After a few years of sporting the 8-hour relay style, a group of friends decided it was time to bond together over a good old-fashioned 24 hour mountain bike relay.
Kelso was the destination for the Summer Solstice 24 Hour race.
We pulled in the night before to the camp ground with our new, used camping pop up trailer. Were we getting soft – the short answer – yes! And we enjoyed every minute of our restful sleep on a proper bed instead of slumming it in the tent like so many years in the past.
When I woke the next morning to rain on the trailer I snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag and quietly congratulated ourselves for investing in a trailer. What decadence before a race!
It didn’t take too much longer to realize that we would be racing in that rain later that day.
After a quick google on the iPhone I realized we were not only gearing up for 24 hours or Mountain Biking – we were gearing up for 24 hours of rain. Good thing I brought a lot of gear and extra dry socks.
We saw our first team mate off in a full out downpour at the strike of noon. The downside to these races is you not only have to wait the whole morning to get going – as part of a relay you have to then wait for your turn to lap.
Riders began to slide in about the 45 minute mark from their first lap. That was our first indication. The average race lap speed was supposed to be a half hour. With the fastest of the fleet coming in at 45 minutes – we knew it was messy out there.
We also knew by the scrapes and pounds of straw guck each rider was pullin gout of their chain ring!
Soon enough my lap came and off I slid into the course. The game had changed – it was now just about having a good old romp in the mud and getting a hot cuppa after your lap. But the lap did not prove easy.
As I was spinning along I realized that I knew this sensation of cycling before – but not from the trails. Was I falling? No. Was I sliding off trail? No.
Then I knew what it was. I was actually cycling stationary! The mud was so thick and full of clay that my bike had zero traction in many parts of the course. I was spinning my legs – but the horizon wasn’t changing. Time to get off and walk for a bit.
It was still pouring but at least it was warm rain for now. I wouldn’t let my mind think about my future night laps for awhile. The race became comical as our bikes were constantly breaking only due to the sheer mass of mud clumped to our tires! We pushed and fell along the trail even sliding down on what seemed like flat land. The trail were mangled It took me an hour and a half pull my mud bike around the course and finish the lap!
The rest of our riders went out the first of the course closure news came in. The trails were ravaged and even the rescue crews were having a hard time getting out on course.
Night came and we started to mentally prepare for another lap. As our dusk rider came in and another section of the trail closed, we decided we would not ride that night. Except Syd of course – Syd was our tough guy where the rest of us were looking for a fun race. We weren’t out to prove anything. Syd saw it as a test of mettle.
After tearing off the disc brakes from our spare bike (his first set was decimated from his first lap!) He set off into the woods. Hours later he came home. The course was closed. The race was over.
All I can say is good on the Chico race team for making the right choice. I’m all up for a challenge and a good dose of weather. But this race was ruining trails that were meant for a year of fun. Chico pulled the plug at midnight, and immediately sent out word for a trail rebuilding weekend the weekend following.
After we power sprayed our bike shorts and jerseys down to prewash it for the washing machine. We took a good look at our bikes. The brakes were hooped as was the chain and gears. We ended up putting a good few hundred dollars in parts back on our bikes after that romp in the woods.
Overall it was a fun adventure that we aren’t soon to forget. But next time I will be hoping the weather gods are a bit more generous!