24-2-9-13-1: A Story by the Numbers

September 03,2012

24 Hours. 2 Ladies. 9 Laps @ 13.5 Miles each. 1 Great Adventure.

The setting: Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Champion, PA. The 24 Hour Champion Challenge.

The Bulldog (Stacie Truskowski) and I were prepared for a battle against the mountain… not another team. Apparently our name on the “registered riders list” scared off any potential competitors.

Bulldog gave me permission to make the call on which of us would do the Le Mans run around Lake Tahoe. We both run (well, we both have been known to run). I thought maybe I could get in from the run relatively quick (I had run several times in August, after all!) and try to get a fast lap in before I settled into my “enduro” pace, so I bit the bullet and said I’d start.

 

After getting mocked for warming-up by several people (they said I’d tire myself out–which I thought would be better than red-lining my heart rate in the first 30 seconds of the run start…) the “gun” went off. I tried to keep my upper body relaxed and my legs pumping, but the first thing I noticed (besides the ground, which felt like uneven concrete though it was dirt with patches of grass) was my upper back feeling way too tense. I backed off a bit and apparently came into the bike transition area about mid-pack. Not so shabby, not out of breath.  Good to go, right?  I do a nice cross-mount onto the bike and head down a rutted downhill that I had some pre-race concerns about. The guy riding down it in front of me chose the perfect line and I followed. Good golly, this is going great!!

We do a small straight away then come down a small grassy section by a road before darting into the single-track. There are some loose rocks and a rut in the trail, but I stay on a good line. The first turn approaches. It is so sharp that Hammer completely missed it on our practice run a week earlier. I lean into it, then BAM. The right side of my body was immediately crushed into the ground before I could even acknowledge that I was falling. I tried to get out of the way of on-coming riders as fast as I could and narrowly avoided getting run over. Damage assessment: head still attached, check; no bones protruding, check; bike in one piece… bike in one piece… I grabbed my handlebars. No, something was missing (besides my mind).  My shifter was gone and my mind was racing so fast that it wasn’t working at all as I checked the scene of the accident for the missing component. Racers were passing by until EVERY racer had past by except one. He stopped. He was in no hurry! He asked me what I needed.

“I lost my shifter. I went down around here.”

As my breathing slowed and the adrenaline rush subsided, my brain clicked back on and I checked again. Yep, it was dangling from my bike from it’s cable.  This happened at the Brady’s Run race last fall.  My mind raced back to earlier in the day when I asked my dad for a zip-tie for my number plate. He gave me one more than I needed and I said: “Maybe I’ll just keep this one. Remember when my shifter mount broke at Brady’s? It would have been nice to have had a ziptie then, hahahaha.”

Laugh-out-freaking-loud. Really?!

So, I told my trail angel that I had a zip-tie. He said he had some too and pulled off a large camelbak full of gear and we double-zipped the dangling shifter to my bars.  Then he pulled out a Swiss army knife to cut off the ends of the ties. This was some top-notch service. I spun the wheels and everything seemed in its place.  I wanted to help him re-stuff his bag but he encouraged me to “go catch them all!”

I started riding. I thought about how Ian crashed at Leesburg a few years ago and broke his handlebar. Was my bar cracked? I hadn’t checked. The steering seemed off. Was the steering tube loose? The back-shifter was holding steady, but the derailleur must have been bent, I was stuck in the big ring.  I tried to pedal on, just do my thing, but I had to pull of the trail a few times and just look it over again. I caught a few people here and there, but I was timid to pass. Was the FIRST TURN in a 24-hour race really going to set the tone for me?

I transitioned with Stacie and got back to tent city feeling a little dejected. Jeremy thought my bike was okay enough to keep riding, but I couldn’t agree. I put my nice Stan’s wheel on the front of my single-speed, The Mean Betty White, and retired Big Red. Sorry, bud.

My second lap was approaching fun. I caught some people in the woods, had a great showing in the rock gardens and felt so much less pressure than Lap 1. It could only go up from there. Even though I walked some of the steeper climbs to keep my legs fresh, my time was pretty decent.  I rolled through the transition zone and put my leg down to give the ankle sensor to Bulldog, then BAM! I screamed for mercy as my hamstring went into a deep Charlie horse. Really?!  Really?! Things were looking so promising!!

I franken-walked out of the way of incoming riders and made my way back to tent city. All my friends were asking how it went. My lips were black from the dirt, my hair looked like a rat nest, and my calves started to dance. Dahn Pahrs took a picture of me and posted it on FaceBook. Who’s idea was this??!?!!?!?!? I drank my Coke. You know what, things got better.

One of my favorite people EVA, Ms MJ, pulled up. Her smiling face was an instant mojo-enhancer. She said she was thinking about doing a lap with me and Stacie and asked if I minded. It was like Christmas, the perfect scenario! Someone to ride with?! Someone to call the ambulance if I crash?! Let’s do this!

We got the chip from Bulldog who was still looking good and headed into the woods. The chatter started right away and my mind was everywhere except in my own head, and that was a good thing.  MJ is a performance-enhancing drug. My cramps were a non-factor, non-existent. I felt pretty strong, in fact. We cruised along without much trouble and caught someone in the woods. He said “it seems like you two are having a good time!” Darn straight!  I think he was jealous and wanted to join the party, but the bus was moving just a little fast.

Thunder was cracking in the distance, then it started to rain. Not too bad at first, if memory serves. Then, monsoon.  At first I thought I wouldn’t want to get caught in the rain. It’s not too good for contact points on the saddle… but I think the rain + MJ mix was the greatest thing that ever happened to me in a lap race. I felt completely rejuvenated as the cool air relaxed my muscles.  Song lyrics popped into my head and I sang them to MJ: “Even when the rain falls, even when the flood starts rising, ’cause even when the storm comes, I am washed by the water.”

It was fabulous. There were intermittent bouts of downpour and drizzle. When we rode around some of the ponds mud would fly up in the air higher than our bikes in a dazzling display lit by our headlamps.

After our lap was complete I rode back down the hill to tent city with a giant smile on my face. I told MJ’s South African boy-toy how amazing our lap was. I was alone in my recount, because MJ was off changing Bulldog’s life–doing a back-to-back to help her friends. What a friend!

As I started to get cold and come off my MJ-induced high, I noticed that her gang of Bad Lad’s had stolen my blanket. They all looked at me from their chairs, from under my blanket, as I shivered. Then, after some hesitation, they offered the soaking wet, stinky owner of said blanket a place in the huddle. How nice of them! 😉

Lap 4 was a little bit of a downer. I started it just before midnight and without a friend. I had been spoiled. Dan offered me his 400 Lumen bar light to use (mine was only 200). What a difference. I actually also had a headlight, but had to turn it off because of all the fog. Dan got a big old kiss on the cheek for that play!

I ran into the only solo women’s rider, Sandie on lap 4. She was on her 5th lap and looking pretty good at the time. We were coming to what I refer to as “the switchback of death.” It’s pretty steep and has 2 levels. I can make it up on a regular day, but in the interest of not blowing up, I decided to hike it, and we hiked together. I saw her in the EXACT same location on my 5th lap. I felt it was a “glitch in the matrix” type of moment. Not long after I was riding along and my handlebar light flipped over and shown right in my eyeballs. I was totally blinded and pulled the brakes. When I adjusted the light I saw I was literally 1 inch away from hitting a tree. Whew.

I knew Bulldog wanted to take a rest after her lap with MJ. It was midnight when she finished, after all. I told her I might do a back-to-back, but probably not. When I was coming through the pit area (over half-way through the lap) on lap 4 I was feeling pretty good and yelled down “Ryo’s in the house. Going for 2!!”  About 2 miles later I hit a ton of peanut-butter mud trails and kept messing up my lines.  That call down seemed like a terrible mistake.

When I finished lap 4 I told the race people I was running down to the camp area but I’d be back to do another. There was no way I was making it another mile without getting some food. When I pulled into tent city I sat down and put my blanket over me (the Bad Lad’s were gone). Big mistake. Got comfy. Filled my belly a little. I didn’t want to go anywhere, let alone back to the peanut butter and slimy rocks.  I could feel my brain floating away into the fog….

When I had 99.9 % convinced myself that I was going to try to take a nap before getting back on my bike, that getting back on my bike was surely going to prove a mistake and too dangerous… I saw Hammer emerge from his tent with a helmet and headlight.

“Wait. Hammer, you’re going on a lap soon?”

Just like that, mind changed. I thought we could ride together. I thought it might be a repeat of the amazingness of my lap with MJ.

We got to the tent and his teammate wasn’t there, so I decided to start and let him catch me. I rode pretty conservatively, this time with my 200 lumen light (I didn’t have time to charge Dan’s during my pit stop). I couldn’t see as well and my upper body seemed to be wearing down. My premonition of a bad lap seemed to be coming true.

I rode for a long time without seeing the Hammer, then some lights flashed behind me. I pulled off to the side of the trail and Aaron passed me. He yelled something that sounded like “Do you mind if I pass” but he repeated and it was “I lost Don’s light!”  He still had a bright light on his head, thank goodness-because I had nothing to offer him except the 2nd barlight on my handlebars that was already dying.

Hammer caught me right after we passed by the pit area. We were about to enter the rock garden section. I knew I was toast–my upperbody was hardly responding and I’d already started crashing as my brain started shutting down. Frequently crashing. I told him to ride ahead. I knew Stacie was going to be at the transition tent way too soon.

When I finally finished my 5th lap, after throwing my bike, shoulder and hips into every rock and tree that I could… I had to call it. I told the Bulldog that my stint might be over, and to think hard if she wanted to cross the transition zone after her lap–which would require us to another, else be disqualified. She ended up doing her 4th lap then stopping just shy of the finish and coming back to cross the finish line at noon. Sometimes safety trumps pride.  I think our 9 laps was a good showing for the difficulty of the course and the madness and mind-melting exhaustion a long day in the sun and monsoons can cause.

The nice thing was that we were able to cheer on our friends for the rest of the morning!

Dr. Don’s Harrison Hill’s Chiropractic 8-man corporate conglomerate was in the running for 1st place overall. That posse included the leggy, camouflage-laden Captain Hoss, The Beard (aka, Ian Palermo), Jerm-y, Gnarmire (aka Aaron Shelmire), Dahn Pahrs (D-Pow), Jim Mayuric , Joe “shorty-short” Malone, and TJ Platt.  TJ, Jim and Joe had the fastest 3 laps on the team and were tasked with battling until the bitter end with front-runner Dirty Harry’s .Net team. When I saw Jim come through the pit area he looked like he was going the fastest I’d seen anyone go through. He pulled a great time, but DH was still in the lead. Jeremy and I went up to the transition tent to send Joe off and congratulate Jim on his amazing lap. In our haste to get to the tent- we forgot to bring Jim a beer. Total mountain biking etiquette fail! Joe went off trying to make up a 5-minute lead. A really tall order. Essentially, it would come down to potential mechanical issues and/or a miracle. Joe ended up beating the final lap time of his competitor, just not by enough. The boys “settled” for 2nd place overall and 2nd in the Corporate division. A solid 24-hours!

The Alpha Palermo, Angelina, joined forces with the Dirty Harry’s team, leaving the Midnight Clown Posse in her dust and contributing toward a 3rd place in corporate division and the overall.

The Clowns added a few fresh faces to their posse, including Ms Stacey McGowan on her new Trek Paragon 29er. Cherb Palermo pulled a nice lap on Saturday and even went to accompany Stacey on the last lap of the race.

The other big surprise of the race–the entire Smith family came to cheer us all on!!  Danielle snapped some photos– her very first attempt at action shots.

 

Hammer and the Next Gen of Clown Posse Riders

 

I’m proud of everyone and happy that my effort justifies one more bowl of Hagan’s Super Bowl Sundae ice cream.  Despite the issues I had, I learned a lot and I still looooove endurance riding!

 

My favorite niece enjoying her silly aunt.

One thought on “24-2-9-13-1: A Story by the Numbers

  1. Proud of you ‘mates for busting out a 24-hour endurance mountain bike race in rain, thunder, cold, on a tough course as a 2-person team. Holy smokes! You two really are amazingly tough!

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