It is always difficult to wrap my mind around the 24 Hours of Moab. At least, it always seems to take a few days to try and do so. This happens for a couple of reasons, first, the event is massive. There are so many people, racers and spectators, both. There is never really any quiet hours, even in the dead of night racers are silently streaking through the dark, one after the other, in a train of HID and LED contrails.
The second reason is that the race is always a grand finale to the season, and so I find myself reflecting on the year that preceded it. 2007 was unlike any other season I have had so far. There were new lows, but also new highs, and I can’t begin to complain about my experiences this past year. But, those are thoughts for a later day.
Back to the race….
I arrived in Moab on Wednesday afternoon, we staked out a large piece of ground, and spent the next 48 hours defending it from would be poachers and usurpers. We had 5 teams coming down, and so we needed a good sized piece of land to accommodate them. The extra days in Moab meant extra time to sit quietly and enjoy the desert, before the circus arrived in full force. Wednesday evening Keith and I drove up to Geyser Pass in the La Sals. We saw some amazing terrain, and now have an excuse to explore Moab in the heat of summer.
As the time approaches Noon on Saturday, the anticipation around the venue grows. It’s a tangible, thick feeling that permeates throughout the area. You can see it on peoples faces, you can see it in the last minute lubes and adjustments bikes are receiving, you can hear it in speech and in the constant shifting of gears and tires as they roll back and forth across the sandy road.
And then, it starts.
And as quickly as it begins, all is quiet once again. The anxious anticipation that was so public just minutes before, becomes a more private affair, as each rider contemplates and prepares for his individual lap. Throughout the next 24 hours a unique cycle of events takes shape, a hurry up and wait carrousel of hammering, recovery, rest, preparation, and then back to hammering.
It is hard to relax between laps, because that next one is always lingering, never close enough, but never far enough away. The waiting becomes nearly unbearable in the start house, watching the clock, and each rider that passes through. Watching for your number to round the corner, visions of mechanicals and crashes speeding through the mind as you create reasons for why your teammate has not shown up yet. And then they arrive, speeding through the start house, right on schedule, we each fumble for our RFID cards, swap the baton, and then… the world melts away, and the chase is on.
There are always people to pass out on a 24 hour course, and so those people become the trail of bread crumbs, meant for gobbling up along the way as they lead you around the loop. The Moab course has two distinct parts, technical climbing in the first half, and big ring hammering in the second. I did not have a big ring on the SS. So I had to make the most of the technical climbing, standing up and mashing through it, then spinning madly on the back side as I worked my way through the meadows. Always eyes are on the clock, as it ticks away the day, the legs try and spin it backwards,or at least slow it down.
And then, the lap is over, the chaos of the exchange is short lived, but intense. The baton is handed off, and the responsibility of the team’s well being is placed on another set of legs and lungs. TIme to relax. At least for a little while.
One of the great aspects of the 24 Hours of Moab is that it is a huge social engagement. It was nearly impossible to spin from the start house to my camp without seeing people I wanted to talk to. The temptation to wander over to solo row was often to great to resist, and so I would meander, linger, and wander. It made for a great weekend of racing, and talking.
And now it’s all over. Gear is still spread out in the living room, being organized and cleaned. My bike still has red sand in the tire tread and along the down tube. When I close my eyes I still can see the rocks and arrows along the course. 2007 is done, and now it’s time to rest and regroup.
Of course, a season of racing is not unlike a lap in a 24 Hour race. There is time to relax, but it is short lived, and soon it is time to hammer once again. For now, I will enjoy the downtime, but soon, very soon, 2008 will take center stage, and the chaos of handing off the baton will ensue, and once again the chase is on…