Catch Part 1 here if you missed it!
Sleep didn’t come easily. After my first race lap, my adrenaline was skyrocketing, but I wanted to try to get some amount of rest before I’d have to head back out for lap two sometime between 3 and 5 am. There were still a few teammates who would have to complete their laps before then, and there was no way to tell how long that would actually take. Everything could go smoothly and it would go quickly, or there could be a mechanical or someone would bonk. Not knowing exactly when I’d need to be ready also made sleep hard, mentally. I laid in my sleeping bag, a little chilly after cooling down from my ride. I drifted in and out of something sort of like sleep but it didn’t feel like true sleep. Then Jenny came up to my bunk and softly whispered my name, asking if I wanted to do a single or double for my next lap. She was giving up her additional laps. Not much of a regular mountain biker, she was toasted after her first lap, and I said I’d be happy to take it from her.
Doing a single lap meant another 16.5 miles in the wee hours of the night, then waiting a few hours and going back out for one more lap at some point later in the morning. A double lap meant 33 miles at once, but then I’d be done. That was tempting — getting back on the bike and starting out was the hardest part. It usually takes me about an hour to warm up, and by then I’d be almost done a lap. Honestly, I could probably pull off a better lap time on my second lap of a double. But my teammates were cranking out faster light laps than we anticipated, and my expected start time had been moved up to 3 am. At 1.5-hour laps that meant riding from about 3-6 am — all still in darkness. I sort of wanted to do one in daylight, so that ultimately made my decision. One lap at 3, another around 9 or so.
But after my conversation with Jenny, I was even more awake.I might as well go enjoy the party. I looked at my phone and I had a missed call. Some friends from Pennsylvania had moved to Tucson a couple years ago and were coming to check out the race. I’d said to get a hold of me and we could meet up. They were here. I went down to the expo area to meet them and show them around. It was a strange colliding of worlds, and I felt like I’d lived many days already in this one day. I took them to the Whisky Tree and we caught up on life until they had to get home. I went back to camp, and attempted sleep again.
I awoke from fitful rest to Nic telling me that Watts had just gone out, and it would be my turn in about an hour. I crawled down from the very awkward top bunk of the bed in the rented RV, trying my best to not wake Jenny and our other “roommate,” Ryan. I debated coffee from the coffee truck down at the expo, but decided against it, downing lots of water and a banana instead while gathering my riding gear in the darkness. It was cold in the desert at night, in the 40s. I regretted not bringing warmer gloves. I’ll get moving and I’ll be fine, I thought.
I waited anxiously in the exchange tent for Watts to return and felt a strong sense of camaraderie with my fellow racers who were all waiting to go out and ride their bikes at 3 o’clock in the morning. Several solo riders came through, this distinction announced along with their name and number. There was a part of me that was becoming more and more intrigued by the prospect of being one of those at some point. But being on a team was definitely fun and added an aspect to the event that was unlike other bike races. It also added even more of an element of unknown — you didn’t know what your teammates were experiencing out on the course, or when exactly they’d be coming back or when you’d have to go out. You could go down to the exchange tent and be waiting there for a half hour or more, or you could not get down there fast enough, like what happened to Brandon on my previous lap. You get to exchange high fives each time you switch racers. I think trying a 24 hour race duo would be fun — still very challenging with each person riding a ton but not lacking in the camaraderie aspect either.
I saw Watts roll in and I stepped out of the corral to meet him. Smiles and high fives were exchanged, and I walked back out into the night. I didn’t have high expectations for this lap. I was tired from my first lap but still wanted to conserve some energy for my last. I promised myself it was okay to not go too hard. I mostly adhered to this, but my competitive side was still somewhat alive and I certainly was still pushing myself, though my legs were definitely sluggish.
I managed to come in only 7 minutes slower than my previous lap. This time, Devin was there to greet me. He let out a whoop and gave me a hearty high five as our baton exchange sent him out. I couldn’t wait to get a pizza from one of the food trucks at 24 Hour Town — I’d had a slice of someone else’s earlier and it was amazing. I had started thinking about it at the bottom of the last climb. But to my chagrin, the pizza truck was closed. I settled for barbecue instead, which was a more than adequate substitute. I sat in a camp chair by the side of the trail back at our site, barbecue sauce dripping down my hands as I inhaled the salty meat and it filled my aching belly with warmth and sustenance. Behind me, Craig was getting ready to go out on his lap. Everyone else was asleep. It was now just after 5 am. I was back in my sleeping bag by 5:30, aiming to get about an hour’s rest before I’d emerge again to catch the sunrise, this time playing the role of photographer and journalist.
To be continued…