Monday, May 25, 2009

24 Hrs Of Burn; Return Of Tookie

I knew it was going to be a long and sleepless weekend well before I closed the roll: Easton store last Friday night. Having gotten up to get the child to school at 7a.m. Friday, loading the truck with an entire city's worth of racing essentials, then getting to work for the nine hour day ahead of me was the LEAST of my worries. I had to close the store that night (9:45 p.m.) the drive to Argilite Kentucky to pick up Pro 24 Hr racer Jeff "Tookie Williams. Normal people would have slept there, then continued on the next morning. We aren't normal (yeah, like you needed me to point that out), so we drove straight on through for another six hours...arriving at the race venue by 8a.m.

**Jeff's daughter was on lizard patrol all day**

Jeff normally races on a hardtail 29er, since his Carbide is still in no-man's land. His hardtail was in barely raceable shape, so I brought down one of roll: Polaris' new demo bikes. Jeff was happy to know I may have saved his ability to have more children. Here he eyes the BMC Trail Fox for the first time. With Shimano SLX parts and 5" of all-mountain travel, Tookie and the seven mile lap here in the hills of North Carolina were about to give this bike the biggest test of it's life. Having not yet been to sleep after twenty seven hours of work, driving, and set was about time to bring the pain.

In the pits right before the noon start time, I ran into friends and fellow KENDA racers (Pro XC, STXC and Endurance) Robert and Philicia Marion. They brought out the team support trailer full of hardware. Because the races old primary budget sponsor pulled out for this year (Source Burn Energy Drink), all the prize money was gone. That means all the big guns in the Pro Solo field didn't show up. That's awesome for up and coming riders, because they have a chance to win a race and not slug it out with the "big guns." A win usually means better sponsors for the next year, so it's a good thing to show up and try.

The race lap is an amazing bit of trailwork. Banked berms, log rolls, jumps, hip-kickers..everything fun all wrapped up into a thirty minute lap. O.K., maybe forty minute lap, it just depends on what time it is! Rainy drizzle made for treacherous racing at times, but the Trail Fox seemed up to the challenge.

At noon, the gun crackles through the humid North Carolina air and the riders are off and RUNNING! A Le Mans start always adds the pain, but thins the riders out in a mass start. Jeff was smart and placed the bike on the ground way behind every one else's, so he wouldn't have to run as far. He was in the top thirty of over 200 riders at the start, making traffic a non-issue.

Setting up the suspension stiffer than normal for the race, and dropping the bars and stem lower for better climbing, Tookie was hammering through everything. It was weird to see man actually smiling through such a suffer-fest. The daytime laps yielded not a single mechanical failure, despite the SEVENTY MILES pounded into the frame before nightfall. The Shimano SLX drivetrain was superb, and expertly set up by Caleb. The bike ran so well in fact, that despite the almost two hundred miles of tortuous racing exacted on the bike, not a single derailleur adjustment was made! The bike's cables were housed all the way to the derailleurs, all but eliminating the need for re-greasing.

**The last mile. Uphill. On wet grass.**

With names like the "Chamois Butter Billionaires" and "Whitney's Crack Habit," the team riders pounded fast laps due to the rest breaks. The Solo riders would get no such respite. With chamois butter spread like Nutella into their nooks and crannies, these endurance headcases fought back the desire to sleep, puke, die, or all of the above just for the chance to tell their friends what they did over the weekend. Mowing grass and BBQ'ing? Weak-sauce.

Philicia traded in the bone-jarring efficiency of the hardtail late in the evening for the full suspension BMC. You would have, too. She would go on to win the female solo Pro class, but not without a fight. Philicia was so exhausted on her last lap, as she swung past our pit area I wondered if she would be Puma bait before noon.

If you think you want to race when you get older, don't. This little girl was so tough, she pounded in eight inch railroad spikes with her face. She will mop the course with you, so quit before she turns eighteen...or she'll make you pay! Right after I took this photo, she bit me in the leg.

With a fresh jersey and shorts, and an extra-double-crazy-thick dollop of chamois butter, Tookie headed off into the night. Now racing on over forty sleepless hours, this guy is a tank. He has a full time job, full time college, a daughter and a wife. When I asked him to take an hour's nap at 3a.m., I thought he was going to strangle me. Dedication is an understatement, and excuses are a non-option.

**The lights and sounds of a 24Hr race buzz by you, even as sleep creeps into your eyelids.**

**The trail was fast and flowey, and more fun than celophane over the toilet bowl.**

Jeff's final lap came at 11a.m. on Sunday. Even after 19 laps, he was still standing up and hammering over the rocks. The suspension allowed Jeff's legs to rest enough that they never got sore or crampy. On the hardtail he would have to use his body and legs to get off the seat and absorb the hits..but the Trail Fox did that for him, and as a result he turned a few more laps then last year.

As the finish line loomed near, Jeff was stunned by the efficiency of the bike. To withstand a beat-down like that with no mechanicals at all made him a believer.

Oh, and great job to Jeff "Tookie" Williams, who after three days without sleep managed to pull a 16th place out of forty riders that day, on a bike he'd never seen before. Buy that man some burgers.

** Laney is the queen of Knock-Knock jokes. Go ahead, ask her to tell you some. Then prpeare to hear them non-stop for 24 hours.**

**The Amino Vital was doled in very large scoops, and for the first time in a long time, Jeff never felt like he was going to cramp during a race. Thanks to Amino Vital and POB for the killer product**

**Jeff heading out on yet another lap. To witness suffering at this level is almost hard to watch. Almost.**

**Laney was catching lizards faster than I could let them go when she wasn't looking. Poor guys would have never survived their styrofoam cup-home she expected them to live out their days in.**

**Beer by 10a.m was not really weird after you have been up for three days. We had no idea how we'd be able to drive home after all the sleep deprivation.**

**Jeff had to change clothes at 2a.m. Hammered, soaking wet and punchy, solid food and clean shorts are a welcome but minimal comfort.**

**Thanks to SIGMA, Jeff never had to go blind all night. Bringing all our collective SIGMA light power, Jeff never had to worry about re-charging a battery. The KARMA blazed for three laps on a single charge, and the Evo/Evo X handlebar set up rocked the night like it was noon in Tucson.**

**Thanks to Hydrapak, Jeff managed to stay hydrated on the often rough and sloppy North Carolina race course. This an '08 Bantam hip pack, and it was just enough to get everything he needed to complete his laps quickly.**

While Jeff headed out on his last lap, Jeff's wife Donella and I began to pack it in. rain was in the forecast, and a lot of it. By noon it began pouring, and the first three hours of the drive home were miserable. Any racers left out on that course paid a heavy toll for the final lap.


At 11:50 AM, Blogger rushman said...

great job Tookie way to represent man.

At 10:46 PM, Blogger Peter said...

Way to go Jeff! You're not mortal!


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