Friday, September 7, 2007

Seven Springs

The 2007 race season is pretty much over, and it ended in an unbelievable fashion. It happened at the Subaru 24 Hour Champion Challenge at Seven Springs, PA. It started with a LeMans start around Lake Tahoe, about a half mile, then he got our bikes and started the first lap. The start was great, minus the running part, Rob and I were together for most of it and I was having a great time. Over the next 6 hours or so, Rob pulled ahead by about 5-10 mins, until he stopped for a bathroom break. I passed him starting our next lap but he quickly caught me before we reached the transition. He pulled ahead again during the next lap and the time gap was pretty steady again til about 1am. My light, which I knew wouldn't last the entire night, died prematurely, about 3/4 of the way through my lap. I poached my way back to the transition using a backup light from Ben Yoder and following Rick Bullota. Once I got back to the Start/finish all I could do was to go back to the pit and put on Matt’s light that he had brought. This would have gotten me back on the road in about 5 minutes but for some reason, his light wouldn't turn on. With no operational lights, the only thing to do was charge my light enough to get me through the night while I took a nap. After 45 minutes of napping, I was awoken by Matt and Jen. They presented me with my bike and helmet which were now equipped with 3 foriegn lighting systems. They told me I now had enough power to do another lap while my light charged. What they didn't tell me(until after the race) was that there was no way that the lights would last a full lap. In fact, they seemed a little surprised when I told them I had made it almost 2/3 of the way around before they all failed on me.

When I got back to the pits, after walking about 2 miles, Jen and Matt remounted my light and I was off. By this time, Rob had come around and put me one lap down. We rode together for almost the rest of the race. Around 8am Jen and Matt discovered that I wasn't still in 2nd place. Somewhere among my nap/power outages Nate Deibert had passed me in the night. Neither I nor Matt or Jen had realized it and we all assumed I was still in 2nd. Matt told me that Nate was about 50 min up on me. At the end of the lap I took a look at the lap times for both me and Nate. All morning I had been consistently 10-15 min faster per lap. With about 3 or 4 laps to go, 50 minutes was a lot of time to bring back but the next time through the pits Matt insisted that I chase him. That was the last thing I wanted to do. Even if I had caught him I would have to race him in what would probably be a one lap time trial against each other. But no matter how much I refused, Matt insisted I chase. I did two more laps about the same pace I had been holding. As I rolled into the last huge climb right before the pits, I could hear Jen screaming down from the top that I was only 28 minutes back now. Wow, I thought, that’s a lot of time I made up but I still have a half hour to gain and was probably only going to be able to make one more lap. I made the climb up to the pits and found that Matt was fully kitted up. "I'm doin' a lap with you" he said "you can catch this guy". I ate a sandwich and we took off. It was really nice having someone to ride with. It must be how Brandon felt when I did his last lap with him at World's last year. It lets you show off all of the fastest lines you've been able to perfect over the last 24 hours. Anyway, we did a pretty quick lap, harder than I'd gone since the previous afternoon. At the bottom of the giant climb, I could hear Jen again. I don't know where they were getting the time splits from because they were constantly changing up the climb. At the bottom it was 6 minutes, then 6.5, 9, 11.5, and finally 13 minutes. When I got to the top, Sarah gave me the official gap of 3 minutes. He had just left his pit. I took a quick pit and set off into the last 4 miles of the loop chasing Nate. Matt was again right behind me and he told me that it would be close as to whether or not I'd get in one final lap. I really didn't think I'd make it back in time for another, so I decided that I needed to be beat Nate back to the line, thinking that it would be the finish line. I caught a glimpse of Nate about two miles from the end. I came up quick on him, so quick he must have thought I was a team rider because he pulled over to let me by. As I passed him, I looked at him to make sure it was him and he looked back. We made eye contact for a split second. He saw that it was me and he was totally surprised. "Oh, Damn", "Aaron, what lap are you on". By the time he was done talking I was already out of the saddle attacking him. Not really knowing what number lap I was on I said "I don't know", knowing full well that I was on the same lap as him and that I just passed him. I kept it pinned the rest of the way to the finish, putting about 3 min on him. Unfortunately, I got back only 7 minutes til noon. With Nate only a few minutes behind me, we would both be able to do a 16th and final lap. I wanted to wait to make sure Nate would make the cutoff but Jen wouldn't go for it. She pushed me away from the tent and sent me off on what would definitely be my last lap. I held the same pace for that lap too, until I got to the climb where I found out that Nate didn't even try to chase me down. Instead, he argued with the officials that I wasn't on the same lap as him. Moral of the story: don't trust your mental math after any more than 9 hours. I learned that at Tsali.

Now time for all the thank you's: Most importantly to Jen. For staying up all night, making food, mixing drinks, making sure everything was ready for me, being on the finishing climb every lap, and motivating me and not letting me quit. You have no idea...

To Matt: The motivation was the best ever. Thanks for not letting me quit and for not taking any crap from me. Couldn't have done it without you. And the rolling pits; they were so rich...

And finally to Rob for the company during the race, my mom for getting all my food together before the race, and South Mountain Cycles for getting me a frame to race on such short notice.

Before it started hurting...

I also took on a new nickname during the early hours of the race. Jamie Bock (or Bockus) wore a Spiderman costume during his laps as part of a duo team. On the first lap of the race he was just a few guys behind me and during the climbs he would start singing the Spiderman song. "Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can". Two laps later, we were still in sight of each other and the lyrics of the song changed to include the new character of "Snyder-man". I thought it was funny, and I sang to myself the rest of the day.

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