This past weekend Tim and I packed up the E full of gear to head to the Gallup New Mexico for our first race of the year and our first 12 hour mountain bike race, Dawn til Dusk. The forecast looked horrible for race day, but it was still on. We arrived at the race venue mid afternoon Friday to pre ride part of the course. My take on the race was kind of flat with a 70% chance of snow the following day. But the weather was great for the pre ride, and the course was a lot of fun. It was a nice mixture of climbs, quick ups and downs, and some nice moderately technical sections. Oh, and it was about 13 miles of singletrack, no fireroads or anything boring like that! My excitement returned due to the fun factor of the course. The rest of the night consisted of dinner, strategy talk, and getting all set at our hotel, which turned out to be maybe 5 minutes away from the race. Our Best (worst) Western looked like a scene out of The Shining. It probably hadn't been updated since 1973.
Saturdays wakeup call came at 4:45 for the pre race meal and dress. There wasn't any precipitation at this time, but I still was unsure how to dress. I was able to park the E right next to the race course near the finish line, which made pitting and changing easy. I set up my cooler with all my nutrition right by the course, which proved to work out well.
The first lap consisted of a 5 mile dirt road leadout and ducked into the last half of the course. Shortly after the start, I knew I had over dressed. My plan was to not pit for two laps, but I had to remove layers and grab my vest. My first lap and a half were kind of all over the place. I fumbled a bottle and was caught up in a mix of traffic. About halfway through lap two, I started to find my rhythm. The weather was good for the first couple laps, so I stopped and put sunscreen on. Laps 4 and 5 the wind picked up and intermitent rain started. There are a couple ridges on the course that offered good views, and off in the distance dark clouds loomed. By the end of lap 5, my back was killing me. In the first 6 hours or so, I took only 13 minutes off of the bike. I lapped through, and was about to call it a day. By this point, many riders had already quit and I saw a steady stream of cars leaving the parking lot with bikes and number plates on them. Some riders were still lapping through though. I was not sure what I wanted to do. With cold temps, rain, snow, 40mph winds, and a sore back, I was certain I had had enough. Tim lapped through, I talked to him for a moment, and asked him what his take was. "Why wouldn't I go out for another lap?" I pondered this for a few moments, grabbed a couple bottles, and rode off.
Lap 6 was great. I felt way stronger after my break. I was able to push gears I could not on the previous two laps. Precipitation held off for a while and the crazy winds dried out the course nicely, making the sandy turns more tacky. About halfway through lap 6, steady snow began to fall. I finished the lap, did not pit, and was told 5PM was the cutoff now. They were calling the race with two hours to go due to the worsening conditions. I rolled out for lap 7 without hesitation. By this time I was feeling very tired and my awareness was slipping. About halfway through the lap I had a little crash. I finished lap 7 at 5:03, so my last lap did not count.
Warm gear for the approaching weather
I was pretty disappointed in myself for a while for taking time off, but I think I needed it a bit. The fact that my 7th lap did not count hurt a bit as well, though it did not affect my standings. It was also good to get more miles and time on the bike, especially when I had already burnt a lot of matches. As I reflect on it, I am proud of myself for getting back on the bike for two more laps. I ended the day with 86.6 miles (7laps) in about 9 hrs which was good enough for 4th in my age category. My Garmin GPS tallied 9,200 ft of elevation gain before I loaded my track to garminconnect, but it was a bit over 11,000 ft after I connected it (I count pre upload stats). Garmin info here.
Dawn til Dusk is a great course and it was pretty well run. I will consider this in the future, but with horrible weather two of of the last three years, I am not certain I will go back. This was not an A race for me, but kind of a test and a big training day. I think my effort was pretty decent. Tim had a GREAT day, finishing 2nd in our age category and 4th overall for geared racers. I hope to have pictures of the race and will post them if I find them. They should be great and range from sunny weather to rain to snow.
MountainFlyers race recap here.