It’s not often that you get to race tire-to-tire, back and forth, constantly switching leads and positions, for 1st and and 2nd place in a normal XC race, let alone an 8-hour endurance MTB race.  Most races you end up riding along alone in the woods, unsure of where you are in relation to your peers.  But that’s what happened, and it was fun as hell, until I cracked.  Which wasn’t as bad as it sounds.  Because cracking in an endurance race is a beautiful, rare thing.  Meaning, it’s not that often that you completely detonate, but then rather than turning around and heading home, you just keep racing, holding off the ghosts chasing you for hours on end.

The Bogg’s 8-Hour MTB race is one of the premier endurance MTB races in NorCal (the others probably being the Tahoe-Sierra 100, and the 8 and 24 Hours Against Cancer both held a bit later in the year).  Bogg’s happens to be the first of these on the calendar and attracts alot of racers…this years edition was capped at 700, and it sold out quite quickly months in advance.  It’s a race.  A tribal gathering.  A party.  A camping weekend with hundreds of new friends and dozens of old ones all gathered together under the pines at Bogg’s State Demonstration Forest a bit north of Napa, CA all rolled into one.

I tossed a spinny gear on the I.F. Ti Deluxe 29’er SS, and signed up for Solo Pro Men Single Speed.  Here is out it played out:

I got to the line late but found a comfy spot near the front over on the edge ahead 700 other racers.

Then I nearly missed the actual start as the contact in my eye went all screwy and blurry and flipped up inside my eyelid during the race announcements.  Luckily, my wife Jen was right there and said that she had some spare contacts back at the campsite (luckily we have the same prescription!).   So she promptly RAN back to camp, ran back, I tossed out my old contact right there, and smashed in the new one…just as the field began to surge forward.  That was a close one!

Rolling now with a slight delay in my start due to the contact lens change:

As is typical with endurance races in NorCal, it was a giant mass start, with solo riders mixed in with and starting at the same time as the team riders.  Naturally, within the first few hundred yards a separation occurred as the team riders more or less gunned it from the start; whereas the 8-hour solo riders began to settle into an all day sustainable pace.  As a one speeder, it’s a bit easier for me to pick out my competitors and just 20 – 30 yards ahead of me was fellow Pro single speeder, Yuri Hauswald.  Yuri has had a lot of success over the years as a single speed endurance racer, so he was one of my marks from the start.  Also, nearby was Mike Harrison…another top Pro single speed competitor and the other guy I knew I would have to keep an eye on.  I wasn’t sure if there was anyone else that I needed to be aware of (there ALWAYS is!), but these were the only guys I knew, and we seemed to be at the front of the SS field so once we settled into the singletrack and the solos and faster team riders began to separate themselves, I was quite content to ride with these guys and pace each other.  I knew as long as I wasn’t riding over my head, and was still in close proximity with these guys, I should be doing ok overall.

The first lap was awesome.  It’s been 2 years since I rode the single track at Bogg’s and it is just simply stellar.  Fast, twisty pine needle strewn narrow trails with just enough rocks to keep you on your toes and keep it fun without it beating you up over an 8-hour period.  For the first lap Yuri, myself, and Harrison all rode tire-to-tire keeping pace with each other.  We all cross the first lap basically at the same time.

Second lap was the same.  The three of us swapping out leads and positions here and there as the terrain and traffic dictated, but no one making any significant moves this early in the race.  At one point in the lap, Mike and I got to talking that we thought we were the 3 lead Pro single speeders, but then Yuri mentioned that he thought there was one other single speeder alone ahead of us…Dan O’Connor from Santa Cruz.  Hmmm….I wasn’t aware of him, but figured Yuri knew his shit so I assumed that he was right.

Third lap and I noticed that Yuri was pitting briefly between each lap.  My strategy was to pit and swap bottles / food every 2 – 3 laps, so while we would cross the into the pits together, I would get a slight gap as I continued to ride and Yuri would do a quick bottle exchange / refuel.   Yuri would always eventually catch back to up to me much quicker than I’d expect and it was here I began to realize that our SS gear choices were definitely a bit different.  Yuri seemed to be geared a bit “harder” and I seemed to be a bit spinnier….he was catching back up on these long fast fireroads after the pit area where I was spun out.    Once Yuri caught back on to me (actually “flying past” is probably more accurate as he was in the draft of a geared rider so I had dig in to catch on to their wheels), I noticed that Harrison had dropped off a bit.  I was surprised as he was riding really strong so far in these early parts of the race, so began to wonder if he had a mechanical…I figured he’d catch back up eventually.

After 3 laps, Yuri and I once again cross through the finish together.  Same thing for the 4th lap, and I think the 5th and / or 6th as well.  At some point, my GPS lost satellite reception so I began to lose track of the number of laps, but at least it was still tracking total time and picking up my heart rate monitor.  While I began to lose count of laps, all I knew is that Yuri had been riding tire-to-tire swapping out positions here and there for about 4.5 hours.  Which was super cool…it’s not often that you get to race that long and that closely with one of your competitors.  However, somewhere around this 4.5 hour mark, Yuri must have gotten tired of my sucking his wheel and decided to punch it and drop me up the last major climb to the finish area.  As he pulled away, I nearly dug down a little deeper to give meaningful chase, but with still a lot of racing left, I didn’t want to overexert myself to early, so sat in, and kept the pace that I had been going at.  I also thought that maybe Yuri’s seemingly harder gear might cause him to slow down in the later laps, so I was content to stay put.

After getting dropped by Yuri, I basically didn’t see many other solo single speeders the rest of the day and tried my best to keep up the same pace that I had been going at, but I couldn’t help but slow down a bit.  From here on out, my lap times went from the low – to – mid ’40’s and crept up into the low- to- ‘mid 50’s as I lost motivation on some of the flatter sections of the course to really “spin out” my 36×22.  I began to look more over my shoulder for Mike Harrison or Dan O’connor (who I had gotten word that indeed he was ahead of us for the first few laps, but they moved ahead of him at some point…I wasn’t sure where so thought maybe he took an extended pit or something) coming up behind than looking ahead to catching Yuri.

The rules regarding finishing your last lap in 8-hour races seem to differ for every race…and for Bogg’s, the rule was that you had 45 minutes past the 8-hour mark to finish your last lap (which for us meant 4:45 PM).  As I approached the 8 hour mark, my laps times were in the 52 and 53 minute range.  After my 10th lap, I rode into the pit area at about 3:55, which would have given me 50 minutes to get in one last, 11th, lap….doable, but very tough considering my last two laps times and my current state of fatigue.  Knowing that Yuri was out of reach (and that he was out ahead busting out his 11th) and that Dan O’connor wasn’t going to catch me at this point (and that he most likely wouldn’t have time to fit in an 11th and thus, wouldn’t pass me in the standings), I made the decision to pack it in, and start drinking beer.   Beers, food, and lounging in the shade watching your friends finish their races, and knowing that you just wrapped up a 2nd Place in Pro Solo Single Speed, is a nice way to finish off the race.  I cleaned up, changed, and gave Yuri a high-five as he crossed the line after his 11th lap with a bit of time to spare.

2012 Bogg’s 8-Hour Men’s Pro Solo Single Speed Podium (l to r: me, Yuri, Dan):

Super fun race and weekend and now feeling a bit burnt out on racing.  Luckily, the next “A” race for me isn’t for a few months (Tahoe Sierra 100) so am looking forward to some rest before ramping the volume back up for that one.

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