The Oregon 24 is a very special race for me. In 2012, when it went by the name of High Cascades 24, it was my very first mountain bike race. I hadn’t been mountain biking for long, but my enthusiastic friends and husband had somehow convinced me that a 6-person team would be a lot of fun. I was a ball of nerves leading to the race and I was was convinced that I would be slow and in everyone’s way. However, my fears did not come true and by the end of the lap I couldn’t stop smiling. My night lap was a little more of a challenge and the only way I got through it was by staring at the glow sticks adorning my bike and repeating “This is fun. I do this for fun” to myself until I almost started to believe it. At the end of the 24 hours, it felt so good to survive it that I actually did believe it was fun. So much fun that I decided that maybe, just maybe, I could be a mountain bike racer.
This year was my third Oregon 24. I missed 2013 because after a year of training for the CCP I had filled my sufferfest quota for the year. I believe that this was the best year yet. I raced on the best 5-person women’s team in history! No Apologies! represented with myself, Soso, ZimZam, and guest racers Bridget and Clarinda. We started out by setting up our home base in style. We had two onsite bike mechanics/personal cooks, a crazy friend riding a solo 12 hour, three dogs, a homemade banner made from beer boxes, mood lighting, multiple tents, two double eno hammocks, endless amount of food, fresh brewed coffee, adult beverages, lots of spirit and endless excitement. We were living like kings and we were ready to rock. After an obscene amount of pancakes with various fillings and flare, we made our plan of attack while our mechanic (my husband) dutifully tuned our bikes.
We were sending out Zimzam for the first shift and each of us would (if up for it) complete two lap shifts. Once Zimzam placed her bike at the startline and meandered to the beginning of the Le Mans start, it was on!
It took us a few rounds to really fine tune our off time, but eventually we got it together and heckler’s corner was born. Heckler’s corner was close to camp and allowed us a view of the incoming racers as they made their descent into the transition area. We could clock our riders’ times and heckle all those who passed!
Lap times were impressive and were much faster than we had initially thought. It was clear that we were going to do a lot better than we had planned for. Although there were 4 other 5-person women’s teams, we were blind to our competitions’ progress because of a timing booth hiccup. However, it didn’t matter. We were feeding of each other and pushing hard. We were determined to make this our best 24 hour yet!
My reaction to our better than expected lap times was a mix of excitement and fear. Once we got going, it was clear that this would not be a relaxed attack. We were going to give it our all and get as many laps as possible. Excitement was so high that when Soso went to take over she almost started riding through the transition zone (a big no no with a 30 minute time penalty). By the time I went on my first lap, the sun was setting and we were about to enter the hardest part of the race. After ZimZam’s second round of two laps, Bridget was ready to attack with the dreaded late/early shift: that 1:30 am time period when no respectable person should be on their bike. She handled it well and barely lost time even when her lights failed her on her way back in. She had to desperately creep behind racers to use their light. Later, I heard a racer describing a lap at night where she was convinced she was being stalked by an animal. I only smiled and imagined Bridget creeping behind her grasping for any stray light she could get.
We were barely gaining time on our laps and rocked it out for the rest of the race. We were stoked to finish with 20 laps! That was about 5 more than we expected (we will have to address our sandbagging problems later). Since the results were still a mess, we had to ask our neighboring team, the Dirt Divas, how many laps they had done. We had just gotten in at 24 hours and 15 minutes and they still had a rider out finishing their 21st lap. Damn! So close! We only hope that the Dirt Divas are willing for a rematch in 2016 and that we can have another full field for 5-person lady teams. All of the teams were really close and we all killed it out there! So, if you are reading this, start getting your team together and meet us out there! We might even share our pancakes and heckles.