Monday, August 26, 2013

24 hours of Hell(side)

Four months ago, if you had asked me if I wanted to try to mountain bike for 24 hours I would've said, "Hell no." I'm a lover of sleep so riding a bike for that long seemed impossible. Then I ended up inadvertently riding for over 24 hours at Alexander in May and I got the idea of trying a 24 hour mountain bike race stuck in my head.

I have no idea why I thought riding on gravel for 24 hours qualified me to ride on singletrack for 24 hours. 

Luckily for me, the 24 hours of Hellside was taking place on my birthday so I got my chance. I could eat cupcakes AND ride my bike. Perfect!

We were scheduled to start at 5pm Friday, so I spend the morning cooking.
Don't worry- I shared the cupcakes.
It might seem like a lot, but I assure you I ate all but one piece of that pizza by 5pm Saturday, along with endless amounts of M&M's, Snickers, Dr. Pepper, Gatorade and salami sandwiches. I was still hungry all day Sunday.

By 5pm, I was amped and ready to go. We started with a quick trail run before getting on our bikes so for once I actually got to be ahead of Big E for a couple of miles.  Unfortunately, just before he caught me on lap one, I heard a scream through the trees. There was no mistake it was him. A few seconds later I heard him moan. I was off my bike in seconds charging through the trees following the sounds of his moans. I would like to say I was his hero and made it to his side in seconds. It went nothing like that. I panicked and ran circles in the woods instead, close enough to see him but unable to figure out how to get there.

Clearly I'm not the person you want around in an emergency.

In hindsight, this was probably a good thing because if I'd seen this I probably wouldn't have gotten back on my bike.
Thankfully, Sue had made it to him and they assured me he was okay and I could keep riding. Needless to say I was a little shaky the rest of lap 1.

The first few laps went by fast. By lap four, I needed lights. The fatigue set in right about the time it got dark. With only my single gear, suddenly I was tipping over on uphills I had ridden earlier. So, by lap five, I had switched to flat pedals. I'd brought them only in case of a broken pedal or cleat, but in the end, they were the best thing I brought. I'd completely underestimated my ability to actually handle a bike after 6 hours of single track.  Being able to hop off and run or walk was a life saver.

By the end of lap 7, I was fried. It was after 2am and I needed sleep. You'd think it would come easily, but two hours later, after not a wink, I finally got back up, got back on the bike and returned to the suffering. As I neared the end of that lap, the sun came up, making it worth one more lap without sleep.

At this point, I was discovering just why 24 hour mountain bike races are so hard. I was too tired to ride, but too amped to sleep. I needed all of my brain power to keep from crashing, but only had 50 percent of it left.  Completely delirious, I discovered I couldn't even get my own socks off to put try clothes on to lay down. All I could do was lay on the ground with my legs in the air and laugh hysterically as Big E pulled them off. Clearly I needed a nap.

Two hours, and probably less than an hour of sleep later, I gave up on sleep again and headed back out. Somehow, on and off, I managed  a few more laps, taking solace in the fact that I at least had company frequently since the guys who'd slept at night were now riding circles around me. Finally, just before 3pm, I had to sit down in the middle of a lap.  I'd seen leaves I thought were turtles and nearly crashed crossing the only pavement on the course. When I finally finished that lap, I called it a day. I watched the boys duke it out for a couple more laps and stressed out about how in the heck I was ever going to be able to drive the hour home. All that riding and the thing that worried me most was having to drive me car!

In the end, it was an awesome way to spend a birthday. It was torturous and so much harder than I thought it would be, but it was totally worth it, as all torturous things usually are.

So here's to being one year older....and 24 hours wiser.


  1. You are insane. I love your life, but hell to the no of me doing anything that crazy!

  2. Lisa, I don't know what you are made of, but it should be studied by scientists. All the guys were amazed by your stamina and speed, and i was sure to remind them all you were doing the same or better than them, with a fraction of their muscle mass, lung capacity, and length of bone. You are astounding!!!