Let's cut to the chase shall we? Tony B and I have had this event on our calendars for ages and finally the date arrived.
I have never ridden a 12-hour MTB race before and it was a blast! Not only is the start/finish/transition zone a veritable village, riding on a relay team makes you work that much harder. And riding at night? EXCITING!
We won our division (12-hour Male Duo) and came in second overall behind a 4-person male team that had the fastest rider on the course. Not too shabby.
The 12 Hours of Capitol Punishment was in Capitol Forest down by Olympia which is one of the best trail networks in the state of WA bar none. It's where I rode the Capitol Forest 100 exactly one month ago where I biffed pretty bad for three weeks after that fall I was not at all sure I would be able to do this race.
Each team had to volunteer for a race duty and so we picked helping with registration. That meant showing up at 6:30 AM so lucky for me Tony invited me to stay with him at his mother's house who happens to live about 15 miles from the Fall Creek trailhead. Nice. I showed up Friday for dinner and we talked, ate and drank wine. Perhaps I had a tad too much…? Whatever. I was not putting pressure on myself and really just wanted to have a good time on the trails.
In the morning we loaded up the van and headed out.
Just so you know, at this time of year in the woods at 6:30 it's still pretty dark…
The promoter thought of everything. In case of rain there were tents and in case it got cold there were wood burning 'stoves' and in case you got tired there were chairs.
Tony helped with registration and I directed cars in the parking area/pit row. Then it was time to get ready to ride,
I volunteered to ride first.
It seems like most of these endurance events start Le Mans style and this race was the same. We lined up down the road and when they said GO we had to run up through the transition zone, take a left on a trail, run back down some singletrack and then back up through the transition zone to grab our bike. This was all in an effort to spread out the field some before you get jammed up on the trails. And it worked.
Some guy in baggy shorts took off like a shot! You know the type, they can wax you in the 100 yard dash but anything longer and they explode - for some reason it is easy to recognize. I slotted in behind this tall guy that was running pretty fast and we were opening up a gap on the field before we even got to our bikes! On the way back up through the transition zone hot shot did indeed fade and I thought I was going to get the hole shot but that other guy clipped in faster and sprinted ahead of me. Still, 2nd place already? I was fired up!
I recognized this trail from the Capitol Forest 100 (our start/finish was the first aid station for that race) and so I knew that we were in for a substantial climb pretty darn quick. Sure enough, after about one mile of speedy trail the road tipped up and stayed that way for at least three miles.
People whop have never tried it always ask what it's like to ride a single speed bike. The answer is you are almost always in the wrong gear but if the incline is just right or you are feeling super you can almost always leave geared bikes behind when climbing. That was the case on lap one. "On your left!" And just like that I was in 1st place.
No pressure, right? Ha! Nothing like being in the lead to make you go just that little bit harder… I tried to pace myself knowing that one all-out lap was going to be destructive and the team concept really makes you not want to let down your mate.
One good thing about 10-mile laps is I was able to travel ultra light. in addition the flat fixing essentials I carried one small bottle and one gel. Full stop. And truth be told, I think I sipped from that bottle maybe three times the entire race and I never ate while out on the course.
All the way around I kept worrying that I was going to get caught. I knew I had put a reasonable gap on the field after the climb but descending on my fully rigid bike with old injuries had me worried and I took it pretty cautiously. Plus, I wanted to re-familiarize myself with this trail.
I came flying into the transition zone fully spun out. There was no chip or 'baton' to pass off as we both had the same number and both had RFID chips in our number so all you had to do was ass slap, high-five or knuckle bump and your team was back in the race. Tony seemed pretty damn casual to me when he took off but I bit my tongue knowing there was still a long way to go and shouting, "GO, GO, GO! WE'RE IN THE FREAKING LEAD!" would have been 1) silly and 2) this was self-evident as he had been waiting for me and saw that I was the first rider to show up. Plus, I had managed to hold back some in spite of my excitement on that first lap and I did not want to amp Tony up so much that he would go too hard.
I quickly fell into a rhythm off the bike. First you shove food in your face and then you wash it down with sticky sports drinks and then you clean yourself up with plain water. Then I would hang my gloves, cap, helmet and jersey on my bike as they were all pretty soaked with sweat. At first I would just hang around in the transition area but later on in the race I walked back to the van (being here early meant we had a prime parking spot) and hit the folding chair and put my feet up. We figured (correctly) that our laps would be just under one hour and so with about 15 minutes left I would walk back to the bike rack, get dressed, maybe have one last drink or gel and wait camera in hand.
Here is Tony coming in after his first lap.
Two riders had passed him and first place from Team Crutch (as in the kind you use when your leg is broken) actually had a substantial (five minutes?) lead… I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed but we found out after they started posting lap times that this first place guy who passed Tony was absolutely on fire. His first lap was the fastest of the race so far and the next time he went out he trimmed a whole minute off his time. Yikes!
So I took off and just resolved to ride a steady tempo and hopefully reel at least one guy in. Lucky for me that happened really quick. Then I was in no-man's land for a long time. Just as I thought I was going to run out of climb there was the white jersey of Team Crutch just up the trail. I pushed a little harder and I passed him and he was kind enough to inform me that I was in the lead again.
ASIDE - everyone was so damn polite! I would ride up behind folks and give them warning that I was coming and they would always get out of the way as fast as they could. Some even asked me what side I would like to pass on. And then they would say something encouraging as I rode past. Very unlike a road race. It is one of the things that appeals to me about mountain biking for sure.
I was absolutely faster on the descent this time. Still, as I started the second section of downhill Team Crutch had pulled me back. I let him by right away; it was the least I could do after all since he had been so accommodating on the climb, and then did my best not let him get out of site. Thank goodness for me the trail leveled off some and got smoother so my rigid bike was not such a liability.
There is one little rise about .5 miles from the finish and when I saw it I knew I had a chance. I gunned it getting as much momentum as possible and as Team Crutch slowed to shift down I scampered by on the left. And drilled it! Somehow I got to the transition ahead of him in spite of the flat 200 m section of pit row just prior to hitting the finishing chicane. Boom, just like that Tony was back in first place. This was turning into a race!
Our glory was short lived unfortunately. The next time the Team Crutch Wunderkind got on his bike he put in the fastest lap of the entire race. And by fastest I mean SEVEN MINUTES FASTER than the next guy who I think was me. Rats. A seven minute gap on a 55 minute lap is not something that I am capably of making up. Still, I was loving the trail and in spite of two really steep pitches had been able to ride the whole thing for my first two laps so I was still charging on lap three.
A little too much it turns out… You know when you think you have the course dialed but you really don't? Exactly. I came around a corner expecting smooth trail and there was a substantial root staring me in the face and siting at a 45 degree angle. My efforts to lift the front wheel were fruitless as I was on the brakes pretty hard and the root pushed my front tire out with ease. Bang. Down I went on my left side and right on my left palm that I had inured one month ago. Why I stuck it out there is a mystery to me… I guess sometimes you just don't have time to plan out the ideal impact trajectory.
Right away my hand hurt. A lot. As I picked myself up and inspected my bike I was seriously bummed. Not only did I not want to hurt myself again and prolong the healing process but I wanted to finish this race and did not want to let Tony down. So I got back on my bike (which just like one month ago not display the slightest sign of the crash) and started to roll. Whew. Turns out my hand was not that badly hurt and it got better pretty darn quick actually. Just in time for the bumpy part of the descent.
Interestingly, I believe this third lap of mine was my fastest in spite of my get-off.
When I pulled into the transition zone and got Tony was on his way I checked out my hand.
The only thing wrong was some skin peeling off in little spots where my soaking wet gloves were making it soft and my rigid bike was wearing it away. No big deal.
I took the time to look around. As usual, there are a huge variety of people and bikes at these events. There are those that try to go fast and wear Lycra (or 'your sister's underwear' as one Team Crutch member told me his blue collar friends call it) and there are plenty of baggy shorts. There is everything from the light weight carbon bike to the single speeds and then there is invariably something like this here.
This thing had 8" of travel front and rear and both of the tires together probably weighed as much as my bike. Of course he probably had a lot of fun on the descents.
I got back to the transition area and waited. And waited. And waited. Uh oh… what was up? Team Crutch went ripping by and still I was waiting. Funny (read: interesting) how five minutes feels like 30 when you are in this kind of situation. Then Tony pulled up and it turns out he had been cramping up on his third lap. Not fun.
I took off and gave chase but by now the deck was stacked against us. The combo of Tony's cramps, the Team Crutch Wunderkind and their second fastest rider (who was my speed) going next and me starting to fade as well spelled doom for our overall victory hopes. I could tell I was going backwards when I hit the steepest pitch of the climb and barely managed to muscle my bike up and over. I was one nanosecond from yanking my foot out and walking but somehow made it. And that was the last time I rode that climb. what a brute!
By this time all the 6-hour riders had pretty much finished and so I encountered fewer people on the trail. And in spite of the fact that my climbing had slowed some my descending still was picking up. If I had to guess I'd say that my fourth lap was my best descent. I was finally learning the trail and really railing the burms on the descents. It was SO much fun. And the thrill of not touching your brakes around a corner because you know what is coming up is a big rush. BIG. I'm just glad that this time I really did know what was around the corners.
Team Crutch Uber Stud put in another blistering lap which he described as, "I was definitely backing off that time…" and in the process of backing off put another seven minutes into us. Short of a massive Team Crutch mechanical or a spectacular double flat the fat lady had sung.
When Tony pulled in after his fifth lap it was about 6:30 PM. The rules stipulated that anyone who started after 6 had to have their lights on.
Lights were one thing that had me worried…
All my lights 1) are ancient and 2) have not been used since last winter and 3) don't mount on your helmet. Ever tried to ride twisty singletrack with just a handlebar light? It sucks. The light is constantly pointing left when you are turning right, etc. I had charged my light all night at Tony's mother's house and was almost literally praying they would work. And that they would not slip on my bars as I bounced down the mountain.
Lucky for me I did not need them for the first half of my last lap. Don't get me wrong, it was pretty dark in the woods at times but my eyes adjusted okay and I did not have to push the button until I was descending and saw I was about to leave the clear-cut and enter the forest. I came to a stop, checked my mounts and turned on my lights. Oh yeah, you had to have a rear flasher too.
The first thing I noticed was that when it's really dark lights help a LOT. Then as I picked up speed I noticed that indeed my handlebar light did suck.
But you know what? It was really, really fun to ride in the dark. For sure I was going slower but instead of trying to go as fast as possible I was just trying to ride clean and incident-free which is a whole new kind of challenge. Course knowledge was incredibly useful here. There were spots in the descent where I knew that the drop-off on the left was bigger than on the right or that this particular corner had a root in the middle or that this corner was followed by a rocky stretch of trail and it saved my bacon.
The last climb before the finish was so fun. My lights were dancing back and forth as I rode out of the saddle and I had a huge smile on my face as I finally turned the corner and hit the gravel road back to the finish.
Then I handed off to Tony. And changed my clothes and practically ran back to the finish to get some beer and spaghetti. And potato chips. And then more spaghetti and potato chips. And finally more beer. When I caught site of the podium.
How cool is that? Whereas I only finished my last lap in the dark Tony had to start his last lap in the dark. And when I say dark I mean lock-yourself-in-the-bathroom-and-stuff-towels-under-the-door-to-seal-the-crack dark. The race village was alive with the hum of generators and the blazing beams of spotlights and I bet Tony could see none of it 100 m up the trail. I was really hoping he would be careful so that we could stand on this outrageous podium.
Luckily he was. And he had a lot of fun doing it! He said that slowing down because of the dark meant his cramps stayed in remission and he had a really good time. Awesome.
As I was hanging out stuffing my face the winner of the solo 12-hour category pulled in. He managed to ride 10 laps for 100 total miles in just over 11 hours. Right on. Then Team Crutch pulled in and I went over to congratulate them. Ringer or not, they rode really well. And then Tony showed up with that same big smile on his face. All was right with the world.
If you take a close look at this picture of us on the podium with the second place team in our division you will notice a band around my right leg just above the ankle.
As I was getting changed before the start of the race I banged my leg into some super sharp part of one of my van doors and it removed a surprisingly big chunk of skin. It didn't hurt that much but then when I looked down blood was running into my sock… I was thinking this was not such an auspicious beginning to our race but had a Band-Aid so put it on and started riding. Of course my sweat floated the plastic bandage right off my leg so I went to first aid tent and asked the guy for a fabric bandage. That lasted about half a lap. The next time he put this wrap that only sticks to itself around the bandage and that stayed on until I hit the showers. Nice.
On my second (third?) lap I caught and passed this guy on a 29er single speed bike. Then the trail tipped in his favor and he chased me down and proceeded to put on a cornering clinic. I was trying my best to hang with him and this was when I realized that you really need to ride way up on the berms to take the fastest line. Pretty fun when you can feel your tires squishing as you compress them zooming around corner after corner. After four laps I saw him limping out of the forest going the wrong way back to the start… perhaps he pushed it a little too far?
After my third lap I went to stretch my quad and felt my hamstring cramp! It was then that I realized I had not been taking any Endurolytes. Right away I gulped three, chased them with three Ibuprofen and with this routine the problem went away for the rest of the race.
In one of the clear-cut descents there is a mound of dirt that I described in my Capitol Forest 100 post. At the base is a sign that says, "Hard Way" and another that says, "Easy Way" The hard way is up and over the mound and the easy way is around. During both of my laps in the Capitol Forest 100 and during my first three laps in this race I took the easy way. When I had such a tough time climbing that one steep pitch during my fourth lap I wanted to do something to redeem myself and so took the hard way. You know what? It's not that hard. And it's more fun! I did that on lap five and six as well. Even as it was getting pretty dark. Good times.
Huge thanks to the promoter and Friends of Capitol Forest for all the support, trail maintenance and a smoothly run event. And congratulations to Team Crutch on a fantastic win and to Tony for asking me if I would like to do this race in the first place. And to everyone that entered and finished!
If you look at my GPS file below you will notice that as the race wore on I got too tired to remember to hit the lap button so my last lap is really three laps… And as usual, the GPS does not seem very accurate when trying to record distance on super twisty trail and comes up a little short.
There are no official results posted yet but I believe these stats are accurate:
- Team Crutch and us were the only two teams to get in 12 laps.
- Team crutch had the fastest lap and we had the second fastest.
Here are all the pictures.
|Breakfast||5:30 AM - 4 pieces toast w/peanut butter, 3 eggs, almond milk, water, grapes|
|Dinner||8:00 PM - 2 beers, 2 plates of spaghetti, lots of potato chips, water, Nuun|
|Workout Food||30 minutes before start - gel|
race - lots of Hammer Gel, LARABARs, HEED, Nuun, bananas, mini Ritz Cracker peanut butter sandwiches, orange slices, peanut butter sandwich, 8 Endurolytes, 7 Ibuprofen, water
|Injuries||- Fell on my left wrist/palm again but it seems okay.|
- In the same fall I also apparently hurt my ribs on my left side as it was a little hard to breath deep and sleep following my accident.
|Time of Day||9:00 AM|
|Weather||mid 70s, mostly sunny, dry, muggy, calm|
|Results||12-hour Male Duo - 1st|
12-hour Overall - 2nd
official 12-hour overall results
official overall by division results
|Distance||60 miles each|
Hutchinson Python 26x2.0, 30 PSI
|Clothing||bib shorts, sleeveless undershirt, short sleeve jersey, full finger gloves, cap|