Thursday, May 13, 2010

12 Hours of Mesa Verde race report

This past Saturday Drew and I raced the 4th annual 12 Hours of Mesa Verde endurance mountain bike race. Drew thought a 12-hour day on a bike in early May would be good training for his July entry in the TransAlps, and since it sounded like a bunch of teammates were going to participate and not wanting to be left out of the fun, but also realizing that 12 hours on a bike is not my idea of a "training ride", I managed to put together a 3-woman team.

Our original plan was for this to be Bobke’s maiden voyage, but when he wouldn’t start for me on Monday, we decided it might not be such a good idea to take him on a long trip, so we loaded up the camping gear into the Tacoma and off we went. We didn’t get far.

A construction zone traffic barrel decided to leap out into the freeway in front of the car I was following about 40 miles from home, and I could not stop in time. After a two-hour delay in which we limped home and crammed all our camping gear and bikes into the Honda, we were back on the road. 5.5 hours later we were warmly welcomed by Doug and Jim as we pulled in to the Montezuma County Fairgrounds outside of Cortez, Colorado around midnight.

After a really cold, restless night in our tent on sloping hard ground, we roused for breakfast in Cortez. Having a full belly in the warm sunny car, I caught a few Z’s before going out for a pre-ride.

Our camp/pit-crew area was very nicely arranged, thanks to Doug and Jim who arrived before us and the rest of the hoards of racers. 
Sleeping in a tent is not the greatest idea for vital pre-race sleep.  Insult to injury was a sweet VW Westy parked next to us.

But we had easy access to the Green-, or in this case, Brown-Growlers.


Friday around noon, team Supersonic Tortoises took a mellow two-hour lap around the race course on the famous Phil’s World trail network. The course included trails named Phil’s Trail, Maze, Lemonhead Loop, Here for More, Meditation, Vertebrae, Moki’s Decent, Moki’s Climb, Green Lizard, Stinking Springs Loop, Tuffy Rim, Stone Axe, and everyone’s favorite, Rib Cage. Drew’s GPS logged 1200 feet of climbing in one lap, but it really didn’t seem like that at all because there were no long heinous climbs. Mostly, the course was hard-packed, swoopy single track interspersed with short rocky semi-technical sections,

plus two or three more advanced rocky-ledge technical sections that we knew would be much more difficult the next day after a few laps. The course overall was really fun, but there was one section that made every grunt and pedal stroke getting there worth while: Rib Cage.

Rib Cage is a series of a dozen or more giant whoop-dee-doos that made us all giggle like school girls.

After the pre-ride, we prepped the bikes for tomorrow.

Dinner in town at the Brewery (kind of a waste, since we really couldn’t enjoy the many fine beer offerings) got late, and we went to bed with some trepidation about the 7 AM start the next day.

Drew's Race (by Drew)

The 12 Hours of Mesa Verde in Cortez, Colorado was an incredible mountain bike race. Lucy and her teammates were in an epic battle with other teams for time. Simply put, the team with the most laps completed in the shortest amount of time would be the winner. For me the race was not about time, but personal goals. How many barriers can I overcome both physically and mentally during this 12-hour event? My goal was to complete 6 laps with a total mileage of just over 100 miles.

The morning started out cold in the mid 40’s. It was a beautiful crisp morning without a cloud in the sky at 7AM on the start line. Temperatures were forecast to climb up to the mid 70’s and the day looked perfect. The race started with a Le Mans style foot race for approximately 100 yards to the bike-staging area. Chaos ensued as racers mounting their bikes tried to break away from the main group.

As a solo racer, I had time to observe. Going out hard at the start can be dangerous when you have mixed categories of racers that include solo racers and team racers. A racer on a team will go out at a very hard pace, taking risky chances on a sometimes technical course. If you get caught up in the adrenalin and push hard at the initial start you can find yourself in a pack of these aggressive riders. You might make risky choices to keep a faster pace. You might incur a bike mechanical or, even worse, a personal injury from someone else who makes a poor choice when trying to pass you. Better to stay away from the “Testosterone Junkies” .

The 300+ riders entered the single track about 1 mile from the start line. I found myself in the first half of the field and settled in for a long day on the bike. The race course covered a network of trails called “Phil’s World”. I never met Phil, but what an incredible world he must have lived in! These trails were some of the best I have ever ridden. There were technical rock garden sections, buttery-smooth single track through forests of pine trees and incredible serpentine roller coaster sections that made you laugh as you blasted through each set of G-force inducing whoop-de-dos!

Lap one complete, the competitive field started to thin out. The trails took on a more possessive sense as I passed familiar technical sections requiring a little extra attention. “OK next time I come through here, take that line to the left,” or “don’t scrub so much speed coming in to this technical rock garden because you have a big climb on the other side”. The laps started to add up and the fatigue started to attack me. On lap 4, just over 64 miles into the race my hand-eye coordination was starting to suffer and I had to throttle back a bit. Lap 5, I came across a fellow teammate who was racing solo and we paired up for a lap. Talking to one another and swapping lead positions throughout lap 5 made time go by a bit faster.

The cutoff for racers to go back out on the course for their last lap was 6:30PM. I started my last lap at 5:30PM and enjoyed the trail for what it was worth. My pace was a bit slower in the evening hours, but throughout the day I had really been able to get to know the trails. The sun was starting to set and the colors were changing as shadows started to take over. The fury I experienced in the morning had been replaced with tranquility, since many of the racers had already retired for the day. Passing through the timing chute one last time I dismounted from the bike and was greeted by a few of my fellow teammates. There were smiles on all of our faces.

During the race I achieved all that I had set out to do. I pushed my mental and physical limits. Discovered areas I need to focus on before my main race event of the year, which is the Trans Alps 8-day MTB stage race in July and, most importantly, I had fun! At the end of the day I completed 6 laps, which was just over 101 miles in 12 hours, 23 minutes and 55 seconds.

Lucy's Race (by Lucy)

Team Revolution/Peak Fasteners XX was composed of Michelle Hollingsed, Leslie Knowton-Fredette, and me.  Michelle is the fastest of us three, so we elected her to take the first lap. (Thanks, Michelle!!!) The first lap included a Le Mans start, and according to Michelle, a fast pace and lots of passing and some getting passed, since there were about 340 racers on the course at that time. Michelle turned in a really fast lap, and I knew we were in the running since I only saw a half dozen or so women come through before her. Then it was my turn out on the course. I decided not to take it at full tilt, since I knew I had to do at least one more lap later in the day. I did pretty well on all the technical sections, and pushed hard on the climbs and tried to keep my speed up on the high-speed turns.  I came in to the timing barn with a time of 1 hour 36 minutes 57 seconds and a huge smile on my face. That was definitely the most fun course I had ever raced!!  It was actually more fun to race it than ride it, which can't be said for many trails.  My recovery fuel between this lap and the next consisted of energy drink, PB&J, fig newtons, and lots of water.

We rose to a new level of competition after Rick, Leslie's husband and our all-time best pit crew,

realized that after two laps, our team was in 2nd place out of thirteen 3- and 4-woman teams, and only 2 minutes separated us from first place!  Game on! Time to turn on the juice. Leslie was out next, and put in a surprisingly good time considering she had not pre-ridden the course. Michelle’s turn again, after which we were in second place by only a minute 40 seconds, and then I was out on course for the second time. This time, I pushed it harder, since we were not only racing for fun now, we were racing for a podium! Unfortunately, whether it was because I was more tired or because I was taking the technical sections at higher speed, I ended up off my bike twice and running into a tree, which probably cost me over a minute. I also experienced numerous worrisome leg cramps. My lap time for my 2nd lap was 1:36:33 so I had made up several minutes on the first place team and I think we were actually in first place for a while. After my second lap, I chugged Hammer Heed electrolyte drink and popped a few Endurolite pills and Sport Legs (thanks, Leslie) to try to correct my electrolyte levels to prevent cramping.
Leslie took her turn next and crashed pretty badly once, but still managed a lap time of 1:46.  Out went Michele in hot pursuit of the leader, 3+ minutes ahead of her with only 1 hr and 36 minutes until cut off time. (Cut off was at 6:30 PM, 11.5 hours after the start gun. After cut off, no one is allowed to go out on another lap because darkness may come before they finish the lap). Even though Michele’s other laps had been faster than 1:36, we knew it was a tough goal since she would be more tired on this lap. I prepared to go out for our team’s 8th lap, and we nervously waited to see if the leading team would come in before Michelle and if she would make the cut off. With about 6 minutes to go until 6:30, the leaders came through and took off again. I memorized what their rider looked like from the back as she ran out of the timing barn so that I would be sure to know her if I came upon her; that is, if I got to go out again. At 6:28:17, Michelle pulled in, turning in an awesome lap and giving me only 3 minutes 55 seconds to try to gain on them, a distinct possibility of they had their slowest rider on course.

It would have been easy to relax and just take it easy on that lap, or not even go out at all, since we had second place in the bag either way, but that wouldn’t really be in the spirit of racing, so out I went. Zoom zoom. That last lap hurt. I wasn’t cramping very much, but each time I would check my heart rate monitor thinking I was really pushing it, I would see that my exertion was nowhere near that on the other two laps. Even so, I kept the effort level as high as I could and took the technical sections a little slower so as to be safe and to stay on my bike, saving time. With fewer riders on course and evening setting in, that 3rd lap was almost surreal. At 40 minutes into the lap, I came up on what I was pretty sure was the leader girl, but she was going awfully slow, so I passed her with no problems. After that, it would have been easy to relax, but I was afraid to do that in case I would crash or have mechanical problems, so I kept racing and racing to the finish, enjoying the Rib Cage section one more time.
I was dreaming of a 1st place victory, but had a little nagging thought that that might not have been the leader girl I passed.  It is strange, your competetors are so important in racing, but it is really hard, at least for me, to focus on who is who and who is where and how I am doing compared to them. Anyway, as I came across the finish line with a lap time of 1:39:10,

they announced the arrival of the 2nd place women’s team! What? I thought I had passed her? But sure enough, standing a few feet away was another female rider wearing the same team outfit as the girl I had passed. Then it dawned on me that there were numerous teams wearing the Crested Butte team jersey, and I must have passed a rider on one of their other teams. Rats!

We missed 1st place by only 2 minutes and 25 seconds after 13+ hours of racing! It was a great result for an unexpected team effort and I felt good about the effort I had just made.

I know that I could not have raced any harder than I did; 2nd place in this competition against some really tough teams is pretty awesome! We did great as a team and have cool trophies to show for it*.
* The pirate sword on the bottom is because this year's theme was Pirate.  The Cortez bike shop that sponsors this race is Kokopelli Bike and Board, a really awesome shop.

Leslie and Michele were awesome competitors and super teammates. I really could not have picked better teammates.

My team raced hard and fast, but I think we had the easier job.  Drew's day was way longer and way harder than mine. I can't imagine doing another 3 laps.   I am amazed that Drew can ride all day like that and still smile at the end of it.  


  1. You guys rock! Congratulations to both of you on your intense weekend experience :) Wins all around it sounds like! Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday :) I will be done with our convention by about 10:30 a.m.

  2. Great job!!! I saw Drew waiting for you on your final lap, and like you said he was all smiles. There was a lot of anticipation waiting for you. Way to pull of 2nd.

  3. Totally cool and congratulations! Awesome result- and Phil's World is absolutely the coolest place ever to ride round and round.

    OK but that's not what impressed me the most about your post. What impressed me the most was a)first car didn't start b) 2nd car gets cracked up, and yet you totally had a great weekend anyway! Car troubles always foul my mood for the whole trip. You guys are obviously way more mature/got-your-act-together than me.