What did you do over Memorial Day weekend?
Racer Boy Ian and I had quite the adventure competing in our first ever 24 hour mountain bike race. A memorable gig for sure. I always wanted to do a 24 hour event, so now I have one under my belt at 50 years old. Too long of a wait. Ian at 12 years young, pretty cool he's now already pulled one off.
Ian's team, JL Velo, has done this event a few years in a row. So when word went out a few months ago looking for who's interested, we put our names on the dotted line. Coming off another lame riding winter, thinking this event looming on the horizon will get Ian and I moving. That plan sorta worked, but not to the extent imagined. I did get in some garage trainer time, a few mountain bike rides, and a couple of commutes. Ian only did a few mountain bike rides in preparation. Do or die, no turning back. Now barely in riding shape, never mind (alleged) racing condition. I was a little worried about this being slightly over Ian's head, though I knew he could handle it - even with not knowing fully what to expect. Ian was a bit nervous, but looking forward to it. Me too.
The Friday of Memorial Day weekend, we head towards Spokane, about a four hour drive. The women of the clan, wife Lori and daughter Amy - decided at the last minute they wanted to tag along - though would spend the weekend at a comfy hotel in downtown Spokane, while we camped and raced. With car repack action and traffic jam full of people escaping Seattle, turned out to be a seven hour trip, arriving with just enough time to set up camp and eat before dark. Ouch. The girls then commandeered the official family rig and headed back towards civilization.
Camp ground/race venue was Riverside State Park, not a bad set up. Oh yeah, what's this gig called anyway? 24 Hours Round the Clock, now in it's 13 year. 900 racers registered and ready to roll. The JL Velo team split into three separate teams for this event. Four person elite team for the serious fast folks. Five person junior team for racers under age 18. Then the eight person corporate team with a mixture of folks, including Ian and I. The corporate team also a bit more
"fun" based, though included real racer types.
The corporate team line up:
Lars, 40 something CAT3 dude
Tim, perhaps past his 40s, Marketing dude for Redline, serious 'cross racer and competed in the '84 Giro d'Italia
Adam, 40 something CAT3 road racer
Matt, 40 something racer
Dan, 50 year old Dork Boy (me)
Henry, fast 12 year old racer
Ian, 12 year old racer son
Jeff, 40 something Redline dude.
This also was the order we agreed to ride in, lap after painful lap. Let the fun commence.
Official pre-race light fiddling. Matt and Lars demonstrate.
Anders - teenage son of Lars - with last minute saddle adjusting duty. Anders raced on the junior team for this event.
As mentioned, riding order for the corporate team. See? I don't make this stuff up.
Bikes lined up for the LeMans style start. First person for each team receives the added joy of running about a mile, no extra charge. Makes sense and spreads things out. 300+ riders pedaling towards the first turn would be Crash-O-Plenty. Fun for photographers, not for racers.
Brandon, teenage racer (loaned to another team for this event); Will, teenage racer for the junior squad; and Bryen, serious fast dude in elite class - get ready to run.
Guy with large gun sets the chaos in motion. Hold your ears.
To quote Jackie Gleason, "And away we go..."
Jog Bra Dude shows off his rack.
Lars narrowly beats Jog Bra Dude to the bikes.
Our home away from home tucked into the JL Velo compound. Green tent for sleeping, yellow tent for storage. Like most camping trips, all eventually turns into piles of crap tossed everywhere, then somehow wedged back into car for return trip. Physics be damned.
With the race now officially under way, being 5th and 6th on the riding list, Ian and I had a few hours to kill. Walked around to check out the scene, chatted with folks, fueled up and got ready to roll. Lars and crew were turning in laps a little over an hour for the 15 mile course. 63 - 70 minutes or so. Pretty fast considering the really fast folks turn in sub hour laps, in the 50 - 58 minute range.
I warmed up a bit, ready for my lap, along with getting Ian's gear ready for his gig after mine. Not that it really mattered, there was no pressure, still worried I'd put in a really embarrassing slow lap. Matt flies in, hands me the transponder in the transition area and off I go, no pre-ride to gauge the course. Mixture of singletrack, doubletrack, a few climbs and descents, rocky sections, even a bit of pavement. Overall, not that technical, but a fun course. I was digging it.
I have no speedo on my bike and gave Ian my watch, so he knew what time to wait at the transition area. I had no idea what time I was running or how far to go. Took me awhile to warm up, then felt okay. Smart thing I did was not ride a few days before the event, in a dumb attempt to gain last minute fitness. I'm not exactly fast even when fit, so cruised a fun mountain bike pace for me, keeping in mind more laps lay ahead. Enjoyed the scenery some, including a large deer that crashed through the woods and crossed in front of me. Cool. Even with the large number of racers, I still rode alone at times, enough real estate to keep folks spread out. Plenty of people passed me however...
I pull into the transition tent with a one hour, twenty five minute lap. Slow, but nowhere near as bad as anticipated. Twenty or so minutes behind CAT3 teammates with shaved legs and actual quad muscles. I'll take it. A fun lap, big fun. Happy I was.
I hand the transponder off to Ian and off he goes, replacing my racers hat with official parent's hat - hoping he enjoys himself - but will breathe a sigh of relief when pulls back in. I head to the tent, change and grab some food, enjoying that post race buzz. Awesome.
Here's Will looking bad ass after covering a lap for the junior team.
Ian heads into the transition area, his first lap now complete. Not shown, two seconds later, crashed while attempting a 'cross dismount. Not sure what he did, weird fall. Shoe didn't unclip, locked front wheel, don't know - had the camera half to my face.
In any case, might as well crash in front of a crowd, right? He's up in a second and gets the transponder off to Henry, the other 12 year old racer on our team. I then notice the blood dripping down his dust covered leg...
Back at the tent, I attempt to clean the mess with a water bottle. No way I'm getting all that out. Much to the horror of Ian, we're off to the medical tent. He was a trooper while the fine medical folks washed out the wounds with water and gauze swabbing. Ouch. That scene is never fun. Some jelly stuff applied, gauze and wrap to hold in all in place. Nothing serious, but stings like crazy town.
Back at the team area, hot cheese quesadillas handed to him, while he recovered from it all. Fantastic to have teammates and volunteers around. Oh yeah, Ian turned in a 90 minute lap with no course pre-ride, and just a few rides for "training" over the previous weeks. Awesome. I'm proud of him.
Map of the course, as mentioned, 15 miles around. And around, and around...
"The Limbo" that keeps racers from flying into the transition tent, forcing most to dismount.
The way things were rolling, my second lap scheduled for 3:00 AM or so. Ian around 4:30 AM. Yowza. After milling about, installing lights, eating yet again, and other campground festivities, Ian hit the tent around 10:00 PM exhausted and passed out. I should have done the same, but found it midnight before long. With the current pace, my second lap now looking closer to 2:30 AM. I joined Ian in the tent, looking to maybe grab two hours of sleep, alarm clock next to my head. Laid there for an hour, afraid I'd never wake up on time, stranding Matt at the transition tent. Fear is big motivator and easily gets you out of a warm sleeping bag, even in 34 degree weather. Yeah, it was that cold. I jump up and put on ice cold race kit, shoes and helmet. I'll hang around the propane heater in the team area instead. I'm handed a hot bowl of chicken soup as I do. Man, this team gig is sweet.
Ian and I already decided I'd wake him up before I left for my second go around. Other teammates could have done so, allowing more sleep, but I was afraid they'd never get him up. After two visits back to the tent, I couldn't get him up. Worried he'd miss his lap, forcing me to ride two of 'em. Yikes. On the third visit, not much time to spare, found him up and putting on his team kit - literally shivering while doing so - half asleep. Pulling knee warmer over scraped up leg as the added bonus. Call now, Child Protective Services are standing by.
I laugh and cringe to myself, assisting my 12 year old son to get dressed in 34 degree weather, gauzed up leg, so he can ride around a 15 mile mountain bike course by himself in the pitch dark. I'm either a pretty cool dad, or a complete nut case. After we get him dressed for his lap, I plop him down in front of the heater, sleeping bag added as blanket. Fellow JL Velo types give him soup, water, and will keep him company. Knowing he's in good hands, I'm off to the transition tent around 2:25 AM and wait for my lap. And wait. And wait...
3:00 AM is a weird time to be standing around waiting to ride a bike, even with a bunch of other like minded freaks. I'm shivering and attempting to share some heat from the transition tent heaters. Damn, it's cold. Watching the other racers fly in for the hand off, and chatting with other frozen racers makes the time less torturous. Matt finally glides into the transition area to hand off the transponder at 3:18 AM. A broken chain and flat tire, both repaired in the dark, slowed him down. Great effort though. With that I'm off into the darkness.
It takes me a few miles to stop shivering and start to warm up. My lights work well and I can see okay, high beam punching a hole into the blackness. At one point, two solo riders pass me like I'm standing still, battling at 3:30 AM after riding for 15+ hours. Impressive and insane. I'm riding slower this lap, darkness combined with tired and cold. I walk a few hills. Even so, this lap turns out to be one of those rides you remember forever. Part way through, dawn breaks, incredible peeking sunrise views. Birds start chattering though the trees. I can see the lights of Spokane off in the distance. All while swooping and flying through singletrack, buzzing down dirt roads, and hopping over rocks. Totally freaking awesome. I'm giddy and yapping with fellow racers as we swap places. Soon, lights no longer needed. Even though I'm riding slow as per race speeds, I hammer like crazy on the last long dirt road into the transition area. Utterly fantastic. An hour and 41 minutes and some of the most fun I've ever had on a bike. Wow.
I hand Ian the transponder around 5:00 AM for his second lap. Lights no longer required. Even though he was looking forward to riding a night lap, I'm a bit relieved he'll cover this in daylight. Off he goes into the cold morning air. Have fun, stay safe. I plop in front of the heater and soon handed a plate of scrambled eggs and cheese. I could get used to this.
Ian completed his second lap in one hour and 49 minutes. Mentioned he was tired and even stopped to take a leak and eat a Clif bar. I always keep in mind we're talking about a 12 year old here. I'm impressed and proud, great stuff no matter what time he pulls off.
Henry, the other 12 year old on the team, very impressive as well - and fast. First lap an hour and 11 minutes, second lap in one hour and 20 minutes. Awesome to see these young kids put in this kind of effort. Kudos to Ian and Henry. The Stick 'N' Ball sports kids have no clue what they're missing.
The top of the order dudes on our team put in 3 laps, then time ran out, high noon on Sunday - sparing some of us another 15 miles. With my current fitness level, travel, camping, and no sleep at all - two laps was plenty for me. Ian as well. Perfect.
Round 'N' Round we go. Various racers circle the course. I usually take a few zillion pics at races, this one just a few. Camping, racing, assisting Ian, chatting with teammates, eating, etc - time went quick. Also didn't want to waste energy wandering the course with camera in hand. You can check out some pro pics here to get more views. Click here to get another view of the LeMans start, courtesy of a race volunteer, this time a video.
Father 'N' Son race steeds at rest.
Course side view from our team area. All important propane heater to the left. Reeve in blue and white kit, racing for another team - and dad of 12 year old Henry. His other son, Evan, raced on the JL Velo junior team.
With no 3rd lap needed, Ian crashed in the tent around 8:00 AM still in riding gear. Smart move, I should have done the same. Woke up about noon, knee warmer now glued to scraped up leg via dried blood. Yikes. Soaked off the knee warmer via water bottle. Ouch.
In the end, our corporate team came in 13th place. Not bad. The elite team pulled off a 6th place. Even better. The juniors grabbed 1st place. Awesome indeed. A pretty good weekend for JL Velo. No doubt.
I can't say enough about having an experienced team assist with your first 24 hour race, along with a 12 year old racer in tow. Registration handled, food handed to you, advice offered, friendly folks all around. Great group of folks associated with JL Velo, adults and kids. I thank you.
I've been to many bike races over the years, as a racer and spectator. This was a well run event. Ran on time, plenty of volunteers, quick scoring, medical assistance, fun course - all good. Your entry fee got you into the race, t-shirt, water bottle, midnight pizza feed, pancake breakfast, and post race pasta feed. After 13 years, they have this thing dialed. 900 total racers, 250 various teams and 53 solo riders to keep track of, lap after lap.
Speaking of solo riders, they're just plain loopy. Some put in 200 - 300 miles during the 24 hours. Remember, that's 300 dirt miles. Where's the Advil? Impressively insane.
Would I do this race again? In a second. The wheels are already turning for next year. Actually train a bit, instead of winging it. More comfortable camping set up. Now we also know the course. We had a blast. It's now on the calendar for next year.
What did you do Memorial Day weekend? See you there...