We (Me, Big Steve, and Josh) rolled into Wausau, WI last Friday ‘round 2pm and found ourselves at a primo campsite near the last bend in the race course. The vibe was subdued due to a smaller turnout for the event than normal. At the end of the day, there were over 300 teams registered, but it just didn’t seem that big because the camping is well dispersed. Granny Gear took over the event this year, and that didn’t go over so well with many value-oriented ‘Sconnies. All in all, it made for great racing, very quiet night laps, and if they learn from their mistakes this year, the event will be back to where it used to be within a year or two.
What happened can only be described in the context of a perfect storm – the good kind of storm that soaks drought stricken fields and breathes life into corn crops across Iowa in July. We had temps in the 60’s which aided hydration, 24 hour support before, during, and after the race from Big Steve with an assist from PMFT (Phil My Favorite Tool), no significant mechanical issues, and I had a partner that was as stubborn about hammering this out as I was. We had very few words at the exchange tent….just “nice lap”, or “go get it”, or “good work”. No drama, no crying, no bitching, just poker faces that said let’s do this.
Goooo! I was the runner for the LeMans start, and I was off the back of the pack within 100 yards. I learned my lesson at the 24 Hours of Moab last fall by sprinting and I never recovered. Yeah, I lost a couple of minutes, but big whoop – there were 23 hours and 58 minutes left. So I hopped on Big Steve’s rigid singlespeed Raleigh which has a lot going for it – except for the fact that the seatpost slips. My hamstrings were taking the brunt of the damage, and we were in 6th place after my lap. Josh put a good time in and got us into 3rd after his turn. I switched bikes after my second lap to Big Steve’s Salsa Dos Niner and that was the ticket for me. No seatpost issues and some suspension up front. I was dialed.
We sat in 3rd until dark when we made the leap to first place when other teams began doubling up laps to get some sleep for the other rider. Not us. Me, Josh, Me, Josh…..no variations from the order, no sleep, and everything was about routine and as Coach Steve said “I want you to give me 75% on every lap”. What coach says that? A damn good one, because once you blow in a race like this, it’s over. I’d finish a lap, Steve would wash the bike, tune it – all the while I’d stretch, put my legs up, and cram down as much food as I could in an hour. I ate seven sandwiches, fruit, salty shit, chicken breasts caveman-style, and the occasional licorice vine. One sandwich had bread totally soaked and soggy from the rain, but it didn’t matter. The white paste balled up and I choked it down with a smile. I was laughing inside about basically being able to eat the ass out of a rhino without much care or concern.
4am came and went and we were still a half hour up and that feeling of the sun coming up soon and wrapping up the event carried me through the pre-dawn dampness. Seeing the other teams not giving up was motivation to keep throwing down laps. PMFT woke up from a nap and was at camp then. He didn’t say much, but he didn’t have to. It was just about having another human up and alive to remind me that not everyone was asleep at this insane hour at that riding a bike in a forest of pitch black was a normal thing to do.
After 24 hours, we finished with a 35 minute lead over the second place team. We covered 255 miles over 18 laps of a 14+ mile twisty course that kept you on your toes. Sweet Sara, we won the G-Damn race! In 12 years of racing, that’s my first, first place ever in a non-age group event. Josh said about a month before that we would win it, and it happened.