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Looking Back at my First Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race

0 2011 Burn 24 Hour Challenge

2011 Burn 24 Hour Challenge

Several months ago I had a plan going into the 2011 season. It included a duo race at the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek, a solo at the 6 Hour Grind on the Greenway, a ton of riding and then my first solo at Burn 24 Hour.    As any good plan there was a few snags within this.  My geared race bike, the Airborne Goblin, showed up a few weeks late which kept me on my fully rigid single speed for the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek, and kept me from racing the 6 Hour Grind.    I quickly started commuting on the Goblin and riding it everywhere possible to get used to the fit and gearing.

I’ve never done a 24 hour mountain bike ride on my own, I’ve never come close to that.  Even with tons of great inspiration and information from sources like Rebecca Rusch and Team Ergon I still didn’t know exactly what my body would think or my mind would do.   Doing my best to prepare myself I lined myself up with some of the best support and gear a person could ask for.   Amazing lights from Light & Motion (Seca 700 and Stella 300.) A great pit setup and location, and a great prepared pit crew.

Preparing for a 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race

Friday I pulled a half day of work, finished packing up the little Jetta and headed up to Wilkesboro from Mooresville NC.   Quickly setting up my tent in fear of the rain storms headed towards the race course, I can say the purchase of the REI tent and garage was one of my smartest moves this year so far.

REI Hobitat Tent Review

REI Hobitat 6 Tent

Somehow I set up the tent all by myself, losing about 2 lbs of water weight in the process.  Looking over my shoulder the whole time at the large RV that was simply sitting there with generator and air conditioning running.  Jealousy ran through my head for a moment.

After helping Jason B. with race sign up for 30 or so minutes, I ran out of things to do.  I finally sat there in my chair, sucking down water and contemplating my next move.  Would it be to nap, eat more beef jerky or go find friends.   I sat, and thought about my life until friend, em:pwr teammate and pit neighbor, Stephanie Cole, showed up.   We quickly pitched her ez-up, sleeping tent and staked them all to the ground so we could head off to dinner.

What did I eat for dinner the night before my solo race?  Really good ribs of course.

Morning of my Race

Sleeping in the tent the night before my race was fine.  The weather was perfect and I was sprawled out across two sleeping bags and my Thermarest! The week leading into my race I did my best to be over hydrated.  Counting bottles of water as I drank them at work, and having a water bottle near by at all times.   I think this was a smart choice but at 11pm, 2am and 4am my bladder thought other wise.  The idea of walking around in the dark to the line of port-a-jons, through a large mud puddle and having to wake up enough to do all these things…well it didn’t fly for me.   Fortunately for me, I have been taught by my better half to pee in bottles.  If you look at the tent photo above we had added a “garage” to the tent.  Both sides zip down to provide shelter for the bikes, dogs or whatnot and additional room at night.   It also provided a perfect place to “pee in my bottles” in the middle of the night.   Between all my wake up calls, I think I filled two bottles and was thankful when 7am came to use a real toilet.

Burn 24 Hour Pit

I did my best to setup all my gear, label my batteries, swap my tires from Small Block Eight to the most “mud tire” I owned which is the Bontrager XDX.  Checked over my bike and laid out all my gear for the first couple laps.  At around 10:30 my pit crew showed up, set up more stuff and prepared themselves for the next 28 hours of their lives.

Introducing my Pit Crew

Somehow I had recruited a few friends to come take care of me, entertain each other and really “hang out” for over 24 hours of their Memorial Day weekend.

Kimberlee Welsand

Kimberlee - Chef, nutritionist, first aid and medical provider (all of these things came in handy.)

George Berger
George - Engineer, official time keeper, and master scientist.

Ben Wilson
Benjamin
– Comedian and pit jester.

The Race

The race, broken down into bite size pieces will be up for tomorrow.   I’m still trying to process everything that happened in that short time span of 24 hours. What I did wrong, right and what I need to do better in life to get me further in racing.

Two Charlotte Based em:pwr Members Hit by Cars This Week

0 Bike Accident

I have a very humbled and sad feeling inside when I type this.  If it doesn’t come across well, if my grammar stinks and spelling is horrid I am sorry.   This type of message is one I never want to relay, it is one that pains me before I even begin.

Bike AccidentLast Thursday morning I woke to an email from Benjamin Wilson.  Ben is not only a club member, but is a main sponsor of em:pwr with his company Delivery Path. The email went something along the lines that he was hit the evening before in downtown (Uptown) Charlotte.  He was fine, just was released from the ER but very shaken up and freaked out.  He then asked me to call him ASAP.

I called Ben as soon as I could to talk through his worries and fear.  His bike was totaled.  He had a police and witness report. He was okay.  He was scared.  He was freaked out.   Everything he explained was exactly how I felt 6 months earlier. I did my best, explaining that it is all needed and what I did to get through it..

Over the past week I’ve been trying to keep tabs on Ben.  Keeping his spirits high, or as best as I can.  Hoping that talking to someone that has been there and is back on the road would help!

Fast forward to today… A little after lunch I get a call from George Berger. He has been added to the list of Charlotte based bike accidents.  I haven’t gotten a full story but he’s fine.  He somehow “dismounted” his bike during the accident and now the frame and rear wheel are the only thrashed parts, not him.

Somber. Sad. Feeling for my two friends as I know exactly how they are feeling.   George sounded like he was in better spirits than Ben.  We’ll get through this guys and hopefully em:pwr others to fix this!

Race Report : NCCX #14 Greensboro

0 George Berger Cyclocross

George Berger, the first member of the new em:pwr cycling team,  started riding BMX as a kid in Houston, graduated to local crits and road races, then moved into mountain bikes and triathlons before finally ending up as someone who loves ‘cross more than anything else. The problem, he says, was that each major cycling ‘era’ for him was in different decades. He says that if he’d have stuck with cycling throughout his life, he could have been as good as…well, any shortish, stoutish, strongish mid-40′s Flemish ‘cross racer.  George resides in Davidson, NC with wife and daughter.

The final race of the North Carolina Cyclo-Cross Series was held last Sunday in Bur-Mil Park in Greensboro. Arleigh and I drove over there from the Lake Norman area to race–first me in the (new to me) Masters 45+ category at 10AM, and then Arleigh at 11AM in the CX4 (remember, she’s racing a single-speed against the ‘gearies,’ folks!)

It was cold out there at 9AM or so…so we were all glad that the park had its nature center open for us, with bathrooms, tables and chairs…not to mention cool live and stuffed animal exhibits…and, around the park all sorts of cool parkie stuff. I’d definitely go back there for sure.

The races themselves were a lot of fun; the course was set by Greensboro Velo and Cycles de Oro, and technical obstacles included a couple of sand volleyball pits to ride through (icy is good in sand, by the way, because it packs down), one set of double barriers, a short, sharp two-pedal-revolution climb/90′ turn that you had to hit standing up, and a cool set of stairs that popped us up from a sharp off-camber turnto the main level of the course. Lots of sharp turns that got progressively rutted as the day went on, and some pine needle sections that you had to pay close attention to in order to not spin. Lots of reasonable up- and down-hilliness, but nothing too steep. Fun!

Welcome to Masters 45+

I raced Masters 45+ for the first time. Frankly, so long as I could stay out of the way of the faster guys (and Pro/1/2/3 women, who are almost as fast as the 45+/55+ guys), that was fine with me…and those (other) old guys are damn fast. My goal was not to crash out like last week, and to finish, which I accomplished without much incident. Not much of a goal, but still. I’m a beginner at this. It was my 4th CX race, and I think I’ve learned a lot about bike prep (see my comments from last week, when I crashed over and over due to poor tire choice made before the race), bike handling, and tactics.

One thing I’ve noticed about myself, and it’s a goal to figure out before next year: when I’m actually racing, I feel like I’m working as hard as I can, while still conserving some energy (and air) for later laps of the race. I feel like I’m pushing hard, but not hyperventilating (I did that a bit in the Winston-Salem race, and don’t want to do that again). But then, after the race, I feel almost OK pretty soon after…not like I’ve REALLY worked so hard that I’m spent. Gotta figure out how to get more energy into the race, but not be dead (body or brain-) before the last lap. It’s one thing to push yourself around in the middle of a crit peloton…you can almost always sit in the group to catch some breath. But this is different–you have to negotiate obstacles and the course pretty much by yourself, even if you’re on the wheel of someone. You have to stay sharper, and have to save some energy for the later laps.

I really wish the CX season went on longer though. I’m looking forward to doing 55nine Performance’s Southern Cross down in Georgia on February 26th, so I’ll put the road wheels on the cross bike for a while and build up some fitness…hopefully, it’ll warm up a bit.

Polar Bear Metric Century : George

0 RRRC Polar Bear Road Ride Snow

The Saturday morning Polar Bear Metric Century started out, like so often is the case in North Carolina in January, crisp, still, and sunny.  Temps around freezing at or around the 10AM start in the first week of the year are the norm in the Piedmont, so we all figured that: 1) it would warm up, at least a little; 2)the cold weather bibs, tights, booties and jackets would be enough for the early part of the 100K ride, but that we’d be able to take at least something off when it warmed up later into the ride; and 3) that–even in early January–the 62 miles would be…in the words of one of my erstwhile 36Street Racing teammates…a few good base miles.

How’d that work out for ya, Peaches???

As you might guess, not so well. The first 20+ miles were easy enough–hangin’ with the boyz from 36SR and the host Rocky River Road Club (and girlz, a couple of whom can blow past me like rice through a goose) at a healthy 17-18 mph pace into the wind, and in echelon, no less, when the breeze really kicked up. It was fun for me, since the last time I’d echelon-ed and really took a healthy pull at the front of a fast group was, oh, maybe the summer after my freshman year in college. (That was in the summer of 1984; jez’ sayin’…)

That’s about when the wheels came off.  Sometime around when we’d hit–or passed–the Rowan County line, someone remarked that there was some “stuff” coming down out of the pine trees that were now blowing pretty close to the road. Turns out, it wasn’t pine pollen…it was the first snow flurries of a black cloud that we had been looking at for a while. About then, heavy snow started falling in earnest, and it got hard to see, hard to pedal in the wind that was blowing the snow sideways; and, well, hard to want to keep going. By that point, I’d gotten dropped by the group on a hill. (That’s not hard to have happen…I’m one of the world’s worst climbers. That is to say, I can do it, but once I get to the top my aerobic ability to continue is nil, so I’d rather spin at a slow speed going up than die once I get to the top.) I caught up to a couple folks–kids, really–after the snow squall stopped, and who were also crawling along, and we made it in to the 2nd rest stop at a little country church where we could warm up,
rest up, fuel up and rehydrate.

The second half of the ride was “interesting;” on the one hand, it wasn’t snowing any more. But on the other, the wind REALLY kicked into high gear, and we–by ‘we’ I’m talking about a couple groups of riders that I hooked up with–really struggled with the wind and the cold. (Oh…and did I mention that there are a LOT of hills in the piedmont??? Well, there are.) But as we got closer to more familiar roads, and passed the last rest stop without more than regrouping, I knew I had at least finished.

Coming into Davidson was nice…it was sunny, maybe a degree or two warmer, and I knew where I was, since we had to pass my neighborhood to get back to the start/finish. So let me just say this: 62 miles isn’t that far. I’ve done more, plenty of times. But the conditions were, in truth, about as brutal as I’ve done on a bike. I’ve been colder. I’ve commuted in snow. I’ve used up all my reserves of energy in a triathlon or five. But those 62 miles were about as difficult as I’ve done in a loooooooong time. I wasn’t in the best of condition; and since it’s been so cold, wet, busy lately, I hadn’t been much on the road bike in a while. (On top of that, I did a saddle adjustment at the check-in…dummy.)

But hey, I finished; as did most of the 325 or so riders who started. Check out DavidsonNews.Net for a brief story on it, and some photos. I’d say that even though it wasn’t as temperature-cold as last year’s PBMC, it was every bit as hard as last year’s, and probably harder given the wind and snow. It was a mental game–as much as the mental game of finishing that last lap of a Cat 4 CX race is when you’re about to get lapped, or as much as the last few miles of a triathlon are when you’ve hit the wall and
there’s no one out there on the course to cheer you on. And, by finishing it, you get to bank the mental strength you’ll need later in the year to successfully compete in or overcome some other challenge.

Grueling, it was. But I, for one, can’t wait till next year.

Photo Credit : @dwuori