Sunday, July 27, 2008

Is it possible to get too much Booty?

For a third year, I have tried to answer this age-old question. This is the sixth year that the event 24 Hours of Booty has taken place in Charlotte. 24HOB is a big fundraising event that focuses on bicycles and cancer research. Hmm, sounds like something I might be interested in!

My first year of doing this event was in 2006. I joined Team Bank of America, raised over a thousand dollars, and put in 65 laps over eight stages (183 miles). At the time I was still riding my small Trek 5200 and I averaged 16.3 miles per hour. It was a goal of mine to bike for over half the time, but the punishing late night cycling (coupled with a few snoozes that went over) I was somewhat short.
Team Bank of America in 2006. No, I'm not an "associate!"

In 2007 I returned the team, raised even more money, but couldn't really dig in for a long goal, as the next weekend was my first Ironman race out in California. Perhaps the most memorable part of this event was the absolute torrential downpour that near floated Bootyville away on Friday night.

Our Kimley-Horn neighbors nearly drowned in 2007

Since my bike had already been shipped, I used the green steel beast and did a leisurely 25 laps over four stages. I covered the 70 miles at a 15.9 miles per hour pace.

Early this year I decided I wanted to run my own team, somewhat based on the fact I don't care for or bank with Bank Against America. I obviously wanted my team name to be "Publius Peddlers." It turned out finding team members wasn't so easy - just because you have 100+ friends on Facebook doesn't mean recruiting members is automatic. Of course bribing people with big tents, extra food, bike racks, and amenities is a lot easier if you have the resources of a large multinational faceless organization behind you. I had nothing and that's what I got!

Okay, so no one wanted to be on my team. That's not the point. The point here is to raise money for cancer research. So I went about doing that, and was prepared to go at this thing solo. I certainly did start the fundraising part later, but this year was not as successful, chiefly due to a precipitious decline of my co-workers' interest. Many thanks though to those that did give! Donations are still being accepted through at least Wednesday - thanks!

Despite all of this, I was determined to raise as much money as I could reasonably expect and then go out and accomplish TWO course goals - first to complete 200 miles of riding and perhaps more difficult log more than 12 hours (half the 24 hours) on the bike.

The one perk from my previous two years that I did require was a lawnchair. So on my way to work Friday morning I stopped off to pick one up - making sure it had to tag to prove it was kept out of the hands of as many Americans as possible to give me a low price. Early Friday afternoon I went to Bootyville, the field adjacent to Queens University and Myers Park Traditional School, to stake out a spot. I left the pop-up shelter there and upon my return it was out. My co-worker Sharon got some help to put it up, and I was to share with a couple of her friends, so that was a nice arrangement! Julie was also able to come for the first 4-5 hours, which was very nice!

For 2008 there was a special area at the front for those who raise over $1000 or are cancer survivors. While I had not met that first qualification, I vaguely seem to recall I am eligible on the second requirement. I lined up with my old Charlotte friends Mona and Dave for the first lap. Here is an interesting panorama shot from the Charlotte Observer at the start (I can tell this was done shortly before I arrived). As 7 PM struck and the clock started it slow churn from 00:00 to 24:00 the process began ... and began ... and began.

For this event, the Booty Loop starts at Queens Road West and Wellesley. The route heads north and descends about 50 feet to the big intersection at East Boulevard. At the bottom is a high-speed right turn sweeping on to uh, Queens. From there is a slight rise until the route goes right up Hopedale, the smallest street on the Booty Loop but also the "steepest," rising 70 feet to the intersection at Queens and Queens and Providence and Providence. At the gazebo riders veer to the right and begin a long 30 foot descent to where Queens turning into Selwyn. The rider then passes Queens University on the right. At the intersection of Queens Road West there is a tight righthand turn. Following that is a 40 foot descent to Princeton. At that point is a rise of 50 feet back up to Wellesley. The route is advertised as 2.97 miles, which is completely long! My bike computer, which is based on the known circumference of my wheel has consistently clocked 2.83 miles for a number of years. New for 2008 was my Garmin Forerunner. I (somehow) managed to measure 69 out of the 74 laps - the average was 14,845 feet, or 2.81 miles. After having taken the Garmin out on a number of bike rides, it has consistently measured around 99% of actual. Since I took my computer in and out immediately after leaving/entering for the stages, this was the official overall time/distance measuring implement.

The general plan was to bike for an hour then rest for an hour. My complex calculations indicated to me that would put me close to the 12 hour mark. The first lap was certainly enjoyable talking with the two of them. I made one comment to Hogeboom about how people slowly lose interest, and he accused me of being cynical. I remarked that he had just called me a cynical and Mona rightly laughed. I have missed seeing Hogeboom for a couple of years now!

The second lap was a huge (bike) traffic mess up at the gazebo. We had caught around the back end of the slower of the 1200 participants. I actually stopped for a moment and then slowly made my way down. It was my slowest lap of the 74, coming in at 11:24 (14.9 mph). From there it eased off. I didn't realize it at the time, but the fifth lap at 9:01 would be the speediest (18.8 mph). During my climbs on Hopedale I noticed my rear gears were slipping - I had started to notice this last week but it didn't happen during the Half Ironman (thank goodness!). The weather was much milder (80 degrees) than last year to start, and without the menace of another super storm. I finished the six laps (16.97 miles, or 8.1% of the total effort) of Stage 1 (out of what would be 11) in 59:34 (9:55 average per lap).

Julie and I then grabbed some of the dinner provided and hung out with Sharon and her friends. At 20:55 (that's 8:55 PM to everyone who needs some translation) I began Stage 2 fairly certain I would bump up to 7 laps this time. By this time it was dark so I had my back blinker and headlamp affixed to my helmet. There are really two magical parts (or things I find interesting about this unique event), one of which is the repeated 10 minute interval of the same spot. By this I mean picking a fixed spot (usually a person or group). Around ten minutes I'm back, and slowly watching the change is always fascinating! The reality that I was trying to convey to Hogeboom was that spectating an event like this it is nearly impossible to stay engaged. People get bored/tired and move on. I'd be no different than anyone else, and even on the bike at least things are moving! Every so slowly the crowds thin out as the darkness envelops - along with the number of riders. I continued to struggle with the slipping gears, but finished the 19.79 miles in 1:07:51 (9:41 average loop time).

I knew I needed to have my bike examined, but Julie couldn't stay around much longer so I opted to spend the time hanging out with her - I did get a great massage! When it came time for Stage 3 I opted to pull out the iPod Shuffle, as it was going to be a long night! I pulled under the banner at 23:02. The temperature had dropped about seven degrees and it was just perfect for biking - minus the ambient light thing. For this stage I toned it back down to six laps. While I didn't see any of the "double-decker" bikes that Charlotte's alternative cycling community has brought the last few years, we did see some large groups of some counter Booty Loop blasting the radio and making noise. There were a few of those bikes in that group - never got the full story on them! There were about 4-5 riders doing the loops on these huge unicycles - and it wasn't just a novelty thing - they were out there for the duration just like the others. The Stage took less than an hour (57:21), which averages out to 9:38 per lap.

That marked the end of riding for the Friday portion of 24 Hours of Booty, but at 5 hours that's not much in the happening. It was then I took Holman into the doctors at Bicycle Sport, who were providing free support - score! He was diagnosed with a fraying cable in the shifter so that was pulled out and replaced. All that for a $3 part. Back at the camp I faced my first break alone, since the ladies had also left for the evening. I set up my lawnchair so I could relax, but I didn't quite fall asleep.

I began the "queen stage" at 00:54, called so because I ended up doing 10 laps around the loop! I believe I had thought to do around 7 but I was feeling relatively good. I knew too the secret (especially for me) was to bank laps/miles/time during the night hours when the weather conditions were optimal. The other neat thing about this event is just the late-night riding, especially with very few bikes and just the solitude to think about everything possible in the universe. It's also nice because Queens Road West has two lanes blocked off, which is the most helpful on the two potentially dangerous sweeping right turns. About an hour and half later I pulled off with a 9:30 loop average - still coming down. I did bring my bike back to the mobile shop because the gears were still slipping some - the improvement was great. He did tighten everything some but said the chain would probably have to be replaced.

It was during this break that marked the only time I actually fell asleep. And that was only for 45 minutes or so. The next stage began at 03:56 and ended up lasting six laps. It was here that we began to see some raindrops, but thankfully nothing nasty. Each time to start I would be cold (strange sensation) and obviously slower than usual. But each time I would warm up and obviously get into some sort of rhythm. I came out at after 59 minutes and 11 seconds, for an average lap of 9:36 which was a bit of a slowdown.

As I hunkered down underneath my blanket, the rain started to drop a little harder but still it was nothing that would wash away all us sinners. I opted to wait a little while longer before wrestling up my body. Stage 6 began at 06:10 - by then it was mostly light and the headlight was probably not necessary. With the dawn of the day it was like coming out of a dark tunnel, a dark time, a dark past. I had to cut things short with 5 laps, my average pace continued to slow again, this time to 9 minutes and 42 seconds. This was the point that marked 12 possible hours of riding - I had gone 37 laps during this time.

Timing was constrained here because I needed to get some breakfast (desparately!), which started at 6:30 before I would join Kathy's Saturday Morning run group. Yes, I had packed my running gear and I am crazy like that. In fact in 2006 I did something simliar, doing a reverse of the loop around breakfast time. Unfortunately, the line for breakfast was quite long. I had seriously thought about abandoning this plan, but I forced those shoes on, used the facilities, got some other food and walked down to the intersection of Wellesley and Sterling. There I sat under a tree and waited - most likely close to passing out.

Around 7:35 I first heard the chatting of runners. They had left from the Dowd Y at 7 so I had to plan my timing well. I first recognized Ma Bell, and then I jumped in when I saw Mark. Behind him were Joe and Bruce. It was strange but oddly nice to get into the run mode versus all the biking that had just occured. We continued up Sterling then over on Westfield and onto Queens Road West. Obviously at this point we could see the bikers coming down the hill into a steady stream. At the water stop I still felt like I was going to pass out, but Joe saved my bacon with a caffeinated gel. That dude is absolutely amazing. It was also at that point that I realized I was mainly surrounded by tons of beautiful women. What planet is this?!? We then continued on the reverse loop, going up Selwyn then Queens. For some bizarre reason Bruce was talking to me. I was rather blunt with him, pointing out the obvious and I would NOT be offended. We then all stopped at the gazebo, there were lots of running/training groups going in and out. As usual, Kathy had our backs with some chillin' G2. The gel is really was made the difference! Most of that group was going straight back. It wasn't all that hot out, but it was extremely humid and everyone was soaked to the bone! I turned around and made my way towards Wellesley. On the way I got a couple of comments (as a biker in 24 HOB) such as "Come back from the dark side!" and so on. The route finished up right at 5K at a leisurely 8:18 pace and I went right into the breakfast line! I was all worried about missing out, since it ended at 8:30 but that was no problemo!

At 8:33 I pulled out for Stage 7 out of the Tour de Charlotte - makes you realize that riding for 12 hours is nothing compared to 5-6 hours a day for 3 weeks and 2,100 miles! Ironically enough I saw Joe later on coming back down Selwyn, so I gave him a special shout-out! I planned for six laps and could truly feel so much better. In terms of spotting additional runners, I also saw Jody and Cantey at two points, during what I would later find out was there 14 mile run, along the course. No doubt they were upholding the strong historical routes of the Booty Loop. I was not all that surprised when I came out at 56:22, which averages out to 9:24 per lap. This would mark the best stage performance of the endeavor.

Speaking of stages and biking, today marked the big time trial dual between Carlos Sastre and Cadel Evans in the Tour de France. I was naturally taping the stage (yes, a standard VCR hooked up to a standard 27" TV) but was mainly afraid of overhearing some loudmouth broadcasting the results. As a result of my mostly anti-social behavior, it was a lonely wait before the next stage. I had plenty to worry about, namely being quite tired of this monotonous and quite crushing affair. But for one 24 hour period a year, I can overcome the massive repetition for something quite greater than myself.

Stage 8 marked the slow decline of my average lap time. Once again I was out for six laps and some of the light sprinklings were back, but really the weather could have been a lot worse, especially with reference to searing temperatures. It was only 76 degrees (but quite humid) at the start time of 10:20. When I pulled off onto Wellesley I stopped the clock at 59:11. I would then pull my cycle computer out and coast up to the Expo entrance. After wheeling through I would refill the bottle, and then pick up some Great Harvest bread and then maybe a banana and some bars. The cookies Julie brought were actually the best to eat!

Naturally I was calculating well in advance of what was necessary to reach my goals - even though 200 miles seemed far off it was my least concern versus the 12 hours of biking. So when it came time for Stage 9 I had to go for seven - it was a bit of a stretch and once again my average lap pace continued to slow. I covered the nearly 20 miles with a 10:02 lap average. As I was heading through the expo area I spotted Audra and was delighted to get to chat with the birthday girl! I felt like a heel for forgetting but lately my calendar reminders have not been working. I was invited out for dinner and dancing but it seemed I'd probably have energy for neither. We chatted for a bit then I made my way back for some more forced solitude. I did talk some with the guy next to me - he had the same grey Madone 5.2 bike model that I currently own. His name was David and he additionally had an Ironman Wisconsin jersey - this all sounds like a great fit to me. He had hit the big year with the DNFs, but did finish another. All the training in the world could all be for naught. But at least I will do my best to get there and try.

I was also trying to bury myself and complete this seemingly ridiculous trek. As much as I wanted rid myself of going out again, I was able to convince myself this would put me closer to my goal. Also, it was a HUGE lift to have Audra, Jody, Christi, Julie G., and others I might have missed out there cheering for me!!! THANKS! Stage 10 was another 6 lap sidetrip, but this time the only 6 lap iteration that took me more than 60 minutes (1:01:06 to be exact). That works out to a 10:10 pace. The battery on my Garmin had reached low enough levels, despite one brief charge, that I had to shut off GPS activities for the bulk of the time I was out on my course. The iPod was doing considerably better. So when I was done I got my charger and sat near the REI booth trying to keep down both food and drink. I had obviously overdone the sugary Powerade and Vitamin D water that is given out en masse.

The only way to get myself out again was after I convinced myself this would be the last normal six lap iteration. That was the plan for Stage 11. What a slugfest it was at this point. Numbers had dropped way down and most of the tents were down in Bootyville. As I neared the six laps and 200 miles I realized I might as well pull out the extra laps now and get this suffer-fest over with! On lap 4 I was joined by my Madison Park neighbor and fellow Scott. He offered me some beer from his bottle, but I feared I might be considered legally drunk (or at least out of mind) in at least 20 states. He was also kind enough to ask whether I wanted the Tour update. I politely declined and we chatted some more before he powered out. I was able to hold that lap under 10 minutes because of his pulling. On finishing overall lap #73 I powered through wondering if I could hit it under 12 hours but I was right at the line! Sharon was there with her son cheering me on. I technically did not have to do the final lap but I did it anyway. I bid my absolute farewell to each nook and cranny before pulling off. Yeah!

It was great to have them there to help me break everything down. It slowly dawned on me what I had done and it slowly actually started to feel good. I had mused to Ilan a little earlier when he came to shake my hand that instead of going around a loop a bazillion times I could have almost done Double Down, he seemed to think this would be more interesting. Starting up the car and being propelled by something other than pedaling was a most bizarre sensation! I was naturally itching to get home as Winston had been inside since this morning when Julie let him out.

Somehow I had managed to hang around a thousand rabid bikers and not know the outcome of the decisive time trial. So that was great, I got to watch Sastre hold on.

For some odd reason though I was nodding off while on the couch. Maybe I was tired.

Charlotte Observer Photos

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