Thursday, September 03, 2009

Guest Blog: Mr Dan Dittmer

Dan is a friend, teammate, co-worker, and repeat winner at 24 Hours of Afton. Here is his race recap:

It was another perfect weekend for the Salsa 2-4 Fest. The forecast was calling for a chance of rain, evening temps dropping into the 40's and 20 mph winds but none of these things materialized. There were over 50 entrants in the solo category including Sean Nelson and my Velo Rochester teammate Charly Tri who I knew would be serious contenders for the win.
The race started with a le mans start. I went out hard enough to avoid the traffic but didn't make any attempts to keep the race leaders in site. I kept a close eye on my Garmin heartrate monitor and tried to keep my heartrate below 165.
Charly had a sizeable lead for the first couple laps but I slowly reeled him back into sight. We exchanged the lead several times. We continued like this for the first seven laps...always staying within a minute of each other. I found that he would always pull away from me on the singletrack and I would usually catch back up on the climbs.
Each lap I was drinking a half bottle of Hammer Heed/Perpetuem, bottle of Gatorade (from my camelbak), and a handful of Sport Beans and Skittles. At the end of each lap I would swallow down most of a can of Mt. Dew and maybe eat a chocolate chip cookie or two. Most people would expect to have bad stomach issues with a diet like that but this crazy combination of sports nutrition and junk food usually works really well for me.
My stomach started getting a little off on lap 8 which made it hard to ingest enough calories. Allie scrounged around camp to find some food alternatives and eventually we discovered that I could stomach Coke and Pringles. I didn't eat much while I was riding on laps 8 through 11 but I forced myself to keep getting fluids down. At the end of each lap I ate Pringles and sipped on Coke. Just before lap 11, Mike (Allie's dad) made me some chicken noodle soup. Over the course of the next hour that soup seemed to get my stomach functioning again.
Charly had opened up a 15 minute lead while I was working through my stomach issues. His lap times had barely even slowed down since the start of the race. Knowing how strong Charly is I wasn't sure I'd be able to catch back up but I reminded myself that I still had something like 15 hours of race left so anything was possible.
Much to my surprise I found Charly sitting in camp after lap 12. He decided to take a little break and fill up on food before heading out again. He suggested that I should take a break as well which was very tempting since the sleep monster had been creeping up on me during the last lap. Since my stomach was finally feeling good I figured that I better keep moving. I drank a Red Bull and had some more Pringles and soup and took off on another lap.
Those hours from 3am until sunrise are always the toughest. There are fewer riders out on the course and most of the time you are completely by yourself. The extent of your world is the bubble of light given off by your headlamp. In other years this is when I get clumsy and start bouncing off trees and rocks. This year the Red Bull worked its magic and I actually was able to maintain a respectable pace all night. Each time I rode through camp I was informed that Charly was still resting so by sunrise I had a 3 lap lead.
Things get much easier when the sun comes back up. The light makes it easier to ride faster and I could shed the 5 lbs. of lights and batteries I had been carrying all night. The sun also brought warmth which felt really good on my achy muscles.
Charly had fallen into third place at this point but he turned in a 47 minute lap when he started riding again. I figured he would reel in second place really quick at that pace but he came down with some GI issues that forced him out of the race.
A steady stream of friends met me at camp though out the morning. It felt really good to have so many supporters out there. Every 3 or 4 laps I would also get some well wishes from my other Velo Rochester teammates that were racing on a 4 person team as they lapped me yet again.
At this point I had a healthy lead so my mind started turning to how many more laps I needed to do before I secure the win and stop riding. My support crew gave me the stats on the top 5 riders each time I completed a lap. The told me that the race for 3rd and 4th was really tight which meant the second place rider would likely be pressured to keep riding which ultimately meant I had to keep riding. Finally after 21 laps they informed me that if I did one more lap it would be mathmatically impossible for anybody to beat me. As a bonus my friend Tim who was doing the 8 hour race had waited for me at camp and offered to ride the last lap with me. I wasn't exactly feeling fresh but it was fun to have somebody to ride with. I could tell that Tim wasn't having to work very hard despite the fact that he had already done 4 laps in his race. Even though my whole body was hurting I found myself really getting into the single track and really
enjoying what I hoped was my victory lap.
It felt really good to cross that finish line and know that I was done riding. I was completely exhausted. My total ride time was 21:13:28. I had stopped for a few minutes between each lap but I had never stopped long enough to sleep like I had done last year. Jeffrey Austin-Phillips crossed the line just a few minutes after me having completed his 18th lap which was good enough to secure 2nd place. Tim Hayes had to keep riding for the full 24 hours to secure 3rd place (even more impressive considering he was riding a single speed).

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