I took a camping trip with my family last week and am just getting around to putting together my race write up, so here it is:
I am not sure what I was thinking last October when I registered for Solo Division in the 24 Hours of Big Bear (WV). Maybe it would be something to keep me motivated to train during the long Ohio winter, maybe another challenge, or maybe just a terrible idea.
The weekend of June 10/11, I raced for 24 Hours covering nearly 170 miles with over 22,400 feet of climbing. In the end, I climbed atop the podium in 3rd place in the Solo Division with 14 laps on the fun, yet grueling 12.2 mile course.
There were 14 riders entered in the Solo Category plus nearly 200 teams. The course was in great shape and was a joy to ride. The conditions were ideal with temps in the mid 60s and overnight lows just below 40 degrees.
My pit crew for the weekend would consist of my cousin Marc Davis with some part time help from Jason Wysong and Bill Wysong. We left Cleveland around 10am Friday morning for the 240 mile drive to the race site just outside of Morgantown, WV. We loaded up Marc’s truck with all the camping and biking gear we would need and arrived at the race revenue by 2:00pm on Friday. I picked up my race packet and learned that I was given the #1 plate (due to my early entry). Throughout the race I would hear countless times, “you’re number 1!”, “go number 1!”. It was cool.
We found an excellent camp site with plenty of privacy yet very close to the course. We set up the EZ Up and another tarp and even had room for a camp fire. We were located close to several of the contenders, including Cameron Chambers (2005 24 Solo National Champion), Ernie Marenchin (2nd 2005 24 Solo World Championship), Steve Schwarz (2nd, 2005 24 Hours of Big Bear) and Rob Lichenwalner of Team Cannondale.
Once we set up our pit area, I took a nice easy pre-ride of the course. It was in fantastic shape and even 45 minutes of rain later that night would not change the conditions. I did an EASY lap in about 1:30 and began to think my goals were attainable. My goal was to do 15 laps and hopefully that would get me on the podium. In order to do 15 laps, I would need to average about 1:30 for the first 6 laps and then around 1:45 thereafter.
The race started promptly at 12 noon with the obligatory LeMans style running start. I lined up on the far left and sprinted the first 30 meters then settled into a more relaxed running pace. I was surprised when I got to the bike that I was among the top 20 or so. That made it clear sailing once we got to the single track, which was cool.
I tried to keep the pace easy the first few laps and was ahead of my 1:30 per lap average. On 5th lap I rode for a while with some of the other Ohio racers which really helped lift my spirits. I completed my 6th lap at 6pm which put me right on schedule. I rewarded myself with about a 10-15 minute break, where I sat and ate a small sandwich and some chips. On my 7th lap, I grabbed my lights and later in the lap I passed Cameron Chambers who was walking a small hill. So I was now in 4th place. After the 8th lap I switched light batteries and pounded out a 9th and 10th lap both at around 1:45.
It was now 4am, I was drenched with sweat, and I had to stop to change light batteries. I was feeling pretty good at this point, however, in a matter of 15 minutes of being off the bike this all changed. I got really cold, lost my desire and starting feeling all the aches and pains. I ended up dozing in a chair next to the fire for the next 2 hours trying to get warm.
At around 6am, my cousin and Jason Wysong checked the results and I was still in 4th place, despite my 2 hour rest. So I changed into clean/dry cycling clothes, Jason cleaned up my drive train on my bike, I pounded some coffee and by 6:15 was back on the course. The first half lap was a little rough, but I gradually started feeling better. I completed my 11th lap and did not even stop in the pit before heading out for the 12th.
Just as I was completing the 12th lap I caught Steve Schwarz who informed me what was going on with the race. He was in first place 2 laps ahead of me. Ernie was having a rough time and was in 2nd place and Rob Lichenwalner had taken a long break and was out. Cameron was several laps down and apparently out of the race as well. This immediately gave me some extra energy. Steve and I rode the next lap together, then I learned that Rob was back on the bike so I took off and kept to my 1:45 pace. I completed my 13th lap and learned that Rob had indeed gone out for his 13th lap at 10:07am, so I would have to do a 14th lap. I went out hard, kept the cadence very high and for the first time in many laps my heart rate got above 140. I paced the hills behind some of the team riders and rode as if Rob was going to catch me. I finished strong and ended up with a sub 1:30 lap time.
I was thrilled to get on the podium and happy I did not quit and got back on the bike at 6am. I was pleased that my legs still had some snap in them for my 13th and 14th laps…..what’s up with that? Nutritionally, my plan worked great. Hammer Products throughout with the only solid food being a ham sandwich and some potato chips. I had good energy throughout, never even felt close to a bonk and had no leg cramps at all. The new Epic S Works worked flawlessly, and I can say riding that long downhill was as fun as ever on the 13th and 14th laps….the bike is awesome. Thanks to my cousin Marc for all his assistance and to Jason Wysong and Bill Wysong for their help and encouragement. Also big thanks to my wife Shannon for putting up with all the training hours and this strange bike riding habit that I have.