As night ticks away to morning and the Boogeyman of sleep calls, three men
refuse to answer. Mike Curiak of Crested Butte, Colorado, said "yeah, I got some
sleep, during my 5am lap up the 'grind.' I kept drifting off to sleep and
would wander off the road, just to be jolted awake when I heard the
crunching of brush under my tires."
Then the rush of adrenaline would navigate him
back on to the road, only to have this cycle repeated. Dana Bradshaw of Tahoe
City, California, and I would also have the same glorious milliseconds of sleep, but,
unlike most, we would be moving forward while sleeping.
crashed a half dozen times; one bad highspeeder over the handlebars as I
tried without success to navigate the 'sand box'..."|
4:30am If all goes well and my lights don't mysteriously burn out, the 32
watts of halogen I am riding with will be enough lumens to keep me
traveling just under daylight speeds. I am riding the fifth of six night
laps and have been fighting off sleep for some time. The sky has the look
of predawn blue. In another hour, the sun should rise, saving my mind from my
body's need to sleep. Concentration continues to be difficult, I have
crashed a half dozen times one bad high speeder over the handlebars as I
tried without success to navigate the "sand box." This bottomless pit of
sand lay at the end of a 20 mph descent.
Welcome to the Zombie Zone. In this state of mind we rely totally on our
support crew. My "handler," Elaine Marques LMP, kept me upright the entire
race. Elaine worked on my cramping, whiny legs three times but never let
me sit down. For 23 hours and 15 minutes the only seat I sat on was atop two
wheels. Her job, to keep me hydrated with XL-1 and fed with the right
foods, GU, and in my lucky case, massaged.
When I get to this point, there exists only the instinct to keep riding. I
imply a state of Zen in this, yes, the bicycle is a curious vehicle; its
passenger is its engine. So long as the feet continue to push down on the
pedals, there exists an engine and I can power it without thought.
The 11-mile course has 1400' of climbing per lap giving us a fast,
technical course with lots of single track trail roller coastering over
hills which lead into short, steep climbs with names like "hurl hill"
and "the grid." Miss La Niña left her mark on these trails by way of
erosion, ruts, washboards, trenches and horse traffic making for a very
There can be many ways to look at 24 hour racing on a lap course like
Laguna Seca. You can feel like a lab rat running a maze for the
piece of cheese or like the mythical Greek, Sisyphus doomed to pushing a rock
up an endless hill. These races are a bit like a Sisyphian task; constant repetition. The challenge
lies within the task seeing how many laps you can ride and
"clearing" the most challenging obstacles the course has to offer every
time around; to experience the splendid delights of procrastinating a rest
on the next lap, but never actually stopping.
Then there is the strategy. Where is the competition? Who is resting,
and how long have they been in? Should I take a break or keep going?
Putting time on the competition will always be the number one obsession as
there's a terrible delight in watching a rival sink without a trace.
It all started on a cloudy Saturday.
12pm 31 teams and 15-soloists waiting for the start of the 2nd annual 24 Hours of Adrenalin. Sponsored by TriLife
International and Mountain Bike magazine. The traditional La Mann start,
screaming teammates, dogs barking, the sound of hundreds of clipless pedal
cleats tapping on the asphalt. As a soloist I know this is just the first lap of a long race, and getting caught up with the high paced energy only means the pain will be greater later.
The four-person team, Boyer Sports, has taken off to a fast start, ripping
up the trail with a 40 minute lap; precision transition sprinting up the
stairs then over the Bosch bridge to start their next lap. Team Velo
Sapiens continue to be hot on its tail. It takes matching laps and
precision to keep up with this blistering pace. The two person team
AL-LA-SA endures trouble with a bike and stays working hard to keep in the
hunt. In a 24-hour race, the hunt is long, mistakes can be overcome and
The largest division is the sport and corporate teams, with names like Dirt
Digglers, Hells Bells and The Drive Bys. It is not surprising these folks
are here to have a good time, drink beer, socialize, and enjoy the fun in
the sun. This is the riding Northern California is famous for. Team
Sports Center Bicycles has tricked out its pit area with a Christmas
tree, living room couches, recliners, and a home entertainment center.
Trilife's mantra remains, "tri life or die." These folks are having a good
time with a competitive edge. Is this possible?
The 15 soloists are riding in the groove, putting down 54 and 55 minute laps
for the first six hours, tearing up the trail at their own paces. The lead
has passed around from Herman Adam of San Rafael, California to myself to Califonian Brian
Sidwell of Santa Cruz. As we take pulls up the "grind" it's lap 7 and Brian
says to me, "I think we are doing well for being seven hours into the race."
"There's a terrible delight in watching a rival sink without a trace..."
I grunt and wonder how hard I can push myself to keep up with Brian. I
take my turn at breaking the wind and say "This is nothing, tell me how you
feel after 20 hours." I let Brian go. This is his first 24-hour race and
his pace is way too fast. I think, "wait 'til dark and see how he looks."
The female solist, Chloe Lanthier of Whistler B.C., Canada, has opened up a sizeable
lead on local rider Laura Kelly. Laura had intended to race on a 5-person
team that fell apart just before the race. She decided to go for the solo
spot and get something out of her non-refundable entry.
12am Midnight, the halfway point. As I stand and eat tortellini smothered in
cream sauce, Elaine fills me in on the competition. "Brian has been
sleeping for two hours, Herman is Silly Putty in a lawn chair." After going
out too fast, these guys must pay the price. Elaine goes on to say, "Mike
and Dana have yet to take any major stops, both look strong and steady."
Self doubt wells up and I wonder if I can keep up this pace. Will I be answering
the door when the Boogeyman knocks?
3am The night rolls on; not much action around the venue; team members
are working to get their laps over with so they can get back to sleep. NightRider Lighting Systems endure the night by talking their hyperactive tech-babble,
showing off the latest tech batteries, charging and recharging batteries to
keep the teams on the go, but mostly just turning the night into daylight.
Also gone are the many words of encouragement that help keep us going.
As I look into my support van, I can hear the calm breathing of Elaine
getting some much desired sleep. She has planned ahead and left out a full
camel back of XL-1, plus to my surprise, a bag of chocolate covered
espresso beans. For the ten-thousandth time today Elaine has read my mind.
10am For the past 22 hours I have worked to increase my lead and now my
job is complete. Boyer Sports and Velo Sapiens continue to ride strong. The female team, Sport Center Bicycles, has decimated its competition. The two person teams, AL-LA-SA and B-Stone Cafe Racers have stayed within
minutes of each other. Dana Bradshaw has been busy putting time on Mike
Curiak. In the end, six minutes will separate these two men. Chloe Lanthier has stayed way ahead of her competition.
"For 45 minutes Mike lay down and almost out
with stomach cramps..."
The cacophony of support grows louder with each lap as we soloists ride around the venue to start another dreaded lap. The California sun grows hotter with each minute. Trail conditions have deteriorated with each passing tire. The end is in sight.
11:30am Halfway through lap 19, my mind is in a tug-of-war. Should
I hold back and coast in at high noon or push and get another lap? My ego
says push, set a new course record, but my overheating feet say slow down
for gods sake "you have it in the bag." For the past 23 hours I have been
on a mission, why should I stop now? All my doubt is washed away by the
deafening cheers of the crowd. The wave of support carries me over the
Bosch bridge to start lap 20.
Mike Curiak comes up from behind, together we endure our last lap. Mike
rides in silent self torment. For 45 minutes Mike lay down and almost out
with stomach cramps. With his hold on second place slipping away, the
clock ticking against him, he reached deep, climbed back on his bike, and
pedaled out two more laps. For the last time we ride "hurl hill". Mike
says "hurl was hard to ride but looked harder to walk."
The sun is hanging at high noon, pounding its heat down on our backs as we
start the last climb up "the grind." The rock is almost on the top of the
hill. As I ride down the steps of the Bosch bridge rounding the corner to
the waiting crowd, cheers erupt. Crossing the finish line to deafening
cheers, speakers blaring, the hug of Elaine, I am overcome with the desire
to sit in the shade and rest.
Pat Norwil, Mountain Zone Contributor
Norwil, of Washington, won this year's Laguna Seca and tied for second in Alaska's Iditasport Extreme.
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