“3 more minutes ‘til GO time,” I heard shouted over a megaphone from what sounded like a mile away.
I was surprisingly calm as excited chatter from fellow racers surrounded me. I can’t remember ever feeling this calm before a race. I took one last glance to the man in American Flag short shorts and Rainbow Brite socks to my left, and the couple donning Viking attire to my right. I wished them a good ride and smiled. There was no question about which race I was lined up for.
I took one last shot of my Carbo Rocket 333/Rocket Red combo mix just as the gun went off. The colorful mass of lycra that was all of us went running, officially embarking on what was sure to be another epic year of 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo.
I had a goal of getting 12 laps out here, which would require a few daunting race plan adjustments be made. Firstly, I’d need to run a slightly stiffer gearing ratio, an 18t rear cog vs previous years’ 19t. And secondly would be the need to get my pit times down. No napping, no long snack breaks by the fire, no dilly-dallying. One longer dinner break only after I had put in the first 100 miles, and that was it.
If all went to plan, I would get in 12 laps, thus hitting uncharted territory for me on any ride, let alone on the singlespeed; the 200 mile mark.
The first few laps flew by. Partly because of the atmosphere and energy of the racers around me, and partly due to the nifty upgrades made to the Selma ti. I had a new pair of Ridefast Hotwires that seemed to float over the trails beneath them, and new Kenda Saber Pros, my absolute favorite fast-rolling XC tires. The bike and myself seemed to be on the same page; we were hungry to get after it.
Lap 6, roughly 100 miles in found me leading the Solo SS Female class, mentally focused but calm, and still smiling. How could one not, when passing any number of the following on any given lap at Old Pueblo: A Mariachi band playing by the rock drop, hundreds of encouraging cheers and supportive screams from spectators, volunteers, and fellow racers, a Polka Party (complete with live Umpa-pa music) by the Whiskey Tree, and Drunk Cyclist’s pit area (if you were there, you know.) This race has been and continues to be a “must-do” on my list each year. It brings laughter even in the wee hours of the morning when you don’t think you have any laughter left. Every year it makes me fall hopelessly in love with the sport of mountain biking all over again.
By the end of lap 6, it was time for food. Thankfully the amazing guys in our Kenda pit area were ready with a number of delicious-smelling options, all of which got inhaled immediately. I was hurting, and my muscles were certainly feeling the gearing choice. I rolled out the legs and warmed up, and before I knew it, I had pitted longer than I had wanted to. I got back out on the bike to tackle the rest of the race with a full belly and a smile from all the support and encouragement I had received in the pit, from teammates, family and friends far away. I knew dinner would set me back in the rankings, but the night was young and I was hopeful to make the lost time back. Little did I know how tough it’d be. I would soon find out that I had dropped to 6th place, and none of these strong women looked like they would be resting any time soon. It was both awe-inspiring and defeating at the same time.
Around the 150 mark I was feeling pretty good physically, but mentally I was drained. Each lap I would start out having not made any progress in the rankings, attempting to fight the negative thoughts of self-doubt and defeat that were on the cusp of consuming me, and just try to do all I could to lay it all out there to make up lost time. It was the toughest 6 hours of the race. “Just. Pedal. More.” I would repeat over and over again to keep focus.
Eventually it worked and by lap the start of lap 11, as I took in the beauty of neon orange and pinks kissing the desert horizon in announcement of the soon-to-rise sun, I was back in the top three.
At some point during the pain and physical protest I was experiencing around the 190 mile mark, I thought back to my first few rides up our local SoCal Saddleback Mountain. I remember how tough those 12.5 miles were, how hard it was to breathe, how much pain I felt in my legs, and how insanely long it took me. But I also reflected on how beautiful the views were of the county I grew up in, the peace and quiet up above it all, the birds soaring alongside of me, and I vividly remember hearing the sound of the wind. I was feeling the exact same mix of physical and mental feelings in my final lap at Old Pueblo. Only the mileage was a touch different. It brought a smile to my tear-stained face as I pushed through the strange aches I was feeling in those final few miles.
My 12 lap, 200 mile jaunt was enough for a 3rd place finish in the Solo Female SS cat, and I felt truly honored to stand on the podium with such strong women.
There are many to thank for such an epic day on the bike. First and foremost would be the insane amount of support, encouragement, and care I received from Kenda Tires and Win’s Wheels. Without them I would not have had the day I had. A huge and heartfelt shout-out also goes to Troupe sponsors and friends that I got to spend time with in 24 Hour Town; thank you Seven Point CBD and Carbo Rocket for your ongoing encouragement, support, and for making amazing products.
My heart gets filled to the brim out at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo each year, and this one felt like it did even more so. The laughter, the fun, the smiles, the comradery, and the shenanigans that ensues at this race is one that everyone should come out and experience. Bring the family, bring friends, bring your camping gear, and bring your party game.
Until next year Old Pueblo, Cheers!