Monday, October 17, 2005

24 Hours of Moab...CHECK

The 24 Hours of Moab Mountain Bike Race Epic is OVER! I could rant and rave about how wonderful, challenging, exhausting and strange it was, but I'd rather you hear it from Christina, my race manager and girlfriend! Here it is in her words:

This weekend, Walker rocked it at Moab's 11th Annual 24-hr mountain bike race!!

It’s 10:15 am Saturday and Walker calls a “team meeting.” Since Dan Ourada has not yet arrived, the “team” is just the two of us. I follow him to the truck and piles of gear, and he fills me in: how to lube the bike chain, what tires require what PSI, which batteries for the nighttime portion need to be charged and when. I’m most comfortable reviewing the snack supply.

11:55 am. I position myself under a cameraman’s ladder in the middle of the desert, facing the almost 400 determined men and women lined up in true Braveheart fashion. In five minutes, a cannon will fire and the riders will be sprinting towards me in a LeMans-style start. It is quiet. I wonder, Who is Lemans and why does he think running around a bush in bike shoes is a good way to start a race? The wind blows. A tumbleweed passes by. I’m now smiling proudly from my vantage point. I spot Walker and wave excitedly. He shakes his head. The canon fires, dust fills the air, and suddenly everyone is yelling for me to get out of the way. I return to our base camp to re-inventory the snacks.

1pm. Dan arrives; the support crew team is now complete. I inventory his snacks (and beer) and note that he brought extra firewood, which I’m sure will be invaluable in about 13 hours. We walk over to the race course, only a few yards from our base camp, just in time to see Walker completing his first 12-mile lap in a stunning 1hr and 20 min, which included that whole run-around-the-bush thing. Dan calculates that if Walker maintains that exact pace for the entire 24-hours without stopping, he could finish the race with 18 laps, well ahead of his 15-lap goal. I’m thinking about why on earth someone would pay to ride a bike for 24 straight hours…

2:45 pm. We find out Walker is in 9th place!! Walker comes in to camp after completing his 3rd lap. He needs a foot rub and lots of chips. By lap 4, dusk is upon us. Walker spots friends from Durango, Ashley and Luke. He finds out they have turkey sausage and directs them to our campsite for a collaborative dinner. One hour later, fully fueled and semi-rested, Walker begins lap 5 in the dark. In the meantime, our campsite neighbor arrives from his lap. He is riding solo with no support, so we invite him over to warm up by our fire. He apparently is an ex-military special ops guy, who tells us he’s famous for investigating the alien cow mutilations of the early ‘80s. Has he just ridden too long? I worry about Walker… He then goes on to tell us about ‘the good ol’ days’ as a trained assassin. I race to the lap check-in zone and am relieved to find Walker passing through a few moments later. I take a picture.

By the end of lap 6, Walker’s feet are aching. He stretches out on the thermarest & I suck it up, lift his legs on my lap, and focus on the marathon support he gave me last weekend – I peel his socks off and massage his feet. Dan is next to me, taking apart Walker’s bike like a jigsaw puzzle and cleaning it meticulously. He is a good friend. I run to the station to recharge the headlamp batteries and Dan tests out his handiwork. When I return to the tent, Walker is passed out. I put his sleeping bag on top of him to keep him warm during his short rest.

It’s 12:30 am. He’s only half-way through the race. I take a photo and call my best friend Katie in Hawaii. She’s preparing dinner. Last year, I tried to convince Walker that snuggling up with me in the cold, darkness was a good race strategy. This year, I fought the Pumpkin Factor, brewed mate tea, and stoked the fire.

A few moments later, at 1:15 am, Walker was reevaluating the goal. 1:17 am. New Goal: Do Better Than Last Year With the goal now much more attainable, Walker soaks in some fireside time with Dan. I, in the process of organizing the tent, find out that that thermarest and sleeping bag are like a little bit of heaven. I start to drift off, but am jolted awake thinking about the special ops guy rushing the tent and taking me out in 2 quick ninja moves. I am tired and delirious. 2:15 am. Walker heads out on another lap. I check in on Katie and her dinner date, then return to the thermarest. I hear rain sprinkles about a 1/2 hour later. I think about what’s getting wet outside the tent. I consider if it matters. Thankfully the sprinkles stop and I roll to the door of the tent and look out hypnotically at the trail of halogen lights twinkling through the desert…

3:50 am. Lap 7 completed. His spirits are high. The mate was treating him well. He wanted candy. We located some random mints, switched his lights and he was on his way…….. 15 minutes later he was back – the light was having problems and failed. We switched it out again, and he raced off. 5:45 am. I hear rain sprinkles start again, but I’m pretending their going away. They get louder. At 6:15 I start to feel bad. Walker’s out there getting rained on and will be back any moment. I make a thermos of hot tea and Dan and I stoke up the fire once again. It’s 6:45 and no sign of Walker. I’m worried. I’m envisioning flash floods and wish I had remembered to pack his floaties in his camelback. Dan goes to check for signs of him at the station area. At 7am Walker rounds the corner. His light had gone out less than 1/2 way though the lap and he had to navigate in the darkness & drizzle. He was pissy. Luckily, dawn was breaking and the weather cleared. He rode lap 9 as the sun crested the mountains. He returned a couple hours later. It was 9:30 a.m.

Walker had been racing for twenty-one and a half hours. He looked done. His bike was done. He had met his goal and beat last year’s mileage. We could pack up and be in Moab for hot coffee and fluffy pancakes in less than 20 minutes! But the clock still had time on it…. In true Walker style, he changed socks and set off on his final lap, number ten, pushing his body to the limit and completing 120 miles of solo racing on one of the world’s most competitive, grueling courses. THAT is my punkin’!!!


Lauren said...


Anonymous said...