Hard to believe that the 24 Hours of Light, in Whitehorse YT, has come and gone. It was one of the most rad races I've ever done. I'm not sure donning the adjective of "grassroots" is appropriate, as you'd never know it was put on ENTIRELY, by two Mums, with babies under the age of one!
It was a great adventure from start to finish. With the amount of gear we needed to bring, flying wasn't an option. We were forced to perform some serious car packing Tetris. Not a spot open to see out the rear windows, and we still had to leave room for Zara, Evan's dad, who booked a one-way flight to Whitehorse to be race support, and more importantly, another driver for the long tiresome 2000km+ ride home.
Critter count: 13 bear; lots of bison; 3 dead porcupines.
Strolling through Whitehorse, noshing killer Mexican grub, finding a great cup of joe, and meeting some local yokels, I commented that this place was similar to Canmore, without the pomposity and Arcteryx. The town is surrounded by cliffs, mountains, and sits afoot the beautiful Yukon River. Being our home for the next few days, Evan and I felt at home (apart from the rumours of the 24HOL 'naked lap').
Setting up ground control:
On Friday evening, after a tour of Yukon Brewing, we made the drive up White Mountain Rd. to the Whitehorse Biathlon Centre; a brilliant venue for some 24 hour mountain bike racing. Having been up that way earlier in the day, to spin our legs and try to catch a glimpse of the course, we knew what to expect and setting up camp was pretty chill. It all came together quickly as we knew that it would change a thousand times during the race, so there was no particular order to most of the kit we unpacked from the clown car.
Kit, clarification, and sleep:
We picked up our race packet, containing a David Bowie inspired t-shirts and number plates. More importantly, we also received our much needed clarification of the 'naked lap' rules. Not a rumour anymore, the 'naked lap(s)' actually exist AND could quite possibly factor in to the final standings. Between the hours of 11pm and 6am, if a racer completes a lap naked, they will get a bonus lap that counts towards the overall lap count and possibly the victory.
We headed back to town for some food and a calming barley pop, and mulled over the logistics of naked racing. Sleep came easy that Friday night, and the morning dawned quick. It was go time.
I was toeing the start line for our 2 person team. Thinking it was a 'Le Mans start', where you have to run a certain distance to your parked bicycle (thank god NOT naked), we thought is best that I started as Evan, although fast enough to crush me in a 25 meter sprint, is strongly opposed to running. Alas, no running before this start. I had a front row start, until halfwheeled by a start line late comer, but in the long run, even after flatting on the first lap, it played to part in my days race.
First 12 hours
Evan and I swapped single laps for the first few hours of racing. Once we hit late afternoon, my legs were feeling terrible! They had a dull and swollen feeling, and they were drawing a lot of my attention. I have never experienced this feeling before and all I could think of was the short laps, and short breaks that was the cause.. We weren't able to eat/rest in between the 12.5km laps as much as we'd have liked because they were roughly taking 45 mins to complete and by the time we'd change/bathroom/prep drinks or food, we'd have to get back out again.
Evan and I didn't spend any time talking in the transition area. Our conversations were conducted through Zed so not to slow us down. Z and I talked, over a pot of Chunky soup, about my wanting to double up the laps. I was hoping that the 1 1/2 hour of riding would bring around better legs by allowing me to settle in to a groove and have less off the bike time. I set out on that lap, not knowing what would be Evans response - upon finishing my lap, I found out he too was keen on some doubles. I celebrated with a steaming bowl of ramen noodles.
(This too was about the time I was beginning to think that a 2 person team was going to be harder than going solo)
Come to find out, the double laps was exactly what my legs needed. My first set of two laps didn't feel all that swell, maybe because I was feeling some fatigue after doing a series of singles?? but by the middle of the 2nd lap, I was feeling back to "normal" and churned out two laps similarly timed to the single laps I was doing prior. The break was nice too and it was well received by my body, because my second set of doubles felt even better! Knowing I respond better to a somewhat longer rest and quality fuelling will surely benefit me heading in to Canmore in a week or so.
We were building a decent lead heading in to the night, and as planned, we were soon going to be doing a set of three laps to give each other a chance to lay down and try to catch a nap: my moral was high and my body felt good.
Photo by Matt Jacques
11pm and balls, I mean all is well
We found ourselves in a heated battle for the lead with our tent neighbours; a husband wife professional adventure racing team (previously ranked 3rd in the world!!) Z was keeping a close eye on lap times for us, and we had mounted a almost 30 minute lead. At this rate, a naked lap wasn't needed - that is until a passer by asked the wife next-door, "was that your husband I just saw head out on a naked lap?", and just like that it was show time, literally.
Nine degrees and it was dark:
The temperature was dropping. Evan was coming in from his last set of doubles, to enjoy his 3 lap break and I left for my 1st of 3 night laps, initially dressed in arm/knee warmers, and a vest. Let me tell you, it was dark. Not impossible to see dark, but damn near. We had a conversation over our pre-race breakfast about how I shouldn't do the dark laps because I am blind at night, and with all the altering of laps, I was thrust in to the woods at the darkest part of the day. I dropped my three slowest laps, all in a row - most of the lead we had was all but gone. I simply couldn't see the turns and I became break dependant.
Taking it off
They drew first blood:
Let me back up a bit... Since the neighbour bared all, I knew we needed to expose some flesh for a chance at victory, I left on that1st lap, having discussed with Zed, my intensions of doing at least my third lap nude. The thought of going to the line cold and naked didn't sound so appealing when the temps were approaching the low teens and soon to be single digits. I figured I'd strip at the start/finish line and giver hell for my 3rd lap. There was also some strategy involved with this decision. If I could sneak in a nude lap, without the other team knowing.
What we weren't sure of, was if it'd take just one naked lap to seal the deal. There was a chance, albeit my gut said slim, that when I got back after my first lap, that Zed was going to have to tell me we needed MORE skin to win because if the other dude went out nude again, I'd "have" to, go bareback-to-bareback for those last 2 laps to stay one up on the exposer and his wife.
Not that bad:
They didn't want it that bad I guess, because when I came in from number that 1st lap, I heard the other guy went out dressed, so thus far, only one buff go-round was needed for me. I headed out on my 2nd lap, somewhat excited (a poor choice of words) that I was going to give the full monty lap a go.
Oddly enough, 12.5km naked on a bicycle; bouncing over roots; descending brake-rutted ridge lines; and climbing twisty single track, wasn't that bad.
Happy to see my best mate naked?!?:
As I rolled in after my nude lap, I saw Evan rolling out naked! (again, somethings that can't be unseen) His lap would give us a leg, and bum up on 2nd place.
Into the morning
I was having a good roll. My legs and back were feeling as good as can be expected, and I was fuelling wisely. I had just come off my 3 lap break, ate some more soup and a turkey sandwich, and tried to sack out for an hour or so. I gave up on the sleep, and emerged the tent only to find the urns of Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters coffee. I was feeling pretty good and was doing a good job at keeping the crazies in my mind at bay. The neighbours only did the 1 nude lap so as it stood, we were 1 lap, and about 15 minutes in the lead.
Not so fresh:
I was out in the transition area when Evan came in for a feed after his 2nd of 3 "night" laps (his 11th lap), and we had a chance to talk. He wasn't well, but that's expected being as far in to a 24 hour race as we were. I offered up some no-nonsence support, basically saying he is supposed to be feeling shity, and this does suck, blah blah blah, but he had to suck it up and keep at it.
Evan came in from his 12th lap, not looking good at all. I asked how he was feeling, and he barley replied.
As I rolled out of the transition area, I was feeling pretty great. I was going fast for my 13th lap (sub 50 minutes) and I was able to put my slow dark laps behind me. I came in to the finish mentally ready to do another lap considering the state I last saw Evan. I came in faster than expected, and Evan was still in the tent prepping. Without a chance to talk, I watched as Evan whizzed past me, fully kitted in arm and leg warmers, and a thermal jacket. It wasn't cold at all, so I was thinking that his cheese slid off his cracker to be dressed in winter garb.
Prepping for the worst:
My last two exchanges with Evan didn't leave me feeling very confident in his wellbeing. Evan looked wrecked, and Z wasn't telling me anything to the contrary. Just because I was feeling better than Evan, certainly didn't mean I was 100%, far from it.
Zed and I had prepared me for the distinct chance that I'd have to run the rest of the laps solo. I prepped extra feeds before I went out on number 14 and set my mind to the fact it might all just be me.
Screw the worst!:
Evan quelled my fears! He came in from his 13th lap, rugged up like an arctic explorer, and had busted out his fastest lap since the previous afternoon! Seeing Evan come in from his 12th lap, I thought he was done: Seeing him go out on 13th lap, kitted for winter I knew he was done: Seeing him come in from his 13th lap, sub 50 minutes?! as I was still in the tent prepping?! I said done schmun, the kids back! I chucked all my previous thoughts about him and headed out on what was meant to be my 14th and final lap.
Photo by Matt Jacques
Not so fast:
The official race included the 'nude lap' bonuses in the overall lap count. There was also a 2nd category which didn't include bonus laps, and it was based on total laps completed and over all time - we really wanted to win that category too. The gap was reduced with my and Evans night laps so the last couple laps were very important to us. If the other team didn't pass us on these last couple laps, we would sweep the entire event.
Physically, this lap wasn't going so well, but I tried to think my way through it. I was checking off climbs, checking off the windy spots, checking off the rough descent and in the end I didn't fall off the pace that bad. I was turned inside out though and lost focus and energy, but at this point it didn't matter because it's all I had to do.
We still had a small gap, and I was putting time into the wife of the duo most of the day, and Evan was looking so good when he came in from his last lap, that I thought we were sitting pretty for the double win.
We talked about this:
I only saw Zed when I came across the start/finish line. He was holding my "in case of EVANmergancy" feed (and a turkey sandwich). I knew before he said a word what was up. "You got to go out" said Z. "Expletive" said I. "Eat this now, you got 7 minutes on 2nd place" said Z. "Expletive" said I. "Blah blah blah, bile this, fetal position that" said Z. "Expletive, is Evan ok?" said I. "You now only have 6 minutes on 2nd" said Z. I rolled away, cooked, drained, and worried about my teammate. "Expletive" shouted I exiting the stadium!
Not even not so fast:
I was done. Physically spent, and I had to do another 12.5km and climb 277 metres to boot. I was trying so hard to pull off a 50 minute lap in the hopes if that the other team would have to do a low 40 minute lap to catch me. It turns out the other team sent out the husband for the last 2 laps, and he crushed two LOW 40 minute laps and caught me with a couple KM's to go. Let me rephrase that.... he went blew past me as if I was standing still!
There is a move you make when racing, that when you pass someone, do it powerfully, so to demoralize your opponent. I am here to tell you it worked. I was shattered before he passed me, and gutted after. I tried to match his pace as he passed me and soon realized I didn't hit that section with that kind of speed EVER in the last 24 hours. I gave what I had for the last couple KM's in the hopes he passed me for show, but he was no where to be seen on the long finishing straights. The overall victory was still going to be ours, but I couldn't be the hero for the double win.
I crossed the finish line and met Zara and even Evan. I saw the other team at the finish, shook some hands, and tried to not think about seeing the guy naked. What a fantastic feeling to experience this with some friends and family. .
Photo by Matt Jacques
Awards, packing, and tortellini:
Awards came quickly. Evan was vertical and starting to come around and I was face down in a pot of tortellini. We set out on this adventure to win, and that's just what we did. It would have been nice to sweep the categories, but being able to bring home the cup, as in handmade glass cups, was what we really wanted.
Camp packed up pretty slowly, but we were full of smiles (and yawns). All in all, it was a success! Next stop, Canmore, and the 24 Hours of Adrenaline July 16.
Evan Wishloff, it could have been me, and I'd like to think you'd have done the same. Thanks for making me a better rider/racer. And I didn't even say I pulled the fastest lap AND didn't do the slowest!
Zara Wishloff, captain! Couldn't have done it without you. You lit the fuse and stuck around to see what was going to happen. Thank you for keeping me going.
River Valley Health, thank you to the cast and crew at RVH. Keeping me healthy and ready to race, and making me strong to survive the race.
Pedalhead Bicycle Works, Chris Check, thank you for treating me like a full-timer and being so generous.
JHM Fuels, thank you for the wonderful service and selection you provide. If you sold chicken noodle soup, I'd order that from you too!