My First Solo 24hr Mountain Bike Race

Quick run through for those that don't want to read the play by play:

10 laps completed
Distance Travelled: 149.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 13600 ft
Class place: 6/28
Overall Men's Solo Class place: 22/49 (included those going for the national championships)
Overall place: 283/365 (I beat 82 teams, 60 of them were multi person!)

This first picture links to an album with a few more than shown here.

From 24hrs of Moab

Lap 1:
So the race started out with a 300ish yard run down a field and around a bush. I haven’t run more than 100 yards since 2004, so that was fun. Especially when it got so ridiculously dusty I could hardly breathe for the trip back. I took it pretty easy and got back to my bike somewhere in the front of the back third of the riders. Instead of the singletrack in the beginning we were routed onto the road for about 2 miles of steady climbing. I rode a very comfortable pace and kept my place in the pack. After this the trail turned steeper and had some technical ledgy climbing type stuff. There were quite a few ledgy downhill spots too that had a few good lines and lots of crappy ones. I managed to ride all of these sections, and managed to watch a few sweet wrecks as people took the wrong lines or just plain screwed up on the right lines. Halfway through the first climb there was a sweet descent where you could let off the brakes and ride way up on these berms at a very exciting rate of speed. Again surrounded by sand traps, you knew that a mistake wouldn’t be all that painful as you would fall into a foot of sand. Not that I did (at least not in the daylight), but it was comforting to know I could of

After climbing on and off for around 5.5 miles the trail sorta leveled off for a bit and got into some faster doubletrack with two established lines and loose sand on the sides… Fun and fast, I drafted some people on these sections at several points during the race. People knew you were solo because of your number (low double digits) and were always offering encouragement throughout the race. There were some slickrock portions and sections with amazing views of hoodoos and various other cool red desert monoliths. Then some fast doubletrack back torwards the starting area. About 10 miles in there was another climb up a dirt road. It started out pretty friendly, but turned into a sandy rocky mess about halfway through the race (or was it my brain that was a sandy rocky mess?) and got a bit disheartening. Of course you knew you were approaching the finish so that was nice. But in my case, how nice was it really? All it meant was I was closer to the longer crappier climb in the beginning of the course. Anyways, finished in around an hour and a half. Pretty good time really, best I would be able to do…

Lap 2:
The second lap began differently as we were now riding singletrack for the first 2 miles. Fun, right? More so than a road except the climbing part was over broken rocks and was just rough enough to make it suck just a bit more than a regular climb would. Wasn’t so bad now though….. This lap progressed simililarly to the first one, shoulders were tensing up like crazy though and starting to hurt pretty badly. I was expecting pain, but not this much and not 2 hours in. I was starting to cramp a bit too.. I had a bunch of Endurolytes (electrolyte pills) and had been popping them like candy, so the cramps never got very bad. Everything else went pretty well on this lap and I finished in a similar amount of time. When I rolled into camp I decided to switch bikes to my full suspension bike to add a little comfort to the riding. I sat down on my chair for about 5 minutes and literally felt the tension leave my shoulders.

Lap 3:
When I started the lap my shoulders felt pretty damn good, I think the overall fatigue was starting to override the tension and forcing me to loosen up. Cool! I was in good spirits as I was nearly (relatively?) pain free and 40 miles in. This lap was a bit slower than the last one, I think the fact the bike weighed a good 6 pounds more and my brain was slowing down had something to do with it. I walked a few more of the climbs than last time and was a little more hesitant on the descents. Overall, the time was maybe 10 minutes slower than the last one. I arrived at camp and had a PBJ and went out for one more before dark.

Lap 4:
Another lap down, this was the lap where I officially rode further on a mountain bike than I ever had before (around 50 miles before I think?). Again, slightly slower. I think the mental fatigue was slowing me down more than anything else, my legs felt surprisingly good. I was sucking down about 300-400 calories per lap and I’m pretty sure that’s why I was still doing alright. I hear I should of been force feeding more calories to keep the brain going a bit faster. Finished in the dark without any issues.

Lap 5:
First night lap, all of a sudden my time jumped about half an hour in the wrong direction. This race involved about twice as much night riding as I’d ever done previously, so needless to say I wasn’t exactly comfortable out there. My light didn’t have enough battery to last the whole night on full power either so I had to run it on medium which also didn’t help the confidence and depth perception. Overall it was a pretty fun lap though, I was forced into a sandpit by some guy chickening out on the chicane berms and sliding off. Apparently he wasn’t on his fifth lap and didn’t have it memorized yet. Fell over with no injury and the guy let me by apologizing profusely. “Don’t worry about it dude, I’m in no hurry.” Walked a lot of the technical climbs and descents on this lap, I don’t want to fall and hurt my wrist doing something I didn’t need to do. Arrived at camp at 9:38 pm to a warm fire and a hot cup of chicken soup. Thanks team IMBA!

Lap 6:
Out for another one, I switched jerseys and things were starting to cool down quite a bit. My headlamp went out halfway through the lap, but I managed to keep a similar pace anyways. This lap ended at 90 miles, almost a century! I started compiling a list of things that hurt and when they came and went. Overall, I felt pretty good except for the fact I was cold, tired, and it was dark out. My left hip was bothering me on and off, but nothing bigger than that at this point. Liberal application of chamois butter was part of the reason for this. Nothing is more miserable at 4am in the cold is applying cold chamois butter before riding out.. Well, actually forcing yourself to ride out of camp at 4am was pretty miserable in itself..

Lap 7:
Left camp a bit after midnight and didn’t really want to go. I knew it was going to be hard to get going through the night and purposely didn’t set up any amenities except a chair by the fire so I wouldn’t be tempted to stay very long. It worked, ad none of my breaks lasted more than a half an hour. I still left camp cold but with decent spirits for yet another lap out in the darkness. People were pretty spaced out at this point, so I was pretty alone for good stretches. Night riding can be a really peaceful experience. The moon had just come out, looked pretty cool. Unfortunately the clouds blocked most of it’s light so the hoodoos weren’t visible. At this point I hardly even paid attention to the laps. There were times where I tried to remember what parts I had ridden already and what was left and I just couldn’t figure it out. It was all so blended together. With five miles to go I officially rode further than I ever had on a bike. I did a road century before, but this was way worse. Rolled back to camp around 2:30.

Lap 8:
I knew this was going to be my last lap completely in the dark, but it still took quite a bit of effort to get back out there. The fire was out and camp was quiet. I shook it off and got back out there, knowing the cold and fatigue was much more manageable when I was on the bike.

About 3 miles in there was a camp set up with a giant fire and some very drunk fans with cowbells. I noticed a sign that read “free beer and brats for solo riders”. I stopped and had half a brat. I think it was the best brat I’ve ever had. The rest of the lap was a blur if remembering sections just fast enough to ride them without adequate light. There was a section of loose descent where half way down you could let off the brakes and rocket down this little trail of hardpack surrounded by rocks and sand. I couldn't see the whole thing, but knew exactly where it was so I let off the brakes and went off into the dark.. What I didn't know was someone had kicked a rock into the middle of it and I didn’t see it until it was too late to stop. I slowed most of the way down and then got pitched out into the darkness and sand. Got up unscathed and carried on. The rest of the lap was pretty uneventful. I was hoping for some hallucinations or anything at this point to no avail. I felt weird, but not anything more than that. I was talking to myself and my bike quite a bit more than usual though..

Lap 9:
Sunrise lap! After all the fun fast descents the sun came up and I could see again! It was fantastic and really helped raise the spirits. The dark was my biggest problem in this race and it was finally gone. About halfway through this lap my right knee started to hurt, and by the time I was on the final climb it wasn’t just a nagging pain. I arrived at camp knowing I could fit two more laps in if I wanted, but didn’t know if my knee would allow it. My goal was 10, so I knew I had one more in me and also knew I’d be totally fine with just that one. I was going to set out and see how it felt on the first climb, then make my decision there.

Lap 10:
This was the last lap, the knee was hurting pretty badly. What was I going to do about it? I stopped at the free brats/beer tent again and the people were up and about again. I hung out for a good 15-20 minutes and drank a beer. We talked about the race and some of the other riders they knew and generally cheered on all the team riders as they pushed by, tired but still going all out for their team. My knee hurt and I knew it was my last lap so I was in no hurry. I had 5 hours to do a lap I knew would only take 2.5 at the most. After leaving the camp I rode with the current solo leader Josh Tostada for a bit and we talked about a bunch of stuff. He gave me some advice on my knee and we talked about whether or not we were going to do any more laps. I was on lap 17 and said he didn’t need to do any more to win but was thinking about it. He went on to do one more and set a world record of 180 miles in 24 hours.. What a badass. Nice guy too, the thing about all the solo riders is none of them were in too much of a hurry to chat at the pace of the other rider, we all slowed and hung with whoever and traded tips and things like that. I soft pedaled with my right leg most of this lap because of the pain in my knee, but finished with a sprint and a smile. I finished with plenty of time and legs to go out for another lap, but not with my knee feeling like this. I figure it’s a bike fit issue that caused this, and I have plenty of time in the future to go further.

I get back into camp after my 10th and final lap and sat down next to the fire with a 100yd stare. The team imba guy Mark disappears into the trailer and emerges with a down jacket and a beer. He said, “Here’s a jacket, this beer is nice and cold”. I was in a daze, staring blankly at things and smiling. I did it.

My three goals were as follows:

  • Don’t sleep or stay in camp more than half an hour
  • Ride at least 10 laps
  • Pass someone on my final lap (several actually, go me!)

And I was tired..

I slowly got my stuff together and was offered a bed in a cabin by my IMBA teammates Noreen and Stewart with them and their two kids. Let see, camping in the sandstorm and the cold or a cabin with a hot shower, a hot tub, and a bed? I slept for 12.5 hours that night after a 30 minute shower and 30 minute soak in the hot tub. I was sore but well rested for the drive home the next day. My feet hurt more than anything right now, I can feel where the pedals were and the broken heelcup in my right shoe. I see more of these in my future, but need to work out a few equipment issues first.

Stuff that worked:
Hammer Gel
Hot Chicken Soup
Belgum Budder (lots of it, that stuff is fantastic)

Stuff that didn't
My shoes and pedals (knee pain and feet that still hurt)
Crappy water bottle mount on yeti downtube
would of been nice to skip the camelback and have everything attached to the bikes..


jesse parker said…
A story with some nice photos:
Unknown said…
Altogether amazing story--you are truly my hero!
Look nice with that beard, too. Mary
Pablo said…
Nice work - impressive ride. I enjoy those long ride brain games where you try and put things in sequence or maybe try to add some numbers and utterly fail because the brain running on low battery.

Popular posts from this blog

German Efficiency

Tag board