Did Not Finish…I cringe just typing those words. Writing this race report stings and hurts, and it’s definitely not the one I wish I were writing. Last year my goal was to finish and surprisingly I finished in second place so I knew right away that I would be back to really compete…to continue to push my body to its limits. I picked up my training and focus for the entire next year in preparation for this year’s race. All efforts were aimed to finish the 24 Hours to the best of my ability. And for 20 hours of the race it was all coming together until an aggressive pass from a fellow rider sent us both down, and I stayed down…DNF.
But let’s rewind a couple of weeks…
The normal training build followed with a taper into the race was going well until I noticed my fork had developed some significant play. A trip to Flat Tire Bike Shop confirmed the bushing was shot and that it needed to be sent to Fox for repair, which typically runs three to four weeks and the race less than two weeks away. Uh-oh. But no need to freak out, the guys at the shop got a new fork ordered right away that would be here by the race. So I left my Roca Roja Mezcal at the shop and took the opportunity to dial in and prep my old El Mariachi to be my back-up bike. The following week the fork came in and got installed, but Kaolin had another surprise for me. My new wheels were done as well. He didn’t tell me the i9 hubs had gotten in and took them to Joey at Shadetree to get laced up to so Nextie carbon hoops. I was ecstatic to see the race whip coming together and looking so good. Kaolin, Dax and I stayed at the shop late that night getting the new wheels, cog and chain installed, but we ran out of time to get the remote lock-out installed on the fork. I guess it would stay there one more day. No big deal. The next day I went back and Kaolin had one final surprise for me, he changed out the ugly orange Fox decals for some black on black labels. This bike was ready! They say not to change anything before race day, but I have 100% confidence in Kaolin and The Flat Tire crew that it never crossed my mind. The only bad part of it all was that there was no time to test ride it as I still had to pack and get ready for the race.
Packing was a little more difficult this year due to the weather forecast. It was constantly shifting, but one thing looked certain, cold and wet conditions. Not the conditions us desert dwellers are well prepared for. It felt like I was packing everything I owned. My main concern was hands and feet so I packed all my Handup Gloves, including the warmer felt lined knitted sweater gloves, followed by all the socks. After the clothes, it was onto nutrition. I dialed in my nutrition plan and calories per hour and started to prepare snack bags full of premeasured contents and then every flavor of Carbo Rocket 333 for my bottles. Lastly was the camping gear and the car was ready for the early morning departure. The prep for this race is almost as hard as the race itself.
Friday morning came quickly and we were headed to 24 Hour Town early and got there around 10 AM. Danielle quickly headed out for a gravel grinder as her training for Dirty Kanza 200 is starting to ramp up. Meanwhile I set up our camp. Thankfully, Kaolin and Rick had gone down earlier in the week and dropped off their RVs and tents to save some spots. It worked out great and our location was perfect, just south of the rock drop. In our area was the Roca Roja Rollers (4 man singlespeed) me (solo singlespeed), and the Flat Tire Flyers corporate team. Everyone was trickling in throughout the day and camp was filling up. Meanwhile I set up our Coleman shade shelter and immediately became worried that it would collapse due to the high wind predictions for Saturday. I staked and tied it down the best I could hoping it would hold.
Danielle returned from her ride and everyone was just enjoying the nice weather (while it lasted) and having a good time watching Kaolin try to open the awning on his RV. Tom, one the corporate team racers, accidentally locked his keys in his car, so while Danielle cooked up some coconut-lime rice, red beans and mango (yum!), I helped Tom break into his car. After two hours, we finally got the lock to pop and we were ecstatic! Although stealing cars isn’t our calling, we felt pretty cool. After dinner, we all swapped stories around a fire (perfection) and it was early to bed for Danielle and I.
Thankfully I slept well and Saturday morning was spent resting as much as possible while staying warm. I took care of a few last-minute tasks, like lubing my chain and explaining my lights to Danielle for later that night. Finally, we were headed up to the start with Danielle holding my bike. Kaolin was at the start keeping the stoke level high despite the ominous rain clouds all around. It was easy to tell the weather was on everyone’s mind as toe covers, rain jackets and warm gloves were out in full force…well everyone except for the guy in the Borat singlet.
Finally, the gun went off and hundreds of carbon-soled, lycra clad bikers were running down the road to retrieve their bikes from the chaos. I made sure to line up a little further up this year and didnt walk the run at all. While I felt like the start was fast it paid off because there was less congestion in the Bitches and I didn’t have to walk like last year, due to traffic. Right out of the gate it was Kit, Albert and I pedaling together. The pace was still a little high so I backed off a bit and let them slip out of sight which was hard to do because the energy level was high due to the release of all the pent-up pre-race nerves. People were talkative and fighting for position and thankfully no crashes. Heading out on my second lap, it started to rain a bit so I threw on a light jacket, but the rain quickly stopped and I started to overheat, but decided to leave it on unzipped. The 2nd lap was fast and I caught back up to Albert while we chatted for a bit and tried to look good for the cameras. About half way through the lap I caught Danielle who was doing a lap for the Flat Tire Flyers corporate team. That was the highlight of my race, seeing her out there. A quick “I love you” as we passed and I left smiling from ear to ear. I am always grateful that we share a love for biking. I was also happy to see her doing well because she was having second thoughts about racing but she had to do at least one lap. The remainder of that lap flew by and I flew through the exchange tent. So much so that when i got back on my bike i leapt onto it like Superman and managed to tweak my bars a bit in the process. I rode like this for a bit, but had to stop and fix it. While i was fixing my bars Kit passed me which surprised me, I must have passed him in the pits. Oh well it was a long race . Also at this point the weather man made good on his promise and the rain started to fall. I was surprised to see how quickly the dirt turned to mud with standing water all around. Thankfully the course sheds water well and there were only a couple of sections that good muddy. I also got pretty cold, but I didn’t want to burn through my dry clothes stockpile too quickly so as I went by the pit I asked Danielle to have an extra baselayer, new gloves, and my lights ready for the next stop.
As I finished up lap three and headed out onto lap four the rain let up and the course packed down quickly turning to hero dirt and it was so much fun shredding the brown pow. There were still a couple muddy spots, but overall the traffic was burning in a fast compacted trail. After the shred session it was time for lights and i quickly stopped at the pit to install them. To my surprise Kaolin and Rick were there in addition to Danielle. I got my chain lubed, new bottles and food, and my lights installed. It was awesome, something out of a NASCAR race. I have the best friends. One thing I learned from last year was to get a smaller light for my helmet. I went with the Light and Motion Imjin 800 on my helmet which was perfect and lightweight while I went with a Light and Motion Seca on the bars. The plan was to run both on low and swap batteries every three laps. Thankfully Light and Motion sent some demo lights and batteries with Dax and he let me borrow a set so Danielle wouldn’t even need to recharge the batteries. The night laps started off with wind that seemed to change directions with every lap. There was also a light drizzle that kept the course tacky, but not too wet to make it sloppy or miserably cold. I did add a baselayer and my Handup sweater gloves to combat the cooler night temps.
The laps wore on and i focused on spinning consistent laps and not riding with anyone just for company. After 1 AM the crowd really thinned out and it became quite lonely at times, but i was remembering a podcast interview with Jefe Branham where he talked about suffering more than the competition. So i was determined to suffer. Thankfully I never had to suffer very long, because Danielle was always ready in the pit with some warm tea and encouragement. It was during these night laps that I learned I was sitting in first place with a growing lead. Danielle instructed me that it wasn’t time to race just to stay consistent. So that’s what I focused on, staying consistent. Another memorable part of the night laps was having Kaolin MC’ing in the exchange tent and he always cheered me on and got the crowd excited too.
Finally the witching hours were over and the sun was coming up over the horizon. I thanked God for keeping me safe through the night and for the break in the weather to see the sunrise. Seeing that sunrise after riding all night is an incredible feeling and I told Danielle before the race that i didn’t care too much about the rain, but i just didn’t want the overcast conditions to rob me of the sunrise. Seeing the sunrise was a glorious sight. It just gives you energy and hope to finish. At this point I had about an hour lead over second and a full lap on the rest of the field. So I decided not to push the pace yet but to stay steady. I was willing to give up a few minutes here or there in case I needed the energy to fend off an attack or anything crazy. I pitted after my 14th lap and took off my batteries and headed out on my 15th lap.
Going through the exchange tent the crowd was growing and the caffeine in 24 hour town was starting to kick in. There were more people out on the course, which was nice compared to those lonely night laps. I was maintaining my same steady effort as the teams were flying by with their fresher legs. I made it to the Corral trail when I heard one of those relay racers coming up fast as I headed into a narrow section of trail. Instead of slowing down the guy yelled out “on your left” to which I replied “there’s no room” and next thing I knew he’s right next to me and forcing me off the trail. He hit my handlebars which sent us both down (around 15 mph according to my Garmin). I tried to get up but the searing pain in my left shoulder said otherwise and I had to squirm in pain while the other guy apologized. I proceeded to call him a bastard and let him know I was in the lead and that he likely ruined my race. He apologized again and left to go get help…I never saw him again and probably for the better. Thankfully a guy named Mike (a fellow soloist) stopped to help me until the medics came. Mike was kind enough to call my wife for me so I could tell her I was ok, but had a crash. About that time the medics got there and they checked me over for spinal and head injuries even though I told them it was my shoulder. They also got me some blankets because I was shivering uncontrollably due to the cold. They finally sat me up and found a bump in my collar bone and put my arm in a makeshift sling and they put my bike on the back of the truck. My race was done…with only four hours left.
The ride back to medic tent seemed to take forever, and poor Danielle was frantic. I didn’t this at the time, but she was the next intersection on the trail waiting for me to cheer me on. After the call from Mike she sprinted back to camp and to get the car so she could take me to the ER. Thankfully our friends Rick and Ellen helped her get the car out of our packed campsite and Ellen drove us to the hospital because Danielle was in tears and hadn’t slept all night. We went to Oro Valley Hospital ER where they confirmed my fear of a broken collar bone, but worse than that it was displaced which usually requires surgery.
We left the hospital and I was still in third according to the results website, but knew my day would end in a DNF because I couldn’t get back in time to finish my lap, nor would I be physically able to. That’s one of the unique rules to this race, you have to finish your lap after 12 PM, anything finished before equals DNF…like my fourteen and a half laps didn’t mean anything. We missed the first part of the award ceremony, included my solo single speed category. I was pretty bummed about this because my friends Albert & Ashley both had incredible races of their own and I wanted to show my support. We did get to see the Roca Roja Rollers take the top spot in the four man single speed category. These guys are not only crazy fast, they are all around nice guys and it was fun hanging out in camp with them and seeing them on the trail. The final category was the corporate team division and I was really happy to make it back in time for this one because the Flat Tire Flyers got fourth place and I didn’t want Danielle & Ellen to miss their awards. They invited me to join them on the podium which was a nice consolation prize. These people are family to Danielle and I so I was thrilled they had me join them.
After awards it became apparent that getting our car back to camp would be next to impossible due to the exodus of cars and people leaving 24 Hour Town. We still had to break down camp and load up the car, things were not looking good. But our Flat Tire Family told us to head home and they’d pack up and bring everything back for us, seriously they are the best. The drive home was pretty quiet. I was still in shock that I was executing my race almost perfectly and I’d made it 20 hours just to have it all erased in an instant. I think it would be easier to accept a personal mistake, but to pay the price for someone else’s mistake has been difficult to digest..but that’s part of racing. I am happy with my consistent lap times, I stayed on top of my nutrition, Danielle really shined helping me keep my pit stops short, and I’m happy to have spent the weekend around a sport I love and with the people I love more.
I’m happy with how my race was going and I have a lot of people and sponsors to thank that help me out along the way.
Danielle: My wife is incredible and I think the DNF has affected her more than me, and rightfully so. She supported me through all my long training weekends, was my expert nutritionist and psychiatrist when I felt off. She has seen first had the work that went into the race. And now she is selflessly helping take care of me while my arm is in a sling and I recover from surgery. I couldn’t do this without her and I love her so much.
Dave Marks & Racelab: Dave is the best coach around hands down. I’ve trained with Dave for almost three years now and he’s taken me from newbie to where I am now. Three years ago at Old Pueblo I was on a four man team and my average lap time was 1:25 for four laps. This year my average lap time through 14 laps was 1:24 (that includes time for pit stops). That credit is all for Dave.
Roca Roja Bicycles: My Mezcal is the best bike I have ever ridden. It is incredibly fun to ride and can just shred through the corners. The titanium frame was noticeably better compared to my steel El Mar that I rode last year. Great ride quality and much more responsive, plus it has the coolest head badge.
Thomson Bike Products: I’ve always loved Thomson because of their heavy engineering influence and how they use that to back their products with data rather than marketing gimmicks. My All Mountain Carbon bars were up to the task and kept the control of the bike easy. That’s also due to the x4 eliete stem (with gold dress up). And finally, my favorite Thomson part the Masterpiece seatpost. It’s super light and compliant enough to make any duration in the saddle comfortable.
Handup Gloves: I rocked Handup Gloves for all 24 Hours in 2016 and this year wasn’t any different. I used their blackout gloves for a few hours but changed to their felt lined knitted sweater gloves for most of the race due to the colder temperatures. They kept my hands warm and comfy the entire time. Great gloves by a great company who legitimately care about cycling and spreading the stoke.
Elevated Legs: The best in compression recovery boots! They definitely helped lower my recovery time allowing me to better and more productive workouts while training. The only problem is I usually have to fight Danielle on who gets to use them first.
Kaolin & The Flat Tire Bike Shop: The best bike shop and very deserving of the ‘World Famous’ title. They take care of all of our bikes and have the best service around. The shop and Kaolin were critical in getting my bike and fork ready this year. I’ll never go anywhere else. Kaolin also did my bike fit and I had no pain or discomfort for the entire race.
Not sponsors, but overall great products and companies that deserve some love.
CarboRocket: Half Evil was my primary fuel source for the entire race, so tasty and no GI issues.
Endless Bike Co: The odd 1 chainring and kick ass cog kept my drive train rocking all race while looking fly.
Togs: I threw these on before the race because, why not. I ended up using them a bunch and hardly had any finger numbness this year. I’ll have to do a product review!
Industry Nine: This was the first ride on my new wheelset and they were awesome. I felt like I was cheating with the 3 degree engagement.
Shadtree: The shop that built up my i9 wheelset, quality service and great wheel builds.
- Roca Roja Mezcal (XL)
- Thomson X4 Elite Stem
- Thomson All Mountain Carbon Bars
- ESI Chunky Grips
- Shimano XT Brakes/Rotors
- Thomson Masterpiece Seatpost
- MTB Devo Saddle
- Salsa Liplock Seatpost Collar
- Ti King Cage Bottle Cages
- Shimano SLX Crankset
- Endless Bikes Odd 1 33t Chainring
- Endless Bikes Kick Ass 20t Cog
- KMC 10 Speed Chain
- Industry Nine Classic Hubs with Centerlocks laced to Nextie Rims
- Bontrager XR2 2.20 Tires Front & Rear (26 psi); Tubeless
- Fox Float 34mm with Remote Lockout
- Rogue Panda Toptube & Downtube Accesory Bags