Should Cyclists Wear Jerseys to Spin Class, and other Polls

I have decided to try conducting a poll. I am hoping to get as many responses as possible for my first fun forray (how’s THAT for alliteration) into the sampling, collection, and sharing of largely unnecessary information. Why? Partly because it’s fun, but also because these are burning questions for me. I’m genuinely interested in the responses, and one way or another, I will be acting on the results of these questions.

If everyone who reads this responds, then that will mean two things:

  1. I will get at least five responses (***numbers based on current readership), which I consider ABSOLUTELY enough to be representative of the population as a whole; and,
  2. You will make my day and I will likely giggle with glee. Like a school child.

My First Solo 24 Hours of Adrenalin – Part 3, The Grand Finale

Continued from Part 2, and (finally) concluded.

I returned to my tent and explained the situation to my sister, Leanne, in the most dramatic fashion possible. She kindly provided me sympathy. We decided that all I could do was stretch, drink some more and eat some salty food to replenish my depleted electrolytes. While she made me some noodles I wandered over to an adjacent building so I could use the wall to stretch.

I lay on my back and put my legs up against the wall, and then let them fall to each side, feeling a decent stretch that at least partially reached the affected area. It was while lying there in this vulnerable position that I looked up, squinting into the bright sky, and saw a girl in a wedding dress walk by. Obviously I was delirious with exhaustion and cramp pain.

As it turns out, it was all too real. The building I was stretching against had been rented out for a mountain wedding, and the bride pretty much had to step around my rank, Lycra’ed and spread eagled body on her way in to the most important day of her life (she was a great sport). My sister caught site of this and naturally rushed over with her camera.

The wedding party sneaks up

Yup. That's me. The one in the more horizontal orientation, right in the middle of the big day.

We returned to the tent, both of us laughing, and Leanne suggested I use the travel roller she had bought me as a birthday gift (for rolling out my IT bands), and try rolling out the cramping muscles. I lay on the ground on my belly and rolled back and forth, using my body weight to create as much pressure as I could handle.

It was heavenly, in an it-hurts-so-good kind of way. My eyes rolled far, far back into my head.

The heavenly roller

After a good long stretch I scarfed down two packages of Ichiban noodles Leanne had made me with a hefty dose of their salty flavouring packets. While she refilled my water bottles with Hammer sports drink I sat down for a quiet moment and tried not to think about my stupid legs.

Around 8:00 I decided the show must go on, so I mounted lights on my helmet and handlebars and headed out for a lap as day turned to night. The lap went much better, with the cramping occurring only every now and then, which was most certainly much more pleasant than always and continually.

When I returned to camp Leanne had boiled some water and poured it into a Nalgene bottle for me. It’s a trick she had learned winter camping – it’s not intended for drinking, it’s meant to be used as a hot water bottle – but with the hot water in it, it also happened to take the cake as the newest and best cramping muscle stretching thingy ever. My eyes rolled even further back in my head than before as I rolled on the Nalgene bottle while the heat soaked into my leg (anyone know how to get a patent?).

By this point I had exhausted my ability to swallow gels, so I opted for even more noodles, and then headed back out for my fifth lap.

I always find that the night laps seem to go by much quicker, despite my slower lap times, because I have no choice but to narrow my focus completely and just chase the small beam of light moving in front of me. That little beam of light is all that stands between me and a thousand different oblivions, which, as it turns out, is sufficient motivation to keep me focused. It’s the proverbial carrot on a stick.

With my attention fixated so deliberately and intensely some senses are heightened (for example, my ability to hear what I think is “a bear” from about five kilometres away), while everything else slows down or just fades into the background.

To put night riding in perspective, whenever I am giving tips to new mountain bikers I pull out the same hypocritical sage advice that I think most bikers do: look where you WANT to go, or in other words, DO NOT look where you DO NOT want to go, or you will go precisely there, and quickly. I find night riding forces me to actually do that. I can only see what is in my beam of light, and thankfully, it is typically pointed roughly where I want to go. Giant canyons can slip by just to the side of the trail, and as long as I remain blissfully ignorant of them, I also remain out of them. Maybe I should only ride at night.

Crossing the over/under bridge at the start of a night lap

I look much more tired than the time would suggest I should be

An hour and forty minutes or so later, I was ecstatic to be returning from a successful fifth lap – the most I had ever ridden at a 24HOA event – but I was utterly exhausted. I squeezed the newly refreshed hot Nalgene bottle between my legs, slumped into a folding lawn chair, pulled my toque down over my eyes, and fell asleep.

A much needed, but all too short, rest

Just before midnight, Leanne (bravely) shook me awake. She could tell I was in no mood to get back on my bike, so super nice as always, she politely asked for my permission to do so before berating me into getting back at it. This polite berating, as it turns out, is one of the most important skills of a good solo rider’s pit captain. That and the ability to make endless pots of salty Ichiban.

A few minutes into my sixth lap, just as the sound of the announcements over the loud speakers back at camp was starting to fade into unintelligibility, I could have sworn I heard something about a grizzly bear being spotted near check point 1. This was the last thing I wanted to be hearing as I started a night lap and it sent a shiver of regret up my spine as my thoughts turned from “lap number six, holy crap, I’m rocking this” to “is this worth it? Like, at all?”

I did not see a bear, but the cold tingling sensation of fear that persevered at the base of my neck for the rest of the lap left me thinking that just maybe, one saw me.

The face of exhaustion

Upon arriving back in camp and doing another epic round of stretches, Leanne and I agreed that some good rest was in order, and I crawled into the back of her minivan and quickly drifted into a deep coma of a sleep, turning a two hour lap into one lasting six hours and forty one minutes.

My seventh lap passed in a quick blur of relief. I remember that strong elated feeling of hope (manic hysteria?) that rises with the sun at dawn after a long night. And my maniacal smile in the pictures would seem to indicate that I was indeed, hysterical. All kidding aside, I was just very happy. My legs were much better and I felt fairly rested after my snooze, and although my forearms were so sore I could hardly grip the bars (the next day I would not be able to put on deoderant because I couldn’t hold it tight enough), I was extremely pleased with my performance on my maiden solo voyage.

Beyond tired and into hysteria

I was nearing the end of that seventh lap right around 10:30 am. This left me in an unfortunate predicament, based on the following five facts:

  1. I had to finish my last lap after noon but before 1:00 in order to not be disqualified from the event, but….
  2. I could choose to not cross the finish line at that point in time, but rather sit in my camp until noon, and then ride my bike across the line, thereby finishing “legally” without riding another lap; however….
  3. I had set myself a goal of riding 7-8 laps so one more lap would really be great, and….
  4. I most definitely had enough time to do so, but…..
  5. My legs and forearms were pretty darned tired.

Suspecting (actually knowing) I had the energy in my tank, I was leaning more towards venturing out for one last lap. As I approached my camp, which was on the way to the transition area, I saw that my wife had arrived and was standing there with our son in her arms, beside my tired but amazingly still upbeat sister, both of them cheering incredibly loud. It became clear that I would do one more lap, but there was no way I was not going to be spectacularly theatrical about it.

I rolled into camp, hugged them both, and breathlessly asked my sister to fill my water bottle. I purposely didn’t say anything about another lap, and for fear of hurting my pride, they purposely didn’t ask. I paused dramatically for much too long, and then stoically broke the news. Always at the ready to humour my shenanigans and support me, they did not disapoint. They both cheered even louder than before. Thankfully I did not crash my bike like an idiot as I pedalled off like a man off to war, although I’m sure it would have been fitting karma in response to my dramatic antics.

Feeling spent, I still finished my last lap in an hour and thirty five minutes, just a few minutes longer than my very first lap (you’ll recall the first lap included the run; however). Still, it was pretty fast, all things considered, and the perfect way to end the race. That lap, and the hope that my sister will pit crew for me again and Ichiban will sponsor us, is the only reason that I registered to do it all over again this year.

and........DONE

Best family, friends and support network for a recreational athlete ever!

My very supportive family. My son even has a whistle. Thanks Fanny for helping make these silly things happen for me!

and the best Pit Captain ever too! I can't thank you enough Leanne! You kept me going. UTAH!

My First Solo 24 Hours of Adrenaline – Part 2

Continued from Part 1

I finished my first lap in 1:32:42. Considering that this included the Le Mans start and the hold ups as we jockeyed and sorted ourselves out; that I had taken it relatively easy; that I still felt good afterwards; that it was muddy; and that my average time for all-out efforts on normal laps in past years had been around 1:20; I was off to a smashing start. It was my first solo 24HOA attempt, and all things considered, I had just completed what might have been my best lap ever (not best time, just best). I could have cried with joy. Then I looked down at my bike and saw the “trail mix” of mud, gravel and pine needles caked liberally throughout my drive train, and I did cry (okay, not really, but all that mess sure did hurt my feelings).

Writers Note: writing this now, months later, I realise that a lot of this has become a messy blur for me. This is possibly a defence mechanism in response to the serious trauma that the race likely caused me. For all I know I reverted to a childlike state and thought I was riding a cute little bike with a banana seat down to the corner store to buy some candy that probably tasted suspiciously like Hammer gels. To continue writing this story I actually had to very closely examine all pictures, build a spreadsheet to analyse my lap times against the official ones posted on the 24HOA website, and then I still had to call my pit boss (aka sister) to clarify things. Thus, if you are at all interested in historical accuracy, you may just want to stop reading now – the rest may very well just be my recollection of a delirious fantasy.

I didn’t have a spare bike, so after my first lap my choices were limited to continuing to ride on my dirty machine, or take the time to go stand in line at the bike wash and clean and lube it properly.

Additional writers note: One more thing I should explain is that laps are timed continuously. In other words, when you finish your first lap, the time starts for your second lap, even if you decide to go clean your bike or just hide in the porta potty for a while and regroup. This means your actual ride time for any lap as reported by your Garmin bike computer could be, oh, I don’t know, 1:33:26.6, where the official lap time reported on the 24HOA website might be, say, 2:22:04. These times are just a random example picked out of the air, of course!

After careful scrutiny, the current evidence seems to indicate that I decided to ride two more laps before stopping for my first real break. I do recall that at some point the sun had come out, and the ground had dried to a nice tacky state where traction was maximal and dust was minimal, and that my drivetrain had accepted the messy situation and decided to keep working flawlessly nonetheless. I will assume those factors informed my decision to plod on. And as explained so expertly and eloquently above, despite what the 24HOA website might have you think, I finished each of those next two laps in just under 1:35. This is something I am immensely proud of doing. In just a few hours I had tied the total number of laps I had completed at several previous races as part of a team, and was only one shy of tying my most laps ever.

It was 5:45 in the evening by the time I had taken my first real break (all 48 minutes of it), cleaned and lubed my bike and eaten some food. This bode well for me, because despite my lack of actual physical preparation for the event, I had mapped out some goals, one of which was to complete four laps before it got dark.

This next part I remember all too well. Approximately a third of the way through my fourth lap I started to feel a strange tugging feeling along the inside of one leg. It turned out to be the beginnings of a cramp, but one in an area I had never become acquainted with in all of my 36 years. I could identify my quad on the front of my upper leg and my hamstring on the back, but this cramp was occurring in the no man’s land in-between them. Here I was, with a strange electric burning sensation running up the inside of my thigh, and all I could envision was my knee cap and groin being involuntarily brought closer together by some sinister and powerful outside force who had neglected to consult with me first.

I felt immediate and severe dismay.

I hate, hate, HATE!! cramps. I cannot underscore, bold, or italicize that enough. They make me squeamish and upset. Sometimes downright inconsolable. Not just because of the pain, but because I have trouble making myself pedal through them, thinking I am somehow going to wreck myself in some more permanent way. I immediately skip to the last of the five stages of grieving: acceptance. “I have a cramp. That’s it. It’s out of my hands now.  The race will clearly have to go on without me.” (For anyone reading this thinking they were going to read about me conquering this thing like a warrior, I apologise, but that’s apparently not how I roll.)

Knee deep in sorrow but not (quite) willing to quit the lap, I concentrated on letting the offending leg freewheel around, focusing on getting all my power from the other leg instead. The intent was to give my cramping leg a break; the unfortunate outcome was to hasten the arrival of the same cramping in the other leg.

It was the oddest feeling. Both legs were cramping in the same way, strongly during the down stroke and then subsiding slightly but lingering during the upstroke (I never claim to have an even pedal stroke). The way the overzealous muscles pulled on my kneecaps it felt as though very powerful magnets were now attracting my knees together through the frame of my bike. It was strange and immensely upsetting.

I lasted maybe a dozen pedal strokes this way before giving up and dismounting my bike. For the next 5-10 minutes I proactively assured every single biker that came by (there were a lot) that I was okay. I felt they needed it, coming around the corner only to find me sprawled on the ground beside my bike at the edge of the path. Passerbys saw me in such graceful positions as on my back with my legs up in the air but sprawled out as far to either side as gravity would take them, or on two hands and one knee with the other leg up to the side like a dog peeing, or attempting to drape the inside of my thigh over the top tube of my bike and then crouching down on top of it.

I tapped into my deepest, most creative juices, but for the life of me could not figure out how to properly stretch out whatever mystery muscle group was sidelining me.

I got back on my bike and mustered the gusto to finish the lap, stopping a couple more times for some imaginative and inspired stretching along the way, and capitalizing on every smooth, flat or downhill section to take one hand off the bars and knead the painful areas.

As with every lap, when I crossed the line at the transition area, I was greeted by volunteers simultaneously cheering for me and aggressively demanding that I dismount my bike to run into the transition area and check in. I obliged, but only in a feeble, hobbling kind of way.

….to be continued….

Rounding a corner mid-way through a lap