The drive from Seattle to the outdoor recreation playground of Bend, OR is tough, but the effort always pays off. In mid-July my buddy Steve and I made the six plus hour trek to Bend in order to ride the Oregon 12/24 mountain bike race. We entered as a team of two (duo) in the twelve hour event.
We arrived after dark and were unable to pre-ride the course, so the only information that we had to go on was the basic paper stats: 11 miles and 900 feet of elevation gain per lap. The course profile showed two significant climbs with a third kicker at the end; 900 feet over 11 miles is fairly significant, especially on a mountain bike.
The race started promptly at 9:00 AM with a Le Mans start (I think a number of folks at the line thought it was a “Lemond” start). I took the first leg, which meant that if we needed a thirteenth lap I would be the guy to do it. This wasn’t a really big deal, as if we needed a thirteenth lap to win I would be able to ride it at any pace, just so long as I finished.
Our goal was to turn twelve laps which meant that we’d have to average sub hour laps; with the Le Mans start and a congested course I ended up with a first lap time of slightly over an hour – Steve would have to get us back on schedule. Which he did. Despite a couple of hard falls, Steve came in with time to spare. The remainder of the race fell into this pattern: me slightly over an hour, Steve significantly under an hour.
Two thirds of the course was moderately technical with the final third being double track and a screaming descent down a forest service road. By lap two the course had thinned out significantly and only occasionally was I passed by a downhiller or passed an uphiller. The slower than average on the downs and faster than average on the ups seems to be the fate of many a road rider turned mountain biker. Many of the turns were nicely banked, but covered in a deep layer of volcanic dirt. It wasn’t sand, it was fine powder dirt, and I really had to focus on not losing grip in the front and sliding out. A bigger knobby in the front might have granted me more speed in the corners. The one thing that you want to avoid in these long races is hitting the deck as falling seems to really kill the mojo.
Duo teams have many different strategies, but the two most common are: one lap on one lap off or two laps on two laps off. Steve and I opted for the former. Doing an hour on and an hour off allowed us to eat off of the bike. After the first ninety minutes of riding you need to be ingesting somewhere in the neighborhood of three hundred calories per hour; going back to the campsite, sitting down and ingesting calories allowed us to eat in a somewhat rested (i.e. normal heartrate) state. Eating while not exercising allows for better digestion (at least for me). Another reason for going one hour on and one hour off is the fact that sitting by oneself at the campsite got boring fast, and sitting there for two hours seemed like it would have been an hour too long.
In the end we turned twelve laps – good enough for second place. The winning duo – a super strong pair from Boise - managed thirteen laps. Unfortunately, the food truck had left by the time I’d finished my final lap so Steve and I were forced to forage race food for a late night dinner. Before bed we heated up some water, put it in gallon jugs and each had a backwoods shower – not ideal but adequate.
On the drive down we bought groceries at the Safeway in Madera and I think that we did a good job creating a varied, yet calorie and salt rich, race day diet, here is a list of what we ate:
Ham and cheese sandwiches (on cheap 100% glucose white bread)
Pickles (I drank the juice between laps)
Boiled beets (prepackaged)
Red Vines (my secret energy food)
Over the course of the day I drank nine liters of water along with a bottle of beet/carrot juice.