Coolest 24 Hour Race
July 7, 2013
Not gonna lie, 24-hour racing isn't really my favorite thing. Riding around in circles for a day and a night doesn't appeal to the side of me that craves big mountains, expansive views, and the feeling of being somewhere that many people haven't seen.....but hey, I can stomach a 24 hour race every now and then. It's a good way to get in some hard training miles and chill with your buddies for a weekend.
Bored puppy as we get set up
We had a solid group, including Julien and Mari, both crazy enough to tackle this beast solo; Garret and I, riding in the 2-man category; and Kyle, Jonathan, and Kipp doing the 8-hour race. My girlfriend Megan was kind enough to come crew for us, along with Chris and Grace, and last but not least - Mowgs!
Mowgli tries to keep cool in the heat
Megan and I got there the day before to get everything set up, so we had a pretty leisurely morning, waiting for everyone else to arrive. It started getting hot quick - temps were above 90 before the race start at noon! My goal was to go super hard from the start and see how long I could last before cracking - probably the worst possible strategy for a 24hr race, but I wanted to simulate the kind of fatigue I'd be feeling during CTR next month.
Getting set up
Kyle, Garret and I for Team Tecnu
I noticed a huge group of high schoolers lined up at the start line - awesome to see younger kids out there in big numbers, but I was just concerned about getting in front of them so they wouldn't get in my way and slow me down. Little did I know that we'd actually be doing battle with them the whole race, usually getting my ass handed to me as they sped by!
I really wanted to push myself hard on the first lap, so I made sure I was in the first row at the start to avoid any bottlenecks or crashes. It was a super fast start - I hit the singletrack about 5th position, and it was an immediate brown-out - you literally couldn't see your own front wheel because of all the dust. I just hung on for dear life, nothing quite as terrifying as riding blind through rutted singletrack at high speed! Luckily made it through without any crashes (although many weren't so lucky) and emerged onto the first series of short climbs in maybe 7th place, the leaders visible 30 seconds ahead. Legs were good, and I was able to pick off several people throughout the first lap, coming in at 46 minutes and in 3rd place (behind some high-schoolers! Little bastards!) to send Garret out for his first lap.
Kyle at the start
Those aren't tan lines - that's dirt
Happy with my effort but was pretty destroyed from the heat - Megan and Grace did an awesome job keeping us cool with ice-soaked towels, but I felt way more cooked than I should after only an hour. Apparently Garret was feeling good out there, as he ripped off a 46-minute lap as well! Hell yeah game on!
Heading out for lap 3
The heat got worse throughout the afternoon, and my lap times slowed a bit. Garret was crushing and posted faster lap times than me for the next couple laps - awesome to have a teammate push you like that, I was motivated! Little did I know the fast little high-schoolers were getting on Garret's nerves too, and his fast lap times were a result of battling it out with them. My body seemed to finally adjust to the exertion and heat after a few laps, and we traded blows back and forth to see who could post faster times. The soloists, Mari and Julien, were cranking out a steady pace - Mari was super impressive with her efficiency, having everything she needed neatly arranged in a bin waiting for her, stopping for a quick bite of pizza after every other lap - you'd never have suspected this was her first time doing this! Julien was suffering in the heat as well but never failed to amuse those in the pit with his stories and there was a strange fascination with his underwear, which someone had hung from the tent ceiling.....
Mari was strong and steady throughout the day
Kyle heads out
It was not Kyle's day unfortunately - after about 12 flat tires, he was stranded during the first lap until the last place person finally stopped to help him. Nevertheless, he kept cruising and finished the 8-hour race strong, as did Jonathan and Kip. After their race ended, the night descended, providing sweet relief from the heat for all the 24-hr racers.
After it got dark, Garret and I started doing double laps to give the other person a longer rest, and maybe a chance to sleep. I felt great during my first double shift - I freaking love night riding! The whole trail changes and it's like a new course. Not to mention the SUPER MOON was out and it was beautiful. I ended my double laps around 11:30pm, looking forward to an extended rest and maybe some sleep.
Huge surprise! The legend himself, Sean Ardley, showed up and brought GUMBO! Nothing could have been better for my slightly upset stomach at that point in time, and he served up plate after plate of steaming gumbo and rice. Happy belly - time for sleep - no dice, I was still to amped up from the exertion.
I began to unravel during my 2am to 4am laps. Ass hurt, legs cooked, motivation waning....those 2 laps were by far my slowest, at a bit over an hour each. Barely saw anyone out there....those are weird hours to be riding alone in the dark, and the mind plays tricks on you. I had to keep reminding myself that I was riding my bike in a beautiful place under the stars and full moon....really, what else would I have rather been doing? Chapped ass and tired legs ain't nothing!
Finally got a little sleep after those laps, and was super sluggish getting ready to go back out. Garret had been doing roughly hour-long laps as well, but I guess the sunrise lit a fire in his bones because he came screaming home several minutes before we expected him! In our sleepy confusion, Kyle was screaming, "Holy shit! Garret just did a 46-minute lap! 46 minutes!!" I was flabbergasted and was scrambling to get my bike ready - how was I going to match that time? Luckily, just as I was leaving, I heard Garret say it was actually a 56-minute lap - WHEW! I probably would have killed myself out there trying to bust out a 46-minute lap!
Weary pit crew in the early morning
We went back to switching off every other lap for the rest of the race. We were both looking pretty haggered but still cranking out sub 55 minute laps. Amazing what the sunrise can do for you. I realized part way through my 10th lap that if we kept this pace up, I'd have to do a 13th lap - crap! Well, guess I can't complain that we were going too fast.
Sure enough, Garret finished his 12th lap at around 10:30am, giving me an hour and a half to do my final 13th lap. No way I was gonna soft pedal it - I put the hurt on myself and rolled in at 57 minutes, only to be doused in celebratory beer as I crossed the finish. We had pulled off 25 laps, 270+ miles between us, netting us 1st place in the Men's Duo category.
Turns out those high schoolers were on 5-person teams - no wonder they were so damn fast. We did manage to beat most of their teams though - they were pretty cocky (apparently exchanging words with Garret at some point) but they shut up quick when they realized there were only 2 of us! It was all in good fun though, really cool to see how high school mountain biking is growing.
Mari was a freaking diesel, methodically cranking out 19 laps for 1st place! And Julien overcame some serious demons to finish strong with 13 laps. Super fun having them out there, they were both always hootin and hollerin whenever we passed each other out on the course.
HUGE HUGE thank you to my amazing girlfriend Megan and Chris and Grace for crewing for us, as well as Kyle, Kipp, and Jonathan after their race ended, and of course Sean for his midnight appearance - you all made what is truly a mind-numbing and physically painful experience into a super fun time with friends. These races might not scratch the adventure itch, but it sure is a damn good way to spend a weekend with friends.
The whole crew
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