The Spokane 24 hour mountain bike started with a "Le Mans" style start, which you'll most definitely want to experience via the link below. I was skeptical about this element of the race. We're going to be racing for 24 hours- is it really necessary to tack on an additional 800 meter lap for one unlucky soul? Isn't this just a footnote on the weekend's guaranteed agony? Lucky for us, Dave actually does some running on purpose, and even enjoys it, so he agreed to be our start man.
With a gun blast, the race commenced. I must admit, I did get quite a kick out of watching a gaggle of lycra and helmet-clad athletes trotting awkwardly across the start line in cycling shoes.
Apparently, the Le Mans style start originated in the famous auto endurance race, 24 Hours of LeMans, so this was a nod to European racing tradition. From a practical perspective, it was a good way to get everyone spread out before the single track started. In any case, the more gifted runners came across the line in very short order. Bikes were grabbed and pedals were clipped in, and riders took off. Our own Bodacious Booty came through mid pack, tongue out, looking relaxed and happy.
With Dave on course, Tyler got ready for the first relay handoff. The rest of us tried not to get nervous, and made about 20 trips to the outhouse to pee. At least we were well hydrated! Much sooner than expected, Dave came whizzing by our camp on his way across the finish line, his time in the 1:15 range. That's including the run, so he was setting a pretty fast pace. Tyler was waiting at the finish, and their handoff went smoothly. One hour, eight minutes later, Tyler ducked into the finish area. I was there to meet him.
I grabbed the timing watch from him and strapped it on my wrist, grabbed my bike from my mom (isn't she so cute and excited?)....
...and I was off!!
I hopped into my pedals and took off on the fire road into the first left hand turn and up the initial climb. I entered the fire roads of the "Lakes District," one of the many sections of the course named and marked by the race organizers. This section included dried up mud puddles that had been deep a few weeks earlier but were now just dust bowls.
I left the lakes district behind and rolled onto smooth, dry singletrack which threaded slightly downhill through open pine forest, punctuated every now and again by a rock garden. Clipping along at a comfortably fast pace, my momentum carried me through the rocky sections and I regained the smooth part without losing much speed. SO MUCH FUN!
Topping out on a paved road, the course then followed more fire roads through the forest. There was one fun whoop-de-doo that, if you hit it fast enough, carried you through the bottom of the dip to the top with nary a pedal stroke.
Just past checkpoint 1, I came to Devil's Up, the part I had gotten up in practice on Friday. This time, I didn't hit my line and had to hoof it up the last 15 feet. I hopped on my bike and nailed Devil's Down, cruising down into Strawberry Fields with a big, bug-catching grin on my face.
The next section of the trail, Marrakesh Express, followed a beautiful, rhythmic section of trail along the rim of the Spokane River, which was flowing deep and fast. The river was so swollen that Little Vietnam, one of my favorite trails, was under two feet of rushing water. We were diverted instead up a short but steep climb onto the Centennial Trail, a paved path that leads all the way to Idaho. I locked my suspension fork for this section and tried to draft behind some of the hammerheads blazing past me.
At the bottom of the Centennial Trail, we hooked left back into the woods. Maybe I was getting tired by this point, but the trails in Take A Little Piece of My Heart really did seem to take a piece out of me. This part included a series of short up and downs and tight turns which lacked rhythm. This wasn't my favorite part of the course, but it didn't last too long. Soon I was on the next climb, a steep grinder that topped off into Purple Haze, another choppy, somewhat technical section of course.
Purple Haze ended with one more steep little bugger of a climb, then it was smooth sailing on fire roads for the last mile into the finish. I came across the finish line with a time of 1:12, which I was happy with. I handed the bracelet to Jill, then rode back to camp to get changed and help Chad get ready.
Chad and I got his bike all set up, then headed to the start tentl. It was his first race ever, so we talked through the course and I shared all of my tips- how and where to pass, to remember to eat and drink, and to enjoy it!
It wasn't long at all before Jill completed her lap, coming in strong and smiling. I held Chad's bike for him as he grabbed the timing strap. He hopped on his bike zipped off with a grin. I returned to camp, grabbed a lawn chair and a beer, and hung out, though not for long! When he came through the finish, he had a huge grin on his face, and I was so damn proud to be doing a bike race with my husband! Way to go, Chaddie!