Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A 12-hour Celebration of Gravitational Potential Energy

Whenever I need reminding of how beautiful Michigan is, I head up north. This past weekend in Boyne City was not only a reminder but also an eye opener to even more beauty than I had been previously exposed to.

The Event: 12 hours of Boyne Mt.
The Objective: Build some quality trail/race hours before the big show.
The Goal: Break the previously held solo record of 13 laps.

Armed with a good night sleep courtesy of our generously hospitable accommodations from the Smith family, and filled with a stomach of breakfast from Boyne’s local diner Betty’s, we set off to the start line with ample time to set up this past Saturday morning.

The race began with the traditional Lemond start. At the sound of the gun I quickly ran to my big-wheeled steed, secured my front wheel and was off with the front-runners. Soon later, I found myself in the third position just behind the leading 4-man and 2-man team elite riders.

My first lap boasted a respectable 45min; par with the fastest team laps, as did my 3rd-6th laps. At around the 5-hour mark, I knew I was well ahead of the other racers in my category. Keeping the end in mind, I had to rely on the intrinsic motivation tank to fuel myself to keep pushing hard. At this point, the race was no longer about competition with fellow riders, but rather myself.

My weapon of choice for this race was my HiFi Pro equipped with a 1.9 Bontrager XR-1 in the rear and a 2.1 Bontrager XDX in the front. Also, I wore my newly acquired Bontrager Race X-Lite MTB shoes. This set up was clearly optimal as I can report excellent handling on the descents, a complete absence of any back pain over the 12-hour period, and very minimal hot spots in my feet.

This course is a bit challenging, as there are very little sections where you are not climbing or descending. The estimated elevation gain per lap was in the neighborhood of 1200ft. The HiFi pro not only descended like a comfortable couch but also climbed quite well with virtually no pedal induced bobbing.

Usually I don’t ride/race with any music. However, this day was an exception. I brought along a carefully constructed playlist, sure to spark emotion and drive. Some of the artists that came along on my ride with me included Ben Harper, the 1985 Rad soundtrack, Cash, Beastie Boys, some quintessential Rage, and a dash of The Postal Service.

Time passed quickly and my lap times seemed to not waiver any more or less than within a 5-minute window. The consistency was reassuring and reinforcing to my confidence. At 10:55, I set out on my 14th lap…a record setting lap. Additionally, it was the same lap that the leading 4-man and 2-man teams were currently on.

Just before I rolled out, I hugged and kissed my girlfriend and informed her that this lap was for my late brother. As I hammered out that last lap, I reflected on my brother’s life, his passion, and his loving nature. I pretended I was in a stadium, riding my heart out while he was in the stand watching in admiration and pride. I felt close to him, I felt as if he was with me and over my shoulder encouraging me. As I rolled across the finish line and threw my hands up in the air in victory and tried to visualize myself sharing a hand in the air and the victory with him. Despite the absence of his presence, this race helped me understand that his impact and inspiration can still be felt. That thought alone means more to me than any race records, victories, bragging rights, or prize money.

Realization and self-actualization, this is what keeps me turning the cranks.

The landscape of Northern Michigan was so enticing post race; we couldn’t help but stay two more days to partake in further trail exploration, morel hunting, copious amounts of celebratory oat soda, and the camaraderie of some great friends.

My sincere gratitude goes out to all who came to support me under the Gary Fisher tent (I think we had twenty deep at one point), Tom and Sandy Smith, Alan Smith, Amy and her brother Brian, Lily and Alex, my closest team mate Angela, and Doug Smith.

One last note: On May 24th, 2009, a culinary genius who goes by the name of Dave constructed a potato morel leek soup that was so delicious it changed my life…I will never be the same, thank you.