Our first race
This is Montana's ONLY 24 hour race, and it was our first race. Despite the fact that it was only a 12 - 14 mile course, I decided that I probobly better ride a five man team so I didn't embarras myself too bad. I called up one friend and asked if he was interested...he said he knew of one other guy who wanted to ride the race. He brought in the last two members of the team.
Myself - I had only been riding seriously since April of '06...I didn't quite have my biker legs under me yet, but I was still in a little bit of shape from the Marine Corps.
James - A firefighter, rode his bike to work everyday and was starting to ride a lot more trails since I had gotten to know him.
Matt - A physical therapist and one of those guys who just seems to be good at everything. Great guy, but he kinda disgusts me.
Jeff and Ty - A co-worker of Matt's and a home remodeler were freinds of Matts that are more into the roadbiking thing than anything else.
We had an interesting mix of backgrounds, and a complete lack of experience!
We got registered...except for Ty...he showed up at the very last second (more good luck). We set up our tents and got the propane grill out for the brats that we thought we'd be having with our beer in between laps. This was our expectation...we thought we'd ride a lap, then sit around and drink beer and eat good food until the next lap. We didn't have a lot of confidence in ourselves with our lack of experience!
While setting up our camsite, my wife set her engagement ring on the tailgate of my pickup...which was then closed and the ring was forgotten about. During lap #2, she happened to see something shiny sticking out of the dirt...she kicked it and there was her HUGE DIAMOND RING!! This luck couldn't be coincidental!
The StartWe decided that Matt should be the first racer since he was in the best shape. It was a shotgun start and I was at the starting line holding his bike for him. It sounded like a stampede of cattle listening to all of the mountain bike shoes clackity clack all the way to the starting line. I handed off the bike to Matt and he was off.
The competition varied from 100% lycra clad hot rods to a full suspension tandem bike with a husband/wife combination. I wasn't worried about Matt getting beaten by the tandem bike, but I didn't want to see his ego crushed by the lycra wearing guys!
We were sitting around talking and having fun when the first rider came through(not drinking - we decided to wait until after our first lap!). He came through in about 47 minutes...not a bad time at all! I didn't bother getting ready to ride yet because we all thought he was going to be way ahead of Matt.
Eventually we started watching for Matt...and sure enough he came through...from BEHIND! He missed a left turn right before our campsite and he came in to finish the lap from reverse. Because of that, we didn't see him coming and I still wasn't ready. He had to ride over to our camp and tell me he was there. His time was around 56 minutes...an excellent time...anything under 1 hour was a good time. We were impressed, and I was caught off guard!
My first lapMy first thought that we might not do terrible was when Matt came flying in with such a good time. I started pedaling up the paved street and my legs felt good. I ran into some sandy stuff as soon as I turned off of the county gravel road...that made the legs burn and I got nervous. But, the sand didn't last long and I was on my way bouncing through the fields. Ups and downs and some fun windy ways consisted of the first 1/3 of the course.
The middle 1/3 of the course is a lot of fun. The most difficult part of the ride both aerobicly and technical. There is one steep climb that a lot of the riders walked their bikes up (I think I even wussed out and hiked it on my 3rd lap). From there, I rode up a sandstone step, then through some trees and rocks. Finally once I acquired the top of the butte, I rode back down...there were two tricky spots that were semi-technical, one fun little drop, and a straight steep section to the bottom.
The last 1/3 of the course, the trail remains the same as the first section. Rolling hills through fields, and fast fun windy section through some small little coulees. Eventually I rode through a gate in the fence and onto a doubltrack road. This ended up being one of my favorite parts of the course...I don't know why!
From the double track, I came onto the very last bit of the course...back onto asphalt for one last mile. Coming through the campsite, I called out for James so he knew I was there...but he was already at the relay point.
My first lap was ridden at about 1:03...not too bad for a fat kid who's never ridden a race!
Through the day....So, after our first laps, we all found that we weren't doing bad for time. Pretty average compared to the other serious riders...so we decided that maybe we should let our competitive edge in each of us take over and actually give the race a shot. There was only one beer cracked during the course of the race...by Matt...it didn't slow him down!
Even though we chose to take the race serious...that didn't keep us from the brats that we brought! And they were gooooood!
Through the rest of the day, everyone improved their times. Matt improved by a few seconds, I finally rode a sub 1 hour lap, James and Jeff both had better times on their second and third laps. Ty had nowhere to go but up from his first lap. Coming down the hill from the top of the butte, he lost his seat so he had to turn around and run back up to grab it before he could continue on. He held strong at around 57 minutes after that first lap.
The night....The night was pretty uneventful for us. Our times were slower of course, but no major injuries. It was the first time that I rode with lights at night so its a miracle I didn't get hurt! I did run straight into a tree like it jumped out in front of me...and I did go over the handlebars at one of the semi-technical spots. Nothing major...just hurt my pride!
Riding at night was great...it was a very solitary and peaceful. Feeling the difference in the air temperature from the top of the rolling hills to the bottom was amazing.
When I finally made it to the the pavement again, I thought I was riding pretty fast. I turned around and looked once and there was a single headlight behind me...way behind me. About halfway through the paved section, I heard the tires behind me. Jason Frank...the event founder and organizer passed by me (with the flu) like I wasn't moving. I tried to speed up, but it didn't last long!
I finished the lap in around 1:15...average for our team. I took a shower, had the free pancake breakfast that was put on by the Stockman Cafe, and then I crawled into a sleeping bag for a couple hours.
The next morning...I was very lucky...I ended up with the sunrise ride. I started off in the pitch black, and by the time I was back on the pavement, the sun was just about ready to pop up over the horizon. I think I slowed down a little on this lap both because I was getting tired, but also because it was so beautiful, solemn, and serene that I didn't really want the lap to end. It was one of those moments that you feel close to God!
Matt rode his 5th lap...and came in at around 11:30 in the morning. I decided to ride my 5th lap also...I didn't want Matt to be the only one to ride 5 laps...and I was having fun...I wanted to ride a lap that didn't matter what the time was. I took my time and enjoyed the ride and the views...and even found a tire pump that is a lot better than mine!
The end....I finished my lap and my wife had a cold Corona waiting for me at the finish line. It was great!
We packed up our gear, got a free home cooked dinner from the Stockman cafe and then I struggled to stay awake on the way home to Billings...I'm apparrantly too tough (or dumb) to let my wife drive!
We didn't do bad...I think we had 4th or 5th place...not bad for a bunch of guys who'd never ridden in a race before!!