24 Hours of Matanuska Recap

I want to start by congratulating my sister and brother-in-law on their new baby boy!  Really wish I could be there to see him, but we’ll be visiting very soon!  Love you all!

The race:

Here’s to one big fat check off the list of things I’ve always wanted to do on a bike:  finish a solo 24 hour mountain bike race.  Third place, however, really threw me for a loop since I wasn’t expecting to be anywhere near the top 5, much less on a fully rigid singlespeed.  I was in really good company, too.  Just Google the winner’s name, Jeff Oatley, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  There’s no shame in finishing 2 laps down to that guy!  Check out the full results here.

Ok, so here’s the rundown.  In spite of the pre-race jitters I slept pretty well the night before the race.  In fact, I hit the snooze button that morning three fewer times than usual.  Luckily the car was already packed save for the cooler and the bikes.  All we had to do was get in the car and go (and get coffee on the way). 

24 hour, etc 004

Packed up

I’ll spare you all the details about setting up camp and moving it several times.  I’m sure a picture will suffice instead.

Base Camp

Base Camp

After that, it was pretty much just filling bottles, gel flasks, CamelBaks, and changing clothes.  Oh, and eating.  Lots. 

Taking a mental inventory.

Taking a mental inventory.

Finally at 11:45 we had our racers’ meeting.  And when Greg talks, you’d better shut up and listen.  But only because he’s so quiet.

It only looks like we're listening.

It only looks like we're listening.

This year the organizers did away with the Le Mans style start.  Sweet.  I hate running.  Instead, it was a full-blown Sylvester Stallone mass start.  That was cool too.  I started in the back of the pack since I was riding for 24 straight hours, and I wasn’t worried about getting to the single-track first.  So it was pretty much ‘game on’ from that point.

The first few laps went pretty well.  Uneventful really.  Just riding and refilling.  I had already taken my arm warmers off by the end of the first lap and started on my second CamelBak (and had my first of several falls) by the fourth.  It was hot!  And the talcum powder-like sand on the double track wasn’t helping either.  My legs were caked in a melange of sweat, dust, and horse shit.  Too bad I didn’t get a picture of that.

The miles kept clicking away and my lap times got longer and longer.  I was pushing the bike up hills I was riding pretty easily before.  I call it “out of the saddle” climbing– get it?  By this point, I was really bargaining with myself to keep going.  My back was spasming, I had already fallen a few times (once right after changing into fresh clothes, dammit), and I really hate riding in the dark (my night vision is horrible).  Fortunately each loop ended in a beautiful stroll through fields and meadows before getting back to the start/finish.  Plenty of time to gather my thoughts.

Still chipper (sort of).

Still chipper (sort of).

It only took about two and a half laps to go from dusk till dawn, but seeing the sun come up was such an incredible boost mentally.  From then on, I was on cruise control.  At my last pit stop I was told that I was in 2nd place, and Chet Fehrmann, 3rd place at that time, had just gone out for another lap.  On the lap prior to this one (lap 16) I went all out thinking I would call it a day, but after my wife told me that, I felt like I had one more in me.  So off I went like a bat out of hell.

Watch out little doggies!

Watch out little doggies!

I lasted until the second section of twisty singletrack before I completely blew up.  As Chet rode past me on one of the super steep double tracks, we came to a gentleman’s agreement to finish the race on that lap.  I will say though, that four and a half minutes is pretty damn close after nearly 24 hours.  I couldn’t be happier to finish third to a nicer person.

(L-R) Jeff, me, and Chet. Photo by Tim Berntson

The aftermath:

I learned a lot from my first solo 24 hour race.  The one thing that especially sticks out is to have experienced people to help.  Not everyone has that luxury, I know, but it made all the difference.  Also, there’s no amount of Noxzema or Chamois Butt’r in the world that could have prevented the monumental chaffing going on downstairs.  Bacon is a great comfort food, but not when you’re 6 laps into an endurance race.  I’m sure the vomit may have attracted some of the wildlife I saw on my subsequent laps.  Honestly I didn’t really eat as much as I thought I would.  It’s amazing what your stomach can and can’t hold down.  It’s pretty much running the show so when it talks, you’d better listen.  In fact I’m still trying to get a normal-sized meal in my body, but all I could handle Monday was about 5 or 6 small meals.  Above all, stay hydrated!  Even when your bottles look like this:

Who doesn't like crunch water?

Who doesn't like crunchy water?

In retrospect, I could have gone without the CamelBak and saved my lower back the troubles.  I was very surprised at how little caffeine I consumed during the race.  That kick from one of those Starbucks energy drinks in the big ass can sure did the trick on the last lap and a half. 

The day after is almost as painful as the actual race.  That’s when you start taking an inventory of all the nicks, scrapes, bruises, and hundreds of bug bites.

Blisters and bug bites

Blisters and bug bites

Hip-checked a tree

Hip-checked a tree

I’d show you a picture of the chaffing, but it’s just too awful to post here.  And there’s not nearly enough room to show you all the mosquito bites I got.  Word to the wise:  if you have to stop and pee, make it quick.

The accolades:

This was by far the most physically difficult thing I have ever done.  Perhaps mentally too.  I seriously doubt I could have done it without all the help and heckling from all my friends.  Without making this sound like too much of an Academy Award acceptance speech, here goes:  Thanks to Melissa for feeding me and putting up with my crap; Carlos for doing what Melissa did but less gently; Joe for keeping the bike running when I wasn’t; Amber for cheering me on in the wee hours of the morning when I really wanted to go to sleep; Oscar for picking me up out of the bushes when I wrecked…and the Skittles too; Brian for sticking around so I could ride with you for 1/16 lap (damn you’re fast); Julie for your words of encouragement out on the course; Jana (and those adorable kids) for keeping Oscar going…and the Skittles; Manny and Debbie for coming to hang out and cheer us all on (man, that sushi looked good); Linda for coming out and cheering on her coworker; Greg for putting on such a kick ass race on a kick ass course; and lastly to Janice for putting the thoughts in my head, the spirit in my soul, and the strength in my legs.  I hope I didn’t leave anyone out, but if I did, I’m sure it’s due to exhaustion.

Photo by Phil Barnes

Thanks again, everybody!  Hope you’re up for another one next year!




  1. […] The man that was previously thought to be insane has indeed finished the 24 hour race. Not only did he finish, but he got 3rd place. This is especially incredible considering the race resume of the top 2 finishers includes little known races such as the RAAM, Fireweed 400 &200, The Susitna 100 (on bike and or skis),The Ididabike Challange (which is exactly what is sounds like) and more miles on a bike than we care to count. Jeff Oatly (RAAM finisher) and Chet Fehrmann made it one hell of a race. And than there was Yyjo on a singlespeed. Ill spare you the details and let him speak for himself. He recounts the tale of the 24 on one gear here. […]

  2. The Grouch said

    You earned those Skittles, man. I will no longer call you a “roadie.”

    Ok, I will still call you a roadie, but now you have a good comeback.

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