24 Hours of Hurkey Creek 2003; The Movie
Our annual trip to the 24 Hours of Adrenalin at Hurkey Creek has taken on an epic quality. We started out a few years ago as a few un-prepared middle-aged guys out for adventure. Now we are a bigger bunch of semi-prepared, mostly middle-aged guys dragging along our various and growing clans. We took two teams to the race this year: a casual 5-man and a slightly less casual 4-man. A full compliment of wives, girlfriends, kids of all sizes, tents RVs, and assorted accessories packed into our adjacent campsites next to the end of the course. The 5-man team planned on having fun and getting 15 or so laps, and the 4-man planned on having more fun and getting 18 or maybe even 20 laps. The kids planned on cheering wildly for riders as they came by, getting really dirty, and sneaking Power Bars whenever they got a chance. However, a black cloud threatened to rain on our parade.
In the 72 hours leading up to the start of the race we had 3 of us in the hospital for various injuries all non-bike related. We had cracked ribs, a finger with a piece of railroad tie deeply embedded, and a dog bite to the lip to contend with. Two of us spent much of Friday in the emergency room in Hemet (not recommended), and Friday night was passed in great turmoil and uncertainty. Just after dawn on Saturday, we assembled and took inventory. We were bruised and battered, held together by sutures, gauze, and tape, but none of this would stop us. (Sound of heroic music here…)
The old guys (40-something) on both teams successfully tricked the youngest guys (20-something) into doing the Le Mans start and the first lap. Having accomplished this feat of cunning and treachery, the rest of us relaxed in the shade and tried to find a safe place to hide our Power Bars. It was getting hot---not as bad as 2001, but still enough to take a toll. Then we started hearing reports over the 2-way radios about flats.
Somewhere out there, we never quite figured out where, there was a nice crop of goat’s-head thorns. During all the mayhem of the first few laps lots of folks were jumping off the trail to make passes or to be passed, and it is likely that is where they (we) picked up the thorns. I have never seen so many flats in a 24-hour event. I didn’t keep track but I’m guessing our two teams went through more than a dozen tubes. Other teams had worse luck. Anyway, we all packed an extra tube or two and started into our rotation.
The 5-man race--
A couple of these guys were new to 24 hour racing, but they all pitched in and started ticking off laps. One brave soul barfed his way through his first lap, but still went out and did another (faster) lap when his turn came up again. One had to bail out and go home in the night after one lap because of a sick family member. The remaining three riders kept a steady pace through the night and they ended up with a very respectable 16 laps. One interesting nutrition note: The fastest rider on the 5-man team kept to a strict regimen of 1 banana and 1 beer after each lap. It seemed to work well for him, but then he is a 150-pound triathlete with a body fat level so low they have not yet invented a machine that can measure it. Don’t you hate guys like that?
The 4-man race--
There is not much to say about the actual riding, except that it is lots of fun. Our between-lap time was a blur of forced eating and drinking (carbs and water), playing with the kids, and dozing by the fire. The memories of the rides are razor-sharp—riding fast (for us), chatting with the other riders, and generally feeling great. (Well, maybe Shane didn’t feel so great. He left little vomit puddles around the entire course on one of his night laps.) The bottom line is, we all had a blast, we were not banged up too badly, we made 20 laps, and finished respectably. (Truth be told, we had time to do 21, but no one wanted to go out in the heat and suffer just to move up one position.)
They got filthy. They cheered and filched food. They held flashlights and tools for nighttime repairs and tire changes. They looked like they belonged in “Lord of the Flies.” We brought them back with a few dents and bee stings, but we didn’t misplace any of them and none of them threw up (as far as we know).
Epilogue-- (More heroic music…)
There are hundreds of little stories we all collected during our laps, but they have no business being committed to paper. They are now part of our oral tradition, and we will hone them and re-tell them to each other for the next few months until they are exaggerated to perfection. The stories of that really fast night lap, or the Jack ‘O Lanterns decorating the boulders on the last downhill will grow to epic proportions, while the memory of being passed and dropped on the third climb by that woman on the rigid white singlespeed will (I hope) fade away. I now realize that a large portion of the fun of these events is the time spent riding together and planning for it, and the time spent recounting our glories afterwards. My stitches come out in a few days, ribs and scrapes will heal, and soon we will start the buildup for our next one. (Music swells..)