I finished the Powderhorn 24


I didn't think I was even going to be able to keep going and awake the entire race, instead I ended up being able to finish it all, I hit every single bonus stop, 26 laps in total and one more than I needed to do to get everything.  I feel really good about that.

I have to admit that I was pretty terrified about this race.  I've been thinking about it a lot lately, I tried getting time to ride some longer rides but I didn't have anyone really to ride with so I didn't get any real base miles in before the race.  The longest ride that I'd done so far this year was about 40 miles and I did that about a month to a month and a half ago.  I've only been riding about 45-50 miles a week.  So I really didn't have any idea how I was going to do in the race.  I've ridden 100 miles before on quite a few occasions so I knew that mentally I could ride a long distance.  I'd even once done a ride where I took off at about 10am and got back home about 8 or 8:30 in the morning to roll my sleep schedule over for switching back to night shift so I knew I could stay awake for a long time while riding.  But that was several years ago and I was much younger and riding a lot more then.  So it wasn't any big old thing to do a ride like that.

I took Friday off of work so that I could stay up really late on Thursday and try to sleep all day so I'd be fresh for the night hours of the race, I felt like those would probably be the best time of the race to be riding.  It's cooler and there's less traffic so it's nice except that you can't see the potholes as well.  I ended up with most of the large pothole regions figured out withing a few laps anyway and I had good lights.

Anyway, Thursday night I stayed up until about 5:30 in the morning cleaning my house and getting my Cannondale ready for the race.  I'd picked up a seatpost bag earlier in the week and filled it up with the essentials I would need if I got a flat or wanted to change the lenses in my glasses.  I also had a top-tube and stem bag that my brother gave me for my birthday that I used to keep some money, my credit cards, eyedrops and some 5 hour energy and the bonus manifests and a pen.  I took off the rack and used some inner tube to attach my lock to the frame.  I made sure all my batteries were fully charged too. 

Friday I woke up by about 12:30 and couldn't sleep any more.  I headed over to the Wienery for breakfast, then ran by Target, Cub and Rainbow.  I needed something different from each store.  I got home from that and it was time to head over to the start to check in, which went faster than I thought it would.  I thought there might be a long line of people but I got there early enough that there was hardly anyone so it only took a couple of minutes.  So I headed home for a few minutes then had to run to the clinic to do a follow up on the new meds.  Once I got home from that it was just a few more minutes to get everything ready, changed into riding clothes instead of regular clothes, that kind of stuff.  Drank some chai and put food and my phone and headphones into my jersey pockets and headed over to Freewheel Midtown for the starting announcement.  Listened to that, then just had enough time to head to Manny's Tortas to get a sandwich.  I ate it near the start, I was racer number 8 and they had us lined up in that order.  I didn't think that I was going to be able to stuff my face fast enough to be ready for the start but I managed to finish in time and head out from the start with everyone else. 

I rode laps for the first few hours up until a little before 9 then I headed home and ordered some palak paneer and mushroom paneer for dinner.  I switched over to the extended battery to get more hours before having to come home and charge up again.  I think all said and done I was home a bit over an hour, maybe an hour and a half that time.  I was only 23.33 miles in at that point and could have probably ridden a lot further before stopping but I really needed to get more food in my belly if I was going to be able to make it the rest of the night.

I stayed out riding laps for the next several hours until my phone battery died again from listening to Pandora.  I was listening to my electronic station, I needed something with a solid beat that would just keep going and going and didn't want to be too distracted by lyrics.  I was 71.26 miles in to the ride when I stopped again.  Took some ibuprofen and watched an episode of time team and charged up my phone and GPS and main headlight.  I'd lost my sunglasses at the polo stop so I needed to pick up a new pair from Freewheel when I went back out on the ride.  Turns out that my brother had seen them at the stop so I was able to get them back and returned the new glasses.  That was the closest to a mechanical that I had for the whole race.  I also lost a water bottle at the race but that was actually after everything was done and I was just walking around talking to people.

I started spending more time off the bike after that but still kept riding.  I think by that point I had decided that I was going to stay awake and keep going the entire race.  I was going to finish it, and finish it all.  I still felt really good all things considered and the 5 hour energy stuff was keeping me totally awake, I knew if I lay down I would just end up not sleeping at all and just wishing I was back out on the course.  I'd been doing every single bonus stop along the way and finding them all pretty easy and not very much out of the way if you routed them right.  So I decided that what I was going to keep hitting all the bonus stops and maybe do a few laps more than that but I wasn't going to ride too much more.  I think that was probably around mile 80 or 90 when I decided that I was going to be able to ride at least that much and do it pretty easily.  The bonus laps were really what made the race anyway, doing the course itself could get pretty boring.  Hearing some of the winners talk about their course I realized I was probably not taking the absolute shortest routes that you could but I had a routine worked out and knew all the intersections pretty well.

View Powderhorn 24 Route in a larger map

These were the bonus stops.

Round 1

  • 8pm - 10pm Beehives.  5th Ave Farm.  Take a flier for the farm and make antenna for your helmet with crepe paper and pipe cleaners.
  • 10pm - 1am Rock It Bicycle Delivery Freewheel Midtown Side Room.  Sing Rocket Man by Elton John
  • Midnight - 2am Bikes and Pieces 815 East 48th Street.  Ride a mini bike around a course.  I couldn't pedal it and did it like it was a scooter.
  • 1am - 3am Bike Polo, Peace Coffee stop.  I lost my glasses here.  You had to spin around a mallet 5 times then shoot a polo ball through two cones.  Mine bounced off a cone but was closer than a lot of people's and they still counted it.
  • 2am - 4am Nice Ride.  Pick up a Nice Ride at the 10th street station and do a lap on it.  I was one of the first people on this so I got a bike right away, I heard some people had to wait for bikes.  This lap really sucked, those things don't really have a high gear and my clipless shoes kept sliding on the plastic pedals.  It was probably when I did this one that I decided I had to do all the rest of them.

Round 2

  • 4am - 6am Mini Manifest.  I forget what all the stops were but I was able to grab them all pretty easily.
  • 5am - 7am Yoga, Powderhorn Park.  Stop in the park and get eaten alive by mosquitoes while you do yoga in wet grass for about 10 minutes.
  • 7am - 10am Breakfast, Freewheel Midtown.  They had waffles and lots of fruit, bread, meat, cheese, granola and yogurt.  I ate across from a friend of mine who was actually in first place at that point in time, I couldn't believe how completely drained and out of it he looked.  There was no way I could push myself to those kind of levels, I can keep riding slowly for a long time but I couldn't push it and push it the way the people actually racing this race did.  This wasn't really a bonus stop because they didn't make you check in but I think nearly everybody did it.  There was quite a line for waffles for a bit, I was happy I heard it was open at 6:40 or so before the line showed up so I got one right away.
  • 8am - 10am Farmer's Market 2225 E Lake St.  Answer a mini-manifest about the market and eat an optional pastry from the bakery sponsoring the stop.  I forget which bakery it was, I had to write it down on the manifest but it escapes me now.
  • 9am - 11am Mixed Precipitation Picnic Operetta, Paradise Garden 3405 Chicago Ave.  This was actually the only place I locked up my bike, I went to the address didn't see anyone so I locked up to go inside and the door was locked.  Went around the side of the building and saw a garden and asked one of the people working there where the stop was.  She didn't know but the other person did and they directed me to a tent around the back where they didn't yet have their racer checklist or the stuff for the stop proper.  I ended up folding 4 handouts for an Opera or something which was pretty easy after all the print assembly stuff I'd done in the past, I think I folded the layout pretty well, it wasn't a standard 3 column brochure or anything, it was half cut accordion with an enclosing flap.  I was at this stop really early, though.  I was on my way home and I thought it only went until 10am.  I didn't think I'd be back on the course again in time to make it all the way around the course and then pick up the Chicago stop on the way back so I just rode from the start to this one and didn't do a full lap to hit it.  I guess that's really the only thing that I did to 'cheat' the whole race, not doing a full lap to get one bonus stop but just riding from the start to grab it.

Round 3

  • 10am - Noon PPNA 821 E 35th Street.  I was fresh for this lap but my batteries weren't, there had been some crud on the connectors for my GPS so the whole time it was on the charger it hadn't been taking in current and it was nearly dead on batteries.  Thankfully my neighbor had seen a recent post about my wanting to pick up a charger for my phone to use on the road, hopefully a solar one.  He had the battery pack from his unit and knocked on the door saying I could borrow it earlier, I think when I first got home last night.  So I took some rubber bands and attached the GPS to the charger then plugged it into the battery pack which still had some juice in it and took off for the lap.  By the time I was done with the lap the battery was fully charged again!  I thought for sure I was going to lose a couple laps worth of data.  I wasn't really being all that accurate about it, I often forgot to start or hit the 'lap' button at the right times so I know the data is worthless from a training point of view.  But I still wanted to know pretty closely what mileage I had so not leaving it at home for two or three laps was high on the priority list.

    I ran into a friend of mine on this lap who was racing on the Cycles For Change team on this lap and we were both riding about the same speed so it was the only lap that I was actually riding with a partner to talk to at all along the route, I chatted with a couple people for a block or two but we always got out of sync and all of my other friends were racing much harder races and going way faster than I was.  She had missed this bonus stop on her last lap and I was pretty sure I could find it.  It was the big building that used to be a fire station, they made us write a haiku about the race.

    Riding forever
    Further than I thought I could
    Will I stay alive?

    I think that's how mine went.

    We headed out from there and she mentioned that the next stop was actually open by then so we decided to also pick it up on this lap because it was kind of on the way back, so we headed on over to
  • 11am - 1pm Heart of the Beast Theater 1500 E Lake Street.  They had a puppet making station, where you drew in a cyclist and their bicycle then cut it out of the paper and attached the wheel so it could turn.  I took a photo of what the stop was but forgot to take one of the finished product. 
  • 1pm - 3pm Full Cycle 3515 E 35th Street. I had taken some more time off after that lap to drink a large coldpress and chat with some more friends but I headed out with what I thought was about the right amount of time to make it around the course and get there right as it opened but I was a little early.  A couple other people were early too, we all waited for them to open the front gate and set up a table where they had tshirts with bike parts in them.  You had to reach inside and without looking tell them what part it was.
  • 3pm - 5pm Greenway Coalition, Base of the Sabo Bridge, actually where the Greenway meets 28th.  There was a mixup and this was the second poetry stop of the race, only this time it didn't need to be a haiku so I didn't think about it and don't remember what I wrote.
  • 4pm - 6pm Angry Catfish, 4208 28th Ave South.  You had to toss a coffee bean into a glass vase about 4 feet away from you.  It took me a few tries.  I had headed home again before this stop so I was feeling pretty rested and had pretty well charged batteries for it.  When I finished the stop I headed through the rest of the checkpoints and new I was pretty much done, I wasn't going to be riding any more laps just to see how far I could go.  Aft er that lap I was up to 139.4 miles on the GPS I think. 

After that I came back and chilled at the start finish for a bit.  I was really done riding at that point.  I still felt good but I'd already done everything that I wanted to do and a lot more than I ever thought that I could so I was OK with that.  I'd reached all my goals, I didn't need to prove that I was any more bad assed by going out and hitting more laps.  I wasn't in this race to see how much faster I was than anyone else, I was doing it just to see if I could do it and because I thought it would be fun.  Watching it last year and riding a few laps with a friend had shown me that it could be a really wonderful event to take part in, and it didn't disappoint when I attended this year.

I ended up resting back at the start for a bit more time, then headed out about 6:15 to do one more lap just to show that I could, that I had miles still in my legs.  I had still been pushing the big ring on most of the course after all, I knew I probably had a couple more hours of riding left in my legs before I got to any kind of danger.  I just didn't want to ride it any more, it had been enough for me to finish.  I'm glad I did the final lap though because it meant that I got to ride back in and have my manifest turned in and my photo taken on the way in by ibikempls.

All in all it was an excellent race, probably one of the best times that I've had on a bicycle.  I really liked that it was a race I could do as opposed to the kinds of races most people put on that favor sprinters and other fast people.  I'm not fast but I can keep myself going for a long time without too much effort, as long as I don't ever try to overdo it.  This race I didn't try to really push myself hard on any lap, I think that was the key to my actually being able to complete it.  If I had of attacked really hard even on just a couple of laps to see how fast I could do them I probably would have worn myself out for the rest of the race and might have had to do something like sleep and miss bonus stops. 

At the end of the day when I got home the GPS said 147.5 miles, 13.47 hours in the saddle and 10.7 mph for average speed with stops on the course but not the extended stops where I rested.  I know there was probably at least another 2.5 on the course where I forgot to start the timer and record the lap, plus all the running around before the race so I'd say I put in at least 155 miles on the bike.  That's 150% of my previous best and way longer than I expected to be able to ride.  I was really happy that I was able to use the big ring the entire way too, that was an unexpected surprise.  I thought for sure by the time I hit 100 I'd be barely spinning in my lowest gear, cringing in pain with every mile.  It wasn't like that at all, every lap that I did I felt pretty fresh and really ready to do the lap, I didn't ever feel like there was a chance that I wouldn't be able to finish a lap or something.  I did stop a few times at the Meat Mane gyro stop but that was more for food than for resting.

I'm for sure going to do it again next year, but I think I'm going to ride it a little bit differently. 

It might be different in that I'll take even less stock in doing laps, just doing the bonuses but spending time on the course stopped at the actual stops to chat with the volunteers and take pictures of people coming through the stops.  Maybe I'll take the knowledge that I can do a 24 hour bike ride without too much effort and just look at the event as a great time to hand out with friends and have fun, try to document as much of it as possible so I can remember it later.  That could be a great way to ride this race, and could be a better way to meet new people.  As is I spent most of my time talking to people I already knew who were 

Or it could be different in that I might actually try to train for it next year.  I've seen what I can do without any training whatsoever and not really trying to push myself at all.  I wonder what I would be capable of if I actually tried?  Would I be able to pull off over 200 miles in 24 hours?  How about 250?  These are answers that might need finding at some point in time.  I know I'll never be capable of pushing myself in the same way that the leaders do who can actually win an event like this but I know I could do better than I did yesterday.  I probably could have put in another 5 or 6 laps, maybe another 30 miles on this race and still have been OK.  If I had trained and was taking less time on each lap I could probably do enough more laps to make it to 200 without too much effort or hurting too much the next day.

Maybe that's going to be my next cycling milestone.  Seems like a good one to shoot for.

I managed to get out with some other racers today for a recovery ride.  18 miles up Minnehaha Creek to the Lakes to Davanni's for dinner then back down the Greenway to try to get Peacock Groove to go to Izzy's in St. Paul for ice cream.  There was no way that I was going to be able to climb Marshall Hill without my granny gear and that didn't sound like fun so I headed home instead.  I wasn't able to push the big ring any more today but I didn't even try.  I did need to ask them to dial down the pace a little bit when we were holding 16-17mph for a bit.  That was about the fastest I'd been riding the entire time yesterday and to them that speed was recovery.  Just shows how different people's conditioning can be, I was kind of hurting trying to keep up which was not what I wanted at all.  I just wanted my legs to turn on pedals for a few miles to make sure that they still knew what to do and that I'd be OK for getting into work tomorrow. 

Next weekend is another big bike adventure with the camping trip out to Love Tree.  I'm feeling a lot better about that ride, I was worried about doing the 60 mile day in the middle fully loaded.  Oddly after the last two day's I'm not worried if I'll be able to ride that at all.