The 24 Hours of Big Bear. Almost 2 weeks have past and I'm just getting time to write about it but the question remains: how to attack it? Blow by blow race report? I've done that before, don't want to over use that angle. Compile lots of links and photos from other people? Hmmmm, sounds lazy, especially after letting this much time pass before posting. So, maybe some random thoughts, highlights and impressions of the race, less than a story and more of an outline.
Difficulty: I doubt you'll see more difficult course conditions at this venue. Eight inches of rain days before the race meant some serious mud bogs, peanut butter and general wetness. Don't get me wrong, there was some good stuff too, but the conditions deteriorated through the day and got dicey at night when the dry portions of the trail became glazed with dew and every root and rock seemed like it was covered with lard. The half mile descent at mile 6, steep and fast and littered with rocks of all shapes and sizes fried your triceps and tested every bit of your skill on the fixed gear. It was relentless and the running stream on the lower half didn't exactly make things any better. On one descent, as I'm flying like a bat out of hell (or into hell as it were), a solo rider on a full suspension bike was rocking the downhill with me. At one point he yells out, "Are you riding fixed?" When I give him affirmation he responds with "You're f&(*ing crazy". Dude, you are racing 24 hours straight. By yourself. You're calling me crazy? I think that's up for debate. By the way, nice job, you got 3rd against some stiff competition. Rock on.
Babies: Who the hell brings a new born to a 24 hour race and camps in a tent with them? Sure, I may have had a few beers and didn't turn in early, but that doesn't mean I didn't want to sleep once I hit the sack. This was the night before the race, when you want to bank some sleep for the 24 hours of racing ahead of you. It was extra special that the baby had a 2 year old sibling who screamed in call-and-response fashion well into the night. Did I mention they were camped directly next to our tent? I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one contemplating a human sacrifice. There is big money to be made for developing a tent material that is light, waterproof, can be packed like current tents and is soundproof. Mark my words.
Coffee: Shiiiiit. That's the word that came out of my mouth at a very loud volume and scared the crap out of my wife as we were rolling down the highway 2 hours in route to the race. Somehow I had missed collecting that last item from my list as we left the house. Now we were in the middle of nowhere with pretty much zero hope for finding a place to grab coffee, especially something that didn't taste like mud. I'm a coffee junkie, I make no apologies. I need it in normal life and I definitely need it for 24 hour racing. A few frantic phone calls to team mates yielded nothing. In the end Frank hooked me up with a fix and JoJo brought enough extra to save my sorry, addicted ass. Thank you both.
Racing fixed: At some point I probably am going to start losing friends through difficult rides that I dream up and foolish race strategies that I employ. Not to say racing Big Bear is some "first ascent" of something, only that it is difficult enough to make people question why they follow my lead. Everyone on my team hung tight, survived without injury and I believed they all vowed they would not race the course fixed again. I'm holding out hope that after a year they will forget the tough stuff and only remember the fun when I send out next year's invitation. After all, we've got scores to settle. There's room for improvement and now that they've got the course dialed in it will surely be easier, won't it? Tomi was recently pondering the "why race fixed gear" question and one of his thoughts meshed really well with my own: it boils down to the engine. You start stripping away most of the equipment advantages that can give you an edge and it just becomes about what you are capable of. One thing I won't do is use the equipment as an excuse. I choose the weapon, now it's up to me to use it. In the end I'm really racing against myself anyway, trying to see just how good I can do and how much further I can push myself. Beating anyone else is just a bonus.
The ladies: Super proud of the SSO ladies. Three out of four were doing their first 24 hour race. They rocked out on the only women's all single speed team. And they toughed it out in some difficult conditions. Great job!
First loser: We were 2nd in the single/rigid category and 39th overall for the race. I had the second fastest lap in the single speed/rigid class. That means I was first loser twice in one race. How often can you say that?
Team mates: It's important to have the right team mates for these races. I've got 2 rules for my teams: 1) Don't leave your rider hanging in the tent when they come in from their lap. 2) Have fun, even if you suffer along the way. I've raced on teams with Ricky d before, I always know what to expect from him and can count on him to push himself no matter what the conditions. Dan, the young guy of the bunch, showed his chops at SSWC and was a welcome addition who fit right in, I'm glad he caught wind we were looking for riders. Bonus points for going out and doing the first lap/run. Steve gets major props for jumping on my last minute invitation. He likes to think he was a last choice but in reality he wasn't even on the list because we knew he was working on forming his own team. Regardless, with very little off-road saddle time on the fixed he signed on the dotted line and got the job done.
Team support: Having it makes the race so much better. Having JoJo cooking and feeding us takes it to another level. A small, one woman powerhouse. Thanks!
My wife: Set a goal to race Big Bear on her single speed this year and did it. Very cool, especially since she's only been riding a few years. I'm a lucky guy.
Dave: Heading up the Team Mom and Team Dad crew, he was celebrating a decade of attending this race. He pulls together a big crew of fun people and makes sure fun is the #1 goal. Always a please to camp and hang with him and his extended family.
Gathering of the tribe: It's tough to get around the venue in any sort of timely manner. So many friends and riders I know, you just keep bumping into people, catching up, getting race reports, finding out what teams people are on. The venue and surrounding circus are as important as the race.
The race: I love the vibe here, especially at the start of this race, so much positive energy flowing in the raw sunshine. You could feel the air crackle with electricity in anticipation of the starting gun as Fugazi blasted from the loud speakers. With a crack there is a wave of energy that rushes through the course as the mass of racers surges forward like a pack of hyenas chasing down prey. The crowd is in a frenzy and most know that they too will be saddling up in a short time to take their own shot at death or glory on the mud covered rocks of Big Bear's technical terrain. A stark contrast to the grim scenes at 4am in the transition tent when people are fighting their desires to crawl up in a ball and sleep. I get a buzz every time.
Laird Knight/Granny Gear: Invented 24 hour mountain bike racing. Big props. I don't like to ride laps or race laps, but this format is the exception.
There you go, my thoughts on Big Bear. If you haven't raced it before, do it. I'm pretty sure you'll have fun.