The 2015 24-12-6 Hour World Time Trial Championships
I’ve written this down as best I can from my muddled memory, challenged by lack of sleep and deprived of oxygen to the brain. If some things seem out of order they probably are. If some things seem like they don’t make sense, they probably don’t. And if some things seem improbable, it’s because I made shit up just to make us look more epic than we really are.
Lap 1 – Rich, 6:04 pm
Just like last year, I took the line for the first lap. Terry (my brother) and I never discussed it, that’s just the way it is. And just like last year, I went out a little hot. That, too, is just the way it is. I started in the 4th of four waves, with the rest of the multi-rider teams. This meant that once we got rolling, a constant string of riders stretched out in front of me, enticing me to quicken my pace a bit in order to pass them. I chased a never ending string of blinking red taillights, like mobile holiday lights strung out on an 18 mile loop from Christmas Circle.
At one point I found myself in a snarl of 8 or so riders who filled the lane from centerline to edge of pavement, and I had just passed a guy who’s pace was a little faster than I should have been going. But now that I passed him, I had to KEEP going so as not to hang him up in the traffic. The group was spread out evenly across the full lane like a marching band, so I jumped the double yellow and started rolling around the whole bunch in the other lane. Then I saw headlights coming the other way. No immediate danger, they were a long way off, but I pushed the pace a bit more just to be sure I got cleanly around everyone long before it became an issue. In the dark I couldn’t see my Garmin, but I could feel that my heart rate and breathing had definitely spiked higher than I had intended, especially for the first lap of a 24 hour race…no electronics necessary to tell me that.
I reached down and tapped my Garmin. 28mph. Crap. Definitely letting adrenaline get the best of me. Relax. Settle back down to a more reasonable pace. The voices in my head are so practical at times like this.
As I regained my composure, I watched that guy I had passed earlier come back around me. I kept him in sight as I ground out the rest of the lap and rolled into the pits knowing I had pushed it too hard, but felt good about the starting lap. Terry waited eagerly on the far side of the timing tables, one foot clipped in, ready to go. I gave him a shout of encouragement…something along the lines of, “let’s go bonehead!”, and off he rolled.
Lap 2 – Rich, 6:46 pm
My goal between laps was to spend as many of my 50 to 60 minutes as possibly laying on the couch in my brother’s incredibly comfy 200-foot-long motorhome, eating and drinking as much as I could manage without making myself sick. I suppose that’s about as close to a race strategy as I possessed. After my first lap, I had just gotten settled in on the couch with a banana and some Gatorade, when my cell phone rang. The screen showed it was Terry calling. This couldn’t be good.
Me: “What’s up?”
Terry: “Headlight failed. I’m at the right turn after the zig-zag”
I knew he had no spare light with him, because we had talked about it before the race, but of course…had done nothing about it. I didn’t know the race course well enough to realize that he was only at mile 6 of the lap, at the intersection of Henderson Canyon Road and Borrego Valley Road. Sitting here now in the relative calm and comfort of my living room, I know that the most sensible thing would have been to let the race director know that my brother needed a ride back to the pits, and I could just start that lap over immediately. Sure, we would give up those 6 miles he had already ridden, but that would only be something like 15 minutes of time, and it would ensure that we were back on the road without any further issues. But that’s not what I did. Instead, I found the race director and had him take my light out to Terry so he could continue on with his lap. Something bothered me about that plan as I put it into action, I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
With that problem seemingly solved, I headed back to the motorhome to find that MY spare light wasn’t working. Perfect! I went next door to Greg Musser’s trailer and knocked on the door, knowing I was likely going to be costing his crew some sleep. Mark Shalauta, one of his two stellar crew members, helped me find a spare light from Greg’s stores and I headed back to the motorhome to get it mounted. The clamp wasn’t big enough to fit around the crossbar I had fitted into my aerobars, but I was able to get it mounted with a couple of zip ties. Good enough for who it’s for! Just as I was settling back in to rest, my phone rang again.
Terry: “Light died again. Only a couple hundred yards further. Think it’s the battery.”
Voices in my head: “FFFFFUUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKK!!!!”
I told him to sit tight and somebody would pick him up and drive him back to the pits, while I went out to ride the lap. I then called Race HQ and let them know that my brother was already wimping out and needed a ride back to the pits (no joke, that’s what I said. They just said, “OK”). By the time I got rolling for the second start of our second lap, we had lost about 50 minutes…way more than we would have lost had I just started riding immediately after the problem had begun. Live and learn!
Out on the road I was making good time. I was about halfway around when suddenly my borrowed light was shining straight up into my face. I reached down and pushed it back where it should be but as soon as I let go it went back to pointing up into my face. The zip ties had slipped so that the light would no longer stay in place, but I couldn’t pull it off the bar completely because the zip ties were laced through the light housing. I rode the rest the lap holding one aerobar with my left hand, and the light with my right. I was a tad frustrated. But this is ultra-racing, and adversity comes with the territory. I finally found my way, partially by brail, back into the pits, and gratefully handed back off to Terry. He had his light situation completed handled by then. If by some chance we find ourselves back out there next year, you can bet we’ll have spare lights mounted on both bikes, and we’ll make sure they’re all working before the starting bell rings.
Lap 3 – Terry, 8:26 pm
While Terry was finally out finishing his first lap, I set my original headlight back up so I’d be ready for my next lap, then settled in to eat a PBJ sandwich and relax a bit. We were now 2 and half hours in, had covered about 2/3 of the miles we should have, and I had barely eaten anything. Rest time for this lap was short, and unrestful, and as I got up to get ready for my next lap I could tell the temperature was dropping fast out there. I put on the new ASSOS tights and light jacket given to me just for this occasion by Hans Bergman (my hero!), and headed back down to the exchange point to wait. I didn’t wait too long, as Terry killed his first full lap. Finally we’re racing!
Lap 4 – Rich, 9:18 pm
Things started to hurt a bit more than expected on lap 4. I didn’t have anything specific to attribute it to, but my neck was aching (way too early for that!), I was a little headachy, and just generally not feeling very powerful. I only chanced a few looks at my Garmin during this lap, and was relieved to see that I was still moving at a reasonable pace, but I was worried about how I was feeling. Probably just needed to get into a rhythm, I thought. Aside from feeling kinda meh, and the rapidly dropping temps, nothing much to say about Lap 4. I handed the reins back to Terry and quickly headed back to the motorhome for what I hoped would be my first good uninterrupted rest of the race.
Lap 5 – Terry, 10:08 pm
Once back to the motorhome, I noticed that Terry had fired up the heater, which felt good as I settled into the couch with an Ensure and another Gatorade. I set the alarm on my phone for 40 minutes into the future, pounded the liquid calories, and closed my eyes. As I cooled off from the effort of the last lap, I started to feel a little chilly, and covered up with a sleeping bag. I actually shivered for a little while until I finally warmed up and got comfortable. I don’t think I ever actually slept on this break, but I did get to relax and keep my legs up so I could prepare for the next lap. Solo racers are not so lucky!
Lap 6 – Rich, 11:02 pm
I knew we had time to make up from the headlight fiasco, and I was determined to keep my average pace over 20mph, so I pushed out hard on Lap 6. Also, with the temps now falling into the 40s, I wanted to get moving and up to operating temperature as quickly as possible. By the time I got to the first right turn (about 3 miles into the lap), I was warm, but still not feeling exactly right. I was able to push out the lap at an average pace over 20, but had the first thoughts of, “why am I doing this?” Not a good sign with so few hours behind and so many ahead. “Shut up and pedal stupid, you chose this”, the friendly voice in my head shouted.
When I got back to the pits Terry was waiting there with his bike, under what looked like a pile of blankets that Greg Musser’s crew had generously layered on him as he waited. I was glad to see it, because it meant that I was likely to get the same treatment when I came back out to wait, and also that I would have Mark and Teresa Beck to chat with between laps. We had been adopted by these two the year before, and they are great company to have around when you’re suffering!
Lap 7 – Terry, 11:56 pm
I got back to the motorhome and quickly got under the covers on the couch so I wouldn’t get chilled like last time. But after about 5 minutes to cool down from the effort, I again started to shiver. This time the cold and shivering lasted much longer before I finally warmed up some, but I never really got totally comfortable. This in spite of the fact that the heater was blasting away inside the motorhome. I started to wonder if my blah feeling on the bike and the way I was getting so cold between pulls was a sign of something sinister, like the onset of a cold or something. I didn’t have too much time to think about it before the phone alarm went off and it was time to get out there for another lap.
Lap 8 – Rich, 12:51 am
I got down to the course and posted up with my bike to wait for Terry to finish his lap. Thankfully, Mark was there waiting for Greg to come in, and he piled a couple of blankets on me to keep me warm as I waited. Terry came in right on schedule, and commented on the double jacket layers I had donned. “I’m freezing,” I replied. “Can’t even get warm between laps.”
“You need to get out of your wet stuff between laps,” he shouted as I ditched the blankets and rolled away. That’s one of the funny things about doing this race as a two man team with my brother. We’re out there racing together for 24 hours, but we only see each other for about 10 seconds at a time, once every hour (perfect for us, really). On some laps I would plan exactly what I was going to say…some line that seemed really funny or something…and then totally forget to say it once I got there. But it’s great at the end of the race when we get to relax with a beer in hand and compare notes about the whole ordeal.
Anyway, Lap 8 was sluggish to start. It took me a while to get warm and up to speed, but I was able to maintain a reasonable pace, although each consecutive lap so far had been a bit slower than the one before. I still didn’t feel like I was firing on all cylinders.
Lap 9 – Terry, 1:48 am
Again I found Terry shedding blankets as I rolled in. He reminded me to get out of my wet gear before I settled in, and was off into the dark for another 18 miles. I quickly headed for the motorhome, and did exactly as he said, and it was brilliant. It pains me a great deal to say that about advice given by my brother, but whatever…everyone gets lucky every now and then.
I kept the ASSOS tights on, but stripped off the two layers of jackets and jersey I was wearing, and hung them on a floor pump in front of a heater vent to dry. I toweled off a bit and then quickly jumped under a sleeping bag on the couch and I was immediately warm and comfy. While I relaxed, I got a text from Adam Bickett, asking how things were going. I told him things were cold mostly, but we were doing OK. He let me know he would be leaving soon, to ride out from his place to see us…a nice little solo double century training ride that he would start from his place at 3:00AM. Such is the life of a solo RAAM racer!
After hearing from Adam, I was comfy and warm on the couch during this break. I think I even managed to doze off for a bit before my phone chirped, and it was time to get back to racing.
Lap 10 – Rich, 2:46 am
“Good call on the wet clothes!” I called to Terry as we made the exchange. I rolled out and tried to settle into a solid cadence as my legs warmed back up. To my surprise, I seemed to have more power and felt more comfortable than I had for the past couple laps. I relaxed in the aero bars, and don’t remember feeling any of the aches or pains from earlier, and I was able to maintain my pace with far less mental negotiations with those doubting voices in my head. It was still plenty cold out, but things were looking up on this lap!
When I got back into the pits, I yelled, “Much better” to Terry, but he didn’t mirror my enthusiasm.
“My lungs feel terrible,” he replied.
“You want me to do another lap?” I asked, willing…but hoping he would decline the offer.
“Naw, let’s see how it goes. But this might be it for me.”
I was shocked to hear this from Terry. Anyone who’s ever been around this guy knows that he’s basically bulletproof. If he was complaining about something, then it must be serious.
Lap 11 – Terry, 3:42 am
I found my way back to the motorhome and settled back in, hoping Terry would be OK. My concern for him kept me up for at least 35 seconds once I was out of my wet gear and under the covers on the couch. All I remember of this break was the sound of my alarm waking me back up, and remarking to myself about how it was getting harder and harder to get off the couch.
Lap 12 – Rich, 4:44 am
To my surprise, when Terry rolled in from his lap, he said he was doing OK. He said once he got back to riding his lungs felt better. Cool! I rolled out for lap #12. Just like my last lap, once I started to warm up I felt pretty good. Things were definitely going better for me, in spite of riding through the cold dark night. My euphoria lasted for about 10 miles of the 18 mile lap. And then I realized that I had been making the most rookie of all mistakes. You may not have caught it, but I haven’t mentioned anything about food in my last two breaks. I was so concerned with getting myself warm and comfy and resting, that I had pretty much been ignoring calorie intake. And now it had caught up to me like a ton of bricks, which might as well be tied to the back of my bike for the speed I was now going. I knew I had about half a lap left, including that annoying little 2-3% grinder at the end, but I had nothing with me except water. All I could do was try to stay aero and grind it out. Stupid stupid STUPID!!! How does one completely forget to eat while doing an endurance cycling event! Turns out, it’s actually pretty easy to do, especially when you’ve been battling other discomforts. I like racing without a crew, for the most part…but there are times when a clear head would be helpful!
Eventually I forced my way back to the start/finish line at what felt like a walking pace, and handed off to Terry. I was a good 5 minutes longer than my slowest lap so far, at about 2mph slower average pace.
I yelled, “Damn, I need calories!” as I rolled up to Terry.
He replied, “Go eat, bonehead!”
Brilliant Terry…great advice. Go eat bonehead. I’ll do that.
Lap 13 – Terry, 5:45 am
Back at the mobile Taj Mahal, I slammed an Ensure, a banana, two slices of bread with peanut butter and a Gatorade. That should get me back on track. I then lay down to rest knowing that the sun would be coming up when I got up for my next lap. Oh how I looked forward to that! I didn’t sleep much during this break, but rested as my stomach worked away at the calories I had shoved into it.
Lap 14 – Rich, 6:45 am
With the sun up, I decided on only one jacket, but stayed with the tights for this lap. When Terry rolled in he said his lungs were fine while he was riding, just not great lying down. He seemed chipper enough, and I was glad to see him feeling better. Daybreak is an incredible boost on these overnight affairs! On this lap my stomach definitely felt like I had just eaten an enormous amount of calories, but at least I was able to turn over the pedals and maintain a reasonable pace. And did I mention, the sun was up! It felt great to finally be able to see the roads we were racing on.
Lap 15 – Terry, 7:41 am
Don’t recall the conversation at this exchange, not that it matters. Terry and I said something inane to one another, then he headed out for another lap and I rolled back to the motorhome. At this point I knew it was going to be warm enough for shorts on my next lap, so I stripped off those amazing ASSOS tights, donned a fresh pair of bibs. I then fell deeply asleep for about 30 minutes, and woke up just before the alarm went off. Sure sign that I was getting into the rhythm. I was out in the sunshine, smiling away as I waited for Terry to roll in. His average speed had slowed a bit, as to be expected after a long night of racing, but his snarling scowl and nasty demeanor let me know that everything was going OK with him.
Lap 16 – Rich, 8:42 am
The calories from two laps back had finally been turned into fuel, and with the warming morning sunshine I felt great! This lap is a prime example of why it’s worth battling through multiple layers of adversity, in order to experience the deep felt euphoria that comes from pushing yourself harder than you think you might be capable. This wasn’t my fastest lap of the race, but it was definitely the lap that I will remember as my best. I just felt GOOD on this lap, and I knew that Terry and I would be able to finish this thing strong. I’m sure that my actual thoughts were even more corny than that, but you get the idea. THIS is why I came out the desert…to ride this lap!
Lap 17 – Terry, 9:34 am
I rolled into the pits to find Terry looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, chomping at the bit to get rolling. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. He actually looked like he had been hit by a truck, and could use a shower and a nice strong cup of coffee. But whatever, my lap was done…it was his turn. I watched him roll out and saw him struggling to get clipped in. I felt a little bad for him, knowing how as you get tired even the simplest things can become challenging, and knowing that everyone else around was watching him struggle just to get clipped in. As supportive as I could muster, I shouted, “You know those things connected to your feet are what make it go”. Got a few chuckles from the peanut gallery, then off to rest in the motorhome.
Lap 18 – Rich, 10:36 am
Not too far into Lap 18 I came upon the legend that is Seana Hogan (if you don’t know…google her, she’s all that and more!). She was riding solo, and easy to spot as she’s always pushing a huge gear, even when 16 hours into a 24 hour race. I yelled something lame like, “keep turning them over Seana, you’re awesome!”, and she generously replied “you too!”. This is what I love about this event. I get to ride on course with legends like Seana! I gave her a fist-pump as I rolled along. I wonder where this fist-pump thing came from. It’s a very satisfying gesture, that just comes naturally when you’re doing something like a 24 hour time trial. Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that raising your arms makes you look bigger, which would be an advantage when engaging in a life threatening altercation, or when hunting or something…
Oh sorry, was I wandering? Yep, that happens out on course too. I can only imagine where my mind would go if I was capable of doing this solo!
Lap 19 – Terry, 11:30 am
During this exchange a guy with a video camera ran up and filmed our interchange, in which I said something like “Hey Terry, you’re really doing great”, and he replied with something like “fuck you.” That might not have been exactly what we said, but that’s how I remember it. I only hope that the video makes it out onto the internet so you can all experience the brilliance of our repartee. In any case, Terry was off racing, and I was off to sleep some more. I texted with my amazing and ever-supportive wife Vicki, who watched the race via the updates on the 24 Hour Worlds website. She let me know that we had battled our way back into 2nd place among the teams, with only Beau and Babe ahead of us. I assured her that we were doing everything we could to close that gap, then settled in for a snoozer.
Lap 20 – Rich, 12:31 pm
Self Portrait – David Whyte, from Fire in the Earth
It doesn’t interest me if there is one God or many gods. I want to know if you belong or feel abandoned.
If you know despair or can see it in others. I want to know if you are prepared to live in the world with its harsh need to change you. If you can look back with firm eyes saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know how to melt into that fierce heat of living falling toward the center of your longing. I want to know if you are willing to live, day by day, with the consequence of love and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat. I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.
Folks who know me well know that sometimes I recite poetry, either in my head or out loud, when I’m riding. It’s either a sign that I’m dialed in and totally in the zone, or that I’m struggling and trying to get my mind off the pain. In this case I recited this David Whyte gem a number of times, out loud, as I circled the route for the 10th time. I felt tired, but good, and was pulling out every trick I had to try and keep my average up over 20mph. I didn’t succeed for this lap, but my personal average was still there.
Lap 21 – Terry, 1:25 pm
I rolled into the pits, but no sign of my brother. Teri Beck saw the confused look on my face and jumped in to try to help, but there wasn’t really anything to be done. I said, “Let me roll down and see where he is,” and the commotion of us talking attracted some attention around us in the pits. Then I looked down to the other end of the pits where our motorhome was parked, and saw Terry rolling my way.
“There he is” I said, and then shouted something encouraging to him like, “Sorry, did I wake you?”
That was all it took to get the rest of the entertainment starved officials and crew members milling about to join in to heckle my brother. I heard shouts of “Come on old man”, and “Hey, hussle up!”. It warmed my heart to see all these folks I didn’t really know, coming together in my support…and more importantly, to attach my brother for being late the party.
Terry, of course, was completely undeterred, and headed out for another lap.
Lap 22 – Rich, 2:32 pm
Out of the saddle, get the speed up.
Immediate right to roll out onto the course, the nice big pedal strokes to maintain speed as you warm up.
Turn Right, watch out for that big gouge right in the apex of the corner.
Right, then quick left…don’t cut it too tight, watch out for cars coming the other way.
Right turn, followed by the best pavement of the whole course, slight downhill…bliss!
Run the stop sign, at the direction of the flag-person of course.
Keep the speed up for the rest of this straight-away, then curve left
Curve right and grind out the little riser that looks like it should be downhill. WTF?
Turn right at the abandoned gas station, and start the uphill.
At the place where they trenched out the asphalt for a gas pipe then refilled it, finally start the downhill. Easy from here!
Push it hard all the way back to Christmas Circle, turn right, then back to the pits.
And that’s what a lap of the 24 Hour Worlds feels like.
Lap 23 – Terry, 3:27 pm
I rolled out to wait for Terry to finish our last big lap, and start the short laps. As I headed toward the exchange point, I heard my name and saw Adam (the wildebeest) Bickett rolling by me going the other way. He turned back and I could see by the salt on his face that he had just rolled in from his little 200 mile training ride. We talked for just a moment as we pulled up to the spot where I would wait for Terry, and were immediately joined by David Haase (2nd place in RAAM 2015). Another highlight of my race, chatting with these two giants of the ultracycling world as I waited for my brother to arrive.
Short Laps – Rich, 4:30 pm
With the exceptional timing that he’s known for, Terry rolled into the pits just minutes after the short-lap bell rang. This meant that I could enjoy the relative comfort of the perfectly flat 4.8 mile short lap for the next 80-90 minutes, rather than suffering through another long lap with that nasty climb that seemed to get longer and steeper with every lap.
I pushed out 5 short laps just as hard as I could go, then called it quits. As I entered the pits for the last time, heard congratulatory shouts from a number of folks as I rolled toward the back of the pits to find Terry and Adam waiting back at the motorhome. Terry and I smiled at each other, and that marked the end of our race. No big fanfare, no high-fives or fist-pumps. We both just smiled, and called it a day.
I’m sorry if the ending is a bit anticlimactic, especially if you’ve actually suffered through every last chapter of this enormously verbose race report, but I’m afraid that’s just the way we do it. If asked, we would have said, “we are celebrating”.
I hope that this little recap will inspire some of you folks out there who are intrigued by this whole ultracycling thing, to find a partner or 3, and get yourselves out to Borrego next November to celebrate my birthday, and race the the 24 Hour Worlds Time Trial! There is no better event to get your feet wet!