The word about this year’s 24 Hours of Moab is starting to spread. The story this year is muddy. Literaly and figuratively. As of Monday morning no “official” results have been posted. There seems to be some rather disgruntled participants. Overall the event was really pretty disaterous, but none the less in the words of Nick Martin, “it is what it is”.
I went to sleep Friday night under a crystal clear sky. Millions of stars overhead blinked down on me, with what I see now as a mocking smile. From the vantage point of space, they must have seen the heavy dark clouds slowly moving toward the sea of happy campers, waiting anxiously for the coming day of racing.
By morning those clouds had settled in over the area, and were dropping a steady, if misty rain. By noon the rain was more substantial and the mud below was even more so. It was thick, sticky, slimy and plentiful. Dave used the word biblical. I would agree. In fact, I’d say plague on Egypt kinda of biblical.
The race started and I couldn’t help but laugh as I ran through the muck for the Le Mans start. Mud was flying every where as we made our way back to the bike racks. The service road was a mess, filled with ruts, small streams, and tons of that same icky mud. Eventually however I made it through the muck and to the rocky segment of the course. Here the trail conditions were much better. As the course climbed higher the ground was drier. Most of the sand had a nice line through it, and some sections of the course I had never seen more ridable.
All was going to plan for the first 3 laps. Well, nearly to plan. My pit stops were longer than planned because I had to take the time each lap to get my drivetrain cleaned up. I am still lamenting the fact that I had just one bike. Hopefully this winter that is something I can remedy. Anyway, I was riding at an easy, stress free pace. I was drinking and eating according to schedule and felt fresh as a daisy 6 hours in.
The rain started coming down hard around 6PM. I was in dry clothes, had just had a cup of hot water, and put the lights on my bike. I was ready to go rock the mud and rain and have a blast doing it. Fate had other plans for me. The rain was falling very steady, and turned the first 4 miles of the course into a flood plane. The water was pouring down the rocky ledges like waterfalls. Any low point was filling quickly with standing, or swiflty moving water. Rocky descents were sketchy and unnerving as disc brakes groaned and squeaked. Within about 20 minutes my chain was starting to suck into my chain rings if I put any torque on the cranks. Any short climb (and there a million of them) I encountered was now a short hike-a-bike. Several times I had to slowly work the chain out of my crankset, wipe it down as best I could and keep moving.
I kept telling myself that this was going to be a key opportunity. I was out in this mess, and I knew for a fact that several solo riders were not. Yeah, I’d have an extra slow evening lap, but it would make a difference come morning. So I kept pressing on. Eventually the sun dropped and the night came. I was on the backside of the course, when I became engulfed in a clammy fog. In the distance I could hear coyotes howling. My chain sucked into the frame once again, and this time for good. I worked on it for a long while, but could not get it untangled. Standing still in the fog and rain made me cold, so I would walk a little bit, try and work the chain free, walk some more and repeat. Eventually I gave up on the chain, the lap, the race, the sport and everything else in life.
I trudged up the long (I never thought it that long before) climb out from the CamelBak water station, passed the empty EMS tent ( I think every EMS crew was pretty busy at this point) and to a point where I could finally coast/scoot the bike. That is when I got word that the course was closed.
I was thrilled. The last 30 or 40 minutes I had spent arguing with myself about why I should, or should not try to continue onward. I was as angry as I have ever been in a race. I did not want to drop out, I wanted to keep racing. But the course was miserable, my bike was destroyed, and I was soaking wet. The closure ended the argument. I clocked in that horrible lap, and was told it would not count. Angry again, I set off to get warm and dry.
The solo race never got started again. I think now the final lap I did will be counted. That is cool. I had a few opprtunity’s to cash in and get motored off the trail on that lap, but I slugged it out so I could keep racing. I don’t think anyone left the race feeling really good about how things worked out. Laird is getting flak from some folks, but honestly he did what he could. It was a good move to get racers off the course when he did. It was getting dangerous, and mountain biking at night, in the desert, is no place to be during flash flood conditions.
As usual, my sister did a great job with my support. She kept the dry clothes handy, the hot drinks close by and even hitched a ride on a motorcycle to come find me on my ill-fated 4 hour odyssey. She found me about a mile before the finish line, put a coat on me, and got back to camp to get warm dry things ready.
It was a race to remember, but not one to repeat. At some point it all went from epic to ridiculous. The confusion of the finish adds to the ladder, but Laird should be praised for keeping a cool head as he calmly figured out the best option for everyone. Not everyone is happy, but when does that ever happen?
Already I am thinking about the 2007 version of this race. 2005 left unfinished business, and 2006 did not provide the opportunity to…well…finish it. For now though I will focus my thoughts on cleaning my bike, and resting up for another long Utah winter.