Last week I got the call from David Kegley. "Hey, we lost a guy from our five man team yesterday. Do you want to do a 24-hour mt bike race this weekend?". Since I was driving home from a three day mt bike weekend in Northern PA when I got the call, I said "let me see what Michele has planned and I'll call you back."A Quick check with the wife reveals that she has planned a last minute beach trip to her father's condo in OCMD (a place I loathe) - I'm not expected to attend. OK, the boys will be at the beach playing with cousins. Guilt-free, I call David back to tell him I'm in. I had five days to train and it rained for four of them.
Our team: the "Nitro Burning Juggernauts" was skippered by Todd Bauer and included Dave George, Frank Comer, David Kegley, and myself. A group of Frederick Watershed regulars from Montgomery County, they were all veterans of 24 hour racing at Big Bear - I was the newbie.
My riding in PA the preceding weekend led me to believe that taking my rigid singlespeed 29'er was the way to go. In our class, the 5-person open, we would be able to ride any bike we pleased and could have riders of any ability level. Other categories place limits on the ability level (sport, expert, etc.), bike (singlespeed/rigid), gender make-up (co-ed, all men, all women), or number of riders (solo, duo, four person, five person).
The race is run on a 13 mile trail loop and the team or rider that completes the most laps in the 24 hour time period wins! The timing began at noon on Saturday and ended at noon on Sunday. The rain stopped on Thursday evening and while the trails were sloppy and wet Saturday morning, it never rained during the race. The course was a mixture of double track, singletrack, river beds, and a couple of short gravel road sections total climbing 1,630 feet per lap.A couple of sections made more permanent impressions: first the fast, smooth, pump track-like, section in the pine tree forest where the trail swooped in and out of tree trunks making sharp turns on dirt banks. Second, was the long technical downhill, a very-wet steep section littered with loose mud-covered rocks and roots that ended in a streambed. My arms and hands were pretty beat from holding the brake levers by the end of this section. Third, was the big rock garden that preceded the final climb. This section was around mile 9 and featured a normally rideable garden of stone that we had to walk during the race. With the singlespeed gearing I chose (34x20) this marked the beginning of two sections where I had to carry my bike. Topping out on this climb, you had about 2 miles of fast singletrack to go before you crossed the Fourth memorable feature, the bridge. ALL riders had to ride up a rather large ramp, cross a narrow bridge suspended 20 feet up in the air, and descend a ramp on the other side - all within eyesight of the finish line/staging area with lots of spectators. This is a Big Bear tradition.Our team had three single speeders (2 rigid, 1 w/shock), and two 1X9s. We set up camp next to many friends from PA, MD, VA, and DC, a sort of a biker shantytown. There was the MBM'er, Paul, wrenching; and YBR's, Zach, doing massage. Friday night was mellow. Things were still pretty damp, folks were arriving late, there was alot of apprehension about the trail conditions and that 'one more thunderstorm' that might make conditions unbearable. After a few libations around the fire, and despite a couple of round faced snorers, most of us got a good night's sleep.
The race order would be Todd, me, David, Dave, and Frank. The first rider has to do a short run in order to spread the field out a bit and Todd was the leader so....... After Todd turned in a great first lap time. I took the baton, scanned my RFID and hit the trail. My lap was largely uneventful. Having never seen the course before put me at a slight disadvantage since I had no idea what was coming or how far I had to go, but I put in what was to remain my best lap time: 1:29:41. That is an average of 8.67 miles per hour. The fastest lap by any rider, a pro, was run in 1:10.My night lap began in the dark a little after 9pm and I finished around 10:45, a 1:42 lap. This was the most enjoyable lap of the whole race for me. The trails were drying out and it was quiet out there. Many riders were struggling in the dark conditions, wet rocks, and slick muddy sections that remained, but I was able to pass a few and move our team up a couple places. In fact, our team did especially well in the darkness, and by the end of the night we had moved up 12 places in the overall standings. This can be attributed to the fact that the five of us ride together almost every Wednesday night during the winter at Gambrill State Park - usually in snow.
The day laps were a little faster all around and we ran through the rotation one more time to complete 3 laps each for total of 15. Amazingly we had ridden a collective 192 miles and climbed close to 5,000 feet each. This put us in solid 5th place in our category which included 13 teams and 23rd out of 150 teams. 5th place gets a mention at awards time and the emcee read our names outloud, but no podium presention and no swag. Most of our friends also did well with several teams placing on the podium in their respective categories. pics here here and here
It was fun to see the whole 24 hour racing scene. Interesting to see how individuals and teams meet or fail to meet the inevitable setbacks and challenges. Hopefully, someone will bail out next year and I'll get the nod again. results here