Click on photos to enlarge.

Checkpoint 2 (Baseline UMC)
Checkpoint 3 (Delton Library)
On the road
At the awards breakfast
(no, I didn't win any awards - just a door prize!)

The 2011 National 24 Hour Challenge (N24HC) from Mike's Perspective

A week before the N24HC, I send a message out to the Yahoo group pleading for a crew, as my Dad and Dexx (my nephew) couldn't make it this year.  The team of  John Crankshaw, Matt Mead, Cal Hekman, and Bob Krestakos was kind enough to take me in.

I arrived at Thornapple Kellogg Middle School at 7am on Saturday, unloaded my gear in the spot that John and Matt had staked out for us, and went to park in the next lot.

After a bit of socializing and last minute prep, it was time to line up.  On my way up to the starting field, I met up with Bill Skinner and his daugher Laura, who were "marching off to their death" (as Laura said, "We, who are about to die, salute you!") In the starting field there was the usual jockeying for starting position, then the countdown, and we were off..

I dropped in and out of different groups for the first few miles, as the different groups were either above or below my speed.  As I was pulling one group, there was another group just ahead of us. I increased the effort a little in an attempt to bridge the groups.   When I had nearly closed the distance, I glanced behind me to find that only two riders from the original group had followed me.

At the 20 mile mark, I was the third rider off the pull when we crested a hill and just over the crest was a turn marker.   I saw the marker just as I passed it.  Some of the riders in the group and I yelled at the two riders ahead of me, but they apparently didn't hear us, and kept going. I didn't see them again, so I don't know how far they got before they realized they were alone.

I turned around and got back on route, but by this time I was off the back of the group, and there wasn't another group in sight behind us. I tried to catch the group again, but as one rider, I just couldn't close the gap.  I rode the next 10 miles on my own, before two riders caught up to me and I grabbed their wheel (got into a drafting position behind them, for those that aren't familiar with "bike speak"), and the three of us rode into checkpoint 1 together.

One of the two riders and I went through the checkpoint with just a swap of water bottles (John had my fresh bottles ready to go and waiting for me), but the other rider apparently stopped longer, because he wasn't with us coming out the other side. The two of us rode a about half way to checkpoint 2 until another group passed us, and we grabbed their wheels.

After getting punched in, Cal located me and said that our first SAG had moved on in order to be in Delton on time, so my supplies had been left with the 2nd SAG.  I stopped and had a banana, some yogurt smoothie, and rested for a few minutes, and then got back on the road.  Another rider was leaving at the same time, but he was riding a slower pace and didn't hang on for long.   About 10 miles outside of Delton, I caught up with two riders and they hung onto my wheel into checkpoint 3.

I'd apparently made up some time between checkpoint 2 and checkpoint 3, because I beat the rear SAG by a few minutes.  I sat down and had a banana from the forward SAG, and had just finished it when the rear SAG arrived. I ate half my turkey sandwich and a couple dill pickle spears, got fresh water bottles, and was on my way.

Going up Norris Road, I saw a rider up ahead of me turn onto Pine Lake road.  I got to the turn, saw a turn marker on the pavement, and followed.   A few miles later, I caught up with him (I later found out that his name is Chuck) as he was stopped and trying to figure out if he was on route.  I assured him that I'd seen the turn marker onto Pine Lk road, and hadn't seen any other markers after that.  We rode a few more miles before deciding that we were definitely on the wrong route.  We turned around and started to ride back.   After passing a few roads, we stopped to check the GPS to see if there was a way that we could get back on route without going all the way back to Norris Rd.  While Chuck was checking his GPS, I tried to call Crankshaw's cell number, but I got an out of service message.  I decided to go to the top, and called Pete Steve (It's good to have friends in high places!)   Pete checked the Barry County map to figure out where we were, and suggested that we go back a couple miles to Lindsey road, take it North to Saddler and it would put us back on the route.

We got back onto our bikes, and just as Lindsey road came into view, Chuck realized he had a flat. We pulled off to the side and Chuck swapped the tube and hit it with his CO2 inflator.  When he pulled the inflator off, all the air came rushing back out the valve.  We inspected the valve and found that the high humidity had caused the valve to ice up when the CO2 hit it.   I pulled out my CO2 inflator and we gave that a try, with the same results.  Finally, in desperation, I gave him my spare tube.   Chuck had one more CO2 cylinder and thankfully this time it worked!

We headed North on Lindsey road as Pete had suggested.   We didn't find Saddler, and Lindsey ended at Wildwood.   We turned right, and in another mile we were back on Norris Rd.   Lindsey makes a diagonal, so at least we didn't have to go quite as far as we would have if we'd taken Pine Lk road all the way back to Norris.   I lost track of Chuck on the way back to Middleville when we got absorbed into a group that was on loop 2.  Going up Patterson, I stopped to take a phone call from Tanja (who was leaving the house, and asking if I needed her to bring anything), and lost the group, so I rode the last few miles into Middleville solo.

After getting punched in, I stopped to eat the rest of my turkey sandwich and recover a bit.  Let me mention here that this is one awesome crew, and I've never felt so spoiled.  Anytime I moved, someone was asking me what I needed and offering to get it for me. Tanja showed up around that time and was equally helpful.

I was feeling pretty hot and tired at that point.  Cal suggested that I shower and change clothes, but I decided that it would be better to ride loop 2 first to make sure that nothing else unexpected kept me from completing loop 2 on time.   Cal agreed with my reasoning, so I went out and rode loop 2, managing to get through it without further misadventures.

Arriving back in Middleville, I sat down to rest again.  After sitting for a few minutes, I leaned over to get something from my cooler, and my quads exploded in pain.   Any movement I made to either bend or straighten my legs caused cramps that felt like my muscles were tearing themselves apart!  Over the next hour or so, I tried not to move too much as Matt brought me salt, pickle relish (the closes thing he could find to pickle juice), and I at my last two pickle spears and drank Rapid-Ade.  In retrospect, I think that Perpetuem dosn't supply the electrolytes that you need on a hot day, and I'd been drinking Perpetuem and water, and no Gatorade or other source of electrolytes.

Finally the cramps subsided to twinges.   John suggested that since I no longer had a CO2 inflator (though I did have another tube supplied by the support crew) that it would be a good idea to go on to loop 3 instead of riding loop 2 again, as there is much better SAG support on loop 3.  Since there are fewer hills on loop 3, it didn't take much persuading!

As I was coming back South on Bender Rd, a motorcycle came up beside me, slowed down to my pace, and the rider said, "You sure look like you've got a lot of salt on you!"  I looked over and there was Dr. Dave!  You've already read about that part from his perspective.   We talked for a minute, and I told Dave that I would finish the loop that I was on and another loop, and then stop to rest.

I finished the two loops and came in to rest.  Tanja had left to go to a dinner appointment with friends, so Dr. Dave offered to "gopher" my lights from my car (which was in the other parking lot) and mount them on my bike.   In the meantime, Matt unpinned my number from my red white and black, and pinned it to my MTU jersey while I got my supplies together to go take a shower.

To call the shower "brisk" would be an understatement.   I don't think that the water that comes out of the dispenser on your refrigerator is NEARLY as cold as what comes out of those showers!  You could use that water to turn a ceramic disk into a superconductor!   I rinsed off as best I could, given that I couldn't keep any part of my body in the shower spray for more than a few seconds without it going numb.   After my "shower", my teeth were chattering, and the heat actually felt good!   I put on my two pair of bike shorts (the Rapid Wheelmen shorts have too much padding for use on the Brooks saddle.  The Canari shorts that I wore during the day are perfect, but I only have one pair.   I've got another pair with about the right amount of padding, but they have a rip, so I wear an unpadded pair of shorts under.  This parenthetical comment has probably been way T.M.I.), my MTU jersey, and my 100 Grand socks (which have been used so much that they have a hole in the toe.   I asked Judy about warranty replacements, but for some reason she hasn't answered) and headed back out into the world.

On my way back in from my next night loop, Pete told me to come talk to him about my "bonus" miles.  Since he happened to be standing right next to the exit drive when I went out again, I stopped for a moment.  He offered to try to work something out to count the extra miles, but I told him that I didn't think it was a good idea for two reasons:  first, I don't think it sets a good precedent to count off-route miles, and second (and probably more important) a rider went off course last year, asked to have the miles counted, and was denied.   It wouldn't be good at all if we counted my off-route miles now!   Pete's heart is in the right place, and he had to agree with my logic.   That won't keep me from including my "bonus miles" when I write my total on the T-Shirt, though!

I kept a rhythm of two laps around the night loop followed by a 20 minute nap.   Around 9pm (I think... time got a little fuzzy around that time) Tanja showed up with a big Tupperware bowl full of cut up watermelon.   What a lifesaver!   Just the boost I needed to get me through the night.

The pattern of two laps and a nap actually seemed to be getting me ahead on sleep, as I felt better and better as the night progressed.  I think that if I ever lose my sanity and do this again, I'll switch to a "three laps and a nap" pattern.  Each time that I came in to nap, Tanja came back from the fruit stand where she was talking to Allison and to Pete and Kathy's daughter to take the chair next to mine and nap with me.  When the sun finally came up, I made three last laps without stopping, finishing up at about 7:40am.

My official miles came to 265.3, which is one mile less than my previous personal best.   My unofficial miles came to 276, which beats my previous personal best.   If you take into account the two hours that I lost (one where I WAS lost, and one where I couldn't move), then I was almost exactly on pace to break 300 miles (though I might have had to skip one nap to do it), and I'm happy with that!

As things were winding down, Tanja called my attention to a box with a new tube and a note that said, "#77  Thanks for your help.   #263 Chuck."    Better than a medal.      :)

Lessons learned:

And, most important: