What a weekend! On Friday I drove up with my teammates to Gorham, NH to set up camp for the 20th (and final) 24 Hours of Great Glen mountain biking race. There was another local team that made it up first, so they had snagged a campsite big enough for all of us. Driving in at night, it was hard to see much, but the next morning I was really impressed by how many people, cars, and how much gear was crammed into a field! It was like the most expensive shanty town ever.
After picking up our race packets the next morning, a couple of us rode some of the trails. 24HOGG is a laps based race- there is a 9 mile loop that you ride over and over and over as many times as possible in 24 hours. Knowing that, I wanted to see the first couple miles, but I figured I’d see the rest of it soon enough.
The race kicked off at 12 noon with a gunshot. It was a Le Mans start, meaning that the first person on the team (or in the case of solo riders, the rider) runs 1/4 mile around the lake before grabbing their bike and taking off. It helps to spread out the pack a little before all the riders head into the woods. Before I knew it, it was my turn to ride. By that time, it had spread out a lot, but there were still people I could see ahead of me. The race course was a nice mix of gravel roads and single track, and it had a lot of climbing. I was so grateful to be a good climber as I passed some people walking up the first technical hill climb. That’s the great thing about this race though- all sorts of people did it from elite men to relative newbies. You’d certainly have to walk a lot of it if you weren’t experienced, but you could do it.
Soon, we all got into a rhythm- go down when the person on the course is supposed to finish and grab their bike, drink water (so much water), eat food, digest, head down and race a lap, repeat. My teammates were so great- there was always someone waiting for you at the end of the lap to grab your bike and tell you what a great job you did. That kind of support means a lot, especially once night fell and we started to get really tired.
At night, we did double laps- twice the course- so that everyone else could get more rest. I was the most nervous about those, but they ended up being perfectly fine. There’s something peaceful about riding at night- your light only shows a couple feet of the trail, so you can’t overthink it. It had a way of focusing me. After my double night laps, I took a shower, ate, and crashed…for about an hour. I woke up feeling like I needed to be riding my bike and couldn’t go back to sleep.
My next lap was in daylight, which was great. I heard some other racer say “daylight and coffee and I’m a whole new person,” which is pretty much how I felt. But my legs did not feel new at all. The spirit was there, but the legs were just tired- sheer determination was pulling me up all the hills now.
Before I knew it, I was on my last lap. It was warm and sunny again, the mountains were beautiful, and I tried to appreciate every minute as I fought my way through the course one more time.
24 Hours of Great Glen was such a great race. It was my first biking race ever (and we won our category!), and I’m glad it was that one because everyone, from the volunteers, to the staff, to the other racers, was so nice. Having a big group of people up there that I knew was also great for the spirit.