The National 24 Hour Challenge. Sounds so simple – how far can you ride a bicycle in 24 consecutive hours? How will you deal with the pain, fatigue, nausea, cramps, bonks, and (sometimes) hallucinations that come with total exhaustion. Can you outride and outlast 400 other riders to become the overall mileage champion?
The event is laid out in three loops. Riders must complete the first and second loops (117 and 25) by specific times in order to continue riding through the night on a 7.5 mile course. For several years, John has provided crew support for a number of riders. This year, nine riders took John up on his offer of assistance – many seasoned veterans of the N24HC, one newbie, and three riders making their second attempt.
The weather gods once again wreaked havoc with the N24HC. Fierce thunderstorms passed through the area in the wee hours, forcing a nearly three-hour break. The unwanted rest benefited some riders, and hurt others. After hours in the saddle, body parts stiffen up after an extended rest. Although a rest or nap sounds like a really great idea, it can hurt more than help. At 4:30am, the storm finally passed, and the ride resumed (finish time is 8am, Sunday morning). Probably less than 1/3 the original 300+ riders were still on their bikes at that point.
Two of John’s riders stopped their rides, but seven gamely continued unil 8am. Dawn peeks through around 5am, and spirits pick up. The final checkpoint/finish line is crowded with crew and riders, shouting encouragement to cyclists coming in. Lots of cheering. With a half-hour left to go, many riders buzz through the checkpoint for one last 7.5 mile lap.
Our eight riders are still out there. It’s crazy at the finish line – there are big smiles, a few tears, and the kind of wacky hilarity that total exhaustion brings (from riders and crews, alike).
Camera are flashing, there are hugs, cheers, and cowbells.
John’s team rode an incredible 2475 miles. Susanne 255, Denny 317, George 279, Clint 279, Pascale 339 (the overall women’s champion), Frank 232, Jason 232, Bill 256, and Gary 286. I’ve only pedaled the N24HC once – managed 220 miles, then quit. Wish that I had had the benefit of a crew like John to keep me going. Maybe I’ll try again sometime. I get really geared up while I’m there, but the reality of actually trying to ride 250+ miles gets the better of me each year. So, I help out. It tickles me to know that these super-riders are all “normal” cyclists who I’ll ride with on another day.
In the meantime, many are already plotting how to eke out more miles next year. John’s wondering how he might run his crew service a bit better. I’m wondering if Susanne really might tow me around for 24 hours…;-). We’ll see. Pascale is dreaming of 400. Laura (2nd place overall woman rider) is plotting how to get 400 herself.
Until then, rest, my friends…..you don’t have to train for a few days.
More photos below….