National 24 Hour Challenge - 259.9 miles

Holy crap. What an event. I'm going to give a stab at a few stats first (speedometer quit after 190 miles - proof that man can still outlast technology)...

271 Registered Riders, 240 participated
Start time: 8am Saturday, June 18 2016
End time: 8am Sunday, June 19, 2016
Goal: Ride as many miles in 24 hours as possible

(Important to note - winners in various age divisions typically ride 375-500 miles. Nuts!! So, as my accomplishments were awesome for me, they pale in comparison to the top riders out there - of course, I'm sure they're well trained and have time for thinking about such non-sense all the time. ha!)


GOAL: Ride 250 miles. RESULT: Goal met, 259.9 ridden
GOAL: Not to sleep. RESULT: Took one 30 minute nap around 2:30 am
GOAL: Ride for 20 of the 24 hours. RESULT: (guessing) 18 hours on the bike
GOAL: Average 14mph. RESULT: (guessing) around 15mph avg

10th out of 19 in my age group. One more lap would have gotten me into 9th.
123rd out of 240 riders.

How the race is run:
Everything starts/finishes at Kellogg-Thornapple Middle School in Middleville, MI. The route consists of three loops. Loop One is 121.9 miles with three checkpoints and ends at the fourth check point at the school. Everyone rides this once. Loop Two is 24.0 miles with one check point and ends back at the school. You can ride this loop as many times as you wish, as long as you ride it at least once before 8pm. Loop Three is called the "Night Loop" and is 7.6 miles. You ride this unlimited times all night until 8am Sunday morning. There were county sheriffs at each intersection halting/directing traffic for the riders. Four intersections were lit up with giant spotlights. You get your back tag punched at each checkpoint, your mileage is tallied up when done with day and night loops.

Leading up to this race, again, like most things I sign up for, I didn't have enough (I thought) training time set available. My longest ride before this was 74 miles in one sitting, with 550 total miles since January 1. That includes mountain biking 10-15 miles at a time - hardly "training" miles for this event. I would have to once again rely on my various long ride knowledge and organizational skills to get me through.

I will skip ahead to race day morning. Greeting everyone at our base - the crew led by none other than John Crankshaw and friends. He brings good strategy, organization and knowledge base to the group - plus he's just one helluva guy. I left my various checkpoint supplies with him and Tom, and queued up in the starting pack with Susanne, the funny German, from our Rapid Wheelmen group. We had similar average speed intentions so we started off together.

 Our Team HQ. People getting around and setting up. Mr Crankshaw in the orange.

 Susanne and I rolling out.

Once the race was underway, (the most nervous I've ever been!) we found ourselves struggling to keep pace with the first peloton after about 1.5 miles, but faster than the second group - stuck in the gap. As Susanne said with German accent, "CRAP. We are in the first f*cking gap." (ha ha) Eventually, the second group caught us and we rode with them for quite a ways - maybe the next 12 miles or so. There was probably 20 or so of us together before we hit some hills. The first major hill splintered the group into other groups, of which I was with the first 8 or so. I wasn't sure if I had lost Susanne, I didn't hear her chatting with anyone, so I guessed she got dropped somewhere on a hill. All I knew was that I HAD to stay with this group as painful as it may seem I knew it would pay off in the end, which it did. We were all taking turns pulling - going between 18-20mph pretty regularly. After about 20 miles, my derailleur started having lots of shifting problems so I lost this group and I got absorbed into the next group. I felt bad that I left Susanne behind, but knew I was going to have to get this bike worked on, so I tried to build up some time cushion. All of a sudden I hear "TONY!!!" (Susanne) All I did was throw my left fist up in the air in acknowledgement. (Like "Black Power"? I don't know.) So we rode together to Checkpoint One. I stopped to have the wonderful guys at West Michigan Bike & Fitness do some adjusting of the rear derailleur. I walked down to where John and crew were to swap out my bottles and get some nutrition. John says "TONY! Where's your bike!?" I said "I decided to just walk this thing out." He laughed. I went back to get my bike and it was magically ready to go. Those guys were great. From this point on, everything shifted like butter! Susanne was already long gone. My average speed after the first 34 miles was 18.9mph. Way faster than I expected, but much of that was thanks to riding with various groups, so I felt okay with it.

Oh, one funny story: While riding with the group I was in, there was this guy with white hair and in a pony tail. He was sweating so profusely from his face/head that drips were actually flying off his face and into mine. It was so gross. So regardless of the wind, I had to ride to his left as the sweat drips were cascading off his face to his right. I had enough exterior salt of my own, thanks.

The heat was starting to pick up at this point - approaching 90 in the afternoon. Approaching Checkpoint Two, I was getting pretty exhausted. I made sure to eat lots and drink even more. This was a longer stop - mainly for lunch. Found some awesome shade to rest in. Leading up to this point, I was 71.7 miles in and my toes were starting to go numb. I loosened up my shoes, but that didn't totally help.

 Checkpoint #2, lunch stop. Getting my tag punched.

 Sweaty and stinky with the kids. Still in great spirits.

After hanging out with the family, washing my face and head with an ICE COLD towel (wonderful feeling), I was off again. Checkpoint Three was only 24 miles away, thank goodness. This section was mostly full-on sun and some sections on brand new black pavement which radiated the heat. I reached Checkpoint Three where John Crankshaw would be again. Cal Hekman took my bike and bottles and I sat down in a chair where John promptly covered me in ICE COLD, soaked and dripping towels. One on my head, one on my neck and one on each leg. I felt like I was floating in Lake Michigan. It felt AMAZING! I really needed that - it made a HUGE difference.

I left there after a bit to finish out the last 25.6 miles of Loop One. I said "No problem. I've ridden 25 miles before." (that's how you have to ride this race - sections at a time, not thinking of the overall effect.) If/when I would finish Loop One, that would be a new record for me for the most miles I've ridden ever at one time - so i would already be pretty pleased about that.

 Finished with Loop One. Little pain, mostly hot and bothered.

I arrived back at the school, got my back tag punched and took a rest. 121.9 miles complete. Not quite half way to my goal. I then left for Loop Two - according to the strategy I had prepared, I was 1.5 hours ahead of what I had planned, but knew I only had one lap (24 miles) in me and needed a longer break yet. So when I got back, I took that longer break, for a shower and changed clothes. I felt like new man, ready for dinner and the Night Loop.

 Finished with Loop Two. Little more tired, but thankfully much of the loop was shaded.

Dusk came quickly - I think I only got one or two laps in before I needed to turn my lights on. Up till midnight, there was still lots of rider activity on the course and at the school. I broke down my night laps (7.6 miles each) into twos...ride two, take a break, repeat. I noticed that my breaks kept getting longer and longer - messing with my planned strategy - I was going to run out of time if I wasn't careful. So to keep my mind busy on each loop, I'd do time/speed math equations in my head. I could consistently do two laps in one hour, so the calculations seemed pretty easy.

 Typical sight on the night loop from Team HQ.

My legs were just all mush and my ass was killing me. Surprisingly my back, neck and shoulders felt pretty good. I had been standing up often all day to stretch. The rest stops were needed, but oh-so hard to get back on the bike and moving again. The temps were falling (somewhere around 60?) so now it was actually cold out. My teeth chattering at one point uncontrollably at about 4am until I warmed up again. I wasn't expecting that. The other thing I noticed on each stop was the mass casualties at headquarters. There were people flat-out falling off their bikes, unable to unclip and laying in heaps on the pavement. Others delirious, not knowing who/where they were. Others passing out in chairs and slumped over like they were dying. As I stood there, looking around, it was like slow motion looking around like I was actually in Saving Private Ryan or something. Men down, supplies and gear spread everywhere. People talking to others trying to get them to speak answers. Shivering. Suffering. People walking half-over like they were looking for their blown-off arm on the beach. It was crazy.

One thing for me, I had never experienced before. I kept my head all damn race. Never once did I lose focus or feel like I was drunk from tiredness or lack of nutrition. I had worked so hard on drinking and eating even when I didn't want to. One lap at dusk for about 1 minute my eyes started to cross from being so tired. I talked myself out of that one quickly, not allowing myself to go down that road. Aside from that, I never had any headache or anything. That probably had to do with the fact that throughout the day I took around 22 Hammer Endurolyte capsules, to keep cramps away (I lost count at 22 at least), two doses of Aleve, one dose of Tylenol, probably about 10 Hammer Gels, countless water bottles of Heed and Perpetuem and regular Ice water. I remember peeing a few times during that 24 hours, so that was good that I knew I was consuming enough to keep all my systems going.

I had John do some math for me...how many more loops did I need for 250? Answer: six. That's only three more hours. As I left to finish this thing out, I was in so much pain and agony that only two miles into this first of six loops I knew I couldn't take any more breaks. I was just prolonging the pain. So I did the last six loops riding three at a time (the sun now rising - love that feeling of having ridden all night in the darkness and everything gets lighter), I took one 5-10 minute break, then hit the last three. I had 1 hour and 10 min left, so I took one more "victory lap" at leisure. When I got back, John tried convincing me to do "just one more" (which I had plenty of time to accomplish), but I just couldn't do it. So exhausted. I had ridden the night loop 15 times. All I could think about was getting in the showers before the final rush of guys at 8am too, which I'm glad I did. And, as expected, it felt great.

 Done. Happy.

After coming out from the showers, completely refreshed again I put all my stuff together and gave John a giant bear hug I promised him if I met my goal. We laughed about that. I then sat in my chair, put my head back and let the suns rays touch my face. It felt so good that I fell asleep for 10-15 minutes.

In all, it was a fun ride. Great first time experience and results. I know I can do better in (possible) future attempts - as for when that will be...that is yet undecided. Another official item checked off my Year40 bucket list - if I had an actual bucket, because I don't. I don't plan to kick one, so I don't worry about maintaining one.

Patti stayed up all night with me and had to wrangle the kids and logistics of travel and making arrangements to see me on the course. I don't know why she loves me and the defects I have for the love of my bikes and rides, but maybe its because I love the defects she has with her running. Just a couple of nutty people living nutty lives, I guess. It was a Happy Fathers Day indeed!!

The day after: Lots of quadriceps pain, hard to go up and down stairs. Ass still hurts, a few toes on each foot feel cold and are numb still, but other than that, I feel pretty good!!

 Laying out the gear Friday morning.

 Our camping set up. The camper was a Father's Day gift from Patti!!

We found some shade in the camper lot at the High School. Way in the background is the Middle School where the main activities happen.

 Early morning Saturday. The loop where teams set up camp.

Saturday Morning: Patti and I trying to smile with an angry and tired Nick. Marissa spent the night at a friends house and would show up later.

 Excited. Nervous. Ready as ever to get queued up for the start.

 Start line.

Kids tailgating.

 Last pic of the speedometer working. It made it to 190 miles, then quit.

 Crazy picture Patti took of the Moon.

 Sun getting ready to rise.

 Sun rising from out on Loop Three. This was my second to last lap. Seeing your surroundings again and feeling some warmth was wonderful.

 Coming in from my last loop to make my goal of 250 miles.

 Finishing it out. 259.9 miles in the books. Not bad for a rookie.

 Still able to have a good time with the pain and show a little rubber face.

Garmin did not find the number of calories burned acceptable, even though it did the calculating for me. "Not within permissible limits." 100% true, no one should ever have to burn that many. Although its probably quite accurate.


  1. Congrats! Solid riding adventure and heck of a character building experience. Nightshift will be a breeze for you this year! Way to manage the mental demons as well, that's the ticket and you nailed it. The write up is outstanding too. Thanks for sharing.

  2. wow! incredible riding Tony!! Insane men do insane things. Awesome all the support and cool people that help out with those rides. Also, sweet fathers day gift!