Race Report: 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, Tucson, AZ

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Race Report, 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo 2013

I love camping in the desert with my friends, as required for most of the 24-hour races I have done. Despite being a pretty intense backpacker in my younger days, I can now call myself a car-camping aficionado. After all, it would be hard to backpack with my coffee bin that contains a backup stove, thermos, favorite mug, pour-over devices in three different sizes, trusty Porlex portable burr grinder, filters, two kinds of coffee, and mini teakettle. That’s what goes in the car first… then, of course, the rest of the stuff has to fit too: tent (must have one per person at a 24-hour race), 2 sleeping bags (also for one person), two sleeping pads, huge folding table (de rigueur for these races), camp stove, propane, water, extra down blanket, pillow, towel, toothbrush, baby wipes, 7 pairs of bike shorts, 5 jerseys, 5 sportsbras, 2 jackets, vest, 2 long-sleeve jerseys, 14 pairs of socks, some undies, sweats, hoodie, t-shirts, toolbox, extra tires, water bottles, 2 sets of lights, batteries, enough carbohydrates to fuel three camels hiking across the freaking Sahara, most of which end up coming back again with me after getting tired of eating about halfway through the race (the carbs, that is, and not the camels), lip balm, sunblock, bike. So much stuff, even though we are meeting up with the fully stocked Stan’s NoTubes van (AKA Very Large Handbag), which is stuffed with extra Stan’s The Solution, ProLink, new goodies from Uvex and Northwave, more extra tires, tools, mechanic Chris who knows how to use them (bonus!), pumps, compressor, extra parts, you name it.

The first challenge of the weekend, after packing my car to the gills with all my stuff, and then re-packing it with all my stuff and Tiziana’s stuff when she arrived at my house at 6am Friday morning, was trying to put her bike on my incorrectly-installed rear rack that I had spent some time “fixing” (by attaching a critical part backwards) at about midnight the night before. A couple more trips into the house for the socket set and one more coffee, and we were on our way with the bikes certainly more secure than they would have been had we enacted Plan A (masses-of-bungees bike-holding solution). 6.5 hours of loud music later, we pulled into the venue and had a lot of trouble explaining to the parking attendant that we didn’t have room in the car for the 2 cans of food we were supposed to bring. I’ll have to mail a donation.

From the second you get out of the car until the end of the weekend, after awards, when you find yourself alone in the desert, staring at an unfathomable pile of stuff that now needs to go back into the car, time goes by ridiculously fast at these races. First order of business was to set up camp, set up the bikes, and get on them quick to get a lap in before sunset. Kathy, Tiziana, and I managed to keep the sun from setting until we previewed the last little section of singletrack. It was such a treat to go knee-warmerless in the 60-degree temps, and the sunset at the end of the ride was stunning, as was Kathy’s skill in righting herself after almost falling into the gaping chasm on the left side at the very end of the so-called “Bitches,” a series of steep ups and downs at the beginning of the course. We got back to camp and made a delicious meal of whole-grain angel hair pasta with mushrooms, peppers, and balsamic-marinated grilled chicken, hung out with teammates and friends, sampled some raspberry homebrew, and next thing I know it’s 11pm, and I am the last one still up. How does this happen?

Chillin' at the camp

Chillin’ at the camp

 

Race morning dawned sunny and bright, well before I crawled from my multiple-sleeping-bag-blanket-mattress nest. Because of a not-so-brilliant move I’d made earlier in the week to volunteer my running services at the LeMans-style start of the race, I was slated to start the race off for my team. Amanda, the newest member of the Stan’s NoTubes Women’s Elite squad, would go second, followed by Tiziana, a 15-year-old Get Out! racer moonlighting with the pros for the weekend, and then Kathy would be our anchor. Tiziana and Kaila took my bike to the start, and I warmed up by trotting over to the start of the run, which begins up the hill from the place where you grab your bike and get on the trail. The start was packed, so I squeezed into the front, determined to draft off of the tall guys. My legs have to move pretty fast to keep up with the giants, so it’s a good motivator. I came through the run pretty quickly, in spite of the guy in front of me falling on the ground (luckily he didn’t get trampled and got up pretty fast), and then did the best I could to get through the traffic on the open road before we got into the singletrack. I love the starting mayhem at big 24-hour races like 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. It’s fun to see some people you know, mixed in with a ton of strangers, all sharing a love of bikes and completely free from categorization. It’s chaos and madness and a total blast.

New kits, new shoes, ready to roll! Image courtesy of Dave McElwaine

New kits, new shoes, ready to roll! Image courtesy of Dave McElwaine

It’s also exhilarating to come through the finish as fast as you can on the first lap, and there are always a bunch of people hanging out at the so-called rock drop (it’s really just a gentle rock wheelchair ramp) to gawk and provide encouragement. Back in the exchange tent, I passed the baton to Amanda, who took off like a possessed flash of monkey lightning, and I headed back to camp to instruct Tiziana on exactly how these 24-hour race things work. She was already dressed in her kit, tires inflated, bike all ready to go, bottle in hand, raring to do a lap. As old pros go, the kid has her act together. She’d already gotten up early to get her homework done before the racing started. I’m always more nervous when the Get Out! kids race, so I held her bike while she hung out in the tent waiting for Amanda to come in. Next thing I know, Tiz is running over, jumps on with perfect cyclocross style, and she’s off on her lap. A really fast one, too, less than 10 minutes off of the rest of the team’s lap times.

Finishing the lap. Photo by Dave McElwaine.

Finishing the lap. Photo by Dave McElwaine.

The racing proceeded super smoothly from there. Not a flat tire or mechanical (discounting my flailing first-lap chain-drop) or even a nighttime battery issue occurred amongst any of our team, nor for Shannon’s indomitable Weapons of Ass Destruction 5-person team, out for their 10th Old Pueblo run. I did manage to have one of those night laps where you start thinking about food halfway up The Bitches, and then start hallucinating that the cute teddy bear chollas are waving drumsticks and ice cream cones at you as you ride by, but an extra burrito at the end of the lap and I was back to normal. My second night lap was a lot of fun.

Everyone on the team had fun with her night laps; the temperatures were chilly but not unpleasant, and Kathy and I were happy not to be riding in the rain and hail that we’d had at the race two years before. Super-duper bright lights from LightMotion didn’t hurt, either. The brighter the light, the faster you go! Tiziana hadn’t had much experience riding at night but turned in blistering times on all three of her night laps. Chris helped us make sure we got our batteries charged, and Tiziana had to help me get to the exchange tent once so that I could meet Kathy on time—for that to happen, I was going to need someone to carry a giant cup of coffee over for me. She cheerfully obliged even though it cut into her between-lap naptime.

You never know who you are going to meet in the exchange tent, and I had a few pleasant surprises during the night: on one lap I hung out with Shannon for a bit, and then later when I came in from my lap I got to see Chris Moor, a good friend from back in the Cannondale team days. On another trip through the exchange tent I had the opportunity to join Shawnie Mulligan, a member of the Snow Birdin’ team that was breathing down our necks the whole race, in some good-natured ribbing of a gentleman who was complaining about our fast-lady riding speeds. I hate to admit it, but it never gets old to see just how many dudes you can pass on your bike.

One of the best things about the race this year, besides seeing Kathy Sherwin back in action, was getting to hang out with Amanda, who is the newest addition to the team. I’d never spent much time with her, but it was so easy and fun to chill with her at the team HQ. I’m psyched to spend more time with her at the races coming up this season.

Good times!

Good times!

 

Here’s Amanda’s take on the race; so glad we could ooze for you, Amanda:

“The best part of the weekend for me was being welcomed so warmly and easily into the NoTubes family during my first event as a NoTubes rider. I of course knew that I’d be racing on the best equipment and would have great support. But, it took less than 5 minutes for me to feel like I had been on the team for years! Everyone is so genuine, positive and simply loves riding their bikes and the attitude is contagious. Even at 4am when we were all tired, smelly and would rather have been sleeping, passion and positivity just oozed out of the NoTubes camp. AND, not a single flat during 24 hrs of racing – Thanks Stan’s!”