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Downtown Temple,NH

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

24 Hours of Great Glen

Sometimes it's best not to know all the details when you decide to do something different. If I was a little more informed about 24hr mountain bike races I probably would not have ventured outside the comfort of my nice little running world....and I would have missed one heck of a good time!

UPDATE: I've added some random video I took during the first lap of the start, blueberry hill and the boneyard.

This past weekend I headed up to Mt Washington for the 14th annual 24 Hours of Great Glen mountain bike race, part of a 4-person relay team. acidotic RACING had two 4-person teams competing in the Sport Class, but really we were there to compete against each other (in theory). Chris Dunn claims he setup two evenly matched teams, one called acidotic RACING and one called acidotic RACING B. That's right, not an A and B team, just a B team. Let the head games begin. Me thinks me smell a rat!

Chris has an excellent write up on his blog about our 24hrs of head to head racing so I won't rehash that part again. Check it out, it's a great read.

The acidotic RACING B team (shown below) included yours truly, Austin Stonebraker, Nick Pennell and our capt Steve Sprague. The actual racing order would be Steve S, Austin, Nick and finally me.

Now a little perspective from a non-biker about the dark side...I mean this festival called a mountain bike race. Everything (except the riding) takes place in one big area. Most riders come up on Friday night and camp for the entire weekend and we were no different. The actual race starts at noon on Saturday and ends at noon on Sunday.

The start was a Le Mans start, with the riders forced to run (gasp) maybe a 1/2 mile before mounting there bikes and hitting the trails. The course was an 8.3 mile loop, mostly on the trails of Great Glen. Each loop had approximately 1,100 feet of climbing, and was a mix of carriage roads (60%) and single track (40%). Each rider was given a RFID card which was scanned before and after each lap. The race used a fantastic timing system called Realtime Scoring which allowed us to check our overall position, class position, lap time and more importantly monitor where the other acidotic RACING team was at any time during the race via monitors setup in the scoring tent.

Chris' son Brayden and I rode the course on Friday night shortly after we setup camp. This helped a great deal with my nerves since I knew what to expect now. Although I couldn't ride 100%, I estimated I could ride 85% or so and 'hike a bike' the rest. I'll take it!

The Course
Most of the first mile was climbing up through the blueberry fields next to and behind Great Glen, with a lot of it on decent single tracks. A couple of narrow bog bridges would test your ability to ride straight.All but maybe 30yds (steep uphill prior to the cottage) were rideable, even by me. The second mile was a chance to open it up a bit and catch a breather on the mostly downhill carriage road. Miles 3 and 4 were a mix of rideable short single tracks and hilly carriage roads. Miles 5 and 6 got a bit more interesting and challenging for me. First, there was Whiplash, a hellish single track that literally beat the heck out of my legs (from falling/crashing several times on the rocks). Each time through I'd try to ride further than the last but never really managed to ride more than a 1/3 of the trail before bailing ship and pushing my bike the rest of the way. It was way to technical for me to even attempt to ride. After jumping back on some carriage roads again the race jumped back onto the longest section of single track on the course. My guess is most riders were able to ride the majority of this section, at least early on. It had a little bit of everything. It started out as a nice rideable rocky single track, climbed a bit (maybe even a lot), had a fairly technical descent and then went through the muddiest section of trail I've ever seen. This was that thick, black, wheel sucking mud which was nearly impossible to walk through, let alone ride through. I think they buried rocks and logs in the mud just to add to the difficulty. Early on I tried to ride as much as I could. Actually, I tried to ride more than I could. I eventually swallowed my pride and went to the ole standby, hike-a-bike, mostly through the mud sections. Finally it was back on the carriage roads again for some fast downhill riding, sprinkled with some 90 turns at at bottom of most hills. A Couple of short single track sections and we were onto mile 7, the most technical section of the course. Not a single time was I able to ride more than 50yds of this single track. I pushed my bike up and down this difficult trail, ending at the bone yard,

an evil downhill that took out more than a couple riders (including our capt on lap 1). Once past the bone yard, and within sight of our camp area and finish area I was able to get back on the bike and ride most of the remaining mile or so through some nice single tracks, carriage roads and finally the field to the finish line.

Logistically, this race was much harder than a running relay (like Reach the Beach). Most of us were taking approximately an hour per lap so we'd ride every 3 hrs or so. In that 3 hrs you'd have to
  • wash your bike because it was trashed after each lap
  • wash yourself
  • change your clothes
  • eat
  • fix your bike
  • get ready for your next ride
  • sleep?
At night each rider would do back to back laps, riding for 2+ hours which gave us nearly 6hrs of downtime and did allow more time to rest. Once the sun came up we were back to the short rest. In fact, Nick was spent after 4 laps so the last few laps were done with 3 riders, reducing our down time to under 2 hrs.

Although I wasn't the fastest, I never really felt fatigued, staying hydrated, eating as much as I could and popping Endurolytes before and after each lap. I ended up riding the last 2 laps of the day for a grand total of 7 laps, 58.1 total miles, 8,295ft of climbing and 7hrs and 18 minutes in the saddle.

Nick and I took a few photos early on in the race which can be found here. I have a bunch of video from the start that I'll post to Youtube eventually.

A couple of random thoughts to leave with:
  • It gets cold at night
  • Even without rain the trails get greasy at night with the dew
  • Get the best light you can afford. I thought mine was fine until someone rode by with a spanky HID light. Wow. NOTE: Night Rider was renting for $40.
  • Plan your food carefully. Not a lot of time to cook.
  • Bring a generator if you have one. You can use it except between 11pm and 7am.
  • Bring the best bike you can, full suspension if you got it.
  • Where the heck can you wash your dishes?
  • A camp fire is awesome at 3am (although it needs to be contained, no open fires)
  • Take more pictures, further out on the course if possible
  • Need a bigger (or is it smaller?) granny gear. Those hills were tough.
  • Two pairs of shoes would be nice
  • Plan on mechanical failures (chain, flat, etc)
  • Shower early, the hot water runs out
  • Get to the BBQ early. It was terrific. Hot food and plenty of it.
  • The volunteers were great, especially the folks in the timing tent
  • The $5 breakfast was worth every penny.
  • Have a plan between legs, you don't have a lot of time.
Next year we need a camp mechanic and a camp cook! Wait, did I just say next year?


Jim Hansen said...

Glad you came out alive and in one piece!

Scotty "PHAT" Graham said...


Way to go buddy. I think you found a new sport to cause you more pain and suffering then running. Hopefully not as much injury.