Monday, July 11, 2005


24 Hours of Saratoga

Or - 12 hours of rain and 12 hours of pain
The ride up to Saratoga was very comfortable and only about 10 hours. I stopped for a night in my home town of Schenectady to awaken some old memories, where I realized I'd left my box of bike tools and spare parts at home. Thats pretty typical. No problem, I remembered reading about a bike shop on State St. somewhere. I stumbled upon Plaine and Son with a sigh of relief. Note to self : Keep a list of the local bike stores when you're on a road trip. Now if I could only remember what was in that box. I got a good deal on some tubes and scored a nice pair of baggies 30% off. Another multi-tool to add to the 12 I have somewhere and I guess I'm set. I had the pleasure of meeting endurance cyclist extrordinaire Heather Mosely who works there. We BS'd about Big Bear and RAAM, and the issues of endurance cyclists.

Checked into a nice room at the Burgoyne by 3PM Friday. The small parking lot was already filling up with racked out vehicles. The pasta dinner was nice and John Ceceri explained the rules and the course. More than a few folks that were there I recognized from Sebring earlier this year. John said the 32 mile loop wasn't too hilly, but most of the climb was on one section called Bacon Hill, that had about a 12% grade (OK I exaggerated he said 10%, but 12 sounds so much better!). Now one thing I've learned is that when people say "not too hilly" you have to consider where they live. Not too hilly means one thing in Virginia Beach, and another thing when you live in the foothills of the Adirondack's. Not very hilly in Dang-yo! means probably only 6-7000 feet of climbing an hour. He did go on to say that after about the third time up the hill we would be liking it none too much.

I tuned up the bikes and tried to catch soom sleep, although I never seem to sleep well before these things. Up at 6AM to set up the pop-up in a steady drizzle, I figured it would provide a dry space to refuel and change.
Even though the hotel room was less than 100 yards away, I didn't want to be tempted to seek its comfort during the race. It had been raining steadily since last night, from a strong drizzle to a steady downpour. The plan was to refill 2 large water bottles every other lap with gatorade and ride as long as I could. That should be enough fuel when combined with a gel every 45 minutes. It was nice to run into John J. who I hadn't talked to in person since we ran track together in junior high school. He's here defending last years win in the 24 AND the JMC championship. I secretly hoped he wouldn't lap me until dark.

The 8:00 start came and went without a hitch. Bacon Hill was just after the 2 mile mark and split the field up. One of the reasons I like these events is the no-drafting rule. Just you and yourself. Finishing the first loop down Bacon (45-50 mph while on the brakes around a turn in the rain yeeeeeee-haaaaaaaaaaa), I saw the leaders starting the climb back up. I flew through the start/finish area with no stop only to flat about a mile down the road. Then I remembered what else was in the box I'd left home ---- CO2 cartridges!!!! I only had 1 in the seat bag. The nice thing was that tires are easy to change in a steady rain, they just slide off the rim. Everyone was real thoughtful as they sped past, asking if I needed anything or any help. Not yet I thought, but since this is my last cartridge, but I will if I puncture again!

3 laps, or about 96 miles in about 5:20, thats OK considering the rain and hills. The 4th time up Bacon Hill and it still wasn't too bad. But It was STILL raining. Once you're totally soaked you cant get any more wet. It was actually quite comfortable, aside from the constant squinting to see through the downpour. For the first time in one of these I'd effectively switched my mind into 24 hour mode. I was thinking about time on the bike without regard to the actual time of day, the race time was all that registered. On the 5th lap my pace was slowing and my legs were growing tired. This wasn't a bonk with its associated low blood sugar symptoms of lightheadedness and delerium, it was just my legs getting tired and powerless.

Lap 6 and it was STILL raining. Bacon Hill was a noticable struggle. I absolutely HAD to stand to stomp the 39/25. 5 miles before the end of lap 6 JohnJ passed me finishing his 7th lap. Well, I almost held him off till dark. 6 laps or 192 miles in 11 hours and change. Not bad I thought, I felt fine mentally but the hills had drained all the power out of my legs. I talked to John breifly in the pits, he was holding a 15-20 minute lead over 2nd place. Seemed to be a good time to try and get some solid food in, and drink some Endurox. A shower, change of clothes and bike change was in order too.

So they say 80% of muscle glycogen will be replaced within an hour after a workout with the correct protien/carb mix. Well I sure hoped so! I showered, drank 40 ounces of Endurox, ate some pasta and tried to relax and let my stomach digest. Initially I was a bit worried about getting too comfortable and not wanting to go back out, but that wasn't an issue. I wasn't here to win, just to try and push my endurance envelope a bit futher. This was the first time I'd ever ridden over 11 hours non-stop (well, one 10 minute puncture stop and two more refuel stops that took maybe 15 minutes total) so I was very happy.

I went out again after about an hour and 45 minutes to find the rained had stopped! I switched to my C'Dale Six13 which was setup with a compact crankset. I hoped this gearing would make Bacon hill a bit easier. The next 10 hours were a bit of a blur. I did 3 more laps or 96 miles. Climbing wasn't too bad except Bacon Hill and a short wall on the way back in. These two were just stand up and stomp. I reallt dont think having a 35 tooth small chainring made much of a difference, except that it actually took longer to get up the hills! Prolonged suffering. My speed dropped way off and I was struggling to get around in 2 hrs. I had trouble shifting onto the small ring and lost my chain 3 odr 4 times. Since this normally happened at the beginning up a significant hill (in the dark) it became VERY frustrating. I dawdled around in the "pits" after each lap far too long, my mind making up excuses to stay off the bike a bit longer.......
During what was to be my last lap(the ninth time up Bacon hill) I noticed pain in my right achilles tendon which increased throughout the lap. This was the "daybreak" lap with the sun trying to come up through the clouds. I just LOVE riding my bike during the dawn hours, I don't know why, its just an awesome experience. Be it on the MTB or road bike there's something thats almost mystical about it. I Rode next to another Jon (who it turns out is not just from the same state as me but from the same CITY!), for a while and we BS'd about stuff that I cant even remember. I pulled in from this lap at about 6:00AM, and as soon as I got off my bike my right achilles just tightened up like a guitar string ready to break. I tried to stretch it out and it just wouldn't, so I went to the scoring table and told them I was through.
I didn't have any specific number in mind when I started this (well thats BS I really did, but that number kept getting smaller and smaller as the time went on and my speed dropped). But in the end its better to stay healthy and ride another day.
Race director John C had us all over to his house for a cookout Sunday morning, and I had to use allot of restraint not to eat everything I saw. You could tell the guys who rode the whole 24 hours 'cause they just looked whipped. John J was nodding off, Russ has a blank stare at times, and we all needed rest and sleep. It was great sitting down and talking to the folks, and I look forward to doing it again.

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