2012’s return to the 12 Hours of Old El Paso had me motivated for a repeat win despite the lack of steep climbs and gnarly descents that I prefer on a race course.  Being the first of all the solo riders last year on my SS, I really wanted to do the same again this year with hopes of a bit more competition that might push me a bit more than what I’m used to.  Vince Anderson from Grand Junction was supposed to make the trip, but his name never showed up on the start list.  I thought I saw Gustavo Fierro’s name on the solo list, but he ended up doing it with a team.  sem Gallegos was not on the solo list.  A couple guys from New Mexico were rumored to show up, but not Cameron.  Juanito was returning, but I beat him last year and he’s older than me.  My ride last year was really the only big ride I did all year other than the Chile Pepper road ride. This year I had 4 races under my belt for a total of 1,078 miles…..racing miles.  I knew I had the endurance from my bikepacking races and I knew I still had a lot of speed from my Horny Toad rally.  I was still concerned about my knees, but they seemed to be getting better.

While I love the venue at the Bowen Round House, I did not like the way the pit areas were arranged.  Solo row was not at the end of the lap, so I parked on the road about 100 meters from the finish tent.  A couple others joined me on the road including last year’s solo women’s winner Alison Kinsler.  This ended up being a huge advantage for us for several reasons.  First, we didn’t have to start out of our pits with some short power climbs, and second, we were able to see our competitors coming down the road.

This is the only photo I took the entire weekend.

Notice the clouds?  Those didn’t last long.

I took my first lap on my hardtail because the Superfly was still skipping a bit even with a new chain on a cog that was not showing any visible wear.  The fork on the hardtail needs a bit of love, so I was not enjoying the ride very much.  I came through the pit somewhere in 3rd or 4th with the solo riders.  Remember, I’m not just racing the single speeders.  I wanted to take the overall solo win again.  When I pitted, I decided to ditch the hardtail due to the lack of comfort and because the dropout set screws were loose.  Jen had it ready to roll on lap 3, but the Superfly only skipped twice so I decided to stay on it.  My third lap, it only skipped once.  On lap 4, I caught Juanito.

This is where I made a dumbish move.  I followed Juanito through Lazy Cow and we got to the Tin Mine Rd, he was going way too slow for me.  He appeared quite tired already, bobbing up and down a lot and looking like he was having to make quite an effort to go fast.  I wasn’t sure who was ahead of him at this point and I thought he might have even been the leader.  I went to the front, and pulled away leaving Juanito to smolder in the crater he created blowing himself up at that pace.  Problem was, I was feeling it too.  It was really hot….high 80’s.  In 2011 I drank 2 bottles per lap.  Here it was lap 4, and I was almost finished with 2 bottles before heading down to Mad Cow….about 15 to 20 minutes from my pit.  On lap 5 I cramped up Polecat, stopped to stretch, and drank ALL of my water.  I made it up to Robert Newman’s aid station below the top of the course and filled my large bottle.  I ended up doing the exact same thing on lap 6, only cramping a bit higher on the course.  Not good.  On lap 7 I carried a third bottle so I wouldn’t have to waste time filling at the aid station.  After lap seven, I drank an entire bottle of water in my pit before heading out with NO botttles.  Whoops.  I back tracked to my pit losing about a minute or so.

By this point in time, I figured out who was ahead of me.  Some guy on a 29er hardtail wearing a Feedback Sports kit was about to get crushed.  He only had a couple minutes on me and I knew the hardtail would take it’s toll on him.  I figured I’d get him on one of the pit stops when we had to get lights on.  Mine were already mounted and all I needed to do was change helmets.  At about 5:05 I headed out for lap 9.  I made the entire lap without lights and passed Mr. Feedback in his pit.  He was sitting on the ground and looked completely shelled.  I bottled back up for lap 10 and still didn’t need my lights until I got about 10 minutes down the trail.  Now that it was night, I picked up the pace a bit but it was still really hot.  When I came through for lap 11, I tried to figure out the time gap, but was having difficulty doing the math.  Since I was leading, I was trying to do an estimation from the previous lap.  I guessed I had about 8 to 10 minutes on second.

Lap 11 wasn’t any cooler and Jen told me the snakes were out as Alison had seen two on the previous lap.  I caught Alison going up Tin Mine and just after I passed her I almost ran over a diamond back.  It didn’t rattle, but appeared to be doing all it could to get off the trail.  My bike was making some weird noised but I was too busy trying to stay on the gas.  I wanted to make sure I was doing a sub hour lap with the possibility of doing lap 12.  As I came out of Deadman’s Drop, something made a horrible sound.  My chain was jammed up and I noticed that I was down 2 chainring bolts.  Oh no.  I ran the bike up the climbs and soft pedaled the descents.  Running was kind of nice in that it used muscles that weren’t cramping, but I was pretty paranoid about snakes.  After making it to my pit, I traded bikes and bottled up for lap 12.  It was 9 pm on the nose.  I went to the finish tent to do some math.  Second place was only about half way into his lap, so I raised my arm in victory and headed back to my pit for some food, drink, and a shower.

Eleven hours, eleven laps, 25 bottles of fluid, 2 lost chainring bolts.  Keys to victory?  Having all my bottles already filled up in a cooler packed with ice.  That saved me so much time.  I’m sure my total time in the pits wasn’t much over 5 minutes.   I went with the same food as last year….a foot long Subway club and a cheese pizza.  I didn’t start eating any real food until after lap 5 which may have contributed to my cramping issues. I also snacked on fruit leather, Z-Bars, and some chews.  Heat was the biggest factor for all the suffering on the clockwise loop.  It’s amazing how fast you can stop cramps if you drink enough water.

Thanks goes out to Mike Rossen and the Bicycle Co. staff.  Turn out was pretty low for this event due to some conflicts in northern New Mexico and possible burnout by those who did Chupacabras.  Maybe next year we can have this thing in November during a full moon.  Maybe turn it into an 18 hour race……Ride all night!

Here are some pics I jacked off of facebook.  Priscilla Rossen was all over that course and took some pretty good photos.

Dropping in on Tu Madre. Photo by Priscilla Rossen.

Cruising Lazy Cow. Photo by Priscilla Rossen.