24 Hours of Cumming

A B road photo taken from my pre ride. All dry here, but it was all mud on race day

A B road photo taken from my pre ride. All dry here, but it was all mud on race day

24 Hours of Cumming was my last gravel event of the season, and thankfully it ended on a high note. 22 athletes started the solo event, including 2 women. I placed second overall out of only 10 finishers, and am the only woman that finished. The race is 400K (247miles) broken down into four 100K loops starting and ending at the Cumming Tap with a 24 hour time limit for finishing. An 11 am start time guarantees that everyone will ride during the night. There is no support allowed on the course and no aid stations or C store stops, but crews were allowed at the start/finish area. This was a brand new event, and I was super excited to have an ultra event start just minutes from my house. No flights, no long drive, and no hotel stay! Fortunately I knew just the right guy to hang out for an entire day at the Cumming Tap to crew for me, Scott Newbury. My good friend Liz Bryant, who crewed for me at Odin’s Revenge, planned to help out as well so I had not one but two top notch crew. I am so blessed! They even put up with me calling them ‘my bitches’.

Loop 4 from my preride

Loop 4 from my preride

I rode loops 1 and 4 the saturday before the event, and the rest of the course was already familiar to me as much of it is on my regular training routes, so I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into. The race was going to be hard for sure; relentless hills with most being at least 8-12% grade and many that were much steeper. I saw several that topped out at 16%. There were a few muddy B roads as well. The timing of this event was not great relative to my fall events. Racing 400K normally would be good preparation for longer events, but I’m not sure 400K of Iowa gravel was a good decision given my two previous gravel race experiences. I’m putting in a lot of high milage and hard training weeks now, and I don’t have time to recover from an injury and still train effectively. Finishing without hurting myself was the big priority, and I was definitely not racing with the joy and reckless abandon that I did at Odin’s Revenge.

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Hot air balloons near Indianola on Loop 4 from my pre-ride

Race week did not go well for me. We had a great family vacation; truly one of those blessed weeks when everyone gets along, the weather is great, and we all had a great time together. The 10 hour drive home however, left my back in great pain. I also slipped on wet pavement in our garage Wednesday night and rolled my left ankle. By Thursday morning, I had swelling on a tendon in the front of my ankle. About the same time, I noticed that my tires were complete trash after two loops of the course and were no longer holding air. I’m not yet comfortable setting up tubeless tires, so I dragged my sorry self to Kyle’s Bikes and begged for some last minute assistance. I am a very organized and prepared person so I felt like scum going to the shop and fessing up to being a complete moron who didn’t notice that her tires were not going to make it 250 miles until two days before the race. This was made worse by the fact that I was standing there leaning sideways with a sore back and a taped up ankle and not even sure I would be racing. Derik Spoon set up my tires for me because he’s awesome, and even fussed over them again on Friday when they were still leaking air. He got everything fixed up, I spent a restless night on the couch Friday with back pain, and woke up Saturday morning feeling fine. No back pain, and the swelling in my ankle was gone. Race day weather was perfect, with mild temps, light winds, and mostly overcast skies.

Scott Newbury and I before the start

Scott Newbury and I before the start

I was planning on sharing transition space with Mike Johnson and Steve Fuller, so I got there early to claim us a spot behind the Cumming Tap. After we had everything set up and finished the pre-race meeting Steve and I went out for warm up rides. I finished mine without incident, but unfortunately Steve broke his pedal off at the crank arm and crashed his bike. He scraped up his hip and shoulder pretty bad and busted his helmet. His bike was no longer ridable, but he had brought two bikes so we bandaged up his wounds, the guys got his other bike ready to roll, and he was ready for the start with five minutes to spare. After that impressive display of efficient and effective crisis management, we were off.

All four loops

All four loops

Steve charged off the front right away, closely followed by me and my team mate Steve Robinson who was doing the first two loops as a two man team. Surprisingly no one else came with us. The three of us worked together, but Steve R’s ‘I’m crushing two loops’ pace was harder than I wanted to ride for four loops. I decided I’d stay with them until the muddy B road where I knew they would be faster hikers, and then drop back into my planned effort after. I started wheezing though, which is concerning as I no longer carry an inhaler so I ended up dropping off 45 minutes into the ride. Being sensible feels a lot like being a sissy. They stayed in my sight until the B road, and then they were gone. It wasn’t rideable, but it wasn’t a complete swamp which was nice. I opted to shove along in the tall weeds, moving at a glacial pace and trying not to mess up my ankle. Kyle Sedore and Taylor Webb caught up with me there. The three of us were fairly close the rest of loop 1. There was one more muddy B road to hike, and I made my way through cautiously.

Total gain recorded via my Garmin Edge was over 15,000 feet.

The rest of loop 1 was hilly and uneventful, and I saw both Steve’s heading out on loop 2 as I was finishing loop 1. My bitches did a fabulous job filling my camelbak and getting me ready to roll and I headed out of there in minutes. Loop 2 was entirely uneventful, just endless hills. I had some stomach issues and spent the rest of the race looking about 4 months pregnant, but nothing too horrible. I ran into Kyle Sedore again, and was disappointed to hear that he was planning on dropping out. I figured I would catch Steve Fuller during his transition to loop 3, and sure enough he was still there when I rolled in. I had not two but four people fussing over my bike for that stop. Rachelle Little and Daren Munroe joined Liz and Newbs, and I didn’t have to do anything but lube my chain. They filled my camelbak, put my lights on, hooked my Garmin up to the charger, and I was ready to roll before Steve. He was looking a little comfortable there with his hamburger and his group of friends, so I seized the opportunity and headed out ahead of him.

Before the race with Kelsey Regan. Her race ended in a trip to the ER due to a collision with a very large raccoon.

Before the race with my friend Kelsey Regan. Her race ended in a trip to the ER due to a collision with a very large raccoon.

When I reached the road closure on Loop 3, Steve still hadn’t caught me but I knew he couldn’t be far behind. Nate from the two person team had probably passed thru there ahead of me, but I couldn’t see how he had gone through. There was a massive pile of dirt in the middle of the road and I desperately did not want to climb over it, yet I also did not want to let my crew down by taking a longer way than necessary and ruining my race. I tried to go around, but the ditch was impassable and I got caught up in barbed wire. It took several minutes to extricate myself and hike out and then Steve rolled up. He is less chicken than me, and just climbed up the dirt pile. Since he was blazing the path, I decided to go along and hope for the best. I was pretty mad at myself at the time; I have two big events in the very near future, people have already gone to a considerable amount of effort on my behalf for those events… and what was I doing? Climbing a dirt pile in the dark with Steve Fuller. I need to have my head examined. There was not a good re route option, other than hiking through the farm fields. I doubt that would have been any safer than the dirt pile. Anyway, the dirt pile was entirely solid and completely harmless and I got my sissy self and crappy ankle over it without incident. Steve and I stayed together for the rest of Loop 3.

at the finish with Steve Fuller and Steve Cannon. photo by Scott Sumpter

at the finish with Steve Fuller and Steve Cannon. photo by Scott Sumpter

Our people had us ready to roll out for Loop 4 pretty fast, and as we were leaving Steve Cannon (the race director) told us we couldn’t tie. I promised him we wouldn’t, although Steve and I agreed to work together at least initially and didn’t discuss that detail until quite a bit later. I almost hit a skunk shortly after leaving Cumming, and screamed like a little girl. I took off in a sprint, and then I heard Steve yell “it’s not chasing you!” That was damn funny. We stayed together for quite awhile; I slowed up a few times to wait on him when he fell back, but we mostly rode together at a pretty decent pace considering the dense fog that had developed and the number of hours we had already been on our bikes. I don’t recall what mile we were at, but out of the blue I started having trouble breathing. I had been wheezing off and on all day, and grabbed my inhaler out of my gear box for Loop 4 just in case. Things got pretty ugly, and Steve said “don’t die”. I think that was his attempt at humor but the lack of a sarcastic response or obscene gesture from me must have indicated to him that this was kinda serious. He stayed with me because that’s the kind of guy he is. I managed to get myself together, although he did have to wait on me one other time. I sounded like an out of shape smoker the rest of the ride and for 4 days after. That was very unpleasant.

My fantastic crew, Scott Newbury and Liz Bryant

My fantastic crew, Scott Newbury and Liz Bryant

We did again get separated when I hit a pothole and almost wrecked. It was a lapse in concentration on my part, as this thing was massive and should have been easily avoided. Steve was in his own world and kept riding, so I was a little ways behind him for several miles. We did end up back together, but that is Steve’s tale to tell. Since we were back together, we came to an agreement about where to end it and picked a spot a few miles from the finish. Steve won, and I finished 19 seconds back. Several people have asked me how a 17 hour race gets won and lost by less than a minute. Sometimes it just does. We each had our strengths and weaknesses on that day, and that’s just how it played out. Steve was the dominant rider in terms of strength and speed, but I managed my time very well and kept it a very close race. We helped each other late in the race, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

awards photo

awards photo

Thanks to Molly, Matt, and Steve at One Race Events for putting on a stellar race on a very challenging course. You guys nailed it on the first year. The course rocked, the cue sheets were spot on, the awards were unique and well done, and the location was perfect. Well done!

Thanks so much to Liz Bryant and Scott Newbury for crewing for me around the clock. It was such an awesome experience to have you both there. I could not have asked for a better crew and I am so very grateful for your time and help. Thanks also to Daren Munroe and Rachelle Little for stopping by to help.

Derik Spoon at Kyle’s Bikes. You should’ve busted my chops for coming in last minute like that, but you were so kind. Thank you for the last minute tire replacement. You saved my race! I had not one bit of trouble with my tires the entire race. Thank you!

trophy for first place women's solo

trophy for first place women’s solo

Thanks to Mike Wilson for guiding me through this season, and getting me in good enough shape to consistently be in the front of the pack at endurance races. I’m done lugging my bike through mud and barbed wire, at least until next year.

Thanks to Mike Johnson and Steve Fuller for letting me share your transition space. Time spent with you two is always time well spent. Steve, it was a pleasure to ride with you. I’m so proud of how well you raced despite your crash beforehand, and I appreciate you sticking with me when I needed you. You are one of the good guys, and I’m glad to know you.

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3 thoughts on “24 Hours of Cumming

  1. Congratulations on your ride! 17 hours is an awesome time (at least to me)! I was curious what the course and feel of this event would be. Surprised they went w/ such a late start. Again, congratulations.

    • Thank you! The late start seemed odd to me at first, but worked really well for this event. It’s a good opportunity to ride through the night and experience that aspect of ultracycling without also taking on a 400+ mile ride.

  2. Pingback: 24 Hours of Cumming: Sarah’s Report | Discount Tri Supply Blog

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