Wednesday, May 23, 2007

24 Hours of Conyers Report

What a great race. What a good venue. Find me a cloud in that picture. That was Sunday morning.

Picture this: it's Friday morning and I'm driving to Kent's house. Got it in your head? Great. I drive a nice car, eh?

Anyway, I rolled up and the boys had the Suburban packed up and ready to go. We throw my limited amount of stuff in the back on top of everything, exchanged a few pleasantries, hit the WC and we were off for 630-ish miles of fun. Kent, Jonathan, Steve and I were on our way to the 1996 Olympic mountain bike course for 24 hours of fun.

The drive down was long but not so bad. We had a lot to talk about and Steve, Jonathan, Kent and I are not wallflowers. A little politics, a little bike, a little music, a 12" Subway spicy I-talian around 1... It was a long drive, to be sure, but the only unpleasantness was the sitting.

On the right we have Steve shaking hands with Laird before he sent everyone off for the run. This pretty-much shows the last place in time we thought we could still win. Next on the left is a thoughtful Jonathan 'Mr Freeze' Wheaton (who is always cold, by the way). Chris Willis before his morning lap, then Kent at the racer's meeting, me eating pancakes, some worked-over bikes, Kent doing the RFID Ants-In-The-Pants Dance and Steve chillin' out on Sunday afternoon at Casa de City Bikes - Conyers annex.

We rolled into Scenic Conyers, GA, and quickly found the horse park. It's a solid two miles away from grocery stores, restaurants and other services. That's not so bad considering how we packed, which is to say we needed to pick up some basics.

After unpacking the gear and setting up the tents, we went on a quick pre-ride of one end of the course. It was a dumbbell with one end pretty rocky and steep and the other end left to the unknown. We wanted to keep the start interesting...

We hit the great American institution that is 'Outback Steakhouse.' We ate like crazy and pretty-much all felt sick after stuffing down our desserts. Ouch.

We hung out Friday night but as the chill set in, we hit the sack after a long day of traveling. During the trip, we established that Steve would start, Kent was next then either Jonathan or I would go. We had time to figure it out and it would turn out that we pretty-much used all the time we had to make the decision: I was third, Wheaton would be the anchor.

Saturday is a bit of a blur. At some point, we started racing. Did Kent make pancakes? I seem to remember eating pancakes. I heard the name 'Chris Willis' being called and I ran over to the starting area as the riders were lining up and I saw our former inside guy at Jamis with a Free Flite jersey on. Yup. It was him. I'm glad we got to catch up. It was Dan from Free Flite who handed me my first beer after my race was over.

So, Steve decided to run the LeMans start. Actually, he really WANTED to run and we all had no problems with that. He came out of the gate strong, made up some time on the unknown (to us) part of the course and came by our site a minute down on our rivals, the Wrecking Crew from Athens. That was as close as we would get for the next 23 hours and 40 minutes... They broke the course record not once but TWICE! Those boys need a few pro licenses dropped their way.

Looking at the times for the night laps, I can't believe that my first of my double was a 53:57. I stopped in the campsite mid-lap, got my camelbak, switched lights, dropped my vest, ditched my waterbottle, changes batteries... It should have been way longer than that. I remember feeling good on that lap but the stop must have cost me at LEAST 2 minutes. The second lap was slower, for sure. Interesting. This link is the detailed lap times for our team.

I laid down between laps. I tried to eat and Susan's magic burritos went down great that afternoon and early in the morning. I ate four of 'em. They were bite-sized compared to our normal burrito making which helped a lot. And all them beans in there helped me out in the morning, if you know what I'm saying! Got it? Beans? Helped me out? Out?


The course itself was fun and challenging. The first 20 minutes (3.5 miles?) was supertwisty with great turns, drops, ledges, rocks, etc but the emphasis was on flow, fo sho. Lots of two-wheel drifts over pine needles at pretty good speeds. Transitions were key and if you had the power, you were ripping up the slow stuff to keep it moving. After you transition past the campsites, you hit a road crossing then up two slabs of granite to the next road crossing and a descent. You rode up/down a few times including one pretty-damn steep granite climb that led to a sweet downhill on granite to tight right-hand traverse into the trees and right into some 18" wide singletrack in the trees. It flowed real nice.

In the trees, it was nice and narrow with lots of great turns and little drops and technical root sections. There wasn't too much of anything to really slow you down. It was just a matter of trying to hold the speed and crunch up the short, steep stuff. There was one steep dirt climb with a hectic root/rock combo grunt at the top followed by some great narrow bermed trail with drops and some roots. There was a nice rock launcher as the trail turned semi-uphill for a technical root/rock section that led into more granite slickrock stuff, road crossing, granite to dirt to granite to dirt to granite to dirt to road crossing to finish area.

The back of the course would really mess with you. The rocks held in heat so they radiated at night so AFTER you warm up on the chilly side of the course, the rocks baked you. You would hit the open granite stuff that was all exposed then SHOOT down into the woods and shade under the trees. The transition time for your eyes would cause me to hesitate just a bit, enough to tug at the brake levers but not before I could control myself and keep my fingers from squeezing hard enough to slow me down.

We had a few issues during our transitions (two flats while I was sleeping? WTF?) but nothing major. We turned some pretty good laps and beat everyone out there but the other Expert Team. So it goes. They were cool guys and we had a beer with 'em at the end. They are coming up for Big Bear so we invited them to come to the DC area and ride (so we can kill them).

I managed to not get off the bike once (not sure why that's good if you ain't fast) and cleaned everything on every lap. It wasn't super-hard to do that, but it was important to me. I could have ridden harder through the course and just walked the steep stuff and probably had faster lap times, but this is MOUNTAIN BIKE racing, not RACING racing so staying on the bike was part of MY race. And I won that race.

It's a great race and it's worth doing. Laird pulled together another great event with a great course. After everyone left on Sunday, we even had the camping and hot showers all to ourselves. We hiked up to one of the granite rock faces and watched the sun go down. It was nice. Thanks to Dr Bill for handing out the good vibes and solid lap times. Big ups.

By the way, that pic on the right is what Kent looks like when he can't find his RFID card after his last lap. It was too funny. He even yelled at me while I stood there laughing. He pretty-much had his pants down two seconds after this shot. I'm almost done gouging out my own eyes...

We had a great time. The stumpy came through like a champ as usual. I continue to be amazed by those damn tires but the 1.9 let me down on some of the rock stuff, causing the unknown flats. I'm not surprised as this stuff was causing problems for people all day. I can't really complain.

I forgot to mention that I have some good helmet cam stuff as well. I'll try to get that posted on YouTube as we have some small clips. We gave Kent the cam lap as he had the last lap... Look for that asap. I'll try it now...


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