As the soft pastel colors of the late autumn desert touch the crisp blue sky, the cold wind bites with the faint scent of winter…
-The 2017 25 Hours of Frog Hollow-
by Dave Gensch || GrassMoots
I picked up my oldest son Fisher early from school on Thursday so he could join my good friend and crewmate, Craig Fowler and me. Heading West past Green River and up through the San Rafael Swell is always special. It’s hard to grasp the geological events that sculpted this section of the world. The upper layers of sedimentary rock split and fracture away into the wind and water worn fissures and then further down to the sprawling maze of canyons and towers. If ever there is a place to find yourself while being lost, surly this is one of them.
We pulled into the venue at dusk, and the smell of campfires mixed with the dry dessert dust as we returned to our usual site right by the finishing tent. The cool morning encouraged sleeping in, and I happily obliged. By mid day, the temps had climbed to “T-shirt status”, and our group camp mixed with the folks from Steamboat was ready to go. A gaggle of us road the lower section of the course and it was super special to have Fisher join in on the 9 mile loop. It was a big ride for him with some very technical sections that he was able to clean…So FUN to watch him progress.
After years of racing and countless hours of preparation, my stomach still fills with butterflies for the uncertainty of what lies ahead. Rob Peterson and I leisurely strolled to our bikes at the tail end of the field as the Le Mans style start began the race. It’s a long 25 Hours for the solo riders and any energy consumption is critical, so running seems beyond wasteful and totally unnecessary. Throughout most of the day, the soft cumulus clouds scattered the sky and kept the temperatures and sun at bay. My mind and body really seemed to be in harmony and my mood matched the rhythm of both my legs and the Reggae playing from the small speaker located on my top tube next to the photos of my sons, Fisher and Ryder.
I had told myself to slow down and be more present this race. To stop to take a picture if I saw something beautiful, or take time to have a conversation with a random racer, and to make sure and not be hurried at camp while feeding or changing clothes. Both Jeff and Craig really helped me at camp with tasty food and bike love, and it was such a boost to see Fisher after each lap. By the late afternoon, the sun had cleared the clouds away and gave us good warmth before the very long night ahead.
In the evening light of the setting sun, the cold Western wind softly started to make its presence known. Per usual, my anticipation of the long hours ahead crept in right on time, but my body and spirit were still in a very good place. Usually by now, I have already dipped into a dark corner of my brain and perhaps even come back to the surface already, but I think the emphasis on really chilling out was paying off.
I had started to feel the first bit of fatigue and the timing was perfect. It was 10:00 P.M. and Fisher was anxious about going to sleep solo, so I lied down with him for 30 minutes as he fell fast asleep. Craig made me a most outstanding grilled cheese and I hopped back on my Moots Ybb, which had continued to provide me with such a pleasurable ride. The full moon was dancing between breaks in the clouds and I continued to enjoy the first 3 or so miles of the double and mellow single track with out the need for lights. The wind was quite heavy and cold by now and often at my face. I kept hearing Craig’s voice in my head reminding me that, this too shall pass.
In the closing hours of the night, my body began to ache. The pin ball nature of this lap really accentuated how my arms were beyond weak and my Achilles were strained, my legs were fatigued and my feet had sharp cramps, my eyes were like sand paper and my mind was weary. It was clearly time for a break, so at 4:30 A.M. I took a 60-minute nap. Craig had gone to bed and Jeffery woke up and made a breakfast of coffee, bacon, eggs and potatoes that set me straight. The body hurt no less, but the energy was back to a somewhat productive pace.
As dawn unfolded, the moon began to set in the West. The wind had calmed down and the pale blue sky pushed the cold greys and purples away. A warm orange glow briefly broke through the cloudy Eastern horizon and the soft light filtered onto the exceedingly worn out trail. Craig rode the next and final lap with me and we met up with Rob midway through. With a panorama of Zion to the East and the tall red mesas to the West, Rob and I stopped to enjoy a celebratory beer towards the end of the lap knowing that we would finish second and third regardless of our last lap time. We then finished out the last few miles of trail and crossed the finish line together.
With much help from Craig and Jeff, I finished second in the Solo single speed category. With that result, I am now ranked third in the nation for the National Solo 24 Hour Championship Series in the single speed category. It was quite a year on the bike and in life with mixed race results. The riding window was unpredictable and at times, quite narrow but blended well with some great family time and general good health. I can’t thank Moots enough for their continued support and absolutely amazing bikes the never leave me wishing for something more or different. Thanks to the boys at Aloha Mountain Cyclery for keeping my rides in tiptop shape and thanks to Stio, their clothes rock. Craig and Jeff, you were amazing. But most of all, thanks to my family for supporting me through all of the ups and downs of another lap around the sun.