About two weeks ago, I got an unexpected call from long lost Rez Dog and all around hard man Theron Hathaway. It seems that his boss had formed a four man team for the 24 Hours of Moab race with himself, a coworker and Theron confirmed as riders but one open racing slot due a last minute illness. Did I want to race? That took about a minute to answer. Of course!
Having done a few longer mountain bike races and the Dawn til Dusk race a few times (the most recent rendition excepted as being considered a “long” race), I have always been curious about some of Rez Dogs’ fascination with the 24 hour race. Even with a four man team, racing around the clock never made a whole lot of sense to me. Racing at night? Stupid. Racing in the cold at night? Stupid(er). Racing in the cold at night when tired? Stupid(est). To say I was resistant to racing in a 24 hour race would have been like saying I was resistant to hauling bottles of wine or pounds of meat in my camelback--I mean, who does that? And yet, every year, Rez Dogs would routinely tell me how great the experience of a 24 hour race was and how much fun they had. Could I be missing something by not at least trying a 24 hour race? Time to find out.
The 24 Hours of Moab is run from Saturday at noon until Sunday noon in the area southwest of Moab known as “Behind the Rocks”. I rolled into the staging area after the race had already begun around 12:30pm while Theron was out on the first lap. This gave me a chance to set up camp and catch up with Beth and the Hathaway boys Perrin and Jonathon David (JD) while also meeting my teammates Matt and Ryan. Perrin looks exactly like Theron but with dark red hair and little freckles. JD as the newest Rez Puppy is a little squishy blond Perrin who is cuddly and loves to be tickled. Needless to say, I got to hold him a bit before my first lap. Theron came in and immediately proceeded to curse the course, the sand, his all too fast of a start (is anyone surprised reading this?) and pretty much all things 24 Hours of Moab. The good news? He was proudly sporting his Rez Dog jersey. Keep in mind, Theron sold all of his bikes (road, mountain and otherwise) after being cut off from Tomac’s customer service department for frequently replacing broken bits through warranty (again, is anyone really surprised?) for a Yeti 575 free riding machine. And this was his 24 Hours race machine. A 35 lb. steed with flat pedals and six inches front and rear. I figured his angst at the course had more to do with dragging that anchor around than the course itself.
Matt was the second rider and due to Ryan feeling sick, I was on for the third lap. Matt and I made the switch and I tackled the 15 mile loop for the first time. In short, I shared Theron’s frustration with the course. The first mile is singletrack in a sandbox followed by a two to three mile rocky climb broken up by batches of sand. The next four to five miles feature equal parts climbing and descending with a few technical jeep trail sections that could be possibly ridden but I think Hans Rey retired and Danny Mac Askill is in Scotland. There were at least three mandatory hikeabike climbs that made me rethink my latest fascination with cyclocross followed by some more sand and significant straightaways (finally!). After mile nine, you enter the “Behind the Rocks” section and cruise through double track before being dropped at the foot of the last long climb at mile eleven. After the mile climb, it is a downhill sprint back to the road and the staging area if you don’t have to dismount on the way down due to sand. Seriously.
Long story made short, the first lap went well. The second lap felt better. The third lap was absolute garbage. And the fourth lap felt great again. We ended up fifth in our category and 27th overall which wasn’t too bad. Will I do another 24 hour race? During my second night lap,I kept muttering, “Give me a proper road race any day. This sucks!” but like all things racing, time dulls the agony and magnifies possibilities. Now, if I could just get the sand out my ears…
PS-I did take pictures this time, but I am waiting to receive them from Ryan. When they come, I’ll post.