24 Hours of Adrenalin

May 26, 2006 at 12:14 pm (Mountain Biking)

24 Hours of Adrenalin

Originally uploaded by StormyPetrel.

"I feel like I was dropkicked by a giant," says Nowak, squinting into the light from my headlamp. I've just roused him from his tent to let him know that I finished my lap, Aaron is on the course and he needs to be at the transition station in 45 minutes. It's about 2am, and we are just over halfway done with our first 24-hour mountain bike race.

24-hour races are growing in popularity. The rules are simple: complete as many laps as possible on the course within 24 hours. Most contestants enter as a team, but a growing number of masochists are racing solo. We registered as a 4-person team.

The 10.4-mile course at Laguna Seca was short, fast and not very technical. From the transition tent racers rode 500 feet to the base of a bridge, carried their bike up the steps and rode across. Some riders opted to carry down the steps on the other side, but most rode across. From there, you cross a street onto a dirt trail, climbing for maybe 50 vertical feet and crossing another street before starting the first earnest downhill section.

The rolling singletrack downhill trail is well maintained, with banked turns and mostly clear sightlines that let even inexperienced rides feel comfortable with opening up and hauling ass through the entire section. A few short climbs are easily taken if one maintains his momentum. The downhill section is over after you wind down the side of a hill and cross a small creek (this section had been washed out in heavy April rains, so there was a brand new culvert over which to ride).

This begins a well graded singletrack climb with a few short downhill sections. Just before the marker for Mile 3 there is a short downhill followed by a left turn into a sandpit. Make sure you are geared down and execute your turn before the sand if you want to get through it clean.

After the sandpit, climb about 3/4 of a mile to the first tough climb, Hurl Hill. Hurl Hill is steep, but short. Grind through it, watching out for ruts, and it's over before you know it. There is a drinnk station at the top. After hurl hill is swooping fire road that gradually descends to the next singletrack section. You can really haul ass on this fire road. Be careful of ruts, loose gravel and some sandy sections.

A little while after the marker for Mile 5, turn right into a wooded singletrack section. Roll up and down with the trail before making a short climb up to the top of the "Twisties". The trail is shaped like snake in motion, turning back and forth as it descends down a relatively steep hillside. It's hard to bomb this section, but the turns are generally banked favorably. Turning left at the bottom of the Twisties, you enter a rolling, turning, fast singletrack descent through trees.

Just before mile 7, the singletrack ends its descent with a left turn onto a fire road. There is another drinks station here. The fireroad is flat at first, but gradually turns into a long but nicely-graded climb back to the raceway. This climb is called the Grind. When we were racing, there was a strong headwind that made the climb a lot tougher than it would normally be. But it's still very doable, and can be cranked out well above granny gear.

At the end of the climb there is a sharp turn to a steep, loose singletrack climb that is a hike-a-bike for most riders. You're on the home stretch! A little pavement, a right turn through a covered bridge, and a little more singletrack and suddenly race central comes into view. Put it in high gear and push hard to the end. You still have about a mile of riding, as the course brings you back over the bridge you crossed at the start, and then circles the entire race and camping area (where people are often cheering you on). Dismount when you enter the transition area, check in with the timekeepers, and then pass your baton to your teammate.

For all but one of us, this was our first 24-hour race. We had no idea what to expect. We were hoping for 1:30 lap times, but quickly realized that the course could be done in an hour or less. After the first 12 hours, we were in 15th place (out of 20 teams). But as night fell, other teams' times started dropping off, while our lap times stayed remarkably consistent. We started gaining ground until we were only 3 minutes behind the 10th place team with 1 lap to go. Aaron turned in a great lap, beating clinching 10th place by a couple minutes. Top 10 finish isn't bad for our first try!

Here is a link to the full results.

Personal results:
Distance: 52 miles (5 x 10.4m laps)
Time: 5hrs 20mins
Avg. Speed: 9.75mph


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