And there we were in Hurricane, Utah with a van packed to the brim with bikes, coolers, cases of Honey Stinger waffles, an easy-up, 20+ water bottles, 4lbs of Tailwind, bacon rice balls, and enough lights and batteries to illuminate the trails all night long. We had arrived at 25 hours In Frog Hollow, the last race of the season for both Chase and myself, and the final race in the N24 Series (National 24 Hour Mountain Bike Solo Championship). This was the first year for the N24 Series which in its own words was created because “We at the N24 think 24 hour Solo riders deserve more recognition regionally and nationally.”
Usually, when I show up at a race, I’m generally not too worried about whether I do well. Because it’s about having fun and riding bikes right? But this time there was a different feeling in the back of my brain, I wanted to win the N24 Series, and not only did I want it but I knew I had a good shot at pulling it off. Assuming nothing went wrong, and there is a lot that can go wrong in a 24hr race. I was ahead on points in the series, after winning 24hrs In The Enchanted Forest earlier in the year.
To make sure that we would get a good spot Chase and I arrived at the race course a day early, where we met my parents. They had graciously offered to drive out from Californa to be our support crew. It was their first time at a 24hr race. Both Chase and I were going to be racing solo.
The weather on Race Day was clear with perfect temps in the upper 60s. After eating a big breakfast and attending to the last details I headed over to the ever classic Le Mans start where everybody runs down a rocky dirt road in their cycling cleats and tries not to sprain an ankle. I have always felt that starting a 24hr race with running a sprint is a bad idea, but I did it anyway. (Last year at the Old Pueblo I became infamous for walking the Le Mans start and still winning the co-ed duo).But there is something to be said about getting in front of the slower riders early so you don’t have to pass them later on the singletrack.
The first few laps went very fast, the course was in great shape, and thanks to water bottle hand-ups from Mon and Dad I didn’t have to get off the bike. My main competition (Mike W) for the N24 Series got ahead of me on the first lap when I lost him on the decent. I tried not to worry about Mike being out front, and instead focus on pacing myself for the long haul, but I pushed a little harder knowing he was up there. In a 24-hour race, it’s usually not worth looking at the standings till you hit the half way mark. And sure enough, on the start of the 5th lap, I caught Mike. After that, I started to slow my pace down for the long haul.
The shadows grew long and the November dusk settled in early, by 5pm I had picked up my lights. I had just bought a new Light and Motion Seca, which I mounted to my helmet in addition to an older bar mounted Seca. The bar mounted light is more for a backup. The 2200 lumens on the helmet is more than enough to light the trails for high-speed descents and is better than a bar mounted light because it illuminates where you are looking. Batteries were perhaps our biggest logistical issue of the race, between the two of us Chase and I were running 4 Seca lights. At a race with over 12hr of darkness that equals a lot of batteries. Fortunately Light and Motion was supporting the event with charging as well as extra batteries to those who reserved them, which I had, we ended up haveing just enough to make it work.
The hardest part of the race for me was the 3am to 5am the “witching hour”. I kept dosing off on the long road climbs at the start of each lap. I was literally falling asleep in my seat while peddling! On numerous occasions, I would find myself riding into bushes because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. This was a first for me, I’d never fallen asleep on a bike before. Next race I’m going to add more caffeine to my 3am race regime to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Despite this, I kept a consistent pace throughout the night and never was off the bike for more than 5 minutes at the transition zone. This has been a successful strategy for me in the past, simply put: keep riding and don’t get off the bike any more than you have to. Early in races, I tend to be toward the back of the field, but slowly and surely other riders burn out as they can’t keep the pace they started with.
By midnight I had gone from 12th place to 4th and then in the wee hours of the morning to 3rd place, where I would stay. The morning laps were not as bad as I expected. Taking the lights off my head felt great and the natural light of the morning tricked my body into thinking that it was ready for another day. Despite being too far behind to catch 2nd place, and too far ahead of 4th to be caught, I decided to go out on one last lap, bring my total to 19 LAPS! = 247 miles and 28,000 feet of climbing!
A solid 3rd place finish, but more important I Won the National 24hr Solo Championship!
Chase had a great race as well and also did 19 laps, she took first and broke the course record by two Laps! Check out Chase’s blog here