The forecast had been uninspiring for days. We awoke on Saturday morning in El Paso to find the skies grey and gloomy, moisture in the air, but at least it wasn’t actually raining. It had rained on us the entire way from Albuquerque to El Paso, but we were defiantly optimistic about race day.
The race started at 10am. 10am to 10pm, kind of unusual for a 12 hour race, but I enjoy it since early mornings have never been my thing. The later start meant that we had plenty of time for a nice breakfast. Well, as nice as we could find in that part of El Paso anyway. Despite my best phone searching efforts, our best boiled down to Dennys or Village Inn. Kind of a toss up, we went for Dennys for the second year in a row.
As our crew milled about my minivan that served as our base camp, pumping tires and carefully choosing gear, the rain started to move in. At about 9:30 it was drizzling. At 9:45 it was raining properly. There was a second wave of dressing, everybody scrambling to decide just how wet it was going to be. How dry we needed to stay on that first lap to give ourselves a fighting chance to last 12 hours. Things got quiet. It’s pretty uninspiring to start a 12 hour race in the rain, in the desert, in January. This is going to be fun, right guys? Right!?
(a very grey start)
As Swinton and I finally rolled away from the car to the start line, we saw that we had missed the start. The LeMans run was over and everybody was climbing on their bikes. Oh well, we decided to turn back to the car and go for one more layer of booties/winter shoes. I’m glad we did.
So we started the race in the back. Less than a mile in we came across a few people on the side of the trail, seems there was some sort of a pileup. One guy was a little banged up, but he would be fine. Starting late seemed like a decent choice.
Swinton had chosen to finally test the Lauf fork that our friend Marc had loaned us to check out. It's basically a modern version of a springer fork, with about two inches of carbon leaf sprung, undamped suspension. It's a lot like strapping a wiggly pogo stick to the front of your bike. But it's light, and carbon, so that's what matters, right?
Swinton completed one lap, slowly, then switched to a Giant Trance 29 with a real fork, and got back up speed for lap 2.
I was riding my Spot Honeybadger. I have owned a very large number of singlespeed 29ers over the past 7 years (since we opened the shop), and I can't think of any that I liked better than this one. It is probably the smoothest riding hardtail that I've ever been on, and the handling is grin inducing. Coincidentally, we sell them ;)
The course for 12 Hours of Old El Paso is pretty fun. The first couple miles are generally flat with constant turns through the cactus shrubs. Then there are about 3 miles of climbing, generally on road and two track. This is the worst part of the course. But the climbing isn’t bad, there are just a couple of steep grunts, otherwise it’s pretty gradual. Mile marker 6 was always a victory. Although the course was over 11 miles long, it felt like you were home free after mile 6. There was still a bit of climbing to get through, but the majority of miles 6 through 11 were fast, flowey twisty and fun. They would fly by quickly.
(somewhere between mile 3 and 5)
Luckily the soil (or lack thereof) had no problem dealing with the moisture. It had been generally raining for a couple days, but there was no mud, and only a few puddles. By about noon the rain had backed off for good, and the puddles disappeared shortly after. Leaving just nice packed grippy moist single track that made for some fast lap times. There was just one short stretch, maybe a couple hundred yards, where there seemed to be some actual soil that had turned to mud. It was also littered with cow patties. We were all a little anxious of getting some cow shit on our bottles, but we seem to have made it through unscathed.
(selfie after lap 3. Finally having faith that the rain is done for the day)
I did this race last year on a geared bike. Riding together with Doctors Dave and Brad, we finished 6 laps. I was hoping to do 1 better than that this year, on a singlespeed, and finish 7 laps. Swinton had declared that since he had gears he would have to do at least one more lap than me. After spending the fall and winter just riding cyclocross, and having not put in any long rides in quite a while, we didn’t really know what kind of miles our legs would have in them.
(the sunset was amazing. Sundown and sunrise laps are always my favorites at 12 and 24hr races)
In the end, Swinton managed 9 laps, and I did 8. That was good enough to get 3rd and 1st respectively, but I only had one other guy in my field. The two guys that beat Danny did 12 laps each, which is brutal. And the second place guy finished his last lap 9:59:20, just 40 seconds to spare before the end of the race. Talk about getting your moneys worth.
Anona did 7 laps, which got her 1st in the Womens Solo by a whole lap. Dr. Brad finished 7 laps, completing his goal of 1 more than last year, and Dr. Dave did 6, which was admirable since he felt so lousy that he first tried to skip going, then considered not riding at all that morning, and only got on his bike since we harassed him into it.
Here I am, climbing off my bike after finishing my last lap. My back and hands hurt the most. Surprisingly, my legs never really gave up on me. I got all my calories for the race from drinking Tailwind, about a bottle per lap, and eating a handful of Enduro Bites. It worked great, but I was very ready for some real food by the time I was finished.
I would definitely recommend checking out this race. It’s an easy drive from Albuquerque, and it’s a great way to kick start the 12 and 24 hour racing for the year. We drove home getting excited to do the next race in the Zia Rides series, the new and free 10 hour race in Silver City, the Tommynocker, in March.
Hope to see you there!