Our oldest son, Josh, asked us to be his support crew for a 24 hour cycling race he was going to do, the Pace Bend Ultra, near Austin, TX. (www.pacebendultra.com). He would circle a 6.2 mile track continuously for 24 hours, stopping strategically for food, drink, bathroom breaks, etc. We as his support would meet him at “the pit” to take care of his needs and get him back on the road.
You are probably much like we were…oh, okay…without really realizing the scope and magnitude of Josh’ undertaking (or ours). Kind of like when in high school, I was told I needed to go to the nurse’s station because my brother had gotten his nose broken. I had no idea how horrible it was until I got there and saw it.
So, we said yes.
He sent us a lot of detailed notes and website and blog links that he wanted us to read. My husband Rich, being super organized, had me make copies of everything and put it into binders.
We decided to bring the 3 kids still living at home, and Josh had also asked his best friend Matthew to help.
We divided into 3 support teams…Rich and our daughter Heather, myself and our daughter Kaity, and Matthew and our son Jarod. Josh’ wife Emily took care of their small children and also helped with cooking and moral support.
Reading over all of our son’s notes and plans was quite daunting: we were to keep track of his progress, his competition’s progress, and keep a log of nutritional food and drinks that we gave him, what he consumed, and calorie counts. We also had to recharge any lights or battery packs that he was using.
We also didn’t know how the teams would work together. And didn’t even really know how we as individuals would perform. Would we be able to meet the rider’s needs? Would we perform well? Sacrifice our own needs and desires for his, or display our own selfishness or attitudes as the night wore on?
Rich and I decided what shifts each team would do. The race started at noon on Saturday and ended at noon on Sunday. Each team did 2 hour shifts.
In Josh’ notes, it said, “I will want to quit; don’t let me!” It also said that the crew would sometimes be caregivers, and sometimes drill sergeants. I saw this happen amongst the teams, and our son!
Josh started off strong, and we were concerned that he slow down and pace himself, so as not to burn out.
Then, we noticed he was taking a little too long for one of his laps. Josh uses an app called Strava that showed us where he was on the track. He had a flat…no big deal. He had tools to fix that.
Shortly after that, he got another flat and didn’t have another tube. We had to get to him to get him another one.
He was up and running, but later got another flat! We were able to get another rim that he could use.*
Mad Duck’s team mechanic helps us
I learned how to calculate his laps, but because of my mathematical deficiencies, didn’t quite understand what I was doing. Josh needed each official lap time and average lap time posted on a dry erase board with his current lap number. The official time was running time so we had to figure the difference from the totals and then divide total mins and seconds by the laps. It felt good to be helping and being part of the team. I also loved watching each member step up and get involved, giving their all and displaying their unique gifts and abilities.
For instance, at one point in the evening, Josh rode in and we found out his derailleur**, a critical part on his bike, had detached. His friend Matthew jumped into action, looking for the mechanic from the Mad Ducks team, who had helped him before.
He had actually gone to bed. We heard from neighbors that they had heard it pop off as he passed their tent. Matthew and Kaity ran over to the side of the road by these crews, looking with flashlights for a spring that was missing. They found it! A miracle!***
Josh was pretty discouraged and wiped out by this time, and it seemed like he wouldn’t have minded if we couldn’t fix his bike. In fact, he tried to go lie down in the RV, but Emily sent him back out! Matthew and Kaity both said they would not give up on him. Matthew said, “I think I can fix this.”
The screwdriver he needed was not in the bike toolkit, but Matthew remembered seeing a red screwdriver in the toolkit of the RV we rented that he thought would work. It worked! And Matthew was able to fix it!***
“I think I can fix this.”
His original goal had been to ride 380 miles, which would qualify him for the Race Across America (RAAM). The flats and mechanical issue set him back, but he still finished 304.3 miles. He also gained a great appreciation for the veteran cyclists who participate in these long distance races, and learned what he needs to do for next time. Great to meet you Dex, Reed and Charles, and thanks for all your help, encouragement and wisdom.
As support crew, we learned about teamwork and ourselves. It was an amazing adventure that we didn’t fully understand until we were in the middle of it. Thanks, Josh! ****
Additional notes from Matthew, best friend and pit crew member extraordinaire:
OK, so technically, when we rode to meet him on the course the first time, we brought him a new spare tire AND swapped him the one provided by race officials. Later, he swapped out to his old rim, which then popped a tube the 3rd time. We then swapped the organizers’ rim with him again before another team’s mechanic identified the issue with Josh’s rim – the rim tape was loose and not protecting the tubes inside the rim. One long strip of Gorilla Tape later, it was good to go. We swapped his rim back a few laps later and kept the organizers’ spare handy for the rest of the race. (note to self – do not use untested new parts on race day…)
note French-originated spelling
It’s a critical component which both maintains tension on the chain and physically positions the chain under the desired gear on the rear wheel/axle.
The cage and tensioner spring are the components which actually came separate from the rest of the derailleur during the “accident”. The rest of the derailleur remained fixed to the bike.
***When Josh pulled into our pit, he knew something was wrong, because the cage was dangling loose on the chain. I realized that we were at minimum missing a spring because simply putting the pieces back together left us without any tension. So, we headed over to find the mechanic who had assisted us before. He was not on the course any longer (this happened around 3am – need to check log). But, another team heard our discussion and remarked that they had heard a loud pop as a rider went past, so we began searching the road and easement for the spring and other possible parts.
Once we put it back together, other teams commented that they had never heard of locating a part like this on the course and re-assembling the components. Of all of the places on a 6.2 mile course, it seemed providential that the final straw which pulled the pieces apart occurred on a stretch of flat ground in front of the .2 mile section of pits! (and having the screwdriver and no significant damage to the components was also very remarkable)
****Final note is that a number of other teams thought it was remarkable that a rookie crew and rider completed 300+ miles, especially given the number of breakdowns we suffered.