This is a race I’ve done many many times…as the member of a team. For years it’s been a fun, screw around race to go hang out at, ride some laps, and have a beer. Last year I won the 6 Hour Solo Singlespeed and this year I had my sights set on the Men’s Pro 12 Hour Solo. What was I thinking? By far this was the most mentally taxing race I’ve ever done. I rolled up to the starting line to see Daniel Munoz rocking bib #1 and my heart sank. He’s the Tinker Juarez beater and wins just about every time he turns a pedal on the course. We’ll at least I’ll have a fun time chasing him. As it turns out Tinker wasn’t there because he was rumored to be racing La Ruta.
My strategy was pretty simple- go out quick and relaxed, taper and settle, and then finish quick and strong. Right from the start Daniel was gone, ahead of the team guys and out of sight. If it was anyone else there’d be no way they could keep that up but I knew he was experienced so I got even more discouraged. I just plugged away and let the heart rate get a little too high. I decided to hit the gas for the second lap. As I pulled away from Stephane Roch, who was racing 6 hour solo, he looked at me like I was crazy. “Eleven and a half hours to go” he called out. Crap. I wanted to make a statement so I jumped on the pedals and put in a 39 minute lap, which would end up being my fastest of the day as well as the fastest of any of the 12 hour solo riders.
By hour 4 I was cooked, I was about 5 laps in, not even halfway done and the 90 degree heat was getting to me. It was brutal. Munoz was nowhere in sight and I kept expecting him to lap me. All of the sudden, something amazing happened just after hour 6. At one point I looked back and could have sworn I saw Daniel struggling behind me but I shook it off. At the end of the lap I pulled into the pit (the XXX Triple Threat guys were nice enough to let me set up with them) took a massive drink of water and a huge pull of Coke straight from the 2 liter bottle and popped 3 Endurolites. Halfway through the next lap I was floating. The pain was gone, heart rate was down and I had endless energy. This would be my new formula for every lap. I kept up the routine and by hour 10 I was in the zone. My tires kept losing air around the beads so I’d have to stop every lap or so and hit them with C02, which was driving me crazy, but I felt great.
After the 6 hour race the course empties out and it becomes desolate. When night falls you can hear the parties from the campgrounds and pit area echoing in the hills. If you listen closely you could swear you hear the sound of beer caps being popped and campfires crackling. It’s a lonely place on the trail alone at night. Nothing but you, the small mice that scamper by and the squished scorpions on the trail. The dust settles down and every time you ride through the start/finish you begin to think just how good it would feel to hop off the bike and hit the shower. Your mind starts to play tricks. The trails becomes unfamiliar again in the darkness and as I lost power in my main light with 2 laps to go I thought of how easy it would be to just call it quits. I didn’t. I stuck it out for all 14 laps in 11 hours and 36 minutes. My ass was raw but my legs could have kept turning. All the training had paid off.
When I checked the results I was ecstatic to see I beat Daniel but disappointed to learn he’d dropped out after 6 laps, his times getting slower and slower. You mean I could have done 7 and still won? Nah, I didn’t train that hard to take the easy way out. Maybe there’s a 24 hour solo somewhere in the future.
The hardest part of the day was the drive home. Have you ever had your braking leg charlie horse for an hour as you sit in stop and go traffic on the 5 in the middle of the night? I wouldn’t recommend it. I was just hoping I wouldn’t get pulled over. Even though I was too spent after the race to have a celebratory beer there’s no way I could have passed a field sobriety test in the shape I was in, I think I would have just curled up on the pavement and demanded to be breathalyzed…and fed a handful of salty pretzels.