24 Hours of Adrenalin

May 26, 2006 at 12:14 pm (Mountain Biking)

24 Hours of Adrenalin

Originally uploaded by StormyPetrel.

"I feel like I was dropkicked by a giant," says Nowak, squinting into the light from my headlamp. I've just roused him from his tent to let him know that I finished my lap, Aaron is on the course and he needs to be at the transition station in 45 minutes. It's about 2am, and we are just over halfway done with our first 24-hour mountain bike race.

24-hour races are growing in popularity. The rules are simple: complete as many laps as possible on the course within 24 hours. Most contestants enter as a team, but a growing number of masochists are racing solo. We registered as a 4-person team.

The 10.4-mile course at Laguna Seca was short, fast and not very technical. From the transition tent racers rode 500 feet to the base of a bridge, carried their bike up the steps and rode across. Some riders opted to carry down the steps on the other side, but most rode across. From there, you cross a street onto a dirt trail, climbing for maybe 50 vertical feet and crossing another street before starting the first earnest downhill section.

The rolling singletrack downhill trail is well maintained, with banked turns and mostly clear sightlines that let even inexperienced rides feel comfortable with opening up and hauling ass through the entire section. A few short climbs are easily taken if one maintains his momentum. The downhill section is over after you wind down the side of a hill and cross a small creek (this section had been washed out in heavy April rains, so there was a brand new culvert over which to ride).

This begins a well graded singletrack climb with a few short downhill sections. Just before the marker for Mile 3 there is a short downhill followed by a left turn into a sandpit. Make sure you are geared down and execute your turn before the sand if you want to get through it clean.

After the sandpit, climb about 3/4 of a mile to the first tough climb, Hurl Hill. Hurl Hill is steep, but short. Grind through it, watching out for ruts, and it's over before you know it. There is a drinnk station at the top. After hurl hill is swooping fire road that gradually descends to the next singletrack section. You can really haul ass on this fire road. Be careful of ruts, loose gravel and some sandy sections.

A little while after the marker for Mile 5, turn right into a wooded singletrack section. Roll up and down with the trail before making a short climb up to the top of the "Twisties". The trail is shaped like snake in motion, turning back and forth as it descends down a relatively steep hillside. It's hard to bomb this section, but the turns are generally banked favorably. Turning left at the bottom of the Twisties, you enter a rolling, turning, fast singletrack descent through trees.

Just before mile 7, the singletrack ends its descent with a left turn onto a fire road. There is another drinks station here. The fireroad is flat at first, but gradually turns into a long but nicely-graded climb back to the raceway. This climb is called the Grind. When we were racing, there was a strong headwind that made the climb a lot tougher than it would normally be. But it's still very doable, and can be cranked out well above granny gear.

At the end of the climb there is a sharp turn to a steep, loose singletrack climb that is a hike-a-bike for most riders. You're on the home stretch! A little pavement, a right turn through a covered bridge, and a little more singletrack and suddenly race central comes into view. Put it in high gear and push hard to the end. You still have about a mile of riding, as the course brings you back over the bridge you crossed at the start, and then circles the entire race and camping area (where people are often cheering you on). Dismount when you enter the transition area, check in with the timekeepers, and then pass your baton to your teammate.

For all but one of us, this was our first 24-hour race. We had no idea what to expect. We were hoping for 1:30 lap times, but quickly realized that the course could be done in an hour or less. After the first 12 hours, we were in 15th place (out of 20 teams). But as night fell, other teams' times started dropping off, while our lap times stayed remarkably consistent. We started gaining ground until we were only 3 minutes behind the 10th place team with 1 lap to go. Aaron turned in a great lap, beating clinching 10th place by a couple minutes. Top 10 finish isn't bad for our first try!

Here is a link to the full results.

Personal results:
Distance: 52 miles (5 x 10.4m laps)
Time: 5hrs 20mins
Avg. Speed: 9.75mph


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Coming Up…

May 12, 2006 at 7:26 pm (Mountain Biking)

I'm standing among a pile of camping gear, gatorade, clif bars, CDs, rags and biking gear. My bike, fresh from a tune-up, is ready and rarin' to hit the trails. Tonight begins a period of time over which Team SHP will race at 24 Hours of Adrenalin, then travel to Fruita, CO and Moab, UT for two weeks of riding that will include 5 days on the famous Kokopelli trail.

I won't be able to blog live from the race, but will record thoughts and pictures and post them after the fact. As for the CO/UT trip, myself and other members of Team SHP will be blogging from our hotels in Fruita and Moab. Stay tuned!

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Yosemite, April 29-30 2006, Day 2

May 2, 2006 at 11:13 am (Whitewater Kayaking)

Merced River Kayaking

Originally uploaded by StormyPetrel.

So, Saturday night we're relaxing back at the bug and Eric walks up to me.

"Hey dude, want to go boating tomorrow?"

"Um…can I?" I didn't have any of my gear with me. Furthermore, I haven't been in a boat in 20 months or so, and last I heard the Merced river was running at about 300% of average flow — nearly continuous Class III and IV rapids.

"One of the folks I went with today offered to loan you all her gear so you could paddle tomorrow!"

It didn't take long for me to decide. Despite the fact that I hadn't been boating in so long, I couldn't turn down an offer like this.

"I'm in!"

The next morning, we got up packed our stuff and loaded up the car. I was going to be paddling a Pyranha H:3 that belonged to a woman a few inches shorter than me, so it took some work to adjust the outfitting. We ended up pushing the seat back as far as we could since the bulkhead was too big to move forward at all. That meant my weight would be shifted back in the boat, making maneuvering more difficult.

Just before we said our goodbyes, I was loading the last of my gear into Eric's car. A convertible drove by and the drive called out saying that one of our tires looked really low. I looked and, sure enough, the rear drivers side tire was nearly flat. Is it a sign? Should I bail on this trip? I purged the thoughts from my mind. I was psyched to get on the river.

Eric amazingly changed the tire (with just a manual jack and tire iron) in under 15 minutes and we were on the road. We set the shuttle and scouted a few of the bigger rapids. We spent the most time looking at Nightmare, a big class IV with a tricky left-to-right move halfway down to avoid an enormous hole on river left. Gazing at the features of the river, half of me was excited and impatient to get onto the river, while the other half was starting to seriously worry about how strong my combat roll would be after this much time off.

The put in drops immediately into strong class II, so it was a half mile before I could test my roll. I tried both sides, and popped up no problem. The H:3 is a high volume river runner/creeker with a flat bottom, and was way easy to roll up. That calmed my nerves, and before I knew it we had cruised through several class III sections and were approaching nightmare.

Nightmare features a rocky islet at river center, with the most navigable channel on river left. However, that channel dumps into a munchy hole, so one must catch the slackwater behind the islet and drop onto a narrow tongue of current just right of center to make it through the bottom section. I positioned myself in the middle of our pack, so I'd be surrounded by boaters if something went wrong. But nothing went wrong. A lot of my muscle memory was still there, and I got through Nightmare with no problem. I was psyched.

Nightmare is actually the beginning of almost 2 miles of fairly continuous (at least at this flow level) Class III and IV whitewater. I made it through a couple more rapids before my first flip. It was a scary one. I was following another paddler in our group, who took the inside line through a turn. Just as I came down over a big wave, I saw that he had just narrowly missed a pourover into big hole and that I was heading right for it. I tried to sweep and crank myself right, but ended up just killing my momentum and dropping into the hole sideways.

I was sidesurfed for maybe a couple seconds before I flipped. I scraped my helmet on the way down and there I was, dark, boiling water rushing about me. I gave myself a couple seconds and tried to roll up. Got about 3/4 of the way — enough to catch half a breath — and saw that I was still in the hole, then flipped back under. I tucked, set up, and waited…and waited. Time moves very slowly when you're under water. I couldn't have been in the hole more than 5-7 seconds, but it felt like 30. Finally I felt the currents around me change, and I gave rolling another shot. I popped up easily about 15 feet downriver of the hole. Whew.

That episode spooked me a bit, and I wasn't as aggressive as I should've been the rest of the way through, resulting in about half a dozen more flips. But I was always able to roll up, and had a blast riding the enormous wave trains featured in some of the rapids. Our takeout was a turnout off of 140 about 7 miles downriver, right after Ned's rapid, our last Class IV. I ran it clean and Eric even shot some video (I'm the clip ending in 704).

All in all this was a great run. I was very pleased with how well I did given my extended layoff and the questionable fit of the boat. I miss boating, and may find myself picking up some used gear so that I can go out with these guys again. They all belong to Gold Country Paddlers. Boof.com is also a good resource for California boating.

Run Details
River: Merced
Put-In: Red Bud picnic site
Take-Out: Beach near Hwy 140, about 7.5 mi downriver
Flow: 8500 cfs
Class: III – IV

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