Men and women. Sweating. Spinning. Exerting. Cramping. Napping. Re-fueling. Giving. That’s Booty. The 24 Hours of Booty (24HOB). In Charlotte, NC, not far from where I lived years back in the Myers Park neighborhood is a 2.9 mile loop through huge tree-lined streets, in front of Queens University, near the Duke Mansion, through the intersection of Queens/Queens/Providence and Providence roads. This loop has been known inside of Charlotte for many, many years.
Why “Booty” you ask? It was a slang name for a popular running/riding loop in Charlotte. Slang as many of the runner/riders ran there because of the nice looking, typically single “booties” they’d see. Not entirely sexist as the loop was gender-neutral in this regard. Nonetheless, in this hyper-politically correct world it may seem odd and even off-putting. In Charlotte, this is seen as charming that we could come up with something that even sniffs of political incorrectness and then have the event proliferate beyond our borders. Almost poetic if you are at all familiar with the stuffiness that Charlotte prides itself on having at times.
How did the event start? A guy named Spencer Lueders from here in Charlotte started this up over 10 years back with a very small number of riders and limited organization. Since this time it has mushroomed into one of the bigger cycling events in the country that raises many millions of dollars annually for Livestrong and Cancer research. It has also moved from being what was an one-city event to a multiple city event with similar rides in Columbia, SC, Atlanta, Indianapolis to name a few. If ever you wondered whether one person can make a difference in the world this is a great example/answer to that question. Inspiring.
Before I dive deeper than most will want to read I should have thanked everyone who supported me and the team I was riding for, Team Tailwinds (as an aside, check out this great shop the next time you are in Fort Mill, SC!), with your financial contributions to this great cause. We raised over $17k as a team (roughly 25 of us on the team) and your personal contributions helped me contribute over $600 to this amount! Thanks to each of you – it really, really means a lot to me. Cancer has so so many victims and good people battling this tough disease.
So, how did I do? Let me start by saying I trained a bit for this by increasing my riding in the months prior to the event. My longest single training ride took place in Columbus, GA where I rode a metric century (66 miles) by myself in the Pine Mountain area. Other than that I rode some 50s, some 40s and mostly rides in the 20-30 mile range. At the event start on Friday night the temperatures were in the mid-90s around 6pm but quickly dropped as rough weather moved in right before the 7pm parade lap and start. Amazingly the rough weather simply loomed but did not strike. The parade lap of just under 3 miles took almost 45 minutes! Survivors in cars, on bikes and lots of emotional families and riders made this a long, but special start. After this lap and maybe 2 additional laps the riders spread out enough to get moving at a good pace. For the first 60-90 minutes keeping safe and on high alert for those around you was the name of the game. I rode the first 30-40 with Russ from my neighborhood. Great guy who offered up good conversation and helped remind me to keep tempo for the long ride in mind…early aggressiveness was not the name of this game. After the first few hours I was reminded by Mark that cyclists need a bottle an hour. I had drank maybe 1/2 of a bottle in the first 2 hours. Then I remembered that distance was about fuel. Running taught me this – it seems even more critical on a bike for some reason. Bigger muscles maybe?? After catching my friend Mark, we rode a nice 19-20 mile tempo for another 2 hours. Our goal was to get to 75 miles and then take a break in time for the midnight pizza party. We got back to “Bootyville” just in time to see an entire van full of Fuel Pizzas arrive. Someone said 6,000 slices in all. I’ve NEVER seen so much pizza in a single space before. Ever.
Shrunken-stomach-syndrome kept me to 2 pizzas, some untasty Vitamin Water (blech), Powerade and a banana. At 12:25am, we rolled back out for another 25-30 miles before a much needed nap. 2 hours later and roughly 35 miles we rolled back into Bootyville for a rest. Other than the 30 minute pizza break and a stop or two to fill my bottles at the water station on the course, I had not been off the bike since 6:45pm. Thank goodness for Chamois Butter…my arse was thankful for a product I had never used before.
Naptime. 2:45 return to our camp, some bread, honey, bar, Powerade then a nap. I considered putting up my tent, but decided it was too hot and too much work. After changing out of my soaked cycling kit, but forgoing the shower for now, I grabbed my sleeping bag and Therma Rest from the car, threw down my tarp in the right field dugout and fell into a restless sleep around 3:15am. At 7:15 I woke to my alarm, sat up and decided that shower would be just right. Packed up my bag, pad and tarp, deposited it in the car, jumped into a soapless shower, back into the sweat-filled cycling kit, then off to breakfast. Breakfast consisted of a plateful of eggs, potatoes, oatmeal and a banana with coffee and more Powerade. I ate every bite and can easily say that was the biggest breakfast I have had in years. Then, back to the course with Mark. We rode from about 8:30 until noon moving over the 150 mile mark. Ouch. My muscles were growing tired and my focus was waning. I decided 30 minutes for lunch would be just what I needed so back to Bootyville. I have no idea what I ate for lunch…maybe a wrap or some kind? I do remember sucking down my first full-strength Coke in years. Wow was it sweet! And great. In fact, that may have been my first soda of any kind in years. A quick team photo, some more coffee then back to the bike. My head finally settled on a goal. 200 miles. Not a pedal more. 50 more miles to go.
I rode this final 50 with good tempo considering. I could feel myself reaching for easier gears on the climb but managed to avoid the small chainring on the front sprockets…I was still passing people which felt good but noticing that I was being passed a bit more than in the previous hours. The heat was near 100 and well over it with the heat index. Hydration and fuel was my primary focus. I was putting in over a bottle an hour and can’t remember peeing even one time that entire day (TMI, I know). I ran into the Lueders family around the 180 mark and paused for a few minutes to thank him for his great concept and execution of it for this great cause. I wanted to say more but felt myself getting weepy – a sign that I know from prior running races that tells me I am near my limit. My last water stop to fill the bottles was a battle of not wanting to sit down and rest but also not wanting to ride. I rested long enough to each Honey Stinger #6 (Yum!) and then back to the bike for the final 20 miles. They went by quickly. They went by mostly alone. I passed some familiar faces on the side of the road but didn’t wave or smile like I had the day prior. I passed some familiar riders but didn’t spent much, if any time checking in, chatting or otherwise. I just kept pedaling. Avoiding that smaller chainring. Trying to find rhythm on the flat “upper section” and finding myself having to climb parts of the road that weren’t recognized as hills until this deep into the ride. I was expecting Cindy and the kids to show, but glad that I never saw them because that would have meant a stop. And a restart. Those were two of the hardest parts of riding this long. Stopping. And restarting. And oddly motor skills with my fingers and forearms. The longer I rode the harder it was to actually shift gears. Odd. 193, 194, 195, 196…then one lap to go. No second wind but more emotions. I seemed to notice the bibs on the back of the riders more this lap than any of the prior 66. Names of survivors. Names of fighters. Names of those who fought but didn’t beat it. Cancer stinks. I thought of relatives, friends, friends with kids, friends with kids with cancer. Cancer sucks. I felt lucky. Lucky to have been able to ride 200 miles. Lucky to have been able to contribute. Lucky to be alive.
More than anything this was about trying something new that brought me closer to the fight. It was a great event but one that struck a more meaningful chord than I ever thought it would. It was not about the miles ridden, the laps completed, the training or even the camaraderie with the other participants. It was about beating an awful disease. It was about those fighting it and those who had fought it. It was about keeping others from having to fight it.
Thanks again to all of those who supported this. Thanks again to Spencer Lueders and the 24HOB team who keep this event alive.