on the highway, then turning off onto a road that could have been a lot smoother, the reddish fine dust that would be the weekend's theme became apparent. The Audi's tractive abilities were not challenged, but one frame scrape over a rock ledge reminded me that I was driving a very nice, low and fast car, not a Hummer.
After shelling out another ten bucks for site entry "camping privileges", we circled the wagons not too far from the start/finish corral, but unfortunately on the downwind side of the entry road. Set up camp, unpacked the bikes, went to get our packets (woo hoo, a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee with official 24 Hours of Moab logo) - T-shirts not included, tried to secure a charging source for lights since the expectation was two out of four rides would be in the dark. The NiteRider tech support vans were indeed there (this promise was the reason I chose the light I did) although the $2 charging fee was new and unexpected. Group pictures, everyone wearing RUCT jerseys of varying vintages. Everyone went for a spin on my bike, since the others were shorter and lighter it wasn't quite up to the potential of a well-set up dual suspension for them, but oh well. Everyone else had a fairly nice hardtail, equipment shouldn't be a problem.
And there was still time before the start to goof off and persuade Mike to run for us. He finally agreed, and everyone went over to the start area. Dave showed up with Jim and a rental bike, but his supposed team had blown him off so he was back to spectating once more.
Almost noon, time for the start. Inside the start/finish corral were the food stands, light-charging places, and registration tents (along one side, with results boards placed so as to be visible from inside the corral). Mike checked in and received our team baton (resembling a cigar but presumably containing no tobacco since the Lung Association was a sponsor), parked his bike in the racks past the registrar tents, and lined up with the other first-lap riders out past the racks. Upon the starting potato cannon shot, they all ran a hundred yards out and around a particular bush, then back and to the bikes. With close to the limit of three hundred team/individual entries, something had to be done to spread out the field. Mike did well until his pump fell out of his shorts right in front of us midway to the turnaround, then nearly got trampled trying to double back and pick it up. He failed to find it, but then sprinted to the front of the pack the rest of the way out and back, found the pump, and only lost a few places zagging over to snag it before hitting the bike "transition" area. And he was off on the first lap, leaving the rest of us with nothing better to do than go back to the tents and nap.
Although as designated second-lap rider I was actually semi-busy preparing for my first ride, Ma-Ne (third) and Dan (fourth) did find time for a little shut-eye. A few munchies, put on the bike clothes, and I went over and checked in with the registrar way too early. But I found a shady spot to sit down, and beat the rush. The first pros started coming in at just over one hour, and I had to wait another 20 minutes for Mike, trying to jostle and keep a place near the front of the waiting riders without getting in the way of the post-exchange riders heading out. I spotted Mike coming in and ran over to the appropriate table (90-120, we are team 107). The registrars note the time and must touch the baton before I can leave with it, then I run out to the bike rack - Dan has come to watch and helpfully points me to rack 3 instead of rack 2 where I was looking for my bike (why wasn't it there?). Then I'm off.
Right from the start the dust is thick on the trail, and in the last few laps this first part would be the hardest to navigate. Luckily the planned singletrack alongside the entry road was cut short, and we ride on the road for a mile or so instead, just like previous years. Kilometer markers 1 and 2 are on the road climbing slightly, before the trail departs from it to climb a bit more steeply. This is more Moab-ish riding than I have done in a while, rock shelves interspersed with dusty trail. The people I churned past on the roadie sections start to come by as the degree of difficulty increases. After a series of deeper and deeper ravines culminating in one that is just not possible to ride both into and out of (unless your name is Hans Rey, and I'd still have to see that one) then a few very loose sand/rocky descents, it opened up to some pretty flat jeep trail. I was all ready to just drop the hammer until I noticed the few sandy spots and chickened out to a more sensible speed. Turned out they weren't very deep, but not totally safe either.
That's about halfway. Then there were some slickrock-like sections, not a lot of odd contours like the actual Slickrock Trail, but riding on bare rock. Some terraces to ride down, more triple-down-arrows that mean I walk. Which kind of slows me down, but better than a broken arm or something stupid like that. Dave is out on the course with Jim as a roving spectator, I pass them at one of the loose-sandy descents. Then, just as I feel it's getting close to the end of the lap, there is a little climb with lots of energy-sapping loose rocks and sand. Oof. But finally that's done, and I can put the hammer down on the final couple kilometers, still watching for sand drifts across the dirt road.
I come past the campers, manage not to fall over in the "spectator-friendly" bumps leading into the chicane, stall in the dusty chicane, and hop into the registrars' tent to hand Ma-Ne the baton (after, of course, the registrar touches it). Then he's off, and it's my turn to rest. Whew. Look down at the watch, and I was only a couple minutes slower than Mike. Woo hoo, bet I can't do that again.
Now of course it's time to go eat, change, nap, and do all those things to get ready for the next ride. Like retrieve my battery, because it looks like I get the honor of the first night lap. This will be a treat. Not much napping going on, it's still too hot out. Doesn't stop me from eating, a little too much chips and salsa as it happens. Before long Ma-Ne returns from a smoking fast lap, and it's Danimal's turn. He does a good fast lap as well, then Mike goes out again and I start fiddling with my headlight as twilight approaches.
He comes back just before dark, and I don't need the light for the first flat section of road, but then of course it gets darker and I turn on my light (inadvertently to the medium setting instead of high). Not too bad, I make it through the ravines about the same as before. Maybe getting a little tired and more cautious in the dark, but that's to be expected. It seems the spotlight-type headlight beam needs to be adjusted in aim between rock-crawling and fast-flat angles, but that might not have been a factor in what will become a feature of each remaining lap, a bit of a tradition, the slow endo on a convenient descending terrace. Not. Quite. Enough. Speed. To. Work. That. Particular. Line. This first occasion is right in front of a group standing around a campfire. They approve.
The rest of the lap is relatively trouble-free, though my bike begins to make interesting noises on the last climb before the hammer section, and some of the sand drifts look a bit scarier at night. The battery shows good endurance, at least. Probably all that fine red dust isn't doing my nice new shock and drivetrain pieces any favors. I come in and hand off, and head for a spaghetti dinner after turning in my battery for recharging. This lap was, how shall we say, a little slower than the previous one. Oh well, first night race and all that. After eating, I go back to my tent and try to sleep a bit (it's around 9pm now, nice and cool).
Sleeping doesn't go that well, Ma-Ne comes in after a fairly fast night lap, Danimal has some trouble with his bargain light (still a bargain?) but that doesn't slow him down too much. Mike goes out on his first night lap, and I go pick up my battery and fiddle with the bike. Maybe some lube on the pedals would help? Why not.
Time passes, and it's now late night when I start my second night lap (not that Mike had a bad lap or anything, time just passes). Perhaps I'm getting tired, maybe?, but I am walking more on the technical parts. I also briefly get lost, stand there and look dumb for a minute until someone rides along behind me on the correct trail. And oh yes, again the slow-speed endo. I'm not all that cold, stylishly wearing my third Rice jersey (the long-sleeve white one), but the brain has a certain 2am numbness. Eventually I find my way to the end of the lap, and hand off to Ma-Ne. Somehow my front derailleur won't shift, it just grinds away in the middle ring. Not helpful. Boy, that was a really slow one, I kind of feel I let the team down. My light's battery gauge was reading on empty too, from a not-full charge or just being out there a long time. But I stumble off to take a nap anyway, dropping the battery off on the way just in case someone else needs it.
Indeed there is a certain amount of light swapping going on back at camp, but I'm too tired to catch the details. The moon is up now, almost full, but the temperature is starting to drop as well. I bundle up in the sleeping bag and try to catch a nap.
A couple hours later, after some fitful sleep, I figure I might want to take a look at the bike, so I better get out of bed. Ok. Seems the abundant local dust was gumming up the cable sheaths, causing the housing to ride along with the cable, which combined with the derailleur's spring action popped the shifter end of the housing loose out of the shifter and jammed it there. Thus the grinding non-shifting action. A little cleaning and lube, and it works, well, about as well as before it jammed. There's some oil-soaked dust on the rear shock tube too, hope that will survive another lap or so. I've been too busy to mess with the lockout while "on the fly", but there aren't that many non-bumpy long climbs or paved sections on this course anyway.
Mike broke a spoke on of his night rides so he was using one of my spare wheels, with his own tire though. Must have been riding harder than I was, and with the lap times to prove it. Through the night I would periodically wander by the status boards outside the registrars tents, and it looked like we were close to two laps behind the leading sport man team by the time I started my fourth lap.
Though the horizon was starting to lighten, it was getting pretty cold, and I had my thermal undershirt from Lo--to-Ja on under my last Rice jersey. Rishi Grewal came in right before Mike, had the registrar touch his baton (huh huh, huh huh), and took off while I was jogging out to my bike. Then I went out and caught him, so that was my achievement for the lap, passing Rishi Grewal. So what if he had been riding for 18 hours straight at that point, and went right by me when the ravines started up again? It was pretty light out by then, no headlight needed anymore, but still quite chilly. My brain was still about as numb as various outer body parts. Never really had any trouble from the recently-re-sprained wrist, though.
So, though not as much dazed stumbling as the late night lap, some did happen. And of course the slo-mo endo, wouldn't want to disappoint my fans. Yes, I did select a different location each time - but none were unobserved. And a little faster time than the night laps, but not as fast as my first one. I was into the last several kilometers before I started adding lap times in my head and realized that I wouldn't even "get" to ride another lap (our goal was of course to make each person do five) and in fact Mike might get off with only four as well. I pushed as much as I could, but that would be up to the next riders, in the good light.
Then I was done, and handed off the baton to Ma-Ne for his last lap. Back at camp Dan and Mike were talking strategy. It looked possible for Dan to come in just before noon, but did we send Mike out again (thereby finishing ahead of all other teams not completing as many laps) or just call it good? Mike said he wouldn't hold it against us, so we let Dan's legs decide and he did come back at about 11:45. Many other teams were observed to be stopping, but we were out for glory. Off Mike went.
Not much for me to do but fold up camp, picked up my battery, there was some kind of talking going on over the PA but awards weren't going to be until three or so. Mike came back around one, handed our baton over, and that was that. Good job everybody, and mail us the results, we are out of here. I went and picked up Dave from Jim's camp spot in town, and we had a late lunch at Eddie McStiff's.
After that I reclined in the passenger seat and left the driving to Dave. I was kind of beat. Huh? Gas stop, ok. Huh? Dave's house, I have to wake up and drive home? Uh oh, now Dave *really* wants an Audi. We got back in about the same elapsed time as the trip down.
Only Mike, as team captain, got a full copy of the results (abridged version at http://www.grannygear.com) but he was kind enough to share the rankings, along with lap times that matched what I wrote down from our status board.
The official results from Mike:
Ha, A Tricky 'ne for Danimal got 17th out of 82 men's sport teams (1) sport team with 19 laps, ( 6) with 18 and (10) of us with 17 laps Rishi had (16) laps finishing at 12:16. Men's Pro team winner (22) laps finishing @12:18.
Men's expert winner (20) Laps finishing @ 12:00. Women's Pro team winner (16) laps@ 12:02.
So we beat Rishi and the women.
Mike Dan Manny HAH 1:21 1:18 1:15 1:22 1:16 1:32 1:28 1:34 1:32 1:41 1:33 1:50 1:37 1:24 1:23 1:38 1:28 ------ ------ ------ ------ 7:14 5:55 5:39 6:24 --------------
My lap times were comparable to the winning clydesdale team, whatever that means.
Thus ended the season of bike racing, 1998.