Part Three - The Race
Remember the last movie you saw that totally surprised you? The one where you thought that you knew what to expect because you'd seen the previews? That was the Burn 24 Hour Race.
I have been racing in cross country mountain bike events for about five years. I've done some epics, a whole bunch of short, fast races and even some mountain bike time trials. I had nothing in my data banks to compare this event to since I've never tried anything like it. Being a 24 hour race rookie, my approach was to go in with one goal in mind - have fun. Let me tell ya, this is the event for that! My goal meshed well with the goal of our team (We called ourselves the D-List) which was to ride hard, have a good time, and hang out in the gooch RV. (See previous three posts) It was a blast from start to finish.
And much like a regular XC race, the starting line was packed full of nervous competitors, all with high hopes and a stomach full of butterflies. For some unexplained reason, I wasn't jittery. I felt relaxed because I knew that a steady pace and keeping our wits about us would be more beneficial than trying to win in the first lap.
The race was unique in that each team had a choice of how they would like to handle the Le Mans start. You could choose a designated runner (which we did) or place your bike in a transition area and run to it, pick it up and ride from there. Obviously, the solo guys and gals had to do the latter of the two.
Once we were rolling on the trail, I started picking off traffic that thought that they could win the race in the first lap. Although the trails were not very technical, riders were crashing everywhere due to impatience and traffic. Luckily, most didn't get hurt due to the fact that the cluster kept the speeds pretty low. By about mile number two, I was in a line with 3 or 4 guys riding a conservative, steady pace. In chatting with them I discovered that a couple were solo racers. My hat goes off to anyone with the kahunas to ride 24 solo. The "steady pace" was a bit quicker than I thought. My lap time for my first lap was 20th fastest overall for the entire event. Total for all racers for the entire event was somewhere about 2400 laps. I'm happy with that. I guess being relaxed helped.
As the day progressed and through many transitions, I concentrated on staying fueled and hydrated. Our team strategy was for each member to do one lap at a time until about midnight. Then we would let Pookie pull herself out of the night rotation and Skippy and I would do at least two laps per turn. The plan worked pretty well. We were all staying relatively fresh and maintaining good lap times. Sleep was pretty good thanks to the unfair advantage.
Morning was tough. I slept well from about 2 to 3:30am, but just didn't feel like I could do a lap when it was close to my turn. I felt really sluggish and a bit nauseous. I felt a little like you feel at 5:50 of a hard six hour ride. Pookie, after her planned refrain from doing night laps, emerged energized from her bunk already in her cycling clothes. "I'll go". Thank God. I needed to get some fuel in the system and get some blood flowing. I am a slow-waker. I can't jump out of bed in the morning and hit the ground running. I need to ease into the day. So, this sluggishness was normal for my body. After 30 minutes or so, I was back to my normal self and ready to get at it again.
Laps rolled by uneventfully. The trails became familiar and easy to navigate. I knew where to ease up and where to hammer. I could anticipate the turns and technical areas and ride accordingly. All in all, it was pretty easy for our first attempt at a 24 hour race. And because we were relaxed and having fun (and because we had creature comforts beyond compare) Team D-List pulled out an 8th place finish out of 23 teams. We finished 21st overall out of 115 entrants. It was a total surprise to me. Not only how well we did, but how different this event was. I'm not really sure what I expected before hand, but what I know as 24 hour racing now I really like.
Eddie O, the race promoter, should be commended for the fine job he did with this event. It ran smoothly, was well organized and a total blast. The folks at The Brushy Mountain Cycling Club have done an outstanding job of constructing an absolutely awesome network of trails. Every inch of singletrack is a ton of fun to ride. Thanks to everyone who was involved with making the Burn 24 Hour Challenge a huge success! Ya'll rock.