24 hours in the Old Pueblo with our friend Brian Cheslog
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." This is a quote from T.S. Eliot and has become an important mantra to me as well as a tattoo on my right arm. On June 8, 2015 I stood at the treadmill in a local gym and thought to myself, if I can run two miles on this, it would be amazing. I was out of shape, needed to lose weight and get control of my life again. I had no idea where this adventure was going to take me and how far I was going to go.
So now here I am two years later and ready to hear the gun go off for the 24 hours in the Old Pueblo race, in a lineup with Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, Ben Hoffman (professional Triathlete), some crazies in Tu Tu costumes, one guy in a bear suit and a whole lot of people like me, just looking to face a test and see what they can do in 24 hours of riding a bike. The course is a 16 mile loop that consists of about 70/30 single track and some rutted roads, wide enough for helicopters to land and take away some unfortunate riders who tested the limits and went beyond them. I only saw one guy that needed to be air lifted out to find some medical attention, but it was enough to remind me that there are some limits here.
My teammate Pat Lynch and I are racing in a two-man duo category and only know what we can expect from this race from some videos on YouTube that we have watched and a TV show called Boundless, but here we go nonetheless.
The shotgun goes off (really a shotgun, this is the Arizona desert) and I’m running a half a mile to my bike and thinking this is going to be one incredible ride and journey. After the 1/2 mile run to my bike, I start the first lap of our journey. I pedal and try to settle into this first lap and also think about not letting my teammate and friends down along with trying not to hit a cactus called a cholla and letting it get a death grip on me. I later hit one in the middle of the night and it was a new experience for a Minnesotan that is used to racing a fat bike in wintery February.
The sunsets are beyond description and the night turns to a place where you cannot see your hand in front of your face and I love it. The riders have spread out and the laps that I do are mostly solitary allowing me to have this desert and my thoughts to myself. This is what I came for, to ride my bike and get to know myself better. I long for these moments riding beyond a point that most people consider sane and beginning a long conversation with myself.
Pat and I are doing well for first-timers, we reached a spot of 12 in a field of 41. We are both riding, eating, trying to figure out how to eat when you don’t want to and get the most out of the time when the other is out on the course. I know he understands how the last two miles of this loop feels and you know that a warm moment of rest is coming.
The sun rises and I’m out on the course just enjoying what this experience has brought me. The sun announces a new day with some of the most incredible colors along this desert backdrop. This is my last lap and the opportunity to feel this sense of accomplishment, knowing that I have run my race well. I have once again realized that any race that I do is not about me, but rather it is about being an example for others to take their journey to risk going too far, finding out how far one can go. I have ridden 110 miles of single track on my mountain bike and it has again brought to the forefront of my mind that I have an incredible family and a group of friends that I can say make my feel very fortunate to have them in my life.
Pat and I finish 14 out of 41 teams in the male duo division, but consider ourselves podium finishers in this journey that started with a TV show and some videos on YouTube. We have again answered the question of ‘can you’ and ‘how far can you go’.
It doesn’t take long (about six hours) and we are already discussing the next time and how we can improve. We are looking at a 25 hour race in the Utah desert, this one is on the day that the clocks go backward one hour, giving us extra time to ride our bikes. We will most certainly line up again and face the question of how far one can go. Until then, it is enough to know that we rode our bikes, had a great time and were reminded that we have a lot of people that care about us and make us some lucky guys.