Tuesday, May 15, 2012

18hrs of Fruita Recap

Maybe two weeks to go before 18hrs of Fruita, Greg McRoberts and Jon Gould’s teammates from Sage dropped out leaving two vacant spots for the registered 4 person team.  It only took them two calls and the spots were filled.  Brian Price and I (Zuber) would be the 3rd and 4th members!
Due to work limitations half of the team departed Wed May 2nd to take advantage of the Fruita trail system on that Thursday whereas Brian and I joined up Friday morning after a long drive through the night which deposited us somewhere in the desert for some needed sleep.

Impromptu camp en route to Fruita. Who packed the bikes?
Check-in for camping at the event opened in the afternoon so we stocked up on last minute groceries grabbed some coffee in town and headed out to the course for check-in and a pre-ride.

The campground was the best I’ve seen at an event; shaded camping, grassy spots, nice loops and the course went right through.  After setting up camp we did 2 laps on the 6.5mile course; considered that as good as it was going to get and went to check on the cooler.  After rehydrating and relaxing a bit we headed back into town for some good food at one of the local breweries.  Sufficiently fueled we returned to the campground/event and spend the evening filling the air with humorous stories and friendly banter, last minute adjustments and tire selections (okay; only Brian) and a few cat naps.

Night was upon us and midnight was just around the corner.  Earlier the responsibility of team captain and the person to do the first lap was being tossed around.  Being of least seniority (said with tongue in cheek) I was tasked with changing the team name to something more provocative, checking in the team and doing the first lap… No, I’m not sure how this happened…maybe it was a initiation thing, having been the only team member no to have done an 18 or 24hr race before?  I guess there are those of us that are able to take advantage of pre race excitement and those of us who do not consider consequences under the same circumstances…

Race Camp

There was an 11:30 pre-race meeting before the race kicked off at midnight.  Being the first lapper, I readied myself among the restful breathing of sleeping team mates.   No one was sleeping too deeply and everyone was down at the starting area by 11:45.  I rolled around the beach area along the larger of the two lakes we’d be racing along boarders of with several other riders on pugsleys (fatbikes), one of which had 6 water bottles and a mounted stereo playing motivational music to fight back the depth of the night…  Where the race would start was anyone’s guess.  The strategy turned out to be: get there early, start the crowd or linger in the largest gathering and let the promoter approach you.  No need to fear eye-contact.  In fact if you’re positioned right, you get handed the tequila bottle.  I was positioned perfectly.  Take the first pull – pass.  Surprisingly it was top shelf and went down smooth and kicked the slight chill finding it’s hold over my body…

A line was drawn in the sand…..riders lined up…. Three choices were given: 1) sprint around the nearest bathroom facility 2) grab a partner and do a wheelbarrow race around the closest clump of trees or 3) jump (flip not required) into the water; whereupon the promoter would hold everyone else back and let you take the whole shot.  I don’t recall anyone opting for #3.  I hear my name cheered from Jon from the dark shrouding the gathered spectators…“We should start sometime around….NOW!”  I sprinted out of the pack I had worked to get to the front of and ran in a clockwise direction to navigate the restroom.  This is where the rest of the team reunites as Brian and Greg realize that there are 50+ people running straight towards them!  Brain provides a nice feature to grab and sling around at the first corner of the restroom maintaining good momentum….to use to slam into a counter clockwise runner!  Mark running chest bump with a strange man in tights off the to do list…   Dodged a few wheelbarrows, back on the sand, grab the bike, navigate ~10people/bikes on the ground and I’m off! 

Passed a couple people right off before leaving the beach as they fumbled with their lights (turn them on before the word “GO!”) and the race to the first corner was left to myself and one of the fatbikes!  Fortunately he was kind enough to allow that brief window of ‘pass me now or forever buzz my wheel’ and the whole-shot was mine for the first climb we figured everyone was going to be stacked up on!

The remainder of the race was eerie quiet as I flushed out any rabbits remaining along the trail.  Lights snaked their way over the course stretching ever longer as I rounded the first lake.  This was one of two spectacular night views I was able to glance at as I fought my way around flat, gravely, hairpin turns on a 15ft bluff leading directly into the lake below… Not a place to overshoot a turn at night… (I did crash on the very first switchback, and would do that three more times) Rounding the second lake, descending along the lake’s spillway before the final two switchbacks leading back to camp I could make out the cheers of the crowd high up on the dam cheering on all the riders…  It was quite nice to receive the brunt of the cheering crowd’s excitement as we started to put a close on lap 1.

I later learned that the pugsley thought I puked on the first climb and there was at least one rider somewhere up front that did a great job holding many people up and only 4 others managed to get by the pugsley that first lap.  The lead gained off the beach lengthened over the 6.5miles and by the time the first lap was complete the fastest lap of the race was recorded and team 4-play would be able to continue at least two more laps without worrying about fighting to get around anyone until people started to get lapped around lap 3 through the end of the race…  That was the best I could have hoped for!  Maybe the 18/24hr veterans’ gamble on pre race excitement wasn’t so cold-calculated after all? J  Or perhaps I need to start buying different tequila!

Jon seamlessly transitioned from my lap 1 to lap 2 followed by Brian for lap 3 and Greg sealed our first rotation completing lap 4.  Our team decided to take one lap rotations, leaving about a half hour racing and an hour and a half of recovery.  The team behind us (for 8hrs at least) were doing 2 lap rotations, allowing each rider 3hrs of recovery!  We did do a 2 lap rotation at about hour 10 after Brian mysteriously pushed his XX carbon rear derailleur to its structural limits (warranty pending).  After Brian’s mishap, we lost a little time, but nothing that would slide us back into first place.  The trailing team slowly closed on our lead minute by minute, lap by lap until they started their own gap, minute by minute until they wound up about 20min and 1 lap ahead of us.

Fueling was a bit of an issue for me this race and probably didn’t help my dry, unproductive coughing fits either remnant from some sort of infection I had the week(s) before or the dust from the course or a combo of both.  The borrowed Stinger Chews from both Jon and Brian (THANKS!) kept me functioning and some Stinger Gels I brought allowed me to continue riding normally.  Fueling for multiple hour team races does not seem to differ much from 100mile endurance events, although you don’t have to fuel on the bike, which should open up your options, if you have an appetite!  All the food I brought (junk food) didn’t seem quite right and I couldn’t bring myself to eat any.  High calorie food like gels and chews were my go to.  I wish Stinger had come through a bit earlier in their support this year (course they didn’t monitor sports stores and tell me I couldn’t buy their product until after I received what I ordered through their site – I’m just lazy).  I would have liked to have fueled better (Angela reads that as “I wish I had been more self reliant and responsible” She’s right. J ) I guess that’s what HC100 will be for this year! (Chews are in the mail!)

It would be nice to hear what the rest of the team’s take was on the race.  I had a great time, wish I had more time, or had felt better to chat more with everyone, but racing/fueling/sleeping was at the top of most of our lists.  Perhaps two or three teams of 4 would provide all the banter a guy/gal would want at one of these races, there were several groups that did this and they looked like they were able to feed off each other and keep the cheering/racing going strong more easily (or at least with more noise) – so consider doing an event like this, celebrate biking and bike culture with fellow cyclists from all parts of the western states and grab 12 of your local riders and head on down!  I’d love to hear of your interests!

Well done to team 4-play from Boise – 2nd place!  You gave a good showing and walked away with some woodware to display at your home or office!  Congrats and see you on the trails!
Team 4-Play (L to R): Eric Zuber, Brian Price, Jon Gould and Greg McRoberts