Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Night Before


In the last hour, 'Behind the Rock' campgrounds outside of Moab, Utah have quieted. Bonfires smolder, RV generators killed, gone is the occasional figure walking behind the glow of a headlamp. Everybody is bedding down for 24 Hours of Moab which begins in twelve hours. Except Tasha, Dylan, and Andrew who, from what it sounds like from the other side of the RV, are having a slumber party complete with chocolate brownies and scary stories.

Just 2 hours prior, the Google Earthling's campsite was alive and bustling. Bloody knees were mended while gratuitous bike porn glowed in the background from our luxurious RV's television. Lagunitas flowed freely which brought about much rejoicing of our first ride together as a complete group or...team. We had set out to complete a loop on the course to explore the terrain that we'll be so intimate with for the next 24 hours. Sunset was quickly approaching. Our departure was long and drawn out with nine riders, their complicated drivetrains and fancy forks needing attention. A few thought to bring a light while others held out that we would tear through and complete before sundown. Like goldilocks and her middle ground approach, I opted for a small camping headlamp not meant for biking to avoid yet another device requiring another half hour of tinkering.

Before arriving, I had examined the course on Google Earth to get an idea of the terrain features and most importantly elevation profile; to be quite honest, I was not expecting much in the way of technical challenge. As if this foreign soil had sensed my arrogance, in the second mile, the climb turned into an uphill gruntfest over rocks. I had to pop many a wheelie over ledges and the occastional baby heads to keep from toppling over. 'Behind the Rocks' trail continued like this for a few miles with
rolling yet jarring obstacles.

There were more than a few sections marked with XXX where I had to call upon my freerider within me. Where others dismounted to hike-a-bike our crew blazed down the craggy ledges and drops. Perhaps this is where our team will shine and stand a chance against the pro XC racer endurance androids. I'll be forever in John's debt for snapping this pic of me navigating the lower half of 'Nose Dive', a notorious section that ate this guy for breakfast(I hiked down the first half.)

On the way out of another XXX section was a tough set of uphill ridges. John and I jumped off and watched a skinny guy on a fully rigid single-speed 29er effortlessly fly down and up what we had just cleaned with all we had.








Not to be outdone, Dave appeared moments later on his own single speed to show us some of his grit.











Tasha was right behind Dave. Armed with her new Yeti, she forces her way up the ledge.


After snapping this sunset pic, John and I both agreed the sun was about to leave us. My GPS had measued our distance so to be around 7 miles which meant we were only half way through a lap. Without my glasses or a proper headlamp, the ride back would become more of an adventure than I'd bargained for.

Deciding not to wait for the others to show up, John and I set out at a brisk pace. The route merged with a jeep trail and flattened out and John broke away for about ten minutes -he must have been really mashing in the big ring! As we approached another XXX section, I tried to size up considerable ledge drop with a rough landing. The point of this trip was to get a feel for the course, but I also wanted to avoid injury. My inability to turn anything down pushed me to drop my seat and go for it. I came away unscathed, but I'll have to decide during the race if I take it or dismount.

Only a few minutes after the ledge, the sun was completely gone. John was pretty adventursome riding at a moderate speed in no light conditions, but without my glasses, I couldn't see much of anything. I broke out my little Petzel headlamp which was very mediocre and for a few miles we crowded around its glow trying to feel our way back. John continued to be daring and strayed from the small spot of light that I could barely provide. After a few close calls on my part of skidding through unseen ruts and ditches, the glow of camp lit up the far off valley. With our destination in sight, we both picked up the pace and reached camp. My GPS tells me we completed 13 miles in 2 hours 5 minutes. That time included a few stops for pictures and regrouping; my race time should be consdierably faster than that.

It's now around 1:30am Saturday morning and I'm sitting next to a wide open window in our RV listening to the now quiet desert. Nobody stirs, but I can feel the excitement that tomorrow will bring. We will ride tomorrow and we will not stop for a full day!

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