2014 Powderhorn 24 Recap

So I’ve been meaning to do the Powderhorn 24 since it’s inception, and with all the bike commuting I’ve been doing this year, it seemed like a good idea to pull together a team to complete it.

The Team

Me — your favorite blogger.
Ryan — a guy I’ve known through the bike community for quite awhile.
Matthew — a substitute for Dave that we found via Twitter.

Gear Selection

There wasn’t a lot of selection to be made here — I’m down to two bikes. I went with the road bike, and so the choice came down to wheelset. Given that a pair of Zipp 404s just seemed a bit too fragile for the environment (city streets), I opted for my training wheelset — a pair of Mavic Open Pro rims laced 32/3-cross to a Powertap rear hub and a 105 front hub. They’re pretty bombproof and gave me no issues at all. Tires were Conti Gatorskin 700×23.

I made do. Ideally, I would have run something closer to a 700×28 for comfort, especially given that I’m riding a scandium frame with a beefy carbon fork.

The Course

Urban environment, the streets were okay, but not great. At night, you had to start memorizing where all the nasty cracks and potholes were, because they kept coming up out of nowhere to bite you in the ass. A couple of times I nearly went over the bars, and then I started getting smart and pairing my near-mishaps to nearby landmarks. The entire map is available at the Powderhorn 24 website, and my Strava data can be linked to below.


I arrived, met Matthew for the fist time, and got signed in. Ryan was running behind and arrived in time to do the solidarity lap before he signed in.

Before the solidarity lap, I discovered I had a flat rear tire. I quickly slammed some air into it to see if it would hold, and then chased down the group, which wasn’t tough. We rode the lap slowly, and I was able to hang in without any trouble. Then, things got weird. I noticed a bit of a popping sensation in the pedal stroke, and was starting to get concerned. Back at the official start, Matthew went out for a few laps and I hopped over to Freewheel. I was thinking a blown pedal bearing as the pedal had some wiggle to it. Shit.

Not good. I talked to the guy about a fix, which wasn’t possible at the time. Gary, an old cohort from my days wrenchin’ at Penn Cycle Uptown, came through with a loaner set of SPD-SLs that were test ride pedals. I immediately popped off the left one, and installed a new one. Only to discover that the new pedal was exhibiting the same symptoms. The verdict below:

Seriously. No more FSA cranksets for me. This thing had 2000 miles (if that) on it, and it’s not like I’m a heavy guy. Going to have to examine the CX crankset I’ve been using from them, too.

See also: Almanzo 2009 or 2010 when my crankarm kept falling off, leading to a mechanical abandon.

Matthew took 3 laps, Ryan took 3 laps, and I decided to go for a quick three to see how the pedal held up.

This was bizarre, to be sure. It wouldn’t last the whole night.

My three laps went by pretty quickly. Traffic out there was pretty light and I was running around 20-22 minutes per lap, and feeling pretty strong.

I blew through a second set later and then settled in to sleep while Matthew, who does better in chilly weather, blew through a bunch.

This is what happens when you’re in sweat-soaked spandex at some ungodly hour of the morning, and dead fucking exhausted from lack of sleep.

This was after knocking out some more early morning laps, and then waking up Matthew to relieve me.

We all had to take a turn “volunteering”…largely, I punched manifests at Checkpoint 3. I also took a brief nap on the curb when it was clear I was unable to function. Ryan came back at this point and relieved me. I went back to the start/finish and napped a bit. He banged out a bunch of laps starting at 10 a.m., and then I took over.

Too tired to sleep, too hungry to do much else but eat and shoot a quick selfie.

And at this point, my iPhone was dying, too, so I became somewhat sparing in my use of it.

By 10 a.m., it was already sticky and gross outside.

Ryan snapped this picture while I slept. I wound up getting myself a nice sunburn.

Matthew had to leave to attend a wedding, and Ryan and I began trading hot laps to start getting the lap count up while staying fresh. He came blistering in from one at 6:40, while I paced and bounced off my nervous energy. Kate and the boys were there to see me off on my last lap, and I was on-edge. During the blitz to Checkpoint 1, my legs were tight and I was feeling a little barfy, after that though, I started to loosen up. At Checkpoint 2, Timmy, my old manager at the Bicycle Chain, hit my punchcard quickly and gave me a push start up the incline. I glanced at my watch and dropped the hammer with a new sense of urgency.

Checkpoint 3 sits atop a hill. I was blazing up it in the big chainring, hammering as hard as I could. I nearly puked as I skidded to a stop for my manifest punch. Lilah, who Kate and I have known for quite some time (she performed at our wedding), god bless her, jumped on her bike and paced me most of the way back. With only minutes to go, I hit the last goddamn streetlight for crossing Lake Street and had to wait. It felt like forever. As soon as it was mostly green, I dropped the hammer down 10th, leaving just about everyone behind me. I could hear (but not clearly) the countdown going on, and the crowds cheering the last of us. The guy in front of me nearly crashed on the same transition that the earlier rider crashed on in front of me, but stayed upright, and the two of us rolled into the checkpoint with time to spare. It would be my fastest lap of the race, and oh my god did it hurt.

And just like that it was over. Matthew wasn’t around to savor it as he had to leave at 4pm for a wedding. Ryan and I shook hands, talked about next year, and savored our team hitting 60 laps in 24 hours.

Let’s keep that awesome finish in perspective.


Love the event, even if our lap count on the leaderboard is totally wrong. Probably because I don’t care about how I stack up against the others. For me, this was a gut-check ride more than anything. I learned that I can still crush short-distance stuff, especially once my legs are warmed up. And I’m getting faster.

Next year, I’ll be back. Ideally on a more cyclocross-oriented frame with wider tires and a better headlight. And no mechanical issues this time.


[button link=”http://powderhorn24.com/” color=”red”]Event Website[/button] [button link=”http://www.strava.com/activities/182241368?ref=1MT1yaWRlX3NoYXJlOzI9dHdpdHRlcjs0PTM1NTkyNg{3b4d110c5d1596d2297e6430d163d306168bc3d03da137601e3ed8beb4b12205}253D{3b4d110c5d1596d2297e6430d163d306168bc3d03da137601e3ed8beb4b12205}253D” color=”orange”]My Strava Data[/button]

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