24 Hours of Great Glen Race Report

11:58 am:  SO HYPED

This was it, the final year of the 24 Hours of Great Glen.  I remember my dad doing this race the first time it happened, when I was 14, in 1996.  There were 22 teams.  There was a hurricane.  The stopped racing in the middle of the night because the camping area was flooding.

How they decided to run the event for a second year after THAT, I will never know.

When I heard that The Greatest Mountain Bike Event Of All Time was ending, my first reaction was "hmm, maybe I should promote a 24 hour race," and then I started thinking about it and OH MY GOD is that an obscene amount of work.  I got promoter anxiety just THINKING about the number of moving parts that go into a well-produced 24 hour race.  It makes every race I have ever put on look like child's play.

So, Great Glen folks, thanks for sacrificing your sanity and stress levels for two decades.  You've given thousands of mountain bikers a uniquely awesome experience that will never be matched.  
Sally Annis unretired and crushed souls.
Now, about this year...

As defending champions it was clear that Officeteam (tm) had to come back for a second year.  With Jay hopefully not sustaining a crippling back injury on the first lap, we had high hopes that we would be faster and more awesome-r than 2014.  Our opponents looked similar to last year -- the 2nd place team "Pure Adrenaline" was back with 3 of 4 team members returning, and 3rd place (Barker Mtn Bikes) was back with 2 out of 4 team members the same.

Because everyone who rides a bike has already hit their plateau of career mediocrity like myself, it was clear that we would win again, because no one could have gotten faster since last year.  Yup.  Definitely winning this.

So when Ross came through on lap one, over a minute behind Pure Adrenaline's rider, I was confused.  We were beating that kid last year when he was 17, now he's 18 and shaved a minute off his lap times??  OBVIOUSLY CHEATING I TELL YOU.   Time to start blogging about lap times!!
"I've won Seven Sisters but I can't beat a guy in a cowboy hat and jorts over 200m"
We sent Jay out and he didn't crash in the first 200 meters, which was a huge improvement.  He rode the team's fastest lap of the entire day, which was great.  He lost another minute-plus to Pure Adrenaline, which was NOT GREAT.  

That's okay though, Evan will surely right these wrong against Pure Adrenaline's "new guy."  The "new guy" had replaced their "slowest guy" so he was probably also the slowest, right?

Evan lost another minute and got caught by the Barker Mountain Bikes team, who also had some puberty-fueled flying eighteen-year olds we may not have adequately accounted for.

OKAY.  We're FOUR MINUTES DOWN.  I'm our last rider to head out.  Time for me to be a goddamn American hero and close that gap!

...I lost another thirty seconds on my lap.

And that's how, after four laps, we knew we were screwed.

It took us almost until midnight to beat Pure Adrenaline on ANY lap.  By that time, we were twenty minutes down, and had changed our goals from "win the race" to "don't get lapped."

Luckily Great Glen is still AN EXPERIENCE no matter what, so our 24-hour trip to second place was a grand old time.

My first day laps were normal.  Dodging lapped riders while racing at cx intensity, each lap making fewer mistakes but failing to pedal as hard.  Sitting around camp, realizing you have 17 more hours to race, wondering how you forget every year that in addition to being super fun, racing for 24 hours is SUPER HARD.

As defending "fastest-night-lap" champion, I had high hopes that I would turn into a course-slaying werewolf when the moon came up.  It didn't really work out.

On my first night lap, my helmet light failed, so I did the whole lap on just the bar light.  If you've never ridden with just a bar light, you probably don't realize how often in the course of riding a bike you want to look at something you bars are not pointing at.

Let's just say that going into every single turn trying to remember when the rocks on the exit were is not the fastest way to ride.

And of course, because I was flustered by my lighting situation, I fell off a bridge (a bridge over nothing, thank god) around mile seven.

And then I rode directly into some poor woman's butt while trying to pass her, knocking her (and me) over.  Turns out that standing in the woods saying "I'm sorry I ride like an asshole" is ALSO not the fastest way to ride.

So yeah my first time out at night was not the fastest night lap.

Luckily I was able to borrow a helmet light from Regina Legge as she finished up the 12-hour race, so my SECOND NIGHT LAP was surely going to right the wrong of first night lap, now that I could see and maybe wouldn't ride into people's butts randomly.

And it's true, second night lap was totally mistake free, except for that spot when I laid it down hard on a gravel corner.  Lying on the ground in shock at how abruptly you just crashed:  also not the fastest way to ride.

By the third night lap there were no dreams of glory, it was 4am and I was fueled purely by ramen and banana chips (you have no idea how many banana chips I ate during this race, those things are amazing).  Even without shooting for glory, I still managed to be tired enough to not see a rock on one of the fast downhills.  My punishment for this was hitting my foot on it so hard that MY SHOE FLEW OFF from the impact, and I had to stop, put my bike down, and run back up the hill to find it.

Night laps are still the greatest thing, though.

When the sun came up, it was time to finish the job, but just like last year my darkest hours were from 5 to 7am.  Maybe there's something about the sun coming up that makes your body realize you just stayed awake BIKE RACING for THE ENTIRE NIGHT.  Waiting around, trying to eat, trying not to sleep, trying to stay motivated... there's always that hour when it all seems so difficult.  And that hour is never spent on a bike.

As soon as the lap starts, everything is fine.  After 18 hours, your body is getting pretty used to the pattern of racing.  It's the sitting around that it can't handle.

My final race lap, and final Great Glen lap EVER, I knew it was going to be special.  We were still over ten minutes away from getting lapped, and we had just lapped third place.  I left the tent just ahead of Kyler Walker from the third-place team and had my first head-to-head racing of the entire event.

I had been putting a minute or two on Kyler most laps, so I wasn't expecting him to catch me and stay with me on the first long climb, especially because I hit it harder than any lap since my first one of the whole race.  But he did.

I also didn't expect him to pass me going into the descent, and I definitely didn't expect to ride off the trail and hit a tree trying to stay with him on the descent, so hey we're just over 2 miles in and this lap is already quite special!

Walking back to the trail from the woods is not a fast way to ride so Kyler got a pretty good gap on me there, but it was good in that it helped me refocus on riding my own pace.  By the time we reached the bottom of Blueberry Hill at mile 6 I had closed the gap back down to five or ten seconds.  I liked my chances.

Then I shifted to my biggest cog under a bunch of torque and.... CRUNCH.  The chain went over the top of the cassette and wedged DEEPLY between the cassette and the spokes.

(Did I mention that my rear wheel was basically a potato chip when the sun came up so we put a different wheel on the bike for my last lap?  And didn't check the high limit screw because it was 9am during a 24 hour race?  Yeah)

I tried to pull the chain out.  It didn't work.  I got off the bike and tried harder.  It didn't work.  I decided to run the last 2.5 miles of course pushing my bike... but you can't do that when your back wheel won't turn.

I put my bike on my back and started running.

Thirty seconds later I stopped, because I had realized that running a hilly two miles with a 25-pound bike on my back might actually cost me the forty minute lead we had over third place.

In retrospect, at this point, I had probably burned two minutes.  I think one or two riders had passed me, and Kyler was obviously long gone.  But in my panicked haze, it felt like I'd already lost ten minutes, and we "only" had a 40 minute cushion.

I realized I could probably get my chain out of the wheel if I broke it, so I took out my chain tool and broke a link.  Then I neatly packed up my chain tool and put it away because I'm an idiot.  Then I tried to get my chain out and of course it still didn't budge.

I got my chain tool out AGAIN and cut off the other end of the chain, leaving a 12 inch piece of chain stuck under the cassette.  The wheel would roll (and savagely whip the chain into my seat stay sometimes, yikes) now.  We're in "business!"

So then I ran/scootered/coasted the rest of the course.  Did I mention the panic level?  I was pretty sure I had given up 30 minutes through my mechanical work alone and now I needed to run as hard as possible just to keep us in second place.

It wasn't until I got lapped by Pure Adrenaline right as we reached the floating bridge (and I had to take the detour because you can't run on the bridge, boo) that I realized I had somehow kept the time loss on that disaster to less than fifteen minutes.

Ross had had an extra fifteen minutes to charge up his adrenaline level, so he RIPPED the next lap, putting almost a minute into Pure Adrenaline's fastest rider (!) and getting us back onto the lead lap, albeit just barely.

Jay a mere ten seconds slower than Ross on the next one, beating Pure Adrenaline AGAIN, and finishing up just a few minutes after noon for us with 34 laps ridden in 24 hours.
Michele took this rad photo of my Aaron Gwin run on the plunge. 
As usual... now that it's over... what a great experience.  I'm going to miss this race so much.  Thanks to Ross, Evan and Jay for being kickass teammates, and congratulations to Pure Adrenaline for coming back and KICKING OUR ASSES this year.  They beat us on almost every lap for 24 hours straight.
Even a 3-man podium gets pretty busy when each "person" is a 4-man team.
Meanwhile, there was an actual women's RACE this year, with two women's expert teams tearing it up all day and all night.  They eventually finished 9th and 15th overall, crushing an uncountable number of men's teams, and probably having more fun than we did in the process.  They camped with us and I ate their food at 3am, it was great.

No one had any fun it was terrible

So, anyone got a good venue in central Mass for a 24 hour race?  I'm thinking some kind of farm or state park with a big field for camping and.... wait.  Didn't I just say how much work this would be?



Great Report.
Great Glen was probably my favorite 24hr race.
It certainly was the most fun...

there used to be a 24hrs of Adrenalin that was on Dalton Farm's in Western Mass...

great report. congrats on your race too

matt said…
central mass what?
Colin R said…
Matt... how much space you got on your lawn? Can we do it there?
Julia said…
I thought it couldn't get any funnier, after you rode into a women's butt, then your shoe fell off! If I had a dollar for every lighting mishap the Reuter teams have suffered over the years, I'd be a wealthy woman.
Ari said…
Ragnar had a trail relay at Northfield. You could maybe get a decent mtb course out of that, and it wouldn't be the first time they had a bunch of gross, tired, caffeinated people hanging out all night so maybe they're more comfortable with it. Private(ish) land too so easier to pull permits, etc. Certainly a lot of elevation.

If you could leverage your infrastructure and add a 24 hour trail running race (on separate-but-adjacent trails) you could probably increase the number of people to pay for said infrastructure.
Colin R said…

It's funny, we were just talking about the Ragnar trail relay today. Northfield is currently leading my venue list.
Lisa James said…
This is one of the funniest race reports I've read in a while! It's sad though that such a great race has ended. Glad you got to have an eventful last Great Glen Race!
Unknown said…
Hey Colin,
not sure if you plan to revisit the 24hrs of ?? race, but after a long search we found this one in upstate NY. A bit of a drive, but if everyone shows up it would be a great time. My 4-person Sport Team is planning on going.
Unknown said…
Hey Colin,
not sure if you plan to revisit the 24hrs of ?? race, but after a long search we found this one in upstate NY. A bit of a drive, but if everyone shows up it would be a great time. My 4-person Sport Team is planning on going.

Popular posts from this blog

A letter to everyone's parents about Coronavirus

Sam Anderson Cheats at Mountain Bike Racing

Do-It-Yourself March Cycling Blog Post