Whoa. I am seldom at a loss of words but this weekend has me reeling. I guess the super PRO thing to do is give some mad props to the people at Mesa Cycles (not me) who do all the hard work to make this the top notch event that it is. I was looking back at photos from 2005 yesterday and there were about 25 bikes lined up for the Le Mans start. This year there were close to 100. There were names like Ploch, Kakouris, Chambers, Schmatz, Goscinski, and Froese that anyone who has ever pinned on a number in the Mid West knows and names like Brace and Aldredge that people know now. Pabst Blue Ribbon came on board this year as a major sponsor with the help of Dave Aholt and made things feel that much more legit. Not to mention the most coveted prize I have ever raced for; the 2008 Burnin 12 Hour Belt Buckle courtesy of Mesa Cycles and Jim(mer) Butler.
Before I start talking about myself, I want to tell you about the most amazing race I have witnessed between two very good friends of mine; D-Wanye Goscinski and my teammate Zach "The Deer Hunter" Brace. D-Wayne was the clear favorite and going into the race with goals of getting in a record setting 10 laps. Zach told me that while he had plans for winning this race someday, his goal for 2008 was just to get in 9 laps. So far only myself, Chris Ploch and D-Wayne had done so.
By the time I finished racing and started supporting Zach the race was a little more than 1/2 over and he was trailing by about 30 minutes. I have to admit that I wasn't too optimistic, but we knew what D-Waynes weaknesses were and kept Zach moving through the pits and as comfortable as possible. I eyed the king size Carmello bar in his cooler and for the first time ever didn't poach someones candy as it could be such a sweet reward. Who knows what was going on in Zachs head but somehow his lap times started to get faster as I watched. Another transition of Red Bull, Coke, Bananas and getting his lights on and things started to get interesting.
After the first night lap Zach was 11 minutes behind and we had confirmation that D-Wayne was sitting down for a little while, but not sure if he got out on the trail before Zach. We bit our nails for the next hour and a half and cheers erupted through the crowd when Zach came out of the woods in the lead. He said he came up behind D-Wayne who was unable to respond to his turn of speed. He didn't know it, but he had a 5 minute lead going into the last lap. I advised him to ride steady for the first half of the lap and turn it on when the trail let up a little at the halfway point... He seemed to be pretty stoked as we strapped on a fresh battery and chased him down the road. All we could do was wait.
When Grahm Aldredge finished his lap and told me he passed Zach, with D-Wayne still behind him, fixing a flat my heart sank. A 5 minute lead could easily be blown by something like a flat and it was going to come down to seconds. I rallied everyone to line up around the finish line and personally couldn't handle the suspense...
...Then Zach popped out of the single track and the crowd erupted! Nice job buddy! What an amazing way to finish a race. I can't tell you how impressed I am. Watch out folks.
My 6 Hour Solo experience.
I was not confident. I wasn't feeling well. I was stressed about the event as I am too competitive to "just show up and race." By the time I went to bed on Thursday I had decided I wasn't going to race. When I woke up on Friday I gave myself a pep talk about "taking my licks and seeing what could happen." I really have to thank everyone who had more confidence in me than myself for telling me I could do it and C-money for getting me fired up to race on Friday at work.
My plan was to go out pretty hard for a couple laps and see if I could open up enough of a lead to waterfall a little bit. Keeven has dominated events of this length this season, like Syllamos Revenge, Ouachita Challenge SS and the Rapture 6 hour so I wanted to go on the offensive and see what I was made of.
That's me on the left, Keeven in the middle and Richard Richard on the right... We look pretty good.
Apparently, my running in preparation for CX is working. I actually felt fast during the run and am pleased that they caught me in full stride in this photo. Where is everyone?
I looked over my shoulder just before the single track and saw quite a bit of daylight except for one lone rider who jumped me just before the woods, which was fine by me. It was about 3 miles in before Wes and Cameron came around me and I rode with them for a bit and then settled into my own sub-LT pace...
I was feeling great until Keeven came up on me just before the final climb and took the lead halfway up. I had been going pretty good and wasn't expecting to see him so soon and this was a huge mental blow to me, especially since my legs were feeling rubbery and like they were on the way out. We crossed the line together and set out on #2.
We rode together until the first big climb and then he put mega time into me mashing those gears on his SS. Two seconds to one at least. By the time I crested the next climb with the long straight downhill to the footbridge, he was out of sight, maybe a minutes distance. I was really suffering, started to get down and was having a hard time convincing myself to keep going until I caught a glimpse of him crossing the dam. I managed to bridge up to him not to long after that at the beach and we rode out the rest of the lap together and he was in the lead after 2. I convinced myself that as long as he was in sight I would continue to chase and just waiting to crack.
On the 3rd lap he let me take the lead through the first section and I knew that I needed to limit my losses and get the the first big climb before him. I wasn't putting the hammer down, but I was amazing myself at how smooth I was riding after not having ridden the MTB in quite some time. I didn't really have too much of a game plan but I was just trying to keep my heart rate around 165 and keep it down below my upper LT (175'ish) on the hills. Occasionally I had to remind myself that it was a long race and shift from the big meat down to the middle ring even though I was turning it over pretty easily... But not for long.
The fourth lap was pure pain. I don't know if it was the food poisoning, a stomach bug or my body just not being used to my endurance race mix but things started to go pretty poorly on the fourth lap. I watched my heart rate plummet 10 beats as I began to power down and started to do some more self motivating. I knew I had a decent gap on Mr. Keeven at this point but was expecting him to pass me at any moment. I told myself that if he did I would throw in the towel, but if I was in the lead I was going to suffer my ass off for one of those buckles. I was having a hard time staying focused because my stomach was hurting so badly when I came up on D-Waynes buddy and passed him. He caught up, we talked for a little while and then I told him to go ahead because I was hurting. A little water and a couple miles later I was back on track and passed him again and came through on my slowest lap of the day 1:17:50 something...
When I came through for lap 5 I was told that I had close to an hour lead and just needed to ride it out. I was ecstatic. I dumped a bucket of ice over my head, grabbed my IPod and started to sing. I'm sure some people were hearing me on the trail as I rode it in... I was pretty happy to say the least. Considering that I was able to convince myself to keep racing all day, setting some mini goals along the way and achieve something I had no confidence I could do, I feel like I learned something about myself and reached some new limits well beyond those of my fitness. That's especially sweet after some serious regrets after last years Burnin.
It's also safe to say that this is going to be a 6 lap race from now on. Had I been a little more prepared shaving the 9 minutes off two pretty slow 1:17 laps would be pretty easy to slide in under 6 hours for another one. Here is my Garmin thingamajig for the race...
Now it's really time to start thinking about some CX!!!