Got convinced last minute to sign up for an 8 Hour solo MTB race in Oroville, CA…the 8 & 24  Hours of Gold put on by the fine folks at the Lake Oroville Bicyclist Organization. Being that it’s cyclocross season, I wasn’t exactly in endurance racing shape, but also, considering the evidence from my last two cyclocross races, I am not exactly in prime cyclocross shape either so I figured “ah what the heck let’s mix everything up” and do an 8 Hour endurance race smack in the middle 45 minute sufferfest season.

It surely seemed like a poor decision to sign up at the time, but then again, some of the most fun times of my life have been  the result of poor decisions, so I figured why not.  Let’s do this.  I also figured that the 2 weeks of East Coast travel for work (with absolutely no riding) just prior to the race would also factor into the ‘poor decision’ algorithm so really, there was no way that I could possibly say no.

The one thing that I had in my favor is that while I was away on my work trip for the two weeks just before the race, my shiny new Independent Fabrications Ti Deluxe 29’er SS arrived and it was getting built up in my absence.  So I hoped that whatever ‘endurance speed and grit’ that I currently lacked would be made up for by ‘new bike speed and grit’.   Regardless, I thought it would be fun to get to know and break in the new ride with a long race in the saddle.

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The race was held at the Loafer Creek Campground just a bit up the hill and to the East of Oroville along the shore of Lake Oroville.  Driving into the campground, we caught glimpses of the trails and race course as it crossed the access road in several spots and one thing became clear:  This was going to be a smooth and fast race!  There was neither not one rock or technical feature anywhere to be seen.  Just rolling hills, schwoopy corners, and slithering singletrack all packed into a course that was approximately 7.5 miles and right around 1,000 feet of climbing per lap.

I picked a 34×18 gear for this race knowing that there would be one hill that I would end up walking after the first few laps, but geared more for the flats of this race as I really hate spinning out on the flats of which there were several sections.   And as the start gun went off promptly at 10 AM, and we hit the first major climb within a few minutes from the start, I knew for sure that I would be riding this hill probably just for 2 laps tops out of however many I ended up doing within the 8 hours.  The 34×18 had me out of the saddle nearly immediately at the bottom of the climb for the solid 5 minutes it took to get up it.  Generally not a good sign to be standing and mashing so early in an endurance race, but that is usually my style.  And in this instance it gave me the added benefit of carrying me to the front of the overall field as geared riders began to shift down and spin.

During the first lap, after I pulled ahead on the first climb, I was soon joined by two other geared riders.  One I knew was part of a 4-man 8-hour team, so I wasn’t too worried about him, but the other was clearly another solo 8 hour rider and it was super strong Greg Golet from Chico on his 1×10 Santa Cruz Tallboy.   Greg and I pulled away from the team rider halfway through the lap, and we rode tire to tire for the first lap chatting a bit.  There was a bit of a mixup when we came through the start/finish area after only about 32 minutes and we had to stop and turn around and make sure the timers had recorded our numbers.  No biggie:

(Greg turning around to get his first lap counted)

The second lap we rode together as well, swapping out positions here and there, but I already knew that I was riding above my abilities for a long 8-hour race.   I figured I’d try to stay with Greg for at least this 2nd lap, then I’d start walking the major climb to conserve energy for the rest of the day and then Greg would easily pull away.   All of that basically went according to plan, however one thing that DIDN’T go according to plan was that just as we were finishing our 2nd lap (about 1 hour into the race) I reached down to grab some front brake and the lever was gone.  GONE!  So I look down and see the lever still there, but it was completely out of position and just flopping around wildly out of reach.  Apparently the screw from the master cylinder plunger that threads into the barrel adjuster in the lever came unthreaded (DOH!) and the brake lever had nothing to hold onto nor no way to actuate the brake (DOH!).   Looks like from this point on I would be finishing this race with only a rear brake.  Luckily there was nothing technical on this course…but I for sure would be fishtailing around corners quite a bit with no front brake to help slow me down.

So after losing the front brake, I had to slow WAY down.  Greg easily rode away from me (not that I’d be able to match his pace all day anyway) and now my goal was just to ride consistent and steady enough so that no else would catch me.  The laps rolled on by, I crashed into the bushes more than few times when my rear brake wasn’t enough to slow me down for particularly fast corners, I ate nearly a carton of Honey Stinger gels, pedaled through consistent cramping in my left quad, pedaled through consistent muscle cramps in my left quad by repeatedly shouting out “pedal through it!” “pedal through it!” as my mind over matter mantra, eventually got lapped by Greg on my second to last lap, and walked that stupid climb about 9 more times to hold off anyone else behind me and finish in 2nd Overall and 1st Singlespeed with 11 laps in around 7 hours and 20 minutes.

I figure that the broken front brake cost me 1 full lap….so I *think* I could have gotten 12 laps in, but it wouldn’t have changed my placing at all because Greg powered through to 13 laps, and there’s no way I could attain that number while walking that hill as much as I did.  Surprised and stoked with how everything turned out and I’ll definitely be back again next year.

Final Stats:
11 Laps
7:20 ride time
84 miles
approximately 11,00o vert.

2nd Place Overall and 1st Single speed (broken brake lever shown…I don’t think it’s supposed to look like that)
 

 

And one last thing….why the hell didn’t I think of this solution during the race?!?! Would have taken 2 minutes to fix….

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