Saturday, October 15, 2011

24 Hours of Georgia

I was looking for something new and challenging to do, and I wanted it to involve the mountain bike.  The challenge presented itself in the Oak Mountain parking lot one day when someone mentioned that they were doing a long endurance mountain bike race.  The idea of seeing how many laps one can endure on a tough off road course seemed like a good idea, so I started mentioning the idea to other riders I know.  Not too many takers it seemed.  I wonder why?

As fall approached, there were a couple of other guys that decided to take on this challenge with me.  Nathan, my partner in riding through Utah for the past couple of years, and Travis a friend through our team Steel City Cycling.

None of us had done anything quite like this, and we signed up and formulated a plan for the race.

1. Show up with bikes
2. Try to ride the bikes fast and keep them upright (preferably with us still on them...)
3. Try to make as many laps as physically possible without killing ourselves in 24 hours

Seemed as good a plan as any.

Travis had the ultra-camp-chair.  Yep, I had the privilege of falling asleep in it several hours later.

I asked how many laps he was planning on doing on the P-Far (Penny Farthing) for those of you not well versed in bicycle history.

His comment was "What?  Absolutely zero!  I would go over the bars on the first root."

One of my regrets of the weekend was not asking for the chance to ride it...  Next time.

As we headed over to the starting line and checking out the "vibe" of the place.  People were nervous and some people were already having fun.  I'm guessing the folks "having fun" were in support rather than riding the next 24 hours.

Nathan, got the nod for the first lap and donned the "ever so sought after" Steel City Team Jersey.

There was to be a line-up and start followed by a parade lap to let the field thin out a bit.  If you have ever seen a mountain bike race or a motorcross race where everyone tries to get the Holeshot and be first into the woods or the first turn, you will understand why.  It's a wreck fest, and why would the organizers let that happen when it was unnecessary?  They didn't.  It's a 24 hour race people.  There will be time to pass other riders...

Needless to say, people still went out like their first lap was the end-all of their racing careers.  (mine as well...dang that racing fever)

I have to say WOW that outfit a black and white photo that is...

Nathan running into the transition area after his first lap.

We all planned on rotating each lap to get a chance to memorize the course before nightfall and in case someone crashed out and couldn't continue.  That way when the world was condensed down to a tunnel of battery powered light, we would have an even chance of not crashing ourselves.

 We all turned in pretty fast first laps and then second laps...

This is me after the second lap...I'm trying not to look like I spent too much energy on the course already.  It was only 4pm or so.  Grrr...I still have power...I'm going to need it...  *whew*

Nightfall came and the lamps came out, and we all went from goofy looking guys in Lycra to goofy looking guys in Lycra with big goony lamps on our heads.  Fortunately, as is the norm for nighttime, it got really dark and we resumed believing we were cool (sort of) because nobody could see us except for the blindingly bright lamps on our helmets darting in and out of the trees.  The trail was really getting dusty and in the lamp light this became really apparent.  Clouds of dust would linger for minutes as riders went through and the lamps seemed to intensify the haze by reflecting off of each little microscopic bit in the air.

3 words:  Lamps are good.  

Travis found this out after pulling a double shift on the trail and having his battery run out mid way.  He is a super-hero for finishing the lap using a lamp that would barely illuminate the trail for someone traveling at the speed of a milk-drunk toddler.  Which he was not.  He was effectively running blind.  Impressive my friend.

Travis finished up his double loop at 2am.  I then started off into the wee morning hours.  It stunk.  Period.

I rode two laps from 2 to 5am and thought I was going to die.  Not from speed or crashing, but from old age before my aching muscles would get me back to the pit area.  It was an odd time to be on a bike.

I noted a couple of things though.  Mid-way through my laps, my mental state went kind of dark...

The cool/fun atmosphere of people milling around and having a good time while enjoying a bike race became something I was getting more and more annoyed by.  I was tired and suffering through the early morning hours on the bike while they were still smiling and sitting by campfires with friends.  I envied them, and I really disliked them at that point.  Grrr...

Interestingly enough this nasty, "I'm not really having that much fun" mind-set went to one of kid like grins within the next 2 hours.  I had kind of silly thoughts like, "This is like when Mom and Dad let me outside after bedtime with a flash-light and I get to explore stuff!"  I must have been really tired...

The happier mindset was much better than grumbling and wishing the happy people along the trail had fleas in their sleeping bags...

I finished up my 24 mile slog just before dawn and crashed in the sleeping bag not really caring if we got any more laps in.  Well, I did care, but I didn't have the energy to be the person to go and ride anymore for at lease a couple of hours.

At about 8 we all were up and about and found the energy to go and get two more laps in just before the finish.  It's amazing what oatmeal, coffee and a couple of hours of sleep will do.  Travis rolled out for a fast lap and we hoped that our math would work out to allow me to get one more lap in just before the 11am finish.  If I was still on the course when 11am rolled around, the lap wouldn't count.  We both cut large amounts of time off of the laps we had just done in the dark a few hours earlier and finished up with about 15 minutes to spare.

I ran into a policeman who oddly enough had a bike on his squad car.  I asked if he had been working or racing, and he said "both".  It turns out that we had passed him several times in the evening hours as he was stopping traffic for the racers the cross the road to the granite side of the course.  Then he made a few loops with a team once his shift was over.  That's a pretty good way to spend an evening when he had to work.

Side note: Riding wheelies past a police officer on a public road and not getting yelled at is fun.  I know...really daring...ooooh...

The team goal of finishing the race without dying was a success -- I know we had some seriously lofty goals.

We weren't all that slow and ended up finishing up mid pack.  There were some amazingly strong riders out there.

The race stats:
  • 24 hours of race time
  • 23rd place out of 35 teams.  
  • 16 laps total
  • 192 miles covered
  • No serious crashes
  • Fun

Now that you have read my account of the events, which may have absolutely no reflection on my teammates' versions of the experience, but since they haven't sent me a write up, you get my awesome prose instead!  Lucky lucky!

To add to the awesome content on this blog, you also get the chance to see the product of me running around with a GoPro camera and annoying my teammates with it!


Since YouTube and the UMG Music guys have decided to forego the free advertising for some classic rock music by The Who, I have loaded this up on Vimeo. YouTube also has the version that will probably be available on your mobile phone...I know there are so many of you so desperate to see my posts that you can hardly wait to see the HD video on the computer...

24 Hours from Brad on Vimeo.

The YouTube link HD if the embedded above doesn't work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome, nice work to finish strong after so little sleep!