Race Report: 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo

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Wow.

What an amazing race!  It all came together so perfectly for me that I broke down sobbing after my final lap out of relief and happiness that finally I felt like I proved what I was capable of on a bicycle.

So backtrack… I’ve wanted to do this race ever since my coach and his buddy finished 5th in Duo Men at last year’s event.  When I saw an email from my very new-to-me bike team at the time asking if anybody was game for the final spot, I immediately jumped on it without really giving anything strong consideration.  That’s it, I was doing the 2015 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo on a four women team!

I’ve never done a 24 hour endurance race, and my previous half hearted attempts at endurance mountain bike racing haven’t gone so well (I didn’t even start in the Stone Temple 8 in 2013, and of course my nagging DNF in the Laramie Enduro the same year…).  I didn’t really know what to expect, except I wanted to race my bike super fast and see how my early season training panned out.  During my pre-ride I actually wasn’t that impressed with the course, and started daydreaming about cheese halfway through and almost felt disappointment.  After eating some cheese, I looped the last 3 mile stretch again, which is the most “technical” it gets with some rocky sections and of course the rock drop at the end and felt a bit better about it.

Lap 1 – 2:32pm – 1:14:35
I was super nervous going into my first lap.  Being so late in the day I was worried about how my nutrition would be, and the winter heat I’m not use to, and just about what would happen.  I didn’t really warm up more than just doing some sprints on the roads in 24 Hour Town, and then staged my bike and took to standing the exchange tent.  Katey came through and I grabbed the baton and sprinted out and got on my bike and just hammered off.  Damn, the course is FUN at full race speed!

I was in a group of about 5 or 6 leaving the tent which lead to some traffic on the single track.  Once to the Bitches I was able to pass them on the climbs.  I hammered out the climbs on the Bitches and felt pretty damn good.  On the long straightaway I made sure to hydrate and just keep hammering.  I’ve always been a “power rider” on the mountain biker, but thought I lost that ability when I began to get really well at technical sections, so this was the first time in a long time I felt powerful on the bike.  I attacked a lot of the short punchy climbs out of the saddle, and was consistently passing people I came up upon.  I was shocked to see myself flying down the single track sections at 15-20mph, but felt confident the corners – even more so that I FINALLY stopped running 30psi in my tires and went to a bit of a more normal pressure for tubeless.

I settled into a good temp on the single track sections with the headwind and after a few miles of ignoring the headwind I settled in behind two guys who were holding an awesome pace down His and Hers Trails.  They kept asking if I wanted to pass, but I just tucked in as I know they were pacing me well.  I felt a stinging on the inside of my right ankle and looked down and had some cholla attached to it, so I had to ignore that stinging (it would fall off on its own before the finish).  We spit out near a campsite and they pulled off so I was once again on my own and soon was on High Point Trail, which is a decent climb of a few miles until a final descent back to the finish.  I was still feeling super strong and didn’t struggle on the climbing, though this is the section where I ran into the most slow moving traffic (and seemed to be where I would run into the most people on all of my laps).

The descent went well, and I let one of the guys from earlier in front of me which helped set a good pace back to the finish.  I was nervous coming up to the rock drop as there was a large crowd of spectators and it can be a be hairy… luckily I made it down just fine and then proceeded to get in “trouble” at the exchange tent when I dismounted my bike, shouldered it, and started running all cross style… ha!  Crap, was I the only one who thought this was a race?!

I did my first lap in 1:14:35!!!!!!!!  HELL YES!!!!  That lap ended up being the 47th fastest female lap (out of 951 laps).  And I did it with cholla in my ankle 😀

Lap 2 – 7:48pm – 1:18:36
I was super tired before starting this lap and all I wanted to do was sleep.  After pumping myself up with some Luke Bryan I headed down to the exchange tent for my first night lap – which would also be my first time racing at night and riding something faster than a fat bike on snow.  I fired up my NiteRider MiNewt Pro 770 Enduro on my handlebars and my NiteRider Lumina 750 on my helmet, both on high and took off.  I had a speed demon inside of me, and it didn’t feel like I was riding at night at all!  My senses with highly focused and I just concentrated on the trail in front of me.

Unfortunately a few Bitches in all racers were ordered to dismount and walk (run) down and up and around an injured rider who Life Flight was working on.  We had to go around in the cactus, too.  This was frustrating, but definitely understandable, and if anything just lit my fire more to go faster to make up that time.  Once again I made sure to hydrate on the flat straightaway and then hit the single track.  Once again, I was consistently passing people.  I met up with one guy and him and I kinda rode together for a lot of it, with him trailing me a bit.  Always nice to have someone to keep me going faster!

My legs still felt powerful and I just flew on the single track, especially since the winds had died slightly.  I smashed my toes on some prickly pear cactus here and there, but I kept everything upright and steady and smooth.  I was even more nervous to do the rock drop in the dark, as I hadn’t before, but found out that it’s not much different!

I came in at 1:18:36, which was the fastest night lap time in the 4 Person Open Women category!  GO ME!  I couldn’t believe how fast I ended up riding at night, as I was expecting way slower speeds.  It was also the 32nd fastest female night lap out of 377 laps.  Whew, I pulled back to back similar laps.  Maybe I could be consistent, and not a one lap wonder?!

Lap 3 – 1:43am – 1:20:22
I had tried to nap after lap 2, but it just wasn’t happening, so I dragged myself to the exchange tent in the wee hours of the morning.  I chatted with a girl on the team sitting in third place (we were sitting solidly in first place since the very first lap!), and she told me her teammate was telling her that “the girl in the unicorn socks is so fast!” – whoa!  I knew those unicorn socks were good luck 😀

The Bitches stung a bit more on this lap, and I was a bit loopy.  The cholla were looking like fuzzy teddy bears to me, though I resisted hugging any.  I sung a combo of Toby Keith’s “Made In America” and the theme song to the TV show Weeds aloud… can’t explain that at all… A guy with super bright lights insisted on trying to follow me as he “couldn’t see the trail,” which was annoying to me as his lights cast a big shadow of myself right down the middle of the single track.  I ended up mashing the pedals a bit harder to distance myself from him as I didn’t like the shadow.  Sorry dude…

I finished out at 1:20:22, which was still the third fastest night lap in our category.  I promptly ran to the RV and got in my sleeping bag to scrounge up a few minutes of sleep.

Lap 4 – 7:31am – 1:17:24
When my alarm went off to get ready for this lap I groaned.  I love my 8-9 hours of sleep a night, and to think I had to get up after maybe 2, if that, hours of sleep and RACE A MOUNTAIN BIKE seemed INSANE. INSANE.  I can’t even remember what I tried to eat (Saturday and Sunday are so fuzzy in my memory already!) and made my way down to the tent.  Everyone looked a bit glazed.

Out I went and the Bitches were horrible and I felt like I was crawling up them.  But I kept on keeping on.  I was getting passed by some faster men, and noticed the passing was not done with as much kindness and courtesy as earlier laps.  I also came upon many zombie-like races struggling along.  Once I hit the single track I noticed a female voice behind me and I decided I didn’t want a girl passing me so I powered away (and kept her away, yay).  Still not a lot of wind, so I cruised along pretty well.  My Garmin’s battery died just about 6 miles in, and I felt like I was blind.  I could no longer look down and use my speed to judge my effort.  I felt like I was going super slow so I just settled in.

When I came out across the road a course marshall announced that it was 8:33 and I did a double take.  Did I just ride 13 miles in an hour?!  So I kicked it into a higher gear.  I figured this was my final lap so I would just burn everything for a good time… came into the exchange tent and there was Rachel.  Wait, Rachel?  Uh oh… this Heidi had another lap to go!

So this “blind and slow” lap was 1:17:24!!  My second fastest lap!  I couldn’t believe it!  Maybe I didn’t need that fancy Garmin device after all 😀

Lap 5 – 10:03am – 1:22:31
The team decided to change up the order for a bit and send out Rachel and I to bring home the big Win.  So after only an hour of downtime and rest I headed back out for my 5th and final lap.  This lap hurt.  Nothing more I can really describe it as!  But I mashed up the Bitches and held an OK pace on the various single track.  The hardest part for me was the High Point Trail and final climb.  People would offer to let me pass and I struggled to get the power for the surge around them.  Hitting that descent was one of the best feelings ever… so much that I started choking up in disbelief that I just race 5 laps in this race with consistent times and in disbelief that finally I was able to keep pushing myself – I broke my mental barrier! I held back tears all the way down the descent, past all the spectators (including one who yelled “Go, Wyoming!” – not sure who that was, but awesome!) and photographers.  I almost cried at the sight of the exchange tent but held back to give the baton to Rachel for one final time and made it back to the RV before the flood gates opened.  It was over.  For all the times someone, including some people I held to close to me in the past, told me I couldn’t do something… no you can’t race, no you shouldn’t be that category, no you’re not strong enough or this… I proved them wrong.  And it was awesome.

1:22:31 was my lap time… not the best, but not horrible either.  I was done.

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And…
Rachel crossed at 1:04pm after a tire blowout on the Bitches, and we had officially won the 24 Hours at the Old Pueblo as a 4 women team!  Woohoo!  I’d say that’s not too shabby for a mix of people who hadn’t raced in ten years, who just wanted the base miles, who just wanted to have fun, and the crazy girl from Wyoming who wanted to race super hard but had no idea she’d do 3 sub-1:20 laps!

18 laps in 25 hours and 4 minutes.  Whew.

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Lots of big thanks are in order… thanks to Specialized Bicycles… my S-Works Fate performed flawlessly, and there were several ladies who rode the exact same bike to victory (including a co-ed duo from Wyoming!  Yeah, we’re awesome in Wyoming!).  Perfect bike for the power course, and still performed well down the rock drop.  Yay for NiteRider lights – I saw perfectly and the lights were great even at speed.  Osmo kept me hydrate, and Honey Stinger, gummy bears, Kraft Easy Mac, Maruchen ramen, and Lunchables kept me fed.  Of course Naked Women’s Racing and all our awesome sponsors – such as Rudy Project (neon yellow helmets are amazing!) and Sidi shoes (carbon soles make me go zoom zoom).  John from Tucson who was our sherpa – picked up our rental RV, picked up Katey and I at the airport, built and unbuilt my bike (and even washed it better than it’s ever been washed!), shuttled us all around… amazing guy and a big blessing to have a trip like this!  Thanks to Kalan Beisel for setting my tire pressure by his expert pro feel, and for his buddy for providing the Elevated Legs to help us recover in between laps.  Katey, Heidi, and Rachel for being awesome teammates and all laying down solid laps for our victory.

Most of all, I gotta thank my coach, Anthony Diede of CritFit. net.  He holds me accountable, he pushes me, and I’ve grown to know that I do not want to disappoint him and to trust him with his knowledge and wisdom.  He took me from an untrained cat 3 racer with a basket case of a mind and no will power when the legs started burning to a cat 1 racer who just won the largest 24 hour endurance mountain bike race in the country.  Seriously, I can’t thank him enough.  So many nights I drag myself to the trainer, cussing it out, and get off the bike happy and pleased that I pushed through another torturous workout.  It’s going to be an awesome season, Coach T!

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