17km, no 15 km, no 13 km of more fun in the muck that Mom and Dad would ever let me have.
My partner from work (not Melani) and I have done race this every year for the last 12 years. The goals are not too lofty - we want to have fun, remain friends and not finish last. We have done it as a 6 man corporate team, 5 man age group team a bunch of times, tag teams twice. Most years we have some challenges to overcome, a little rain, maybe the lights don't last thru a night lap, maybe a mechanical problem, may be we screw up the food, but this curve ball sent by mother nature was a little much.
Albion Hills conservation area is a gem for mountain biking, rolling trails a great mix of technical, tough, easy and so the race organizers have lots of choice. The problem is that much of the valleys between the rolling hills are beautiful black soil that holds the moisture. Add a few hundred teams of riders doing multiple laps, piles of rain in the preceding days, and lots more liquid sunshine ( about 2 inches) from Saturday at noon till midnight and you have a perfect recipe for mud soup. Imagine being on the lawn with the hose on and all your kids and their friends running around in the same 10 ft diameter circle for 12 hours.
My partner likes to do the start so he went out for the first lap, simple plan, we are both in reasonable shape and thought we could do 3 laps each before bed, then sleep for about 5 hours then get in another 3 or 4 laps on Sunday morning. Typical lap times for us is a little less than an hour for me and alittle more than an hour for my partner.
The first lap was about 250 riders, my partner started at the back of the group and he came thru in 1h45m. Alittle slow so I pushed for my first and was about 1h10m by my watch. The track was already goopy but I was able to ride most of the way. I passed the timing chip to my partner and off he went, he was 2h25m and had a brutal ride, mud stuck to his tires, a lot of hike a bike and not so much fun. My turn for lap 4, course organizers announced the first 2.5k of the track is unpassable now and that the course would be shortened starting at 6pm. This was a 5, my partner arrived at 5:20 so I decided to have some food and wait till 6.
I went out at 6 and acutally rode well. I figured something out - ride thru the puddles, it cleans the bike and the bottom of the puddles was not mushy. Next cool thing, at a certain speed the bike stays cleaner, the muck seams to fling of the tires instead of building up on the tire and frame and you can ride even faster. Time was 1h8m for the loop.
Back to the camp to find my partner, as we decided to tag there instead of the start finish line. His last lap was no fun and with the now pouring rain he decided to wait until morning instead of doing a night lap. It was easy to follow suit given the conditions, so I got cleaned up, changed, ate some dinner and lay down. Next thing I hear is announcements that the race is ending at midnight, the track is now all muck and lap times for the fastest were all over 2 hours. The now 24 hours is a 12 hour race and is over
Normally this is a great event that sells out way in advance - the course is generally set to be fast and challenging, but also rideable for the intermediate rider. The night laps are normally among the best. Looking ahead and seeing the lights spread out in the forest, your own light illuminating just enough trail to let you plot a path, reacting to bumps twists, turns, and having fun. That was last year, maybe next year, just not this year!