It's been a while. Here's what I did in September:
Over Labor Day weekend I rode in the Eighth Annual 24 Hours at Seven Oaks. I can't say it was my best effort. Maybe my third best over the five times I've ridden the race solo. Given that I was out of shape and riding a less than ideal bike though...excuses, excuses. I rode about 88 miles in a little less than 14 hours on a 26" wheeled, single-speed, rigid, Surly 1x1.
The bike generated astonishment from the peanut gallery of 29"er, 2x10, suspended, titanium bike riders, but I didn't feel like I was at too much of a disadvantage. Heck, I knew that by lap three most everyone would be walking the hills anyway. And really I thought the bike served me well. It never beat me up or failed me in any way. My lights though...
I was feeling pretty good going into the night laps, always a bad sign. The first night lap went well, and I had just started to climb the second big hill on my second night lap when I saw a guy walking backward on the course with no lights. His headlight batteries had died and was walking out, back to the campground. I told him I knew how that felt (happened to me in '03) and kept going. Not 100 yards down the trail I thought that my lights were getting kind of yellow looking, the first sign of a dying battery. I figured I was just fooling myself, seeing things, after all the batteries should have been good for about three hours and I only had a little over one on it, but shortly after that the light went dim and then died. Crud.
Well, I could ride out the course with my backup one watt light or I could follow the dude back to camp. The one watt seemed to be doing okay, but I knew the course was going to get more technical. I was also only about one mile into an eight mile course. But I didn't want to sacrifice my mental momentum. I continued on.
The lap went okay, but I was glad to get back to the camp and hook up my second battery. The bright light was reassuring to see. I started up the first climb with new confidence. Then the light went out. Then back on. Then off. A loose connection? I checked both ends of the power cord. It seemed okay, but if I shook the light it would go on and off. Bad sign. Somewhere in the lamp there was a short. I turned around and rode the short distance back to camp, light more on than off.
What to do. I figured my race was done, at least until the morning. Luckily there were two sturdy DBDers, Charlie Farrow and Jason Buffington from Duluth on hand. They weren't ready to see my race come to an end (though theirs already had). Jason Buffington lent me his headlamp and helped me zip-tie it to my helmet. It wasn't as bright as my old one, but better than nothing.
Two more laps and I was starting to fade. Physically I was feeling fine. My legs were still working (though my arms were tired from the single-speeding), but my mind was going. I was starting to focus on the negative and imagine that I was about to ride off the trail with my weak lights. In fact, I was having trouble staying on the best line. I could no longer tell where the center of the trail was and ended up hitting more than my share of tree roots and branches. At the end of that (eleventh) lap I knew I had to stop and at least take a nap.
I unrolled my emergency blanket and sat down next to a fire that Kyle Sedore's had burning. Before long I was half asleep and overheard a few comments about a "baked potato", but I couldn't be bothered. I slept for a few hours, and just before dawn I was alert enough to continue. But I didn't.
I looked up at the hill looming over the camp and knew that to get back on the bike meant riding up and down that hill again and again for at least an hour and probably more. I didn't have it in me. I couldn't imagine doing it. I was done for lack of willpower.
Talk around camp was that 1st, and 2nd place were still racing hard, while 3rd wasn't going to catch them. 4th however was at 11 laps. There were at least 4 of us with 11 laps. If one of us went out, we all had to. None of us were going back out.
The broken (but still sturdy) DBDers gave me a ride back to Ames, before they hurried back to Duluth to meet their fates. Shamed I too fled the state.
The rest of September:
While I was out of the state I did manage to get in a short hike the next Saturday. Sleeping Giant State Park in Connecticut was a surprisingly strenuous endeavor in the middle of a very lazy week.
Returning to Iowa I rededicated myself and ran 25k on Saturday the 18th and then raced Cyclocross on the 19th. Cyclocross isn't for me. It's a tough 45 minute effort, but it's still only 45 minutes.
Finally, on the 25th I ran about 10 miles then learned to play Snooker early on the 26th. That's an adventure right?