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Surviving My First 12-Hour Solo Bike Race

Me headed out for another lap as the day wears on.

Saturday, I raced in the solo class of the Four Peaks “12 Hours in the Papago” mountain bike race.

Hang on – make the “Slowlow Class” … as in slow speeds, and a low number of laps!

I was pretty excited about this race since it’s so close to Phoenix – and I think Papago Park is one of the best attractions around. The red sandstone buttes are close to Mill Avenue and a lot of other fun stuff. And having a 12-hour race so close to home took some of the logistical problems away.

There were many interesting things at play here: I hadn’t ridden my bike in three weeks, mostly because of fighting off some sort of plague that’s making the rounds here. This was the first weekend I’ve felt pretty much back to normal.

I pretty much treated this as training for the Kona 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo race next month. I experimented with intensity, food and drinks to see what would work to keep my legs from cramping and stave off dehydration.

Mission accomplished: A combo of V-8, coconut water, Cytomax, Pro Bars and the occasional “toaster pastry” helped me put in 8 laps and avoid Dead Freakin’ Last place by a large margin. I also dealt with the cold pre-dawn temperatures pretty well.

Something else: I avoided caffeine the entire week before the race. I hate waking up early, so I decided skipping caffeine would help me fall asleep faster each night. Worked perfectly.

These are lessons I’ll apply next month when my bud Harry and I hit Old Pueblo as the duo team Bone Resistance.

OK, so how did Red Rock do in running and organizing 12 Hours in the Papago? Pretty well. Here are some points that stuck with me:

  • The course is laid out wrong. Within a few hundred feet of the start, the course funnels into an old narrow-gauge railroad bed. That caused a huge bottleneck.
  • There was a second bottleneck a few hundred feet later in a narrow, rocky chute followed by a short pitch back out. There were some bad bike handlers in the pack, to be honest. They were not up to it. It deserves a places in the course, but two bottlenecks that close to the start is not good routing.
  • One part of the course caused mass confusion on the first lap, sending many riders up a sharp climb. All credit to Red Rock’s course marshals for fixing it by the second time I came around.
  • Red Rock required riders to dismount in the horse tunnel since it was used for both directions. But the southbound dismount zone was loose and rocky – kind of dangerous for stopping and dismounting. Some smarter marshals worked on the problem a bit. But Red Rock should’ve had this dialed beforehand.
  • There were some really fun downhill bits where good riders could use momentum and completely let off their brakes.
  • I saw photographers on the course, but the Red Rock website has no mention of when they’ll be posted.
  • The people sent by sponsor Muscle Milk are awfully nice, and their products work very well for recovery. Protein + sodium + potassium = what riders crave.
  • The Solo Alley area was nice and convenient for those of us going it alone. Duo and quad teams had to set up their camps in less convenient stretches of the course.
  • Behavior on the course could’ve been a lot better. I’m talking about dangerous passes and not dismounting safely by the tunnels. I would single out the Vitesse teams in particular for a Jackass Award, if they were being handed out. None of these guys are Tinker Juarez or ever will be – nor do they have his excellent trail manners.
  • Expo area music … sigh. Before the start, I heard that god-awful boring Coldplay song. Never play Coldplay during an athletic event unless it’s competitive sleeping. The rest of the day, I felt like I was at a dance club every time I came into the pit area.
  • The Red Rock staff members and volunteers were all very nice. Check in went smoothly. They reacted well to situations on the trail overall.

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