I have been wanting to do this race for a very long time, in the past I’ve always taken the winter off from riding and skied, at least for 3 months anyway. I love skiing and always will, it used to be what riding bikes is to me now but slowly over the years that ski time has gotten smaller and smaller until last winter it was 2 days of skiing because I spent most of the winter in Arizona.
I kind of decided last winter that the best way to be ready for 24 Hours of Old Pueblo (OP) was to just continue training from 2019 through the winter and be in top form in February for OP. I seem to end up doing things the hard way and instead of heading south when the winter hit in Colorado I stuck around and did my best to get as much volume as I could wile helping my girlfriend remodel her house. Living in Fairplay, CO is actually a great spot for winter riding, I’m in close proximity to several great mostly year round mountain biking areas. Buena Vista is 35 minutes, Salida is 55 minutes, Buffalo Creek, Canyon City and Denver are all an hour and 10 minutes away.
I really was able to take advantage of all the great riding around me and by February I felt like I was in the best shape of my life! At 44 years old I really work on the little things a lot more like core work and nutrition but I also am more balanced with everything. I used to not drink alcohol during the season at all, but then in the off season I would drink beer everyday for 2 months, not getting drunk but a beer or two. This is something that I’ve changed in the last couple years, now I have a beer from time to time year round and I feel happier about it and more balanced. I’m not going overboard in the offseason and don’t let the fitness go off the tracks I just keep things going year round with good nutrition and treating myself to things I enjoy makes me less stressed and more even.
Having never done OP or even been to the venue I wasn’t to sure what to expect, some of my friends had told me about the course and that it is a power course which is not really my strong point but I didn’t really care because 24 hour racing is so much more than just being strong. a lot of it is in your head a lot of it is how durable your body is, your pit crew is huge and of course you do need to be fit.
For bikes I pretty much always race on my full suspension Santa Cruz Blur and I had 2 of those fully outfitted with Shimano XTR, I go with the full suspension especially in 24’s because even the smoothest course becomes very rough after 14 hours. For nutrition my foundation is always my custom Infinit Nutrition mixes I also supplement that with whole food and Honey Stinger products. For lights I have been using Nite Rider for over a decade and I went with the new Lumina Dual 1800 on the bars, and the Lumina micro 850 on the helmet, lights are so crucial in a 24 hour race, if you can ride like its day time it makes all the difference.
I got to the venue a week ahead of time and there were already 100 RV’s there but with hardly anyone around, people just show up like 10 days before the race and leave an RV so they have a good spot. After searching around a bit I found a great spot on the course, and as the week went on I realized why people come early and stake out a spot, It really was kind of madness the couple days leading to the race. People were just camping everywhere and there literally was no place to even park on race day. I was very thankful to have a great pit crew for the race! My girlfriend Marlee Dixon came and she’s pro, having pitted for me for several 24 hour races and because she’s a mountain bike racer herself she knows how to anticipate what I need throughout the race. I also had support from Santa Cruz with Jordan Nguyen coming out and wrenching on my bikes and helping with anything else, It really has been huge to get so much support from Santa Cruz for the 24 hour races I’ve done all over the world in the last couple years I really could not have kept this bike racing dream alive without them.
The thing I dislike the most about 24 hour races is the running start, I’m not opposed to running just when I’m wearing carbon soled bike shoes and I’m about to ride for 24 hours, sprinting for a 1/3 of a mile doesn’t really get me excited. This was probably one of the craziest runs that I’ve had to do, luckily I had Marlee in a good spot to hand me my bike and I was able to stay out of trouble for the most part. I was in pretty good position to work my way up to the front with some team guys and after about 5 minutes on the bike I was up were I wanted to be.
The plan for the race was to do 20 laps, and to do that I wanted to be in the 1:12 to 1:15 average lap time range. I knew the first lap would be faster than I wanted but when we came in 57 minutes the plan to go slow and steady kind of went out the window and Marlee was scolding me for going so fast, you can have the best intended plan but once your out there in the heat of the race you kind of get sucked in and just start racing. The pace went like this for about the first 6 or 7 laps with Taylor Lideen, Dylan Johnson, Adam Hill and myself pretty much riding as a pack.
We had all been riding together for a wile and I can’t remember what lap it was but I came in to the transition tent just behind Taylor and when I came out he had put the hammer down and was gone, that’s when I decided it was time to just ride my own race we had all gone fast at the beginning and now it was time to settle in for the long haul. Dylan came by me that lap and asked If I knew how far Taylor was and I told him he had attacked pretty hard and was likely ahead by at least a couple minutes he said he was going to try and chase him down and I think he expected me to come with but when I didn’t he kind of looked back asked how I was feeling I told him I was good and let him go.
I took a couple laps of still going a good pace but kind of resting from the hard effort we had all done in the first 7 or 8 hours. After midnight I actually felt pretty good and I was laying down consistent lap times, right were I wanted to be to get 20 laps. I knew that Taylor was going for 21 laps and I thought he would get it, by 6am the next morning he had about a 30 minute lead on me and I had a 30 minute lead on Adam who was in 3rd place now, Dylan sometime in the night had fallen off the pace and decided to call it a day. I knew I probably had 2nd place in the bag and I figured winning was probably out of reach but I felt good probably better than I’ve felt in a 24 in a long time so I kept going as hard as I could. I had been doing the math all night long and I knew If I didn’t blow up I would be able to get 20 laps without to much of a problem. About 8:30 in the morning I was finishing my 17th lap and going out on 18 I noticed that I was lapping Adam. Now that I was a full lap up on 3rd and with Taylor still putting strong laps in I didn’t decide to slow down but the drive to keep going super hard started to fade. I had second wrapped up and barring a huge mechanical or physical breakdown, 20 laps was going to happen so I just kind of excepted the fact of where I was at and was very pleased to be there.
When I came in after 19 laps to go out on number 20, I was pretty out of it and when Marlee told me something about Taylor sitting in his pit, it really didn’t register at first and I kind of thought to myself well here we go last lap we’re going to duke it out… When I went by his pit he was sitting there and didn’t look very good so I decided not to take any chances and put it all out there, everything I had left in the tank I used. I was really going hard that last lap and was doing some math in my head and realized I could be pretty close to the record if I dug deep so I gutted myself and ended up putting in a 1:09 last lap 5 minutes from Taylor’s record from 2018.
When I came across the finish line finally for the win, I couldn’t believe it! I literally broke down mentally and physically, every ounce of energy had been used and I let the emotion flow out of me, tears of happiness and pain flooded down my cheeks as my mind and body could rest now that it was over. I really came into this race with the goal of 20 laps, if I got 20 and came in 4th place I would have been happy but instead I kept fighting to the end and got the win.
These 24 hour races do not get easier, I’ve done around 30 of them over the last 18 years of racing and it’s still a huge test for me, to ride for 24 hours is hard to race for 24 hours against some of the best endurance athletes in the country is brutal. 320 miles with 24,000 feet of climbing is what the final tally was and only the second person behind Taylor to get 20 laps. This was a big goal of mine for the 2020 season and I really think I put more effort into it than I have for any race in a long long time, I think having goals throughout the year can a helpful tool, you have something to strive for, It really lit a fire under my ass, that is for sure!