Chico Racing’s 24 Hour of Summer Solstice (20th Anniversary edition).
Chico who there?
24 Hours of what now?
24 Hours of Summer Solstice.
summer solstice, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky at noon, marked by the longest day
Yup, the longest day of the year. 24 hours of MTB goodness. 24 hours of playing bikes…24 hours of BOOM.
Albion Hills. 2,300 riders. 388 teams. 17k. It was AWESOME.
When my pal, Geoff Simpson (from the Tuesday night King Weekly Series), said “Hey Colin, want to do the 24 Hour Race?” I said “Um, okay” (because I never say no to a ride).
Best. Answer. Ever.
24 Hours of Summer Solstice was totally and completely, off the charts, outrageously awesome. Honestly, it was lit AF–that’s what the youths nowadays would call it (because for some reason, they refuse to use actual words and have a propensity for acronyms). They might punctuate it with the word “fam” at the end (because, well, whatever).
Seriously though, it was fleek. What? I spend my days with teenagers. Their language is bound to rub off on me. Plus, it’s fun to use made up words, fam (note: I may have used the words “fleek” and “fam” incorrectly, but that’s totally okay with me).
As usual with something new for me, I was pretty nervous leading up to the event. Since it was a last minute decision, I really wasn’t prepared physically for the race. I worked late every day of the prior week, and even scheduled my daughter’s birthday party on the Friday night before the race. Let me say this, nothing calms pre-race nerves like 12 screaming tweens… I’m kidding. Nothing scratches at your eyeballs–from behind–like a birthday party of 12 tweens.
But it wasn’t my lack of preparation or the course that worried me. If anything, with a 17k lap distance, and a pretty epic spring of racing behind me, I’d faced way tougher endeavours in the last few months. It was the whole “riding at night” thing that scared the bejeezus out of me (a real mom word, not a made-up word from the youths).
However, I’ve been steering my life by listening to the universe lately, and everything has been fine, so I figured I’d do it.
Two awesome friends (Dan Marshall from Substance Projects and Mark Summers from Joyride 150) offered to loan me some sweet lights for the race, so at least I’d be lit. Not like “lit fam”, but actually lit with 2,000 watts of illumination. They assured me there was “..nothing to worry about…” on my night lap.
Um, can I just say there was plenty to worry about. Here are 4 things:
- NOT seeing where I was going
- seeing ONLY where I was going
- the boogeyman
- things that actually go bump in the night
Hey universe, help me out here…
(Sort of) Race Report: 24 Hours of Summer Solstice. Albion Hills (June 24-25, 2017)
Here’s my hour-by-hour (or so) recollection of the day:
Arrive at Albion Hills. I couldn’t believe the sheer number of people, bikes and vehicles. The ENTIRE park was buzzing with excitement, and so was I.
My team campsite was close to the chalet, and right in the middle of the action. Prior to the race, I had only met one teammate, but within 5 minutes, this new guy knew these guys were the real deal. Honest to goodness, big boss MTB people, with hearts of gold.
Our team was Billy Biker and the Kickstands. I was a kickstand!
These guys are awesome. They’ve raced as a team for the last 22 or so years, and had been doing it for so long they even had two teams on their site: Billy and our team, and a team of their kids and their kid’s friends.
Team meeting. Okay, this didn’t really take place, but we sat around and decided the order of riders. It was decided I would ride third because I’m not sure. At just over an hour per lap, that meant I’d be riding at around 3:30PM, at midnight, and at about 10:00AM. Wait, at midnight… This is where I got a bit woozy.
“Pfft”, I thought. I could do this. Bump in the night, schmump in the night.
Race start. Holy crap. The population of a large village was there FOR A BIKE RACE. It was remarkable. Bikers everywhere.
Our transfer point was an ad hoc location about 500m before the START/FINISH (shh, don’t tell anyone, it was 3 sites away from our campsite, and really really convenient). We watched Gregg finish his lap and hand the number card to Bill. I changed into my kit, and Geoff and I went for a little zip around the campground to warm up a bit. Everywhere we looked, there were bikes and riders and families and awesomeness. So awesome.
3:30PM (or so)
It was time for my lap. I was warmed up (sort of) and mentally ready (not really). Bill got to the transfer site, I took the race plate, and boom, I was off.
I hit the actual transfer point, swiped the number card, and started the lap.
The course was sublime: great climbs, lots and lots of wicked trail features, fast and fun doubletrack, rocks and roots, spectacular singletrack, more spectacular singletrack, and even the brown monster. It was everything a good MTB race should be, and everything a great MTB race is. Gotta love Albion Hills.
And to make the lap even greater, a lot of the course skirted the campground. People were cheering, hollering, and offering bacon. Did you hear me? Bacon.
I finished my lap without incident, and even saw my buddy Ted Anderton from Apex Race Photography on the trail. Ted may be A race photographer, but I always think of him as MY race photographer.
My lap time was 1:04. Not a great time, but not horrible given my lack of preparation.
I brought two boxes of Taco Bell burritos for my team (what you didn’t). Standing at the door of my RV, I only had to say one word: “Burritos!”
And just like that, I gave each and every one of them indigestion.
7:00PM to 11:00PM
I tried to catch up on some sleep from the week before, relax a bit, and just experience being surrounded by so much bike love and awesomeness. Sleep didn’t come easy, so I had a bunch of short naps. I brought a courier bag full of marking and it was staring at me from the top bunk of my RV like a giant sack of guilt, so that didn’t help. What a doofus. Who brings marking to a bike race? A teacher who is late with his marking that’s who.
When Geoff knocked on the door of the RV to “wake me up” I was already up and ready, and nervously pacing in my RV. The night lap was really weighing heavily with me. Why would I choose to ride at night for the first time in a race?
Transfer point. It was dark. Waiting. Scared. Transfer the number card. Boom, I was off.
I could see!
It was awesome. How can night riding not be a regular thing? The short zip to the START/FINISH was cool, but the real fun didn’t begin until after that. Alone in the forest, chugging and gasping until I warmed up, safe in a cocoon of light, I felt amazing. I wasn’t really alone though, because there were other rider’s lights zigzagging through the forest ahead of me and around me.
I was lost in a forest of darkness, streaking through the trails of Albion Hills, and could only see what was directly in front of me, but the clarity of it all was striking.
After my lap, I wrote on Facebook:
Ugh. How sappy. It was true, sort of, but I was high from the thrill of the ride, and feeling the bossness of owning the night. I wasn’t really lost, but the sentiment, however sappy, was on point. Because I could only see directly in front of me, my mind was opened for everything else. It was meditative. Me and my bike, pedal stroke by pedal stroke, tree, root, and rock. The only way to move forward was by pedaling, and since I couldn’t see further than 10 feet, I only saw what the IMMEDIATE and pedaled towards the end of the beam of light, knowing that I could never catch it. It was so very Zen.
Plus, it was just really really cool.
I finished my lap, and nothing went bump, and the boogeyman didn’t snatch me.
Like everything else in riding, it was awesome, and enlightening, and just plain fun.
Why did I say yes to Geoff? Because if I’ve learned anything through cycling it’s these three things:
- everything is always all right
- nothing bad ever happens to Colin on a bike
- sometimes you just have to listen to the universe
I’ve learned a bit about tire pressure, bike geometry, S-1, and saddle sores too, but that list seems to fit this exercise.
In a good bike race, you ride an awesome course. In a great bike race, your bike takes you on a journey. The journey of the 24 Hour was awesome.
I went to sleep at about 2:30AM, with visions of night riding dancing under my eyelids. Awesome indeed.
I was going to start my next lap in about an hour, and it was probably going to be the second last lap for the team. We’d hit 21 laps overall. But then we realized something.
Team Meeting. Okay, it wasn’t a team meeting, but we sat around the site and realized that if I could start my lap at 9:55 (which was likely because Bill was on course and his lap times were blistering), and if I could nail a lap time of 1:05 (which was a bit less likely, but almost possible if the universe helped), and if Ed could nail a lap time after me of about an hour (totally likely because he was Ed and Ed wasn’t me), we could start our last lap at 11:50, which was well before the noon cut-off time, and would allow us to finish the race by the 1:00 cut-off time–and sneak another lap. The team was a bit wary because they’ve already “been there, done that”, but it was MY first time, and I had neither been there OR done that.
“If you’re going to be, just be EPIC” I told them. “Do it for Team Colin” I told them (okay, I just thought that part).
They agreed we should shoot for the last lap, and Geoff stepped up. “I’ll do it”. Yup, our finish was going to be epic.
Bill finished his lap in 1:05. Epic indeed.
I finished my lap in 1:05. “I gave you three minutes, Geoff” I said, as I transferred the number card to Ed. More epicness.
Ed was off like a dart, and I knew he’d be back in an hour. He was back in 1:01. The epicness was imminent.
Just after 11:50, Geoff started his lap. Without a GPS for time, and tired from staying up all night, Geoff left the transfer point. He would have to complete the lap, plus the additional 500m, in 1:10.
He flew. Like, literally, Geoff flew. That is all there is to say. Geoff let the rubber fly. and nailed a smoldering final lap time. Our team did 22 laps, and finished at 12:53:16PM.
And, that’s it. 24 hours of EPIC awesomeness. And here’s the best part. Chico racing actually bent time so that it wasn’t 24 hours, it was 25.
End of (sort of) Race Report
Under an overcast sky, at about 1:30PM, we celebrated the winners. Tag teams, solo riders, teams 4, teams of 5, teams of 6-10. All of them awesome. Everyone in the audience, equally awesome. Honestly, check out Riot’s post about the race. He is epic.
Then, under a canopy of rain, we waited to win one of the spectacular door prizes. The folks at Chico know something about prizes, and with an event of this size they were amazing. Gear, clothes, more gear, and a few bikes. Awesome. Seriously, for those who left early, bad move. I recognized two names of people who won but weren’t there because they left early, but I’m not going to be the one to say to them “Dude, you missed a $1,000 worth of prizes.
Alas, Team Colin won nothing.
Gotta say, for my first dip into the 24 Hour pool, it was pretty epic. I was on a team of nine, and the actual racing for me fell a bit short of epic, but the event experience was unforgettable, and the 24 Hour vibe will stay with me for a long time to come. Plus, I conquered the night riding thing.
On my team, we only did two or three laps each, but we still felt pretty awesome. However, many other riders blasted truly epic performances. Watching Rob tag team it with his buddy (18 laps), and seeing Riot (13 laps on a singlespeed) and Raf (10 laps on a fatbike) solo the race, was awesome. Another of my racing friends, David V. soloed the race with 22 laps. Now THAT’S truly lit.
24 Hours of Summer Solstice was awesome. Riding in my balloon of light, watching the tree trunks zip past, and only seeing what I HAD to see—and only when I NEEDED to see it–was liberating. In my family and work life, I like to see the whole picture, and I spend my days overseeing the tasks of kids and a job , but at the 24 Hour, with my vision confined to a small patch of trail, I was reminded about the importance seeing what was directly in front of me.
And it was really fun too!
Check out the results at Chico Racing.
And would you look at these sweet shots from Ted at Apex Photography. If you haven’t bought your picture, do so.
Here are some other shots from the days: