Thursday, November 01, 2012

Heading down to Frog Town

Photo from the 2011 25 Hours of Frog Hollow. I don't remember who sent it to me, so unfortunately I can't credit it.
On Wednesday I made another long trek across northern Nevada with three mountain bikes wedged inside the Subaru and a sharing-size package of Pretzel M&Ms to keep me company. A secret shame of mine is that I sorta love endurance driving/road trips, but not so much when anchored to Interstates because of time constraints. If I had my druthers I would take twice as long to reach Salt Lake City via a slow drive over the Sierras through Yosemite National Park, followed by a thirsty traverse of Nevada and the Great Basin on U.S. Route 50, i.e. "The Loneliest Highway." Someday. But until then I battle the hypnotic effect of I-80 with tried and true endurance-racing sleep deprivation techniques, such as sucking on M&Ms or Life Savers, and blasting myself in the face with frigid air. I only stop long enough to empty my bladder and refill my caffeinated beverage supply, and I've managed to whittle the 800-mile trip to twelve hours.

But the reason I am returning the the Beehive State for the third time in just over a month is this race that Beat and I signed up for back in May; this late-season race neither of us really trained for despite the fact we're both a bit overtrained and tired in general; this random Utah race that we've made something of a tradition just because it's so full of silly fun; this mountain bike race that just happens to also be really long and arduous, called the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow.

The 25 Hours of Frog Hollow is "The Longest One-Day Race Evah!" because it takes place over Daylight Savings Time, so the clocks fall back and add another hour to the day. And how does one make a long day last even longer? How about continually riding laps around the same thirteen-mile loop of dirt, sand, singletrack, and rocks, for twenty-five hours, at least fourteen of which are going to be pitch dark because hey, it's November. And even though this race is held in the desert of Southern Utah, it's still November, so temps can and usually do drop well below freezing at night. And no matter how much fun I'm having when my wheels first hit the sand, eventually I realize that it's 5 a.m. and the sun has been gone for twelve hours, I've probably run over at least one kangaroo rat and witnessed the disturbing carnage of many more, my fingers are frozen and my shoulders feel like someone is stabbing me with a hot fork, I've ridden a mountain bike 150 miles and am still hoping for fifty more, but there are so many things I'd rather do than ride my mountain bike, including stabbing myself with hot forks. And still, when I think back to the 23 laps and 300 miles I've already ridden in two years of Frog Hollow, my memories are filled with scenes accompanied by playful music like "Naked Kids" by Grouplove:

Yeah, racing a mountain bike for 25 hours is kinda like that ... in a magical world where the desert washes are filled with Pepsi and fairies and unicorns ride mountain bikes. I fully expect to see some fairies or unicorns in Frog Town, given this race starts only three days after Halloween.

Clearly I don't have high ambitions for this race. There's going to be some fast ladies lining up and I expect them to put in inspiring efforts as I dawdle far too much, doing whatever it is I actually do out there in mountain bike fairyland. I got on the podium last year by slowly picking my way through the field as temperatures dropped into the low twenties and some of the faster women slowed down in that water-bottle-freezing cold. I might have even won outright if I hadn't eaten a can of tuna and sent my stomach into a tailspin. It's all fun and games until someone eats a can of tuna. Then it's just unpleasantness, vomiting, and flickering moments of lucidity when all the tough realities emerge — "Actually, riding a mountain bike for 25 hours isn't silly fun. It's really hard. And I love the Jem Trail but I've already descended it thirteen times. I mean, really, Jill? Really?"

So I will stay away from tuna this year, and otherwise just focus on fun. Beat unfortunately is injured, again. He crashed his mountain bike two weeks ago and took a hard handlebar punch in the rib cage. He finally visited his doctor earlier this week and confirmed that one of his ribs is cracked. Beat's doctor knows him all too well and admitted that he can probably race his bike because there's little he can do for a cracked rib anyway. But it causes him a lot of pain, so we'll see how long he holds out at Frog Hollow. I'm glad he's still flying out here tomorrow and hope he can have at least one fun lap. In all likelihood he'll stubbornly push through a hundred-plus miles because he's just like that. His capacity for largely purposeless suffering never ceases to amaze me.

Anyway, this is just my blog post signing out for a few days. Have a great Daylight Savings Weekend, everyone. And take comfort in the fact that Election Day is nearly here, and no matter what happens, at least the election will be over.