Wednesday, September 4

Hardcore 24 - The "Support Team" Recap

While the actual Hardcore 24 MTB race recap is not mine to tell, since I didn't actually race it, I'd thought I'd share the other side of the story. You know, the one of the support team of the insane rider who chooses to take part in this race.

I've been to enough mountain bike races to know how these things usually run. For typical races I end up waiting by the start to see the riders take off and then I'll wander into the woods along the trail and will hopefully get a few shots of Erik riding past on his next lap or two and then I'll wander back to the finish to see him cross the line. Most races are 1 1/2-2 hours long so I'll sometimes bring a book and will always bring snacks.

This race is basically the complete opposite of any event I've ever spectated. It's pretty laid back, which to be honest a lot of mountain biking races are, and was held in a county park in Naples, NY. Erik was racing in the solo male division and had planned to race continuously for the entire 24 hours. Originally I had planned on going alone, but I figured it would be more fun to get a camp site and invite my best friend, Steph.

After packing my car to the complete brim and a 2 hour drive we arrived about 1 1/2 hours early. Erik checked in and we got his site set up.

Yup...that's his site. So from what I can ell a lot of people riding are apart of teams and basically rent a pavilion or set up tents and such and have these pretty awesome sites set up. Since Erik was riding solo and didn't have any friends around his site was probably the saddest around. If he was planning on sleeping we would have set up a tent and a little more elaborate site but he was happy with this. Basically he had a cooler, a water cooler, 4 water bottles, a box of random things he may need, a extra jersey, shorts, shoes and socks. Luckily we grabbed a garbage bag from my parents before we left their house so we could put all his stuff in the bag because while the start was dry, the weather turned and was pretty gross for the rest of the weekend. So yeah, his site looked kind of like a homeless persons campsite.

At noon we watched the riders take off on a parade start and once they hit the hill leading towards the trail entrance the riders were off. Steph and I grabbed the car and decided we would go check into our campsite. A few months prior I had reserved a campsite in the campground since I figured the free sites would be crowded and loud (this however a poor assumption....I'd totally recommend the free sites!). When I called for the reservations the groundskeeper asked what kind of site I wanted. We settled on a open, but secluded site, whatever that means. When we checked in we were the only ones there but figured it was early and there would definitely be more tent campers, especially on a Saturday night.

We decided to have lunch first, cantaloupe and pasta salad, and then set up our campsite. Luckily the tent Erik and I have is super simple to set up so we had no issues there. We also went to track down fire wood but had to go back for the car since firewood was about 3 miles down a very long hill. Plus, it was more wood than we would have ever been able to carry ourselves. After the wood excursion we wandered up to Eriks site which was about a ten minute walk to fill his water bottles. We had decided prior to the race that he would carry 1 bottle per lap (laps were around 7.5 miles or so) and then would discard the bottle and grab a new one every lap. Steph and I were in charge of filling bottles and adding Nuun since the water fountains were a five minute walk from his station. About every 3 hours we would take a walk up and fill bottles and saw him pass by once or twice during this time.

Around 3 or so it decided to pour so we sought refuge in our tent and played games to pass the time. Luckily for us the wood was safely stored in my car but it rained basically for the rest of the day so everything else got pretty soaked. We decided to get a fire started around 5 after filling up Erik's bottles and figured it would probably take us a while to get it going since any kindling would be wet. I'm pretty positive we used half a box of matches trying to get the fire going. By this time we had assumed other campers would be getting to their sites and had hoped that there would be some guys around and we figured that they would see our struggles and come and help us. Sometimes you just have to give in and raise your white flag. Unfortunately we were the ONLY tent campers so the idea that someone would magically come start our fire quickly dwindled.

We tried making our own kindling and burning anything that was dry. I joked that the fact that I'm a firefighters daughter I have always been encouraged to not catch things on fire. Our dinner plans included burritos and corn on the cob so we were really hoping for a fire so we could eat warm food. At one point we had a fire going but Steph got excited and dropped a very large log on it by accident and our flames quickly disappeared. Luckily though after another 30 minutes or so we finally had fire.

Usually when I camp Erik's in charge of the fire and I'm in charge of things like food or sometimes my task is to unload the car and try and be patient waiting for fire so I can eat. I was pretty impressed though once we were able to get our fire started because it actually turned out to be quite successful. We had dinner and sat around for a while and once again made our way back up to Erik's site to check on things.

After filling his bottles we were approached by a guy from a team whose pavilion was kiddie corner from Erik's hobo setup. He invited us to come over and sit by the fire that they had set up and offered snacks and such if we were interested. He noted that Erik was a solo rider and made sure to let us know if Erik needed anything we could send him his way and he would do his best to help him out.

We headed back to our site for s'mores and to sit by the fire for a while and finally around 11 made the last trip up to Erik's site. This time we drove the car up and I had checked with the timing table to see when I should be expecting Erik. Steph and I waited and waited, and finally Erik came rolling in about 40 minutes later than anticipated. He had crashed and broke off his front brake. Yup...broke off...completely. I asked what I could do and he asked if we could try and ask around and see if anyone had tools but luckily we had already made a friend. We rolled Erik's bike over and while Erik munched on brownies this guy put a brand new, very expensive hydraulic brake on Erik's bike. I was a bit nervous for this because I know Erik and I know how much he crashes. Luckily I knew I had enough cash on me to cover the part if he totaled it. With a fix bike Erik was off and Steph and I headed back to the campsite. Luckily the fire was still hot enough to throw on our remaining fire wood and crack open a few beers. Around 12:15 it started to downpour so we headed to bed.

It pretty much poured all night so we had trouble sleeping. Plus the fact that we were pretty much alone in the woods is not that reassuring either, especially when it started thunder storming. It's safe to say by 7am I was up for good but functioning pretty poorly, but I was worried about Erik's state so we headed up to his site. Luckily he had a CamelBak to ride with during the night so I wasn't worried about him going thirsty. When we got to his site it looked like a wild animal had attached it...there was stuff all over and Pringles and chips all over the turned out Erik is just messy. When he finally rolled in he looked rough. After two plus years of dating I know Erik pretty darn well and I have never seen him like this and I was concerned about his state. He looked exhausted, which was a given, but just looked so rough. Luckily Erik's saving grace offered him a cup of coffee and that seemed to perk him up. He still had another 3 hours of this race and was determined to continue.

He continued on and we headed to Naples in search of breakfast. Luckily there was a bagel shop that we were able to get them to go as well as some Gatorade and drinks for Erik too. We met up with Erik again and were able to get him to eat some real food and get some Gatorade in him. He was looking way better than the last time we saw him so that helped me stop worrying so much. We packed up our stuff and spent the rest of the time up near Erik's site. After he took off for his final lap we were able to pack up his stuff and get organized so that when he was done we just had to load his bike and Erik. We also tried to kill some time in the car since it was pretty much a non stop rain fest that morning.

Finally around 11:30 we made our way to the pavilion and waited anxiously for Erik to arrive. Just after noon he arrived looking pretty darn happy and pretty freaken muddy. At least he was smiling. I can't say he was moving that quickly but seemed OK enough and was able to answer questions well enough so I knew he was "all there." We dragged his bike to the hose and took off a layer of mud and I sprayed Erik with some water too because he still had to get in my car eventually. We made our way back to the pavilion with the fabulous mechanic so he could reclaim his brake. We loaded Erik's bike up and then loaded Erik in the car so he could get a ride to the showers. Luckily he cleaned up reasonably well and we headed back up to the main park for awards and so Erik could grab lunch.

I'm not so sure the 2 pulled pork sandwiches he downed did any good, if fact they probably hurt his stomach more than anything, but what would I know? Turns out Erik won overall male, riding 155 miles and climbing something like 18,000+ feet in 24 hours. The runner up had 20 laps so Erik's decision to ride his last lap was a good idea in the end.

We had a long drive back as everyone was pretty exhausted. By the time we made it to my parents, where Steph had parked her car, Erik was looking pretty rough. My mom was pretty concerned about him but I figured he just needed sleep. On the way home I stopped at Chipotle for a much needed salad and grabbed Erik a burrito even though he insisted he didn't want any food.

Within 4 hours that burrito was gone. Surprise, surprise.

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