The best mountain bike races have endless miles of interesting trail, nothing repeated, everything new and varied. Unfortunately, this ideal doesn’t exist in every race–it’s just not feasible nor would it be an efficient use of resources. The course is a loop. You repeat the loop. The question is how many laps will I have to do? In 24-hour racing, that number changes throughout the day. In my case, as a duo team, the number of laps depends on my own speed as well as my partner’s speed. I may start out fast but I will certainly slow down. There may be a mechanical. Or, we may be faster than we ever imagined, wind at our backs! Yay! I get to ride more laps! How you feel about the number of laps you will ride also evolves as the race progresses. You begin with big hopes of lots of laps but inevitably you find yourself praying for the end, hoping not to have to go out again. Why did I sign up for this? What was I thinking? I’m never, ever doing this again. I wish my partner would ride slower so I don’t have to go out again… But let’s back up to the happy part before we get to the painful part.
While riding lap 1, it’s all fun and new. You’re curious and interested. The course seems amazing and perhaps even easy. Lap 2 might bring a bit of the ‘oh, here’s that rock move again.’ You may even be happy to revisit it, relieved to be given the opportunity to find a better line, a sexier move. Eventually, though, some part of the race course will bug you. Really really irritate you. Rock garden, painful punchy climb, flow-less flow. Irritation. For me, that came on lap 2, mile 18. The dumbest mile. It felt long and slow and kinda steep. The course was a bit over 19 miles so at mile 18, I’m gunning for the barn. Bring it on in! Let’s wrap this up. But mile 18 didn’t give me the spin I wanted. It was hard.
How to come to terms with it. I realize that Mile 18 will be there on every lap I do. As part of a female duo team, I knew I’d see Mile 18 a lot. Maybe 7 or even 8 times! I must come to terms with this mile. I cannot hate Mile 18 all day and all night! So I vowed to find redemption. While riding Mile 18 for the 3rd time, I noticed she began with a slight downhill. Look at you, Mile 18! A turn in the woods, some rolling single track. Well, I’ll be! Right on, Mile 18. You are not so bad. Not so bad at all. Mile 18, you’ve got it going on. I like your turns. Your climbs are mild even if they are a little punchy. We can get along. We will be OK. Bob Marley played in my head. Redemption songs. All I ever had: redemption songs.
On my last lap, I timed Mile 18. Maybe 6 minutes. Really? I love miles that pass by in 6 minutes. LOVE THEM! Six minutes is nothing in the geologic time of 24-hour racing. I’m still not sure I’ll ever do it again. OK, I’m lying. I’m already looking forward to the next 24-hour race. I adore 24-hour racing. Lap after lap after lap. I love the pain. I love the flow. I love the almost-crying because I get to stop soon. The anticipation of each lap. It’s good, clean fun.
24 Hours of Enchanted Forest in a Nutshell: The rain fell hard and the mud stopped the roll of the wheels. The race director made the decision to pause the race at 10:30pm. We resumed riding at 6:30 in the morning to a beautiful, fast, dust-free course (re-routed around the mud). My teammate, Heidi Godsil, and I took first place in the duo female category, 2 laps ahead of the very-strong number 2 team. Although this was nationals for 24-hour mountain bike racing, the duo category was not a national championship category. I highly recommend this race! The Enchanted Forest course is fun and fast. I will come back. Maybe solo. Uh-oh, did I just put that in writing?