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24 Hours Of Canaan PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kirk   
Monday, 16 July 2007
I wrote this article many, many years ago before they changed this events name to "24 Hours of Snowshoe" and then to what it is today "24 Hours of Big Bear". I have competed in two of these. The first (1993) was with my old team from the "Philadelphia Bicycle Society" which consisted of some of the guys and gals that worked at Performance Bike. This was one of those years where mud was the boss. The 2nd time (1996) was as a replacement racer for the "U Of Penn" team. My experience with them is talked about in this article.

The 24 Hours Of Canaan
By
Kirk Reisinger

Imagine, 11 miles of rocky West Virginia trails, 1800 feet of elevation change, and sprinkle of natural spring runoff thrown in just to make things muddy. These were the ingredients for the 5th annual 24 Hours Of Canaan (rhymes with insane), sponsored by Newsweek - the single most challenging mountain bike race this side of the Mississippi. 1996 Results

On June 1st and 2nd from high noon Saturday to high noon Sunday, me and four strange Penn graduate students "Wissahickon Weasels" competed in this marathon of mountain bike madness to capture 52nd place. 5000 spectators and 1600 competitors participated in this year’s event making it the largest turnout in its 5-year history - so large in fact, that ESPN showed up to capture the exciting moments (crashes). 

Our team consisted of five riders in the open class division - 4 males, 1 female. One of the five riders must be an Expert racer. Since the Penn gang’s expert was diagnosed with Diabetes two weeks prior, they needed a replacement. They found my notice on the Internet and gave me a call - I graciously accepted their offer since my own team, PBS, was put on a waiting list.

The cannon fired at high noon as 370 riders sprinted for their bikes LaMans style. The 24 Hours Of LaMans is the original automobile race, which was the mold for this race. Since I was the veteran of the group, (I also did this last year) I cheerfully volunteered to start. Let me tell you - most mountain bikers are really bad sprinters. Just picture 370 mountain bikers in full gear trudging up and then down a ski slope like cattle - it was so unnatural, like fish out of water until we reached our bikes which were neatly perched in the biggest bike rack in existence. We entered the single track strewn with wet, muddy roots at an off camber of 30 degrees. "Point your front tire upward and don’t stop pedaling." I told one rider as his path slowly degraded downward into the muck. Thud! Was the next sound I heard as his shoulder contacted a tree. The next half of the course was a six-mile hill, which spread out the riders and separated the boys from the men. At the top of the climb a large snow bank left over from winter welcomed you to the 5700-foot summit - spectators littered the trail and cheered every rider to the top. The last leg was the infamous downhill - more rock than soil. Only experienced riders could navigate this treacherous trail. Many others tried and went over their bars. Arriving back at the start a unique crossover bridge from ESPN2’s "Extreme Games" brought you back to the baton exchange area where riders anticipated the arrival of their teammates.

I finished my first lap in 1 hour 35 minutes and passed the baton to my teammate - Daryl - the meat and milkman. I call him this because this is all he consumed during the entire event.  I calculated my next lap would start about 8:30pm - I gave them an extra hour since I though I may be better then them. I went back to the tent to fuel up. My teammates excitingly asked me how were it and I told them outright - "It’s extremely challenging - nothing like you have ever ridden before." They all just shrugged and went on eating their lunches - remember, they didn’t really know me that well.  "Hey! Are you gonna eat the rest of that granola bar?" the youngest and least prepared member, Tim asked me. "Eat up! You’ll need it" I told him. "Oh, by the way Tim, since you didn’t bring a tent you can sleep in the back of my truck". I’m such a nice guy!

At 9pm on the dot the last of our five some came strangling in. "It’s getting really bad out there." Brian told me as I motioned him to scrape the mud out of his teeth. Brian was once a national mountain bike champion in Israel - however, he’s a bit out of practice these days.  As the sunset I turned on my lights and headed for the thicket. The lights we use don’t derive their power from the front tire like those found at the local department store. Instead we use high power 45-watt halogens similar to what SCUBA divers use. These are a necessity since you can’t see your hand in front of your face in the woods of West Virginia - not to mention what else may lurk there.

I not sure if it was absence of the fear factor due to limited vision , the fact that I wasn’t quite sure how long my batteries would last, or a memory from the movie "Deliverance" but my night lap was 1 hour 20 minutes - one of the fastest night laps of the race. I know this because one of  the Pros rode a 1:15 lap at dusk which was then declared the fastest time thus far. The fastest lap overall was 1:05.

As I rolled into the exchange area Daryl was nowhere to be seen. I told him it would take me two hours minimum. I rode back to our campsite passing cars on the way to discover Daryl chowing down on some prime rib that he just grilled. He looked up in sheer horror as I said "gear up and get out!"

"My next lap would be my last." I thought to myself as I zippered up my tent and force fed myself  about 1500 calories in fig Newton’s and apples - I calculated that I would burn about that many calories per lap. I barely slept that night. I was awoken by Karen from California who told me Brian (who I found out was her boyfriend - don’t ask how) will take awhile and that I shouldn’t gear up until 7am. At about 8:00 Brian rolled in after 3 hours - he looked really bad - just handed me the baton and said "I need some sleep and some Tylenol." They also didn’t have a tent so they both slept in Brian’s car.

Again to the amazement of everyone, I completed my next lap in 1 hour 30 minutes - "Mr. Consistency" was my nickname - it was 9:30 am, Daryl was there to greet me this time with a milky mustache and said: "Everyone voted and no one wants to do another lap. If you want to you can do the lap after I come in or I can stretch it out until 12:01." You see, the rules state that the last rider must finish after 12:00. If a team mate comes in before 12:00, another must start. I told him to do his best.

At 11:39 Daryl cruised into the exchange area and said "I don’t believe you going to do this". I just smiled and said "What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger". I know, it’s a bad cliché. At 1:15 I finished my fourth, my longest, and my most painful lap. I crashed more time than I want to remember - I can’t wait until next year.

Last Updated ( Monday, 21 July 2008 )
 
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