…about a road that stretches into the horizon, passes over rocks, sand, through trees and rivers. A road that climbs and descends, twists and turns. What is it about a road that goes on so far and so long that it lasts through the day, through the night and again into the day? And how is it that this road is simultaneously intimidating and inviting, exhilarating and exhausting? Why is it that despite the pain that comes with traveling this road, more and more people find themselves taking the journey? What is it about solo 24 hour racing that I find so addicting?
When people find out that I like to do 24 hour races I usually get a variation of the same response. “You’re crazy!” “Why would you do THAT?” “Wait, you do it alone?” “I could never do that.” There is something that attracts me to the challenge. Normal cross-country bike races are fun, fast and painful. They require an all out effort over a 2-3 hour period of time. They are mentally draining and physically taxing. But they don’t have that certain “it”. At least not for me. Now don’t get me wrong, I love XC racing. I look forward to the season all year. I travel around the state to various events. I love the atmosphere and the competition. But for me, they can’t compare to the anticipation of 24 hours in the saddle.
I think the difference comes with the setting of the sun. In the limted experience I have in 24 hour racing, the hardest part for me is when the sun goes down. That is when the realization sets in that while everyone around you settles in for a warm night by the fire, you are setting out on a cold, dark sojourn into the unknown. I have never been so mentally taxed as I am when I point my light onto the course and turn my back to the light and laughter of a good campfire, cold drink and warm food. And yet, at the same time, I have never been so drawn to something. It is the beauty and mystery of 24 hour racing.
I don’t think I can exactly say what it is that attracts me to these races. When I attended my first 24 Hours of Moab I was a spectator. I was in the start finish area just as the sun rose. Nat Ross came through after a lap, and he sat down in a chair. His support crew fed him, swapped his bikes, rubbed his shoulders and sent him on his way. He finished 2nd that year behind 24 hour legend Rishi Grewal. That was the first time I experienced the “it”. The seed was planted and I let it grow. Last year I did my first solo race, fittingly, at the 24 hours of Moab. Nat Ross was there again. He lapped me 5 times en route to his victory. But somewhere in the suffering and the “learning the hard way” I became a 24 Hour Solo Racer.