This past weekend was the 24hours of 9 mile. A 24 hour mountain bike race here in Wisconsin. It is a big race, as it is also the 24hour solo national championships. There is also a 12 hour race that goes for the first 12 hours of the race. That was the one that we were there for.
Liz and I were slated to do a 2 person team for the 12 hour race. Ali, Hanna, Lukas and Chad Landowski were slated to do a 4 person team race for the 12 hour race.
On Friday, we loaded up the camper and the truck and drove up to Wausau, in northern Wisconsin. We arrived at about 3pm and found a campsite near the rest of our friends that were there to do the race. Of course, most mountain bikers show up with a small tent and a small campsite. When I pull in with the pickup pulling the camper, people just laugh at us. But, if it rains I promise you they are all jealous of us and would love to be in our little fold up camper.
I managed to back it into the site we wanted on the first try, and of course that got me a bunch of cheers from the peanut gallery and the redneck of the event award. I was proud of it.
This was our campsite. I wish that I would have had a backup beeper on the truck, as I completely seemed to draw a crowd when we pulled in. I think that a truck full of bikes and a camper at a mountain bike race is not the norm.
A little bit of our GNCC set up brought to a mountain bike race!
We unloaded all of our stuff and immediately began to make a mess. We had camping gear, mountain bike gear, tools, parts, guitars, frisbee’s etc… spread everywhere. I ended up the full time mechanic. There were 6 bikes there with us, and it seemed that all 6 bikes needed work. The brakes were rubbing on Liz’s bike, the BB was creaking on Ali’s bike, the brake pads were squeeling on Hanna’s bike, my bike was something new to me and needed all the set up work, the headset was loose on Lukas bike, Chads bike was not shifting… ugh. I spent about 5 hours as the team mechanic.
Not the greatest quality photo, but it was the greatest race bike I have ever ridden!
The 12 hour race went from 10am to 10pm. Anyone going out on a lap after 6:30pm was suppsed to have lights. That meant there were going to be potentialy 2 riders from each team that would have to do laps at night. I had secured enough lights before hand that I could outfit 4 bikes and riders with lights. Everyone doing night laps needs to have a helmet light and a handlebar light. It also turned out that we needed 2 lights per person, as you will see later.
As I mentioned earlier, this race was also the 24 hour national championships. It was a really big event. There were about 1000 riders, on a course that was 14.2 miles around. The course had high speed double track sections, was about 75% singletrack, much of the singletrack was technical and littered with rocks, there were tight trees sections and the course really undulated through the singletrack. There were 2 big climbs on dirt roads, that were not too tough the first time you rode it but got really tough later. The technical sections with the rocks and roots were really tough at night with only the light off the front of your bike and your helmet light.
After a dinner of veggie burgers cooked on the grill and salad and fruit, we began to talk about strategy for the race. The teenager team (team name was 4 local kids and a foreigner), decided that Chad would go first, Lukas 2nd, Hanna 3rd and Ali 4th. That order proved to be problematic for them, as they did not do the math accurately to understand who would probably be up for the night laps. Liz and I decided that I would go first, as she was not comfortable going through the first lap in the melee of the start. That would prove problematic for us as well. We also organized lights, practiced putting them on helmets and made sure everyone had tubes and tire levers and pumps etc… in their camelbak packs.
In the end we were all in bed, although not really sleeping, at about 10pm. Liz and I were on the end of the camper that the boys were near in their tent. Because it was a really nice warm night, we had the camper all opened up, and we could hear the boys in their tent talking about bikes and the race and the course. They were excited and had a hard time going to sleep.
The dawn came early, with a crow right above the camper screeching at about 5am. That is not a bad time for me to get up, and even not too bad for Liz. But, for a bunch of teenagers, that is really really early. We made oatmeal (Lisa would have loved it), and we all fidgeted around nervously before the race. Finally, the riders meeting was called at 9am.
New to the race this year was an electronic scoring system. We were all given a unique RFID, that had to be waved over the timing blocks at the begining of your lap and again at the end of the lap. That way the organizers could tell who was on the course at all times and for how long. It was pretty slick, and the timing was available even during the race.
Check out the results below. Pretty cool.
3 local kids and a foreigner – the kids team
slow – our team
Riders meeting before the race. A good idea, that motorcycle races could learn from.
24 hour races start with a Le Mans style start. Your bike is in a corral and you have to run about 1/2 mile to get to your bike to start the race. The start is designed to spread the riders out before the singletrack sections. This is also not a bad idea that GNCC races could learn from. I decided that with my newly injured knee, running was not a great idea. So, I walked to my bike. Believe it or not, I was not the last one to my bike – but I was pretty close to that. In spite of that, the bottlenecks in the singletrack were incredible on that first lap. Hundreds of riders trying to go from the double track to tight singletrack. Ugh, you found yourself just standing, and waiting for your chance to go onto the singletrack.
I passed a lot of people on my first lap. I estimate that I passed about 200 riders in my first lap. I learned when I finished my lap that I had moved up from almost dead last to above the halfway point in our field. That was satisfying.
Me after my first lap. Notice the dirt marks on my head!
I finished my first lap, and handed the reigns over to Liz. She headed out and had a really fantastic lap. Her time was only 5 minutes slower than my first lap. Go Liz! We traded back and forth for 2 laps each, and that got us about 6 hours into the race.
Meanwhile, the teenagers were going about their laps. Chad did a really nice lap, and then Lukas did as well. They were going well. Hanna went out on the 3rd lap for the team, and by now it was getting hot. She really did rock right along. I started our teams 3rd lap actually about 10 minutes after she did. That meant the teenager team was actually ahead of us when we began the 3rd laps. I did catch Hanna on the course, but not until well after the halfway point. She was doing fine, although I could tell in her choice of words that she was not happy with me and the race.
This turned out to be a good photo of Hanna ripping along on a fast section.
Not really worse for wear.
Ali went out on their 4th lap, and also turned a really nice lap. But, she fell in a rock garden and bloodied her leg. But, she was a good sport about it and did not complain too much. She finished her lap and their team had reached a point where they were getting tired.
Ali in one of the many technical spots on the trail. Look closely, and you can already see the blood on her left leg.
Ali with the visible leg injury!
Liz had some great laps during the day.
We decided that I should do the full dark lap. That would mean that we wanted Liz going out for a lap at 6:30pm. We did not talk about that when we got started. If we would have thought about it, we would have realized that we should start in a specific order. As it was, we needed adjust one slot. So, I did back to back laps with lap #3 and lap #4. Wow, did that hurt.
Me getting through a technical spot. Looks like I am about to crash.
The teenagers had the same problem. They solved it by Chad doing an extra lap in there as well. Chad is tough and has style.
So, Liz went out at 6:30 with lights on the front of her bike. She did not really need them until the end of her lap. But, she put them to use. In fact, on her 3rd lap she fell hard in a rock garden and raised a huge bump on her shin and cut her elbow. She did not have as much blood as Ali on her leg, but she was hurt. She is tough though.
The boys decided to go out for a night lap together, even though just one of them would be scored. Therefore, we all 3 left together for a night lap at 8:15. For me it was my 5th lap, for Chad his 3rd lap and for Lukas his 2nd lap. The boys wanted to go fast, and for a while I tried to stay with them. But, in the end my legs did not have another fast lap in them. I fell off the pace and finished 2 or 3 minutes later than they did.
A couple of the characters at the start of the race. There was also a guy with an afro wig, another guy with a tutu over his riding gear and another guy with streamers coming out of his handlebars.
The race was incredible, and just a huge blast of fun. We will definitely have this on our calendar as a family again next year. I cannot wait.