Monday, July 27, 2009

The 24 Hours of 9 Mile.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I spent the weekend in northern Wisconsin helping my new friend Forrest do a crazy thing. His goal was to complete the 24-hour mountain bike race being held outside Wausau. Endurance bicycle racing is no easy feat and since I only met him a week ago, and had never ridden with him, I had no idea what his riding ability was like. I did noticed he was carrying a couple extra pounds and his bike was 16 years old. Fun!

Driving to the race we hit rain several times. It amazes me how driving rain can wash every bit of lubricant from the bikes but not bother the dirt. Fortunately we were arriving at the race a day early so I'd have time to re-lube the bike and check it over. We also had time to pre-ride the course. I had my own bike there and so Friday afternoon we did a lap together. Now, I'm no sprinter, but I noticed Forrest was riding like he had already been up for 24 hours! He admitted he wasn't feeling great, but remained optimistic.

Sign provide by Forrest.

The next morning he was feeling better and that was good news since our plan included him doing all the real work.

The race started at 11 AM with a running start. All the competitors had to run about a 1/4 mile. The idea is to spread out the group a bit so when they start biking on the narrow trails they are not all piled up on top of each other. As he ran by, I couldn't help but yell a movie line:

Run, Forrest, Run! (He's in there somewhere)

He was off to a good start, lapping the 15 mile course in less than 90 minutes. The fastest pro-riders completed a lap in 60 minutes, so 90 was not a bad time. Plus, he was riding consistently, keeping his lap times very close. This made my job easier, since I could expect him in the pit area at a specific time. When he would come in, I'd check over his bike, lube the chain, make sure he eating, replenish the water bottles, provide encouraging words, etc.

His bike held up great, although he came in from one lap with a broken spoke. An easy fix, even better since he had a spare wheel to use while I did the fix.

Ater the sun went down, things got more challenging for both of us. Forrest slowed down enough to add 15-20 minutes to each lap. For me, it was difficult to do maintenance on the bike using a small flashlight and harder to find encouraging things to say. I came up with a dozy during during the 10:30 PM pit stop when I said: "It's 10:30. You aren't even halfway done yet." To his credit, he brushed if off with an "ugh."

Sometime around 2 AM, Forrest came in to the pits and said he didn't like the brakes on his bike and would I change them. Ah, this was my biggest challenge of the race. The brakes include many small parts and require careful balancing of several springs in order to make the brakes work properly. And I was going to work on them in the beam of a small flashlight. Forrest took off on my bike and I went to work on his.

The brakes went together nicely, and after he rode a lap on them he was full of praise. Around 3:30 I was pretty tired and after he left the pits I layed down in the tent we had, set my alarm, and slept. I woke 90 minutes later to see the sky getting lighter. That was my only sleep during the race and it was 90 minutes more than Forrest got. The laps continued although the other competitors were having mixed success.

A friend of Forrest, pitted next to us, came in to the pits looking more or less like a bicycle riding zombie. He admitted he had layed down in the weeds next to the track and slept for an hour. Not in the tent, free of bugs. Not on the nice air mattress he had, soft and comfy. He slept on the ground in the woods next to the trail. It was cold enough in the pits that the mosquito's had called it a night, though the woods was warmer. He was wearing shorts and a bike jersey and said he thought he's wake up cold be claimed to be fine. His pit crew had gone to sleep so they didn't notice his lap times going from 1 hour 50 minutes to 3 hours.

The morning wore on and the laps continued. Forrest remained consistent almost to the end. He started his final lap around 10:30 AM, which was good. The latest anyone could start their final lap was 10:59. I had arranged for him to ride a different bike on his last lap. The Ellsworth Bicycle company had bikes for demo rides and Forrest went out on one called "Truth," retail price around $4000.00. Front and rear suspension proved valuable, since he was so tired he could no longer aim for the gaps between the rocks and roots.

Random riders...

His final lap took just over 2 hours but eventually he came in and was credited with completing 14 laps. That's 210 miles, ridden on a technical trails that included large rocks, roots, and twisty trails barely wider than a bicycle's handlebars. Very impressive.

Tired and dusty, Forrest crossing the finish line for the final time in 3rd place (of 23 or so in his class). Great job Forrest!
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The next post will include a review of the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway, Michigan. Check back soon!


  1. The both of you were very impressive, great job.

  2. Hey Will...when you decide to transition from pit crew to rider just let me know... I'd be psyched to come crew for you and provide motivating one liners in the wee hours of the morning.