24 Hours of Gold, Lake Oroville

November 13-14, 2010

"We choose to race 24 hours. We choose to race 24 hours in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
--John F. Kennedy (mostly), 1962 speech at Rice University

I'm not sure I should write this until some more time has passed to allow for this to sink in, but I will anyway. Oroville 24-Hour, or more properly called "24 Hours of Gold 2010", was my first 24 solo mountain bike race. We had done several 2-man 24's this season, and those were pretty hard. More than a couple of people actually told me that 2-man is harder than solo, because theoretically with 2-man, you have long enough to cool down while alternating laps, but not enough time to rest. Let me set the record straight for all time - 24 solo is HARDER. Period.

vertical profileOroville was a perfect introduction to 24 solo as the course was relatively non-technical, pretty short (7.6 miles), and really good facilities with sparkling clean restrooms and even coin-operated showers right in the campground.

I went into the race thinking the climbing was very light as well, but it turns out there was about 920 feet of climbing per lap, which is on par with several other courses in total per mile. Most of the climbing was in the first mile and a half, with some short sections upwards of 25% grade. Those became "walkers" after 3 or 4 laps.

Once past that first bit, the rest of the course was really nice, some nice swoopy turny single track that was just fun. Again it wasn't technical, but not butter-smooth either. Race organization and trail marking was good with the LOBO group (Lake Oroville Bicyclists Organization, setting everything up for this third year.

The weather was absolutely perfect. High 60's in the day, and I think it really only got into the high 40's and low 50's overnight. That area has all sorts of weird little micro-climates - you could round a hill or something and feel the temps change 10 degrees up or down! The campground and start/finish was the coldest area by far.

pitMark and I shared a pit, headed up expertly by Mike again. I can't say enough good things about the help Mike provided - I told him several times there is no way I could have done this without him. So once again - thank you Mike.

We had my trailer full of chicken noodle soup, fruit, pop-tarts, Gu's, Coke, and bananas. There must have been more food but that's all I can remember eating.

We were able to help our pit neighbors with power for light charging and had the heater going inside the trailer overnight so everyone could stay warm.

pitThe first couple of laps went by pretty quick - a couple of 42 minute laps, then a 43 and I stayed in the mid 40's until nightfall.

The night riding was actually nice (at least in the beginning), as most of the trails are pretty wide. Night riding has a way of focusing your attention to the immediate task at hand - all you can see is the trail in front of you and maybe 30 yards pretty woods to look at, no lake, nothing else that may distract you. Problem is, you do have to stay sharp as things happen pretty fast at night. That gets harder as you get progressively more tired. At least it wasn't as cold as forecast.

The night laps droned on, and on, and on...there was about 14 hours of darkness in total. I wound up doing 10 night laps, averaging 52 minutes per lap which is OK I guess although my daylight lap average was 46 minutes. My light situation stayed under control most of the time as I had spare batteries for both sets of lights, and left the first battery charging after running it down. I think I only swapped my bar light battery once, and the headlight 2 or 3 times. It petered out toward the end of my last night lap but it was manageable.

Pit times naturally extend at night, more a function of the duration of the race, but also due to taking time to warm up and occasionally change gear. As usual the sunrise was a welcome sight and the first full daylight lap on Sunday was pretty fast.

As you may imagine, fueling is one of the biggest challenges in a race of this duration. It's impossible to replace calories at the rate you burn them, but you do have to keep eating, and for me, the longer the race goes, the less appealing food becomes. Variety helps, but eventually pretty much all food becomes hard to eat. Hydration is also very, very important even if the temperatures are low. Mike kept the food and fluid flowing the entire time.

the bikeFinal stats:
* 160.1 miles
* 19,656 feet of climbing
* 17 hours 12 minutes on the bike (well, mostly)
* Garmin reports 11,675 calories burned but I actually think it was a little higher (the Garmin normally way over-states calories).
* 4th? place out of 13 in my category

Garmin profile:

Bike: Specalized Stumpjumper FSR 29er, running WTB Wolverine 2.2 on the front, Specialized Captain 2.0 on the back, both at 32 psi pressure.

As usual, I could not have done this without the support of my wonderful family. I may have been the one pedaling the bike, but Dale and Bud were there with me every turn of the crank. That support is not limited to race day either...the hours and hours of training mean time away from home, and finding the right balance between work, family, and training is sometimes difficult. My family's unwavering support through the entire season is a hugely critical component of success.

finish line hug

I feel comfortable that I left it all out there. One main reason I wanted to do this race was to gain a little redemption after my miserable failure at Whiskeytown. I think that is now assured. But, we have opened up a can of worms here, proven to myself that 24 solo IS possible, now I just have to improve.

What now? A little R&R. Probably taking a month or so off, just some goof-off riding and not thinking about racing until next year.

Why would anyone race their mountain bike for 24 hours straight? I don't really know. If any of you figure it out, let me know!

Written by Cris Flint, Team Trail Hounds