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Oracle Rumble - A tough race, but I did cross the finish line

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Oracle Rumble - A tough race, but I did cross the finish line

The morning was chilly and dark, and I was sleepy, slumped on a bus crammed with strangers as we rolled toward a nondescript parking area near Winkleman, Arizona. Our bus ride began at Oracle State Park (Oracle, AZ) and we were being shuttled a long distance North of where I had hoped to receive a medal, signifying that I had survived the Oracle Rumble. Our legs or a savior vehicle would take us back to the park and I would find out which method of delivery that this race would unveil. 

Matthew Nelson (Race Director) addresses the runners at the start

Matthew Nelson (Race Director) addresses the runners at the start

I had haphazardly jotted my name into the small section of the application that mentioned long distances, remote areas, headlights, medical care, etc, etc. that was the Oracle Rumble 50 mile race. I felt really good about this decision, at least on paper.

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Bus chatter revealed that the two closest runners to me were from San Diego and Seattle. I felt blessed that I lived a mere 1/2 hour from the start line but knew that would have no bearing on whether I would finish, only that if I was in pain and anguish, I would be home soon.

Aid station at 8 miles

Aid station at 8 miles

I overheard some details of the race from the year before (first year of the event). It was 11 degrees at the start line. Another blessing as it was in the balmy mid 30's as we pitched our warm clothes and extra gear into the vehicles heading back to Oracle State Park. 

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While the Race Director, Matt Nelson had tooted a rifle around the grounds of our start area, he gave us the preparatory speech at the start line with no rifle in sight. I anticipated a fired off rifle to start our episode across the desert, but, was disappointed. Maybe the rifle was for any runners who might start their journey before the countdown. 

The remote aid station at 15 miles

The remote aid station at 15 miles

My race started off well, but took a crash dive about 20 minutes in. My insulin pump began beeping at me. An annoying tone that was a message to Dave that there is an issue and that he needs to take care of it, immediately. My immediate response was the realization that while the pump whined that the battery was almost dead I was 27 miles from a AA battery. I had checked the pump battery situation the evening before and it was over 1/2 full of power. I should have swapped batteries at that point but have not had a battery lose over 1/2 its gusto overnight. Another lesson learned and I turned off my CGMS (Continous Glucose Monitor System) that was giving me readings of where my blood sugar was. Rather important stuff for a person with type 1 diabetes running an ultramarathon. I would have to take blood sugars with a blood sugar monitor. That extra time would crush my hopes and plans of winning this race. Oh wait, I still do not have that speed. Maybe next year.

Decision time

Decision time

I am pretty good at adapting and plodding forward through epic craziness. As I watched my blood sugars go from 119 while on the bus to 222 and 298 (about 3 miles in). This hyper supersonic action of a rising blood sugar was not a result of eating anything. Nerves? Not sure, but another factor that I would overcome. 

Galiuro Mountains in the distance

Galiuro Mountains in the distance

The blood sugar would slowly crawl down to a good level and I gained some extra mojo now that I was almost 'normal'. The course was not in the normal category as it did start with a downhill trend, but would become a real up and down affair. I never did see the actual feet gained on this race but I did read a number of accounts from mountain bikers who had raced the length of the Arizona Trail (almost all of the Oracle Rumble is on the Arizona Trail) and I saw many who stated that this section is the most difficult one that they encountered.

Galiuro Mountains in the distance

Galiuro Mountains in the distance

I trooped forward, mile after mile and was creeping toward the aid station at about 27 miles. I had started to feel the cramps developing and knew from my previous ultra that I dearly wanted to avoid cramps. I had spent a considerable amount of time stretching and taking longer runs but my genes were living the wild life in the cramp department.

Oracle State Park

Oracle State Park

I sat down and fed my face, my cramps and my muscles at the aid station and made a decision to exit the 50 miler and settle for the 32 mile event. Actually, the decision had been made a number of miles ago and I knew it was the right choice and I was very glad that I had taken on the challenge and finished 32 miles. I knew that a lot would have to come together for a 50 and that 32 miles ain't bad. While I hover at an age where I shouldn't be doing what I am doing (and with type 1 diabetes) I have done 2 ultramarathons, a 24 hour team mountain bike race, crewed for the Race Across America (bicycle) and will be doing a bungee jump at the Grand Canyon in about 10 days, all within the last year and a half. Live life fully! 

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Dirt & Diabetes at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo with Team No Limits

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Dirt & Diabetes at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo with Team No Limits

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Calendar is edging quickly toward the 2018 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo mountain bike race. I chose this year to focus on the Oracle Rumble (32 mile ultramarathon), but I have fond memories of joining team No Limits at the 2017 edition of the endurance race.

"You Only Live Once" is the film I created about Team No Limits during 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo

It was a big stride (for me the non-racer) to do an ultramarathon (34 miles) in November and aim at a 24-Hour mountain bike race in February.  It was a good, successful and growing experience. Training for the 24-hour race would require a new mountain bike (triple yay!), a few crashes (got my first, and most graphic one out of the way on the first ride) and a shifting of gears to revolve from running to biking. 

Training ride where we came across a lost Colorado State University runner and guided her back to the trail head.

Training ride where we came across a lost Colorado State University runner and guided her back to the trail head.

Well, most of the team. Me on the L, Olivia Rasmussen and Kent Loganbill. Photo by Todd Rasmussen. Off skiing, Billy Joe Donnelly. Training on the Sweetwater Trail (Tucson Mountains).

Well, most of the team. Me on the L, Olivia Rasmussen and Kent Loganbill. Photo by Todd Rasmussen. Off skiing, Billy Joe Donnelly. Training on the Sweetwater Trail (Tucson Mountains).

Training would connect me with Kent, Olivia and Billy Joe, all on the type 1 diabetes team No Limits. Todd, Olivia's father would also join us on various shredding in the Arizona desert. We varied our dirt exploration and spent quality time on 7 or 8 trails around Tucson and Oro Valley.

Interview with Judd Resnick (Unica Publications - New Zealand) for a coming series on diabetes.

Interview with Judd Resnick (Unica Publications - New Zealand) for a coming series on diabetes.

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at 24 Hour city

Hats and mountain bike helmets off to Kent, who worked with the team and who endured a riding pace that was far below any riding that he has done since donning a tricycle.

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As the race neared the focus and buzz was the coming weather. While scrambling to have all of my race gear, clothes, food and diabetes supplies in order we were now looking at atrocious conditions for the 24HOP. Really, ? Cold, windy, rainy and it would even snow during the night laps. 

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Pulling into 24 Hour city, it was quite the spectacle. This area that is vast, empty desert would become a community of almost 2,000 riders and 5,000 inhabitants. 24HOP (24 Hours in the Old Pueblo) is one of the largest mountain bike races in the world. It is a special delight that the course is about 25 minutes from the house and I see the terrain on most of my runs. 

Pre-race meeting. Photo by Sportograf.

Pre-race meeting. Photo by Sportograf.

Setting the tent up in 25-35 miles per hour winds (alone) was epic. Oh, what I would have given had I had the brilliance to video that moment.

Many, many activities going on before the race. This was one of the funner moments I captured. This is the rock drop (course goes in the opposite direction of this trooper).

Todd had a superb camping site for the team, despite coming equipped with gale force winds. We buckled in for the race. Todd & gang fed us extremely well and I was off to sleep. Wait, sleep did not arrive. More on this drowsy subject later.

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Race day rustled to a start and it...was...not...raining! Yet, the beast was coming. As team captain and just being a nice guy, I left the riding order up to the team. You can guess that this left me as the fourth No Limits rider on the course. In my many years of bungee jumping you wanted to be one of the first jumpers. Waiting for hours to jump would play on the nerves, blood sugar and confidence. This play of the cards would be a positive later on.

Running into other type 1 diabetes riders - Kathy from Seattle

Kent would ride first. This was the most challenging stage with more riders in tight spaces. Kent has unbelievable talent and is one of the best road/mountain bikers in the Tucson area. I did not post his monumental ride out of the gate but there is footage in "You Only Live Once".

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LeMans start - Photo by Sportograf

LeMans start at 24HOP

Olivia would nail the next loop and would call it a day. Billy hit the trail and I would prepare for my first mountain bike race experience. 

waiting for Billy so I can take the next leg

waiting for Billy so I can take the next leg

There was a staging tent where we would wait for the team rider to finish the sixteen mile loop and you would hit the trail. The weather slowly rolled in and as it would play out, I only dealt with rain on my final lap. There were light snow flurries on my two night laps. More epicness, and to note, this was the only snow to fall in our area all winter.

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Catalina mountains - Photo by Sportograf

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Me, charging the course - Photo by Sportograf

My first lap went well, aided by training missions that took us around the course loop. Not a real hard or technical sixteen miles, but good to have seen it before. Credit to Billy who arrived late the night before the race and he had not ridden the course before. 

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Olivia and Kaleb (her brother) during the race. Photo by Sportograf

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Me, enduring the moment - Photo by Sportograf

I had come out to 24HOP the previous year to take some photos and to check out the event. I was impressed and this laid the groundwork to create a team and lean toward bringing along riders with type 1 for the experience. 

Kent - Photo by Jim Rudnicki

Kent - Photo by Jim Rudnicki

Recruiting was a challenge as I had roughly twenty five on the list of possible riders with type 1. Getting them to commit was a whole new ball game. Goal #1 was a co-ed team of five. We sort of got there with commitments from three males and two females. One of the females was a road biker wanting to dabble in off road riding in the dirt. She would not show up to any of the training so we would evolve into a team of four. Our search for female mountain bikers with type 1 would yield a total one in the Tucson area. Olivia is all the more amazing as she raced on the high school mtn biking team and is only thirteen years old. She did ride 24HOP in 2016.

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Billy Joe - Photo by Sportograf

A personal goal of mine, beside getting a new bike, was to create a film of Team No Limits. I had been slowly creating a film on a No Limits kayak expedition in Alaska, but I had lots of learning ahead of me. This would take me part of the distance with more territory ahead. 

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GoPro from Billy Joe's bike.

No Limits rolled into the night. I am used to running at night but riding is a different stroke that kept me on my toes. Blood sugars saw higher readings that I would like the first couple of laps and a lower scheme on my third lap. Fourth lap was good and overall I was happy with how the blood sugars went for the event. 

Starting a lap at 4:16 am. uggghhhh!

Starting a lap at 4:16 am. uggghhhh!

Finishing a lap at some ungodly hour, I strolled to my tent, head hit the pillow, I let out a few deep breaths, and nothing occurred. Sleep was not going to happen. I was wide awake and bobbing into my 2nd night with nary a snore. A guesstimation put me at about seventy six hours before I found the sleep zone.

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Me - Photo by Sportograf

No Limits would finish with fourteen laps and a good nod on the team standings. Success,and dirt everywhere.

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Photo by Sportograf

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Photo by Jim Rudnicki

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