It was cold but I did not care. I figured as long as I kept going I could produce heat. Movement equals heat. And I WAS moving, although barely. To stay on my bike required weaving so as to keep my balance. Suddenly I noticed that I was not on a noticeable trail any longer. Just as I was processing the details … thud … I hit a something. A split second before the thud I was gazing in amazement about how grassy and comfortable it looked under a tree. Before that, I was thinking, “what the hell is grass doing in the desert”? I heard coughing in the distance.
“Oh no, are you ok?”, I shouted. I was extremely concerned about my girlfriend’s cold and sat up to get a better view of the source.
“Whaaaat?”, a gruff voice mumbled.
I awoke immediately and looked around. There was a bright light on the horizon progressing ever so slowly from right to left. I realized it was a stranger slowly making his way along a trail. I didn’t want any one to know I had stopped so I hunkered down. I realized that I had veered off course and I had been dreaming.
In the days leading up to the 2011 Frog hollow 25 Hour Race my girlfriend was very ill, probably the effects of food poisoning. But as the big day grew closer and we picked up another friend she recovered. All was very well but hat was then and now I was in a 25 hour race. And I was cold, shivering, and seemed to be dazed and lost.
When the light disappeared over the horizon I got up and walked to the where I saw the moving lights. I found the course and began to slowly ride. Still weaving I was at least back on course and racing. I wondered how long I had passed out. I was letting everything slip away and this is not how I had imagined my first race with the girl of my dreams in attendance. Experiencing extreme fatigue and emotional pain I had to let my mind drift into a dreamy state. I started to relive the moments leading up to that night.
Jill, Mo and I arrived at Hurricane in the afternoon so by the time we retrieved Jill’s bike from Over the Edge Sports it was too late for a pre ride. So we set up the pit and our tents then gathered at some burn barrels to catch up with other racers. This included the race director Cimarron who was pleased to see Jill and I. For just a moment it seemed that they would talk Mo into riding as well but after contemplating what she had just went through she declined. So we meandered back to the tents and fell fast asleep.
I awoke to the sound of rain. I quickly got up and helped Mo put the sides on the canopy. As time progressed and the start of the race got closer the rain turned to snow. Just as we were about to line up the sun came out and Jill seemed to be relieved. This kind of shocked me. I mean I thought we were rooting for bad weather … right?
Soon the race was underway and I raced to the front of the pack to asses who I figured was solo and who was on a team. It seemed to me the trio way out front was definitely team so I must have been in the solo lead. I settled in for a long days ride. It became apparent to me that another rider was interested in my pace. The rider was John Todd Mallow and he kept pretty good tabs on me. I looked back at one point and noticed he indeed was a solo racer so I let him pass and caught his wheel.
Three laps later my quick pit stops put me out of sight slightly so I decided to pick it up a notch and try to put some distance on John. But I was already going at a pace over my planned effort level and the new faster pace started to take it’s toll on me. At one point I was around 40 minutes up on him but towards evening time he had taken advantage of my long pit to put on lights and reeled me back in. Upon entering the pit Mo informed me that he was not only holding me off but was gaining some time. I sat down to contemplate and announced that I was done racing.
“He can just have the race, I am through. I am exhausted”
Mo did her best to just lend me her ear and patiently waited for me to regain my composure. I slowly put on my lights and went out for another lap. I was struggling to motivate myself and was riding pretty slow when a rider seemed to be closing in on me. I didn’t want to hold anyone up so I stopped and started walking my bike. Everyone asked if I was ok and I announced that I was just “taking a break”. Then John passed me.
It wasn’t long before I processed what had just happened and then my competitive side took over and I latched onto his wheel. I knew he must be hurting too and I wanted to see how fast he was going. if he was going strong I would just relinquish the lead and let him go. Surprisingly though, he was going slow. And then on top of a climb he just stopped and got off his bike. I figured he had trouble shifting and rode slower so he could catch back up. I really wanted some company and to monitor this guys energy levels. It is surprising that when you wait for another rider what that does to their phycology. They figure your just being nice and then when you do surge they let you go. I was hoping I could pull this trick again.
I rode away never to see John again. I was riding with new confidence. And I was happy to discover that this new pace that he was riding at made me feel better by the mile. The slower pace was giving me a chance to rejuvenate. I was feeling a lot better until I pulled into the pits late that night.
“That guy you were racing has disappeared”, Mo informs me.
“Yea, I saw him drop his chain or something and I rode away. He will be back. I just need to …”
“It’s weird, I mean he is totally gone from the results. And some other riders are now on your lap … one guy is in front of you and …”
“Another guy … is leading the race”, Mo looks at me with confused eyes.
There was a hint of concern as well. She studied me to see how I was doing because she noticed that I had been deteriorating throughout the night.
“Oh C R A P …. oh well! Whatever. I quit anyway … I mean …”, I threw down my bike and sat down.
I waited 2 minutes before I finished my sentence.
“I cant ride that THING …”, motioning to my mountain bike, ” … any longer. I just cant”
Mo stood there and just let me talk about how I felt and listened contently. All the while she gave me some meat sandwiches and food to try and jump start me.
“Well … can’t you just go out there and walk a lap? And … just keep moving. Your doing GREAT!”
I sat there and contemplated what she just said. I mean, this is what I would of told someone, just keep the momentum going. It couldn’t hurt to just go out and walk another lap. So I got up and silently rode off into the darkness.
I was now walking slowly along the trail when two more riders passed me and asked if I was ok. Again I just replied that I was taking a break. In reality I had been dream walking and now that I had relived the entire weekend while I walked I started to feel like I could ride again. I hopped back on and was back in the race. I just wanted to finish the lap.
The lap was long and I stopped one more time to doze off to only be woken up by a passing racer. But finally the lights of the venue popped into view and I slowly rolled into my pit.
“Are you OK?”, Mo looked at me with great concern.
“You are doing great still but that lap was really long. You are still in third place I think”
“What, third now?”
“Yea. That guy that was in the lead dropped out and then you were in the lead again. But then you never came in and two other guys are out in front of you now.”
I thought back to those riders that passed me and asked if I was OK. Darn they had just taken the lead from me. I slumped into the chair. It would be dawn soon and I was contemplating just resting until day light. I didn’t care any more about doing well, just to get this damn nightmare over with. I winced from pain coming from my sit bones.
“I think I will take a Motrin. I can not sit any longer. Otherwise I should just quit”
Mo quickly found the little blue pills and dispensed a couple to me. I drank it down with coffee.
“Wow, can I have more coffee … and some Laura bars”
“Yea, drink it all”
I grabbed three bars and finished the coffee. By the time I reached the top of the hill leading out from the timing tent I felt the magic of caffeine. Suddenly I felt great and the pain in my ass was going away. I sat for the first time in like 4 hours and began to spin the cranks. The pace seemed pretty fast and I kept taking it up a notch to test to see if indeed I was getting better. I stopped a couple times to wolf down a Laura bar and with each break I seemed to be going faster and faster. Before I knew it I was on the pit row finishing another lap.
Mo leaped up from her chair dazed and discombobulated.
“Um … I think one of the guys has dropped out and so you are in second now … but I am not sure.”
She looked really surprised to see me so quickly. I grabbed the coffee container and started gulping. Suddenly I realized the contents were hot and I screamed and spit out hot coffee all over my bike. My mouth was now scalded and I started coughing. That must of woke me up because when I started the next lap I was out for blood. I ripped up the first climb and started slamming as much Carbo Rocket as I could swallow. This was the first time I was keeping the fluids down and it seemed to be working. I was firing on all cylinders. I decided to rip out a lap so fast that I would retain second place and respectably close to the guy in front.
I put in one of the fastest laps of the race and soon I was ripping back up pit row. I came to a skidding halt and asked for status.
”Dave Byers is the guy who is leading the race. Um … I am not sure but last lap he had 45 minutes on you …”
This news seemed to bug me, how could this be. I just put in a real fast lap. I glanced to my right and there sat Jill Homer my friend and fellow solo racer. She was sick and seemed to be out of it. It all seemed like bizarreo world at that point. I was losing a race and my hero was down for the count. I grabbed more Carbo Rocket and shot out of the pits.
“I will not be stopping any more … have Carbo Rocket ready”, I yelled back to Mo.
Another fast lap. I was on fire and I wanted everyone to know I was not going to lay down gently. IF Dave was going to win this race I was going to make him work for it. I came into pit row again and blasted to the timing tent only pausing to grab more fuel from Mo.
“30 minutes”, she said in a calm but stern voice as she handed me another bottle.
Another fast lap but the quick pace started to take its toll. My body started to fatigue but I reached down further then I have all year to keep it going. Again I approached the timing tent. Mo step forward to give me one more bottle. This would be my final lap.
As I raced across the desert I knew that I would catch Dave and as I turned onto the final rocky section I saw his lime green jersey. About two miles from the finished I passed him.
It must be that they thought I was a team racer because I was going so fast. I looked back to make sure … YES … I just took the lead.