24 Hours of Great Glen Race Report

Warning: This is really long.

Ok, I think I might finally be cured of the two-man team. I've done it before -- back when it was the only MTB race I did all summer. Back when I was "kinda" in shape, ok, not really, my training plan was a lot closer to Jerry's 34 ride plan then what I do now. Oh, right, I wrote about it last year, which of course jinxed me into busting my knee.

Anyway. When you race XC's every weekend, it's really really hard not to go hard from the gun. I might be the master of the DFL start, but DFL XC speed is still too fast for 24 hours. Way. Too. Fast.. The great thing about the two-man team is that everyone thinks you're a badass. The bad thing is, you have to suffer like a dog for 24 hours for that respect.

Ok, enough foreshadowing...

This year's 24HOGG had us sharing a campsite with a 5-man HUP team comprised of my buddy Justin, illustrious bloggers Kerry and MegA, apparently retired blogger TomN, and Chip, who gives me nothing to link to but was a pretty funny dude nonetheless. They were ostensibly going to support us, but were mainly there to take pleasure in our misery and be asleep when I needed a clean bike at 3 am.

Really though, sleeping aside they helped us a ton, if we had been unsupported it would have been effing murder.

Last year there were only two mixed pairs, and Linnea and her brother won by about 10 laps. Apparently everyone else noticed the easy pickins ($250!) because this year there were 9 mixed pairs entered. Seven of them were people I didn't know (and thus, "no big deal"), but the other one was the couple of Harry Precourt and Kay Sherwood. Harry was 3rd solo here last year; Kay was on the winning women's expert team. Not only were they no joke, they were probably faster than us based on Root 66 results. So we were going to have bring our A game to have a shot at the money.

"Bringing the A game" got started early -- on the run. I've only run twice this season but I was ready to throw down around the pond. I ended up sandwiched between tall freaks on the run, while being surprisingly out of breath. I think I was hanging out around 30th at this point.

Ran through the tent to go get my bike which Justin was holding, funny thing was, he saw me coming and flipped the bike out in front of me to be extra-helpful -- except it was not really helpful because I ended up on the drive side, which I can't cross mount from, because I suck. Here's a pic of me taking the bike while saying something like "noooooo wrong side" to him. Bonus: A younger gentlemen making a swerve around the madness.

Got on the bike, got two pedal strokes and someone grabs my jersey... hard. What?! I look back and it's Gewilli, the largest parasitic organism on the planet I guess. I informed him that a parasite can't be larger than its host body and sped away.

We lined it out pretty fast and I started passing people that had been running for show, but did not want to pedal for dough. Into the blueberry climb we got our first look at the course conditions, and they were MUDDY. One of the mtbmind guys got a pic of me literally seconds before I dropped off a bridge into the first mud, here I am clean for the last time in 24 hours:

Photo credit: mtbmind picasa.

Up the switchbacks I was on Rich Person's wheel, then passed when he bobbled, then passed more people, passed another guy who crashed descending... then all of a sudden I was alone, only 15 minutes into the race!

First lap was shockingly lonely after that, I was discovering just how muddy the course was, I kept telling myself to keep my HR down but I kept seeing fun numbers like 186 on my Garmin anyway. That's the kind of number that makes me say "whoa now, slow down" in XC races.

I worked really hard to ride stuff on the first lap, I was wicked inefficient but damned if I wasn't moving. Finished up the lap in 10th overall, 46:something including the run, tagged Linnea, hit the bike wash, back to camp to eat some food... oh damn, this is intense.

I shoveled some pasta salad down, my dad made it, it was incredible, I'd gush about the ingredients more (pepperoni!) but that would be pretty food-blogger-ish so I can't. The first transition period was wicked frantic, and half an hour after sitting down I was heading back to the tent for lap two.

Linnea laid down one of the fastest laps rode by a woman the entire race -- I'm waiting for official split but from my calculations only Melanie Brown did a faster lap than her 47:55. So she was basically riding even more out of her mind than I was. Probably a bad sign. Even worse, despite her sick lap she entered the tent 20 seconds behind Harry who had just turned a 41, so we weren't even winning our category. Holy crap, this is intense!

Back on the bike. Passed Kay quickly to retake the lead, tried to ride a smarter lap, somehow ended up with a max of HR of 184 anyway, ended up coming through in 8th or 9th overall with a 45 minute lap. Wash the bike. Check the results, find out we're blowing out the rest of the mixed pair field and all but one of the male pairs. Top ten overall is probably not sustainable for a pair but man, I am stoked right now! Back to the camp. Eat more pasta. I'm out of control, I'm working on my brakes, filling bottles, running around, Chip is loving it as he relaxes for 4 hours before his next ride. Back to the tent.

This time Linnea come through a minute behind Harry after turning a 50. Dear god, we aren't even keeping pace, despite the fact that we're riding way too fast. We can only hope they're doing the same.

Another lap, trying to ride smarter, walking some of the hardest sections now. Still pushing dangerously hard as evidenced by hanging with the Fior di Frutta expert team for most of the lap. This lap starts to drive home just what kind of trouble we're in, I've basically done 3 cross races so far and there are 20 hours left. My stomach is starting to question the pasta salad, which leads to a 47.

This time at the exchange I tell Linnea we have to slow down, we can't beat Kay and Harry by going their speed on the first afternoon, we have to back off and race our own race. She agrees, and we decide that I'll start the double laps next time out. Wash the bike. Check results -- still in 10th. Grab some food, grab some gels, only 40 minutes off. This is intense. This is insane. I think I said this to Chip at least five times during the break.

Linnea is feeling it to and she drops another two minutes to a 52 minute lap, which puts us three minutes down on Harry and Kay. That's ok, well, it's not ok but what can you do? I head out on the double telling myself to ride smart, because we have 19 hours left, and I am definitely nearing the no-fun zone. First lap of the double is a 48 and I pass Kay near the end of the lap. We've lost a lot of ground and I don't feel good. Coming through the tent and going out for lap two I only have a minute or two head start on a fresh Harry. He catches me quickly and we have a quick chat --

Me: "I think you got us, man"
Harry: "Come on, it's only 5:30!"
Me: "Exactly."

This lap is where the wheels came off. I told myself I was riding "smart" but I was actually just riding "slow." Barely had a spirited walk going on the hike-a-bike sections, which were getting longer as I got more tired. Came into the tent and Linnea and my dad are there-- "What's wrong? Did you break your bike? Are you ok??" Generally not good questions to receive after lap five. No guys, everything's fine, I just positive-splitted by 6 minutes and I need to throw up.

Finally we were on doubles so at least I could catch my breath. Linnea was out for one day and one night lap, so I headed back to camp to do my night setup and contemplate how much misery I was going to be in for the next... uh...17 hours. Crap, this was too intense.

During the break I scarfed down more pasta salad (dangerously tasty, really) and the always-clutch Fritos and salsa combo. And then -- unlike the last three breaks -- I had an hour to digest. Ahhhhhh. I got busy with the stick because I was having some cramping issues, weird, I can't imagine how doing 4 cross race efforts in 6 hours could make me cramp up.

Pasta salad, please save me:

Linnea comes back in with respectable 56 and 60 minute laps. We're now 20 minutes down on Harry and Kay, but I've already given up hope against them, I just want to get through this thing. We've slipped to 15th overall as well. Heading out for the double I tell Linnea that I'll be back in less than two hours and if she's not here I'm going for a third.

My first night double was pretty good. Having lost the head-to-head race, I can focus on settling in and doing something halfway sustainable. It's my first time riding with a quality headlamp and it makes a big difference. Lap one is a 55'er, and I send a message back to camp that I'm expecting to be 2-4 minutes slower on lap two. It ends up being only 1 minute slower, and when I get back, Linnea isn't there.

My motivational tactic of "I'm riding a third if you aren't here" has utterly backfired. I decide to wait a bit, because I have no water and no food and I don't actually want to ride a third. The three minutes I have to think before she arrives allow me to get quite worked up, and we have a quite unpleasant exchange. It becomes apparent that she wasn't having fun before I started yelling at her, so she's definitely not having fun now. Seven minutes after I came in she's off, and once she's gone I feel bad. Really bad. Crap.

This was definitely the low point of the race for me. I was having real trouble transitioning from "race mode" to "ride mode," exhaustion was already overwhelming me (physically and mentally), my teammate is showing signs of cracking equally and here I am making things worse by yelling at her. God, I'm such a idiot. She had asked me to ride a triple next, so spent the next two hours shivering, eating, and contemplating three upcoming hours in the dark. I tried to sleep, but I was dirty and freezing. No go. I was happy when the alarm went off at midnight, because it meant I could get up and start doing stuff again. Even if "stuff" was a "triple." Linnea rode a 70 and 76 minute lap, undoubtedly feeling the motivational effects of being not even halfway done. Our exchange this time was far more civil.

This time I made a crucial mistake, I routed the cable to my helmet light outside my jersey. It was immediately annoying, flopping around, getting caught on my seat during a remount (!). Things only got worse when, not ten minutes into the lap, I tried to pass a zombie-like solo rider on the inside. He drifted in, and I narrowly missed a tall stake holding the tape up.

Well, I narrowly missed it. My light cable didn't. My head got jerked and everything went dark.

I don't swear much (on this blog), but I yelled "FUCK!" at the top of my lungs. Several times. The zombie-solo rider continued, without even looking back...thanks, dude.

The reason I was so panicked is because there's a middle section of that cable, not part of the battery or light. And it was gone. The stake was kind of springy, who knows where it had gotten flung to.

I flipped the bar lights on and started hunting in the grass. Where is it? Crap! Racer after racer sped by, asking, "are you ok?" Not really, but you can't help me, I thought. I widened my search... maybe it got flipped back up trail from the stake? After what was probably only a minute of desperate hunting, that felt like hours, I turned and grabbed the stake to see if I could tell how it had flung my cable... and lo and behold, my cable was dangling from it!


I took the time to route the cable internally this time.

That lap ended up at a mediocre 62 minutes, which I was satisfied with given the light shenanigans, and being lap one of a triple. I was solidly stuck in survival mode on lap two, which ended up being my worst lap of the whole race -- 1:04. This sucks, so, so much, I thought. Why are we doing this? Really, why? I don't want to ride anymore. Linnea is hating life. I am dead tired. I decided that if she met me at the tent and wanted to quit instead of ride more, I wouldn't argue. I guess this was another low point.

In the midst of all this pathetic quitter self-talk, I came across a guy bent over his bike with a mechanical, in the dark, at 3 AM. Unlike in XC racing, competitors can support each other, so I wasn't even cheating when I asked "need anything?" (I say this in XC races as well, but I secretly pray that no one else says "yeah") And he did need something, a chain tool.

It turned out to be Jorge from MRC, who oddly enough I had chatted with on an earlier lap. I left my chain tool with him in the dark and forged ahead, figuring that if I broke my chain I could just wait for him to catch up.

(Another aside, in what is already the longest post evar: I didn't get my chain tool back until Tuesday, but when I did get it back it came with $40 of free food and beer at John Harvard's. MRC'ers Jorge and Steen TOTALLY RULE and that was NOT NECCESARY but REALLY TASTY.)

Lap three of the triple saw more slogging, but a little hop in my step because I could feel the end coming. I had a midnight conversation with Tim Johnson as he ran by me in the singletrack in which he said: "Because road racing is boring." Damn straight, Timmy.

At the tent Linnea did not want to quit, in fact, she looked quite fresh. She was headed out for a double and then the sun would be up and we'd be back to singles. Her spirit was somewhat contagious, and I told her to enjoy her sunrise lap and headed back to camp feeling better.

My bike was probably up to 35 pounds between the mud and lights, and I was too spent to clean it. Luckily I had a backup bike, a clean and light hardtail I probably should have switched to earlier. In any case, no bike cleaning, just more pasta salad and Frito eating, I even took a shower because I had a lot of mud in...um... important areas. At 5:15 the sun was coming up and I was ready to try to sleep -- Linnea was due back (optimistically) at 6:15 so I set the alarm for 6.

Before I could fall asleep I had a hilarious conversation with a very confused Meg -- read about it here -- and then slept almost 20 minutes before getting up again. I rushed around to get ready, got some help from Justin (about to go out on his fourth lap, boo-hoo) and hit the tent reborn at 6:15. Checked in with the timing crew and found out we had a problem -- Linnea had clocked 79 minutes on her first lap, was reportedly "begging them for food" and was probably "bonking wicked hard."

Protip: Eat before you sleep, unless you like bonking wicked hard on your future laps.

I shivered in the tent for almost half an hour, found out that we had finally gone a lap down on Harry and Kay, talked some trash to Bad Brad and Gewilli, eventually realized that Linnea was going to be totally bonked and I needed to go ride a double. Headed back to camp to get more gels and of course that's when she rolled in, for our second missed exchange of the day.

I told her I was going to ride around 1 hour a lap, but then I got on course. The sun was up and my bike was light and clean. I had twenty minutes of sleep in me. I was movin'. Life was good, and I clocked 52 and 55 on the double to come in way under the 2 hours I told Linnea I'd be out. She wasn't there (missed exchange #3) but I didn't worry much, I tossed the baton to the timers and headed to camp to go find her. She wasn't there either, in fact we must have passed by and she was at back on course soon after.

At this point in time the bacon was cooking at camp Hup and I was powerless to resist. It was 9 AM. I could taste the finish... and it tasted like pork.

Back at the timing tent, though, not all was well. Linnea was still hanging out in the hurt box and turned another 72 minute lap. It was now 9:58.

"Want me to ride a double and finish this off?" I asked. "I can just ride slow."

She looked shocked, much like I had 12 hours earlier when everyone was asking me if I was ok. Sometimes you're the last person to realize how slow your lap was. We settled on deciding in an hour -- either she would meet me with a gel for my last lap, or meet me and take the baton for the last lap.

One problem though, I was on my first single lap in 14 hours. 51 minutes later I was back. We huddled again -- we had 1:11 left to ride. I could easily ride again and get back in time for her to ride also, or she could ride and maybe get back in time for me. I decided I didn't really want to ride a 14th lap that badly, so she headed out.

I hung out in the tent for a while and checked the standings. Alex's team? A lap behind us. Brad and Rich? A lap ahead. Gewilli and Jerry, two laps behind. Harry and Kay, a lap ahead. So there was no reason for me to ride a last lap -- until Justin's final-lap heroics got started...

Team Hup hit the tent at 11:22. Justin had 48 minutes to hammer out a lap in time to get Kerry out before noon -- and if he pulled it off, I had to ride a lap to keep us ahead of our Hupster campmates.

Being a hypercompetitive idiot, I instantly decided to ride lap 14 if he made it in time.

Linnea, finally back to full throttle, clocked a 59 and got back with ten minutes to spare. I told her to wait in line outside the tent, and only cross the finish line if Justin made it. Believe it or not, I had to explain this one a few times.

At 11:55 Justin came down the plunge. At 11:57 he was rounding the pond, on his way to riding a 46, so Linnea ran in and I headed out with Kerry and another guy to the cheers of the timers at 11:59. The cannon went off before I even crossed the road.

The final lap of this ridiculous saga (and ridiculous blog entry) could have been tranquilo, but hypercompetitive idiots don't really get that sort of thing. On my third or fourth wind of the event, I hammered out one last lap, passing back a sport team to move up to 25th overall, passing Gewilli with a broken derailleur, finally catching solo IBC'er Chuck D'hemecourt at the end. We rode in slowly, crossing the timing mat together one final time at 12:54.

It started raining at 1:10. Thank you, weather gods. I was so wasted, all we could do was pack the car as fast as possible and drive 45 minutes back to my parents' house and crash. We skipped the awards ceremony like total lamers -- sorry about that, Harry and Kay. You guys were freaking amazing, rock solid and super fast for 24 hours. Lots of people have told me they were impressed with our performance, well, those two beat us by 1.5 laps and finished 15th overall. Now that's impressive.

This is probably the longest blog entry I've ever written, and I still left out tons of memories. The whole thing was a ridiculous roller coaster of emotions and exhaustion, I don't even know if I captured it. In a way, I wish I could bottle how I felt at 10pm so I can remind myself next year not to do another two person team.


Anonymous said…
The race might have dampen your motivation yesterday, my friend, but to all your readers I have to announce that in the middle of a very cold night your spirit of cooperation and encouragement helped me get over the 2nd mechanical of the night, and allowed us to continue rolling to a team win.
See, I already had destroyed my rear derailleur on the plunge at the end of my 3rd time around. After a nice run to finish the lap and a new derailleur installed, I was all smug and happy, but now the chain was having trouble shifting. Of course I am blaming the mechanics, then the chain blows up. Guess who must have pushed that chain hard when the derailleur broke originally? Also, who would not think of packing some tools after what happened before? Loser. It is now around 3 am, and Colin comes up the hill with a greeting. Well, I am unable to remove the fast link from my chain because both chain and hands are covered with mud, and I did not bring a water bottle for the 1 hour lap (hey, it's about 50 degress, but some water would have helped to clean things up).
Colin lends me his chain breaker and after an easy fix I got going again, finishing the longest night of my life (sort of).
Before that, Colin and I had shared some friendly talk on the trail, even before I knew how much this race means to him.
Colin showed me great sportsmanship, camaraderie and expertise, all in a few minutes.
Bravo muchacho.
G-ride said…
i posted on monday am...from the shitter no less.

that is multi tasking.

the morning after shit makes the 24hr race all worth it, atmo.

I had a hard time getting a read of the stock big guy after the race, so I anxiously awaited his blog entry. Very happy to see he was in good spirits even though he had to do 2 more laps then me.

You guys, I gotta say, rocked the HOUSE.
Alex said…
I told you you could have woken up Ed to wash your bike. He claims he likes washing bikes...

I was impressed with you both. I think if you forget how painful this race was, Linnea will happily remind you that she isn't doing a two-person team next year. Just a guess.
Big Bikes said…
Long but good...
that's what she - nevermind.
Some of the best one liners ever, the comment to Gewilli, just brilliant. Real good stuff and a damn good ride, congratulations.

I now have a great idea of how long and painful a 24 hour race really is thanks to your blog entry. I feel as if by spending a longer than average time reading your weekly entry that I can just live vicariously through your experience. At least cross is coming!

By the way, bad week to miss root 66, tim was a no show!

Good luck on the rest of em, see you at Gloucester.
van den kombs said…
Congrats to you and Linnea on a great race, you both were always in good spirits later in the race when some duos implode and mentally break down.

Glad we camped together and hope your both having an excellent recovery week. Good luck out in the Tetons for the 24hr with your bro, kick some butt !!
k vdk
Anonymous said…
Geeze my legs started cramping up while reading that... definitely a long post (way longer than my recap of the race... actually i hardly even mentioned racing) but Jorge wins the prize for the longest comment evarrr.

FLS Online said…
Nice job you guys. Harry and Kay are bionic- don't compare yourselves. Wish Tal and I could have been there. Kinda. Well, not really. I don't think we'd still be married if we did it together.
gewilli said…
nice write up...

for the record
"I informed him that a parasite can't be larger than its host body and sped away."

Not to disappoint your readers, but to be accurate, you called me a barnacle. maybe a big fucking barnacle or something clever like that mr Robot.

Nice write up.

I thought the two man was wicked fun. Maybe cause I was soooooooo slow.
gewilli said…
hey - i'm in that shot of you there...

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