When we heard that the 24 hour Marathon was going to be in June this year,during the rainy season, we were not happy campers! We were rained on the last two years, and we have races on every weekend in June, and starting out with the grueling 24 hour marathon, was a lot of wear and tear on the old body. However......after a few emails with the Fabulous, Phenomenal, Flying Fossils, and seeing our new www.FlyingFossils.webs.com web site (thank you Ken Huss), I just couldn't resist going for a third year in a row.
At the same time, Margo got an email from a new women's team being put together by Candy Wong, and thought it would be great to sign up and we a member of WOW (Women On Wheels). The WOW team laid down the gauntlet by having two main goals.....one was to beat the other all women team, the Poulettes, and the other was to put the hurt on us old Flying Fossils.
Now, there is not much more incentive for a bunch of 55 and older guys to excel than to show a group of good looking, young, hot shot skaters, that we were far from over the hill!. Bring it on girls!
We had two team members from last years Fossil team that could not make it this year. One was all time favorite, Bob Harwell, and Stan Dowicyan. We missed them, but we know they wished us well. They were replaced this year by Ed Duncan, and Larry Griffin......two really first rate skaters. Along with Ed and Larry, were Steven Fisher (captain and team founder), Ken Huss, Robert Stroud, Peter Moynihan, John Altwater, John Garrett, Alan Marcosson, and myself Cale Carvell. We had a team meeting and dinner on Friday night to discuss strategy....the strategy part took 5 minutes....(skate long and skate strong). The rest of the evening was spent with skating stories, a great dinner, and some carbo loading (beer).
Race day morning, we stopped at the store to stock up on all the necessities for spending 24 hours in one spot, and then off to the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve formula one race track. As we all arrived, the excitement began to build. We set our paddock up with chairs, water, drinks, energy bars, cereals, vitamins, various "secret" energy meals, and in my case, Coke, candy, donuts, and potato chips. We got the spread sheet to keep track of our laps and recruited Peter’s wife, Ye Liu, to man (woman?) the stopwatch. . We were ready to go.
Our staff photographers, Peter Moynihan and his lovely wife, Ye Liu, were ready to take our 2009 team picture. We lined up outside the paddock and smiled for the camera.....Peter also took a picture of the WOW team and seeing them in those skin suits gave us new resolve to not let them get too far out in front of us (he,he, he....if you know what I mean. Think dirty old men).
We then took a double team photo with both teams and smiles and good wishes were all around. However, this did not mean we weren't going to do all in our power to beat them........
Race time! After initial weather forecasts of cold rainy weather all weekend, we were thrilled to have sunshine and temperatures in the 70's. What a break, we could only cross our fingers and hope it would hold. 12 noon, and the all participant skate around takes place so everyone could familiarize themselves to the course, although if you had ever done this event in the past, it is forever engrained in your mind. The music was playing, the announcer was pumping everyone up, the sun was shining, the excitement was building and then 5...4...3...2...1, and precisely at 1pm, the race was off.
85 teams and 14 individual skaters take off for continuous skating around the 2.7 mile course.
Our first skater is always Alan Marcosson, because he is our fastest skater and can hang with the big pro dogs the longest....He starts us off with an unbelievable 7 min 08 sec. lap...
.......I was next and had our teams second fastest lap at 7min, 25 sec., do to some very fortunate drafting opportunities. Lap after lap, things started to settle in and the work began. Everyone was beating last years lap times, and we were really feeling good. We had one stretch of 5 skaters in a row that were able to stay in the draft of one of the pro teams, and all put in sub 8 min. laps.
Getting a draft on your lap was a special treat that does not come along that often. Most of the time, you are skating against your own pain, desire to stop, loneliness, and at night, fear, because some sections of the track are pitch black. At those times you are skating on faith alone. It is truly a unique experience!
Our times were pulling us ahead of the WOW team, but we knew we had to keep hammering. They had some skaters who were consistently matching our lap times, and with those uniforms they were also very distracting. Those women can flat out skate. Their skating technique was clearly better than ours, but we figure that because it was very windy, we had an edge in strength. We had entered in the fitness division, however for the second year in a row, we were moved into the elite division because of our average lap time. There were 14 teams in elite and now we were battling to see how far up that ladder we could climb.
One of the new challenges this year were swarms of little flying gnat like bugs that were in various places on the track. They would get in your eyes, hair, nose, and yes.......many were probably swallowed. I know I took a few down myself. Another challenge every year is the baton handoff. It is always an adventure to try and hand something to someone while totally exhausted and going 18-20mph. The exchange area is where there are many crashes, dropped batons, and general mayhem occurred. At night teammates wear different kind of lights designed to stand out so the teammate who they were handing the baton to could see them coming.
Their were times when there were so many blinkers, lite ropes, glow sticks, and neon, that it looked like the Las Vegas strip. There was one team that had a white headlight so bright, that it looked like a train was coming down the track! The best light trick of the night was by one of the girls teams who had light ropes fashioned in circles around their, shall we say, upper body.
As the night settled in and 10pm arrived, 5 of our skaters began their 4 hour break. This left us with a 5 man rotation, and this is when the toughest part starts. It seems like as soon as you finish a lap, you are right back out there. It is colder and much harder in the night. Where were all those skaters to draft behind?
At 2 am, we switched places, however for the 3rd year in a row, I just couldn't see going to sleep. I was just wired, amped up, and kept on skating. As the 2-6am shift continued, everyone's lap times began to slow down a bit. .....mine more than most.....did I mention there was no one to draft?. Last year the team called me the work horse, at the beginning of this years race, I was a race horse, but now in the middle of the night I was not much better than a hobby horse......I sure wish there was someone to draft. I decided to try and rest a little so that maybe I could be the "come back horse of the year". I skipped two rotations, and maybe dozed off for 20 minutes, and it seemed to help, because when I came back, I was getting faster and faster with each lap.
6:00 AM came, and we were all back together, and had a pretty good lead on the ladies. We had pulled up to 6th place overall and were hoping to hold that position to the end.
Unfortunately the team ahead of us, the Clowns, had all their best skaters sleeping all night and they were fresh and came out smokin.....they passed us and were just plain faster........nice job by them. The race was beginning to come to an end and all the pain, excitement, suffering, thrills, self doubt, camaraderie, competitive spirit, aching old fossil bones, sore feet, cramped muscles, cheers, tears and beers (not really), was coming to an end.
Last year, I got to do the final lap and wanted to let someone else do it this year, as it is really a thrill to come into the finishing area with every skater from every team lining the track and cheering the completion of the race.
We decided that each year, the oldest member on our team, who has not done the last lap before, would get to do the last lap.........after all, at his age, he might not make it til next year. This year it was Robert Stroud who we missed coming in, when he finished the race . We sent him back down into the crowd to jump back in the finishing area, so that we could get pictures and give him the high five's from his team mates that he deserved.
Many thanks to all my teammates and special mention to Al Marcosson (Secretariat) for never going over 8 minutes (that is amazing), Stephen for being Stephen, Peter (and Ye Liu) for the photography and keeping me laughing, Ed for his fantastic statistician work, Larry for always smiling and being so consistent, John Garrett for coming down out of the Minnesota boonies to be a part of this, John Altwater for pushing himself as hard as he could, Ken for being one of the nicest guys I know, and Robert Stroud for being older than me......and thank you to the WOW team for helping us to feel young again, and my wife Margo for loving all this as much as I do.
Flying Fossil 2009 Stats:
Overall finish............7th place out of 85 teams entered
Average overall speed...........19+ MPH