Tuesday, August 11, 2015

12 Hours of Great Glen

A boring title for one of the best weekends I have spent in a loooooonnngggg time. Michele Smith, my partner in crime and co-Captain of HUP United, and I set out to do the 2-person coed 12 Hours of Great Glen. This was the 20th anniversary of the race and the races final rodeo. This race is where it all started for me with HUP United and east coast mountain biking. What a difference 7 years makes! That first year in 2008 I raced on a 5-person 24 hour team with my new HUP teammates. It was an amazing trial by fire and set the stage for so many things. Over the years I would do it twice more. Those years we did 4-person teams and they always were so fun. 24 Hours of Great Glen is one of the most special events I have ever been to. When I heard it was the final year I had to go. Why do a 12 hour at a 24 hour race? Simple answer. I am old. Shocking but true. When I was younger I could stay up for two days straight drive home and it was no problem. At 50 with two kids, a dog and a cat I am so sleep deprived most of the time I can barely function. The last time we did a 4-person 24 I almost fell asleep on the drive home. Not cool. The other getting old factor is my night vision is terrible. Like next level terrible. More on that later.

Other than the old part I really wanted to have a family weekend. My family doesn't camp. And they don't go to bike races. It works out. We have an amazing family and do so much together. And I don't want to be one of those people who drags their wife and kids to stuff that they don't want to do. But when I told Syd the kid and Zoe about it they really wanted to go. Calling it camping is a stretch. It is a festival. Basically the Burning Man of mountain bike racing in New England. Well without the acid and molly. 24HOGG is an incredible family event. People always talk about bike races being family friendly but they really aren't. A few are passable but basically there aren't a ton of things to do at a bike race for kids and families. At Great Glen they put just as much effort into the family/kids events as the race itself. Have I mentioned my wife is a saint lately? The woman is amazing. Love of my life. But she really, really hates camping. And doesn't like being cold. But she volunteered to come with us. To say she saved the weekend is an understatement. Without her I would have lost it and the kids probably would have had a horrible time. She was a rock star acting as tent boss, soigneur, and go between for Michele and I. 

The weirdest thing about the 12-hour 2 person format is you never see your teammate. On a 4-person team there is a lot of sitting around, chatting, eating and hangouts. There are no hangouts on a 12 hour team. Michele and I talked to Colin before the start and he told us if we wanted to do well we had to do single laps. I knew the laps would be around an hour so that meant an hour on and an hour off. I was pretty confident if nothing went wrong we could do 12 laps. A lot had to go right for that but Michele is about the most solid bike racer I know. And I have a knack for hanging in there and at least being prepared in the bike department. I didn't do my usual freak out leading up to this race. Instead I just methodically planned and got shit done. And relied on so many friends. My PRO wrench Scott Novick dialed my Zank and lent me his lights. To say that was huge was an understatement. That dude and Landry's in general takes such good care of me its not even funny. So going in the goal was finish and do 12 laps, support our teammate Jon Nable who was doing 24 hour solo and have a fun weekend with the family. 

To say we got hit with the lucky stick as far as finding a camp ground is an understatement. We got a late start Friday and of course got stuck in traffic. Colin sent Michele and I an email with a google map image and a cryptic message to put our stuff in the orange box. I drove in and found the Bikereg row of tents and cars. I didn't want to crash there party and it looked pretty tight so I pulled out onto the field. I didn't really see any familiar faces but saw a huge compound with familiar tents. I got out of the swagger van and walked over and saw it was Don Seib and his family! Don and his family were awesome. They moved a car and helped us find a spot right next to them. Then Shoogs showed up. My stoke level kept increasing. I love Shoogs. He helped us set up the tents. Did I mention my family has never camped before? Syd the kid shared her love of knives with Shoogs and Shoogs taught us all how to set up tents. After that we went down to the big tent and Syd got to ride a mechanical bull. This weekend was shaping up to be epic.

That first night was cold. Maybe 50? But when we woke up it was perfect weather. We went up to the Auto Road Visitors Center and had the best breakfast sandwiches on the planet. The view looking out on Mt Washington certainly didn't suck either. Michele rolled in around 10 and we got our plan. I had already volunteered to do the run. Most 24 hour races start with a Le Mans start. Have I mentioned I hate running? I think I have run once since CX season. Perfect. I lined up next to Uri and Nable. We were surrounded by a man in a lion suit and a guy with Daisy Dukes that had Naked Cowboy painted on his ass. One of the great things about 24HOGG is the diversity of racers. I love that aspect of this race. Sure you have fast hardcore racers but you also have the party crowd and people just out for a good time. I some how did not pull a hammy on the run. The photo Michele took is hilarious. Jon and Uri are tall, thin and look fast. I look like Chris Farley. We got on the bikes and went off into the scrum. The course was run reverse this year which was interesting. Again this was my fourth time racing Great Glen. All three other times the course was basically the same. Lots of climbing, fire roads, cool singletrack, wood bridges, Blueberry Hill and the Plunge.

Back to my friends and family. Without them this could never have happened. Jon Nable as stated earlier was doing the 24 solo. That is beyond my comprehension. He is probably my nicest teammate. Always has a smile. Always in a good mood. He is also a very good cook. He offered Michele and I a batch of his homemade Skratch fuel. When I knew I was going to do this race I emailed Gewilli because I knew he had the race fuel thing dialed. I am a disaster with race food planning. This probably isn't a shock to anyone who reads this. I took G's advice. I had my own stash of fuel but Jon's was a lifesaver. The first couple of laps flew by. They were going around 50 or 54 for both of us. Michele and I were basically doing the same times which rocked. It made it very easy to get into a rhythm, Do a lap, get into the tent, eat, drink, adjust bike back out. We were doing great. I also was riding EVERYTHING! There are a few parts of this course that scare me. Not the Plunge that everyone talks about. The Plunge is a challenge and if things go bad it can be really bad. We had a teammate a few years back get knocked out of the race when he went over the bars on it.

But I don't fear the Plunge. What I have always feared are the wood bridges. I have gotten way better at wood bridges. But there is one on this course that has always gotten into my head. It is at top of the climb after Blueberry Hill. It is a pretty wide bridge but it is over a chasm. The drop is probably 10 feet into a waterfall that has carved out the rock. I have never ridden it in the 3 previous times I have done this race. But, like I said, I was feeling the wood bridges. Maybe its the Zank has sick mojo, maybe I have gotten a bit better riding who knows. I was so stoked I didn't die. Joking aside it was a pretty big accomplishment for me. At lap three things got a bit dark. Not sure if it was the heat or the run or the climbing but my left quad started telling me some very bad things. Things like "fuck you Chip" and "I am putting a stop to this NOW!" I finished my lap and got back to the tent.

I am not shy about how awesome my wife is. But she saved my ass after that lap. I ate two pickles, one of Jon's rice cakes and drank a bottle of Skratch. Then Pam took a cold bottle and rolled it across my quads. I popped two advil and a endurolyte. Boom. Back in action. Literally saved my race. The highlight of the race was getting to ride the Dusk lap with Jon and Uri. I was on my 5th lap and they were on their 7th. Ouch. It was a pretty funny lap. I did almost run over Uri after the fly over which was hilarious. The flyover was right after the transition and the three of us rolled out together. When I got to the top of the flyover and dropped down I saw Uri stopped at the bottom. I think I yelled "LOOKOUT" or something inaudible. Thankfully I somehow missed t-boning him. The Dusk lap was so cool. At about the half way point I turned my lights on as in the woods you couldn't really see. Or I couldn't as my eyes are horrible. We rode the Plunge in darkness and finished up the lap together!

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest factors in doing the 12-hour was that both of our night vision is pretty bad. I do think its an old age thing but maybe its staring at a blue screen too much who knows. It is what it is. After that half lap with lights I got back to the tent and swapped over to the other set of lights. I was about to get an education in night riding. I sort of noticed it on the Dusk lap that my ability to ride took a dive. It could have been fatigue but not having a full range of vision was messing me up. The next lap in full darkness was bananas. I overcooked the first wood bridge. Like I went in wayyyy too hot and used it like a jump. WTF. Luckily this bridge wasn't over anything sketchy. I rode off fine. Then I went off one of the skinny wood bridges. The most hilarious crash was off Blueberry Hill. A woman flew off a bridge in front of me. I asked her if she was ok and then proceeded to go fly off at the EXACT same spot! So at that point instead of beating myself up about sucking so bad I just made a tactical decision to walk all the wood bridges. My times were literally the same as riding. That was pretty bizarre but makes sense. My run/trot was as fast or faster than either crashing or picking my way along a skinny wood bridge in the dark.

At about 11 pm we got a text from Michele's husband Ed. Ed is awesome. I call him Captain America. I can't really transcribe exactly what his two texts contained but they were perfect. And were just what we needed to finish that 12th lap. Ed gets the motivational speaker award at the HUP banquet this year! We finished a solid 12 laps and in third place. Michele crushed it. Especially that last lap. She is my total hero. That last lap was a test of will for sure. Not easy after 11 hours to head out and ride in the dark over nasty wood bridges. That lap sealed the podium for us! So proud to have been able to race this together with Michele. She is such a great friend and teammate.

Standing on that podium with her with my family watching was incredible. That was my first podium ever. It seems stupid but it was such a great feeling. It was the best weekend.  I really hope Great Glen finds a way to keep doing this. They run an amazing race. There really is nothing else like this.

A few last thoughts. As much as this was about a race it was about much more. I didn't know how my family would like this. They loved it. Again in large part to the staff at Great Glen and the atmosphere they created. They had so many kid and family activities going on while we were racing.

I want to thank Great Glen, the Seib family, Shoogs and Michele for being so great with my family and kids.

Syd the kid had an amazing weekend. She did her first ever mountain bike race in huge part because Michele lent her a bike and helmet to race with. Meg the social media person at Great Glen led all the kids races. She is a hero. Both my kids want to race mountain bikes and go to more events like this because of what a great time they had.

Syd was also the cheezits tossing champion. Basically they had a contest to see who could get the most cheezits stuck in their shaving cream covered hair. It was totally hilarious. I think Pam even enjoyed the weekend. She would run up to the Plunge and cheer as I came down. Would run all over with the kids. Sadly she did not get to make it to the Moats beer garden. I promised her a trip to North Conway to visit the Brewery. I probably owe her a trip to Kripalu as well.

1 comment:

  1. awesome write up! One of my favorites!
    did a number of 24hr races over the years- only did great glen once, but I'm pretty sure it was my favorite!
    good on you sir!