Things were going just as I had planned. I talked about my vacation with a racer who resided in Chicago, I discussed the outstanding single track we have in Duluth, Mn and I even had time to look up at the night sky while riding through the open fields. A crescent moon and starry sky were my ceiling, I could get used to racing at night. It was weird how my body shut down it's internal clock as I'd check my GPS to note the time and see that I was closing in on 1:00 a.m., but felt no where near tired. I even thought about how impossible it would be for me to stay up to 1:00 a.m. on my couch at home, but here I was, dodging frogs and mice while railing corners in Rockdale, Wi.
I wondered where my competitors were, but in some strange way I didn't care. I was riding well and despite a slight shifting problem 'Big Mama' was doing what she usually does - pull me along. I realized that it would be about 3 laps per 50 oz. of fluids, then it'd be time to change out the camel back. I reviewed my needs before hitting the pits, I didn't want to miss anything. "Re-fill camel back, take some Ibuprofen (for the headache), put on leg warmers...Re-fill camel back", and so on.... As I pulled into the pit I heard an exorbitant amount of cheering for Tim...me! Wow, what's going on? Either there's another Tim here or Amy made some friends at the bar. Well, the latter was true and up on the deck over looking the start/finish/pit area were Amy and some new friends who were fresh to the mt. biking scene. They had just stopped in for a few drinks and got interested in what was going on. Soon enough Amy was teaching them the ins and outs of the biking world. She discussed everything from the advantages of 29'ers to how cool Salsa Cycles is. Something tells me that some bike shop in Rockford, Il is going to be selling some Salsa's.
I began to settle into the routine of night racing and I was finding my groove while still feeling strong. Around 1:30 a.m. I decided I needed to start picking things up a bit and as long as I was "feeling it", I'd go with it. I began to turn some respectable lap times considering how deep into the race it was. I also began to think a lot about the leaders. In fact a small obsession with the leaders began to develop. I kept thinking about taking minutes out of whomever was in front of me, then without warning I got the "wink" from my lights as they dropped down to low level telling me battery power was diminishing. "No", I thought. This is supposed to happen when I need to pit, not in the middle of my 3 lap rotation. Then, the finally, the handlebar light went completely out! Talk about a wake up call! Imagine navigating a tricky little piece of single track and suddenly having someone throw a blind fold over your eyes. I turned the helmet light up to full power and begged her to get me to the pits, once there I'd do a wholesale battery change to get me through to daylight. The pit went as smoothly as it could have and things were definitely more quiet around the bar. I felt truly alone during this time. It was me 'Big Mama' and the timing crew. The timing crew's words meant more to me than I could tell them as I rolled through. Sometimes it was just simply, "Nice ridin' 2". That comment would get me out of the saddle as I kicked in for another lap. I liked those guys.
I noticed that I was looking more and more to the eastern sky for a glow as I needed the light of day. I knew the daylight would bring even faster lap times. But, it'd bring faster times for everyone. Thing is, I was still feeling pretty good. I felt as though I still had some pretty good pop in my legs, maybe they didn't. Maybe I was taking minutes out of them, I had to keep the pressure high. I vowed to not check in at the timing tent until there was one hour to go. I didn't want to know how far the leader(s) were ahead of me for fear of either letting them go, because they were too far out or blowing myself up trying to close a 10 minute gap. I needed to stick with the plan, ride hard and ride steady.
The morning sunrise brought cold temps and a lot of dew. The grass was slippery and the descents were teeth chattering. I started eating gel packs like they were the best omelets I'd ever seen. I wanted to load up on calories the best I could for the closing push. I'd ride to 8:00 a.m. unless something told me not to. As the day opened up before me, with the sunshine pouring in, I saw things that I had been riding past all night; horses, beautiful homes, roads, and gorgeous forests. I really loved this course!
7:00 a.m. had me pulling in on what was typically about a 50-53 minute lap. In other words, I had enough time to go one more time if the need was there. Going one more time was a great idea, but the fact is about 20 minutes previous to the close of the 7:00 a.m. lap I experienced a complete physical shut down. It was like my brain did the math regarding that final lap, you know the part of the brain responsible for energy output, it determined that enough had been doled out, no more would be supplied, the game was over. I couldn't believe it, the internal dialogue went something like this, "bridge to engine room - more power, more power damnit!"...No response. So, after learning that there'd be no response from the engine room I checked in with the timing crew and asked about the leader(s). There was one man out in front and he had left for his final lap about 20 minutes ago. There would be no reason to give chase, my night was over and good enough for 2nd place. I was satisfied.
When my mind wanders back to this race I can't help but think about riding through those fields, looking up at all those stars, loving the dark, loving The 12 Hours of Pitch Black Single Track. The WEMS' shining star. What a night!