June 20/21 was this years anual Chico Racing Summer Solstice 24hr mountain bike event.
I chose to solo again this year, well for various reasons actually, but not the least of which is that last year was such a great solo experience that i was eager to duplicate that success. My results over the yrs have progressively improved due to training, organization and few other tricks which i'll save for my book which i may call "How to be a Great Solo 24hr Mtb Champion Like Me" (pic of me smiling and dirty and stuff)
This year I havnen't been on the mtb much, i got in only 85km of trail riding for this race which i believe i matched km for km in 6 laps, only 5 of which counted towards my standing. But i did have about 1600km of road riding so I wasn't worried about my legs. That 80km commute is awesome for getting in the klicks.
Preparation and organization of gear and campsite are important to me so after packing and driving and setup of the campsite which took until 10pm Fri night down in the "Fishin Hole" it was time for a beer and some shut eye.
I was having a great sleep Fri night until the heavy rain started, glad i picked up that Kenda KOT "King Of Tread", (this tire is scary looking, think tractor wheel but sharp), at the Moose as a last minute purchase on my way out the door.
I was hesitant to install these big tires on my race bike at first because of the rolling resistance so i at the last minute (theme here, never enough preparation) asked fellow Big Ringer Peter to switch them up for me as i headed off to the start line with the current Kenda Small Block Eights which were on my race bike already.
This proved to be stupid, or should i say StOoooopid! It was raining hard enough to wake me up 8 or 9hrs before the race! And it was still raining....I had asked Matt what he was running and he said he was running his dry tires so i figured good enough for Matt good enough for me. Think for yourself folks. Whatever Matt was riding was good enough for him anyway since he smoked that first lap like there wasn't any mud, i'd have been happy with that time on a dry day.
So after slipping and sliding around the first half of the course, the second half was much better as the ground back there drained away the surface water much better, I was glad I had asked for help with the mud tires as i was planning to use them right away. I came in switched my Giant race bike for my old Specialized which is my backup bike now with big knobbies, time to earn your keep old freind. I haven't ridden that bike in years for any length of time.
I immediately felt the benefits of these tires, on the rear was the mother of all mud tires the King of Tread and on the front was a Maxxis hanging around the tire pile in the garage thats been around for years, last minute decision to throw it in the truck once again. I was screaming thru the course without reservation for conditions whatsoever, it was great, i thought this is going to be awesome, i was giggly and happy cruising thru the muck like there wasn't any so i decided to have another lap on the Specialized before changing the wheels onto the Giant.
Lap 3 and 4
This is where things got weird with the mud. Lap 2 mud was soupy, messy, splashy stuff. Then the rain let up a little which caused the mud to stiffen and become thicker and stickier for lap 3. As i hit the muddy bog just outside the timing tent, i saw mud that reminded of a livestock stall on a farm, pigsty and such where the mud retains its shape after its been impacted. Riding through this quickly became no fun and as a solo its always a good idea to avoid pushing so hard through stuff that gains little time but kills the legs.
Anyway this turned out to be the theme for the first half of laps 3 and 4. As you pushed you bike thru the muck it would stick to itself and build up, hence the name "SnowManMud", on the tires to a point where the wheels would no longer roll. I at times put the seat into my right shoulder with the right across on the top tube, left hand on the left hand grip and pushed, sliding the bike to a place where i could remove the mud congealed - all over the bike - the old specialized was weighing 70ish pounds now and it wouldn't roll. There were some sections where something resembling riding was possible and once again the second half of the course was better and rideable, so it gave you some encouragement to go right on and do another lap, which i did.
Now i should mention that some riders had shown up well prepared and were actually riding past us in the bad stuff. I saw very skinny knobby mud tires that cut throught the muck easier and held less mud,I heard spray your entire bike with vegetable oil and the mud won't stick, be a really strong rider, whatever these guys were doing it worked for them and they were the envy of the race course.
Same old, same old, except that once in the second half of the course which was ridable before we found that it was now deteriorating to a point resembling the first part the course which had been shut down after my lap 4 for a shortened course.
During lap 5 i realized that this course was going south , particularly for solos. It was my feeling that on a team it would be more tolerable since its only one lap and then a long rest, so i figured the teams would continue until the course was shut down altogether, which fellow BigRingers did and gained first place in their category, as did Tanya, who by the way was also solo.
I was pretty much committed to hanging up my helmet for this one but Jenn, my fiance and support crew was doing her job making sure i went back out for my 6th lap. I didn't argue with her and did my job. I had borrowed Tobins light for this race and was excited about riding at Albion hills with over 1200 lumens combined head and bar mount, but decided not to subject my buddies lamp to this kind of abuse for no apparent reason so headed out with just a helmet mount.
I now pushed the bike -for the entire lap- until i got to the back section where i could duck under a ribbon and cut out 2 sections of bike pushing to save a good 45minutes getting back to camp. I felt i could maybe grunt through and steal some spots off of guys who dropped out but decided if they were ahead of me they deserved it and good for them, i trained to ride a bike for 24hrs, my best comes out in the second 12 so let'em have it and congrats! Time for a beer! When i got back the news was that the course was officially shut down. No surprise.
To BigRingers Peter and Mark for the tech support in pit, like i said those tires in lap 2 were the high point of the race.
To Jenn her mom Doris and aunt Ruth for the as always awesome pit support.
And to the all the BigRing sponsors, especially Kenda and Prolink who's products worked so well in the crazy conditions.
See you at Hot August Nights, Solo!