Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The "Coolest 24-Hour Race Boggs Mountain": Chugging Along

"We have to stop at CVS if you see one!"
"Why?" asked coachubby as he navigated up windy roads through Napa and beyond.
"Because I want to dye my hair!"
"Are you kidding me? You've never dyed it before."
"Shouldn't you be thinking about, I don't know, the race?"
"What's there to think about? I just ride until 24 hours are over. Done."
"You should think of motivators for when it gets tough."
"Because I can. Done."

In an act of boredom, I had cut bangs into my hair a few days before, and in the act, had lobbed off the natural highlights that came from spending hours in the sun with the bottom of my hair sticking out of my helmet. The bangs were oddly dark. That's what I was thinking about going into my first 24-hour mountain bike race.

Coachubby was appalled. We hadn't driven 9 hours north of LA to dye my hair, apparently.

I tried to wake up at 9am on race morning, but at about 7:30, I had already had 9 hours of sleep and couldn't sleep any more. Ah, the joys of a noon race start. I waited until 9am for coachubby to come back from his marathon-length recon run--2 loops of the 11-mile mtb course, plus a few more miles.

"You're gonna like the course!" he said, "A big sketchy part in the beginning, then there are some rollers, and a sketchy downhill that turns right just at the bottom, then a big ass climb for a mile up a fire road."
"I ran with a huge stick just in case I saw a mountain lion."

I downed a skinny Elvis, packed my stuff into Laree, and off we went down a very dusty dirt road until we came upon the campground housing the race directors and my competitors. And by campground, I mean forest--there were no facilities besides about 8 porta potties somebody dragged in. Just us and mother nature. Hardcore.

"Here's your number with the timing chip on it. And here's another one for your other bike. Do you have two bikes?" asked the check-in lady.
"Am I supposed to have two bikes?"
"Well, you can come back and get this number if someone loans you one."

Was I going to destroy Qeee, my 6-month old baby mountain bike?

After a pre-race meeting with all 69 24-hour participants--39 of whom were on teams--and 85 8-hour participants, I killed an hour reading about renegade DIY Los Angeles bike-lane builders in Bicycling, then stood in the back of the mass start.

Good idea for placement, bad idea for breathing in dirt. Lots of dirt. One smart, yet uber dorky, competitor had a bird flu mask on. No dirt spores would be prodding around his lungs.

A few of the other four 24-hour female competitors introduced themselves to me. We all had red numbers to distinguish ourselves from the 8-hour racers, and make a statement about our mental health.

I was apparently in the right spot, sitting in the back. And I must've looked like I had no idea what I was doing, since they all said, "This is your first one," with the slightest bit of a question mark at the end.

We were off! Then two minutes later, we were all bunched up as 114 riders approached the coachubby-dubbed "super sketchy part in the beginning".

Pam and her cohort Tom, two of the solo 24-hour racers I had met at the beginning, who were apparently there to ride the entire 24-hours in unison, would have none of this bunching up, picked up their bikes, and tried to run down the mountain. Chaos and a flat ensued.

I stuck to the course. I had 23hours and 58 minutes, after all, to make it through. The laid-back mindset of riding for more time rather than less was easy to adopt.

Unless you're world-class mountain biker Tinker Juarez.
Yep, he was there. And he was racing like there was only one loop to do.

I rode the first 6 loops without stopping for too long. Then, at the end of my 6th loop, not only did the 8-hour race conclude, taking away the bulk of the riders on the course, but also night began to fall.

Oh the creepiness of twilight in the forest with nobody around to forge ahead and scare the mountain lions away from the trail. Just like swimming in the ocean with real swimmers, I imagined that by riding through the forest with real mountain bikers, I would look like the gimpy one--the easy meal for predators.

The wind began to blow hard across the tops of the trees, sending branches to their death, crashing all around me, crackling like someone--or something--had just stepped on a creaky floorboard on his way to murder me.

Then, it got cold. Really cold. The forecast called for lows in the mid-50s. It was 40 degrees outside.

Terrified and freezing, I had about 8 hours of night riding to do. Even though Saturday was about the longest day of the year, Saturday night felt like the longest night of my life.

To be continued...


  1. I'm sorry you got bangs and didn't tell me?!? Is it wrong that I find this the most shocking part of this whole post. BTW I swam a 5K last weekend and it was awesome! Good job so far on your crazy 24 hour ride...but I am not surprised you did it. You're gonna have to amp it up to shock me :)

  2. Hahaha! You swam a 5K!? That's crazy!!! Did your back hold up? Did you have feeding people to give you stuff?

  3. Were there any sharks? aligators?

  4. As all racers were accounted for at the end, I guess we'll never know...

  5. 24-Hour races are a BLAST! The crazies that show up for those things are too entertaining. Sunrise lap is the BEST!

  6. This fall you need to come back to AZ and do the 24hr race here. I'm thinking about having A paint eyes on the back of my helmet to ward of mountain lions in N. AZ.

  7. Sunrise lap was definitely rad.

    And genius, Mr. 29er! We should paint eyes with some sort of reflective paint so they glow in the dark!