So we finished the race and boy was it a roller coaster…mentally, physically and trail wise. Here is my long detailed write-up of it. Sorry it’s a bit long, but what a better way to spend my Monday than to take work off, rest and spend all day writing this!
We had a team of three unicyclist doing the 24 hour race; Ashley Curtis, Rob O’Brien and Jamey Mossengren (me). Our team name was “All For One” and we all had 26" KH Schlumpfs for it. As none of us had ever done a 24 hour race we didn’t know what to expect but soon found out.
I tried to do a training ride for 2-3 hours every third day starting a month before the race. I even brought my muni with me when I had to travel to the USA for 9 days as I didn’t want to go that long without riding. Plus I had heaps of fun riding my old trails and seeing how much I’ve improved over the last few years.
I had only ridden the trail at Mt. Annan once when it first opened and wasn’t a huge fan of it as it was new and very bumpy and not broken in. That was like 2 years ago so I was hoping it would be better by now…boy was I wrong as I think it was the same if not worse. So 2 days before the race I went down to do a practice lap. When I arrived the trail was closed due to wet conditions but they said if I waited an hour or two, that they would more than likely open it up. So I went and got some food and chilled for a bit. Came back and it was open. Yay.
It was a hot and humid day of 27C (81F) and I am not used to riding in the sun in the heat as most of my rides are early in the morning and/or mostly in the shade. Me no like the hot sun. And so here I am in the sun ready to do my first practice lap. I quickly learned that the trail is like 80% in the sun and it’s a very difficult trail, not because it’s technical but because it’s bumpy…very bumpy. And the fact that it’s constantly either up or down, no flats…like none. I prefer doing a massive climb and then getting to enjoy the fun twisty downhill, but this was up down up down up down the entire course. So even on the downhills you couldn’t enjoy it because they were too short and bumpy to shift into high gear. There was only a few times where I could shift into high gear.
So after finished my first practice lap in 49 minutes, I was spent. So much energy lost due to the bumps and sun. It was about 8.5 km long, mostly single-track with a few bumpy grass fire road sections) with about 172 meters of elevation gain but felt lots more than that. Not that technical except for 2 short rock climbs. So I rode the entire trail and only walked two little sections…that would soon change during the race.
I took a long break and decided to do one more lap for training and to see how fast I could do it in. The second lap I did it in 46 minutes, but again was totally exhausted when I finished. Now I knew this race was going to be difficult and was starting to wonder why we had entered in the first place.
When I got home, I messaged my teammates to give them a heads up of what the trail was like as neither had ridden the trail. I told them it was not going to be easy, especially with the expected forecast to be 40C (104F)!!! Oh, did I forget to mention that?! Yes, you heard that right. A 24 hour race in these temps when the trail is mostly in the sun. Wowzers.
I decide to carb up and pack all my gear. Turns out I had a lot of stuff to bring as I almost filled up our Jeep Cherokee with things like a tent, my 26" KH Schlumpf, 29" KH SS for backup, lawn chair, blowup mattress, sheets, blankets (ha, like I would need those), battery and inverter to run a house fan (brilliant idea), cooler full of ice, Gatorade and food, suitcase full of 8 different riding clothes (so I could change after every lap ), spare parts and tools, and a bunch of food (way too much btw). Ready to go…excited, nervous, all sorts of feelings going thru me right now.
I wanted to go to bed early and get a full night rest (which I should have done) but I had promised my best friend that I would go with him to support a friend of ours EP launch for his new album. Definitely not the best idea but he said I’d be home by 11:30pm so I could still get my 8 hours of sleep. We arrive and they are running 45 minutes behind schedule. They eventually start and their music was actually pretty good but it was punk rock and way way too loud. So loud that lots of people had earplugs in, which of course I didn’t have. There were even some people plugging there ears. So after 45 minutes of listening to this, getting a earache and a slight headache, I finally made it home by 12:30am. By the time I unwound and made it to bed it was 1:00am and I had to be up in 6 1/2 hours. Not a good way to start a 24 hour race. BTW-I never did tell my teammates so if you are reading this, sorry but I did still somehow kept it together.
Woke up and was pumped. Looked at the radar and it was pissing down with rain at the track and so I looked to see if maybe they were going to post-pone it due to wet conditions but it said the race was on. Out the door, a coffee and bacon & egg roll, and an hour in half later I arrived. I was the first of our team to arrive so I looked for a good camping spot. Drove around and around but it looked like there weren’t any spots left. Luckily I spotted an area behind a bunch of vehicles, but you couldn’t access it as they were blocking it. After asking some people I eventually got one of the cars to move and found the perfect spot, right next to some trees for some shade. As the area was basically a big field, most people had set up camp right in the direct sunlight. Not us!
Rob arrived shortly after and we started setting up tents and organizing our area. We went and registered and Ashley still hadn’t shown up so we started getting worried that “One Lap Ash”, that came from him only doing one lap at the MUni XC during UniNats instead of two, might have bailed on us. Registration closed in 10 minutes and so I gave him a call. Luckily he had just arrived and was waiting in a line of cars to get in. Hip hip hooray!
An hour before race time and it was still overcast so the sun wasn’t shining and it wasn’t nearly as hot as we thought it was going be so we were all happy about that. We decided I would start as I was probably the most fit as I had been doing the most training. I geared up and was ready to race. Went to the rider briefing and went to the back of the bikes to start the race as I didn’t want to start by pissing off any two wheelers. Plus it’s much more fun to pass people than to get passed.
Sure enough as soon as the race started the sun instantly came out, scorching the place in no time. The first km was an added fire road section to try and spread people out. But by the time it hit single-track there was a big bottleneck so we basically had to wait a few minutes for everyone to get in. I was still towards the back and it was bumper to bumper for the next km or two and then everyone slowly started to spread out. I passed a few people here and there but really didn’t get passed much as I had started in the back. It felt good to pass people and even though it was heating up, the first 20 minutes wasn’t too fast due to all the riders on the track. Once it cleared out, I kicked it into high and pushed hard to get a good time. By the time I finished I was hot and exhausted but happy that I didn’t get lapped and came in with a pretty good time of 47:23, my second best time of my 8 laps.
Ash was next so he took off like a bat out of hell. Meanwhile I took a nice cold shower and sat in front of the fan I brought. . I didn’t feel like eating anything but forced myself to have some trail mix and a bunch of Gatorade. I cooled down a bit but was still hot. Ash came back and was exhausted. He agreed with me that the trail sucked and this was not going to be fun. Don’t know his time but he did it pretty fast, like 50 some minutes. I think he pushed it a little too hard especially in the heat as he wasn’t feeling too well…might have actually been one of his least favorite laps.
Rob went out and came back in under 60 minutes so we had our pace set. If we could manage at least an hour, we could get 24 laps in which became our goal. He came back also exhausted and HOT. His lap or my next lap was probably the hottest of the day…sitting at 38C (100.4F)!!! Not to mention it was also very humid as it had rained earlier. Mind you we were mostly climbing and riding in the direct sunlight.
So it was my turn again and out I went. Did I mention how hot it was?! For some reason I thought it was still wise to push it and try and get another good time, so that’s just what I did. I rode up all the hills and went at record speeds…at least for the first half. I have this cool Cyclemeter app that tells me every km how much ahead or behind I am of my fastest lap. Then the heat really hit me and I started to max out. About at the 5km mark I had to stop and catch my breath and cool down for a minute. Kept going but had to stop again this time because I felt light headed and felt like I could vomit. This time I stopped for like 5 minutes. I only had a km left so I pushed thru and came across with a time of 59:38, my second slowest lap of my 8.
This was by far my least favorite lap of the race and I did not have any fun. I was miserable and so close to telling my teammates that I was done. Pull the plug, no more for me. But I didn’t tell them this and instead went and stood in the cold showers for a few minutes to cool down. Wow, did that feel like the best shower ever. Went back to camp and sat my ass down in the chair in front of the fan where I continued to sweat. I started to think of how much of the race we had left and how hard it was going to be. Even at night it was forecast to be 27C (80F) so it wasn’t like it was going to get much easier cause even though it would be a bit cooler, it was difficult night riding.
I decided to drive my car into town to get some more ice (as mine was melting pretty fast, even in my cooler)before they closed the gates so we couldn’t get back in to the Botanic Gardens until 5am the next morning. I also decided to grab a Subway foot long as I couldn’t be bothered making my own sandwich. That really hit the spot as well as the air conditioning in the car and at Subway.
By the time I got back, the gates were closed and I couldn’t get back into the Botanic Gardens where the race was! What?! Not good. I started to freak out wondering how I would get in. I even contemplated trying to go off road in the Jeep to make my own way in but I don’t think I would have made it and would have probably gotten stuck and definitely destroyed a bunch of trees. Just so happened another racer showed up and needed to get in too. He just happened to have the number to the rangers and gave them a call. A few minutes later the ranger came and let us in. Whew…that was a close one.