The Oregon 24 recently happened in Dryve Racing's backyard, where Landon took on the challenge with a support team including Shane Johnson. The two teammates wrote up a cool multi-view race report of this awesome event!
It's strange to think that getting out of your comfort zone can begin to feel comfortable. The bike has always been my pathway to go to places where the body resists, but as I go there more often and for longer periods, the joy and calmness I find there Is what I end up missing whenever I spend more than a couple days without it. So maybe it was the lack of uncomfortable opportunities in 2020 that drew me to race Oregon 24 Solo, that or some other type 2 fun obsession that we all suffer from. Either way, this is the first race that I have lost sleep over and was legitimately scared and nervous leading into it. Doing anything for 24 hours is hard enough, let alone trying to squeeze every last drop of glycogen out of your muscles.
For those of you not familiar, a 24 hour race is pretty straight forward. You race your bike for 24 hours and see how many laps you can do within that time. This particular race, the Oregon 24 by Mudslinger Events, features an 11 mile course with 1,200 feet of climbing a lap. It typically contains Central Oregon's signature dust, but due to some downpours leading into the event, we had nothing but hero dirt and good times ahead. I'm lucky enough to call Bend home and was able to get plenty of exposure to what I was getting myself into.
I’ve started to become accustomed to Landon casually mentioning how he’s going to do some crazy ride or race. He let me know a few weeks before that he’d be doing the Oregon 24 and was hoping I could possibly run some support. I immediately got excited, as this was something I’ve always been intrigued by, but never had a chance to be around. So, we began hashing out the plans on how I’d try and be as helpful as possible to him during this endeavor.
The week leading up to the race went pretty smoothly; I made sure to grab a couple spares of just about everything (bike related) and in one Costco run had everything I planned on eating for the duration of the event. I spent a couple hours the evening before the race making enough PB and J squares to feed an army and give a little more thought to how I was going to feed. I aimed to consume 450 to 500 calories an hour, a little high, but knowing that I might come up a little short some hours and not consuming any significant meals this number would keep me covered. The calories were split between liquid calories in bottles and actual food. This is the first race I've ever fueled with anything aside from gels and looking back, it worked out perfectly. My equipment setup worked great. I ran my Dryve Wheels equipped, Santa Cruz Blur as my main bike and had my Santa Cruz Highball ready as a backup. The Kenda Tires Booster Pro up front and Saber Pro in the rear was a great combination of traction and speed. For nighttime I had two Lezyne Macro Drive 1300 lumens that would be run one at a time, so I always had a charged light. One thing that was surprisingly more useful then I expected was using power (I run the FSA Powerbox MTB Carbon crankset) and heart rate at all times. Their value really showed midway through the race, when I was able to consistently predict my lap times based on what the data was showing.
The night before the race, I slept in the Tacoma at the venue for easy setup in the morning. After a crazy blustery night of getting rocked to sleep (white knuckle style) by the wind, I awoke to a calm, cool morning, ready to get the race underway
The night before the race, I arrived around midnight thirty to the venue, after a long workday. Alarm set for 5:00am, I passed out in the van until the next morning when the beeping awoke me from my wonderful sleep. I chatted with Lando briefly, to figure out where he wanted me to set up and then let him go back to sleep as I went to our spot and got our epic team tent setup. The weather was not playing nice and before I had a chance to tie down the tent, a gust of wind picked up the 10’x20’ behemoth, flipping it on it’s side, scraping the fabric and snapping two legs like brittle twigs. I was devastated, this was use #3 for the season, due to the pandemic….UGH! I got things reset, tied down right when Landon showed up. I finished setting up as he went to check-in for the race which would be starting in about 40 minutes. I was in the van when I heard him call out ‘Mike (race promoter) said we’re in the wrong spot, I was thinking Wanoga is Wanoga, dang it!’. Whooops! We quickly tore things down and went back up the hill to where the action really was and thankfully snagged the most epic of prime spots. Right on course with quick access to the Start/Finish, registration tent, live results kiosk and bathrooms 100’ away, it was perfect!
I started about 4th due to Mudslinger Events socially distanced TT start, and pretty quickly got up to speed. Evidently too quickly and I ended up going down about halfway through. Quick look over the bike to make sure everything was good and I was back rolling again. The rest of the lap went smoothly and I had to constantly remind myself that this wasn't an XCO or even a High Cascades 100 type of effort. Even with that I rolled through leading the race with a lap split of 47:47. I rolled into the pit zone to be greeted by Shane Johnson who was going to be dealing with me all day and night. Quick couple words, an exchange of bottles and food and I was out for my second lap. The next 8 laps averaged between the 53 to 55 minutes, until I eventually caught and lapped last year's solo winner. Knowing that I had an entire lap up I decided to back way off the pace and start spending a little more time in the pit.
Early laps were fast. You could set a clock to Landon’s times, he was churning them out, maybe 30 seconds apart from each other, on a 51 minute lap! It was nuts. Our initial target was Andrio Abera, a wicked fast guy from Portland, who had taken the Men’s Solo win last year. As Landon opened a big gap early and quickly, I began to worry things were going too fast, so as weird as it felt to say, told him to taper off a bit, as we still had a good 18 hours to go. By the afternoon, he had a gap of an hour and a half over the rest of the solo field, it was insane!
Managing to clock off a couple more laps, we entered the night shift.
As day turned into evening, things were still going smooth, although fatigue began setting in, but was easily remedied with slightly longer pit stops with food and liquids.
This is where I was really getting into unfamiliar territory. Previously, my longest ride was 14 hours but i had nothing but sunshine, so jumping into the last 12 hours of the race was pretty intimidating. On the other hand, the previous 12 laps had ingrained every detail of the course into my mind, so even while I was getting accustomed to the dark, I was still able to open up on the descents.
Things began to get tough after the sunset though. All day, we had been treated to mild weather, but temps quickly dropped as soon as the sun disappeared. Come 10:00pm or so, we were seeing sub-freezing conditions that only worsened as the night wore on. By about 1:00am, the team tent was at 24 degrees with temperatures on course dipping down to 19 degrees! Pit stops evolved from just a quick feed and equipment check to now include drying Landon’s apparel while thawing him out as he attempted to squeeze some naps in.
I kept up the pace until 2 in the morning when I made the call to take the time I had made early and get some sleep. I stripped down in order to dry out my kit and hopped into the warm sprinter for 30min. I wrongly assumed that I would wake up to stiff legs, but was pleasantly surprised that I didn't. I threw on a couple additional layers and headed out with a goal to complete 3 or 4 more laps. I made it through 3 and decided to take another nap, based on what the other competitors were doing.
At this point it was 4:00am and the ground was beginning to freeze solid. I planned for that to be my last nap so i could roll on for another 4 or 5 laps till the finish at 9am. I headed out with just about everything I had in terms of gear on my body. The initial climb up to Kiwa Butte on Tiddlywinks saw my core temp raise just enough to dampen my jersey, even with all my layers unzipped. I did what I could to remain cool and dry, but by the time i finished the last singletrack climb and hopped on the fire road, I was damp enough that the 28 miles per hour and 19 degree temp the air had dropped to, chilled me to a violent shiver. There was one short climb left before a super quick descent to the finish and by the time I got back to my crew, I knew I wasn't going to be able to go out for more laps without going dangerously hypothermic. I made the call 17 laps in to be done unless something changed.
When Landon rolled into the pits around 5:30am, I immediately knew something was up. He has to be one of the toughest dudes I know and he was visibly cracked and shivering uncontrollably. Through the shakes, he said he couldn’t go another lap without going hypothermic, so I immediately grabbed his bike and we got him into the Sprinter, where we got him out of as many layers as possible, with the furnace blasting hot air into his sleeping bag, in attempt to warm him up. After about 5 minutes of this, Landon realized he should go cross the finish line to make sure this lap was counted, in case he couldn’t go on. We did a quick celebratory finish, just in case, but I knew he’d be back for some more laps in the morning.
The tactics and strategy within a 24 hour race was surprisingly exciting and useful. Once nightfall hit, I had become a regular at the live results kiosk, keeping an eye on competitor’s lap times, so we could adjust nap lengths accordingly. This became imperative as the closest guy, Brad Herauf, began closing the gap as he ticked off consistent laps in the brutal cold. So, with Landon asleep and thawing out, we crunched some numbers and realized that Landon would only be able to squeeze two more laps in so we calculated the maximum minutes of sleep and set the alarms.
At 7:30 am, we had Landon awake and back on course within minutes of him waking up.
An immediate check to the timing kiosk showed that Brad had gotten out a bit earlier and was now about 26 minutes ahead of Landon. Frantic calculations began showing that Brad might not be able to fit a third lap in, so if Landon could close the gap, he could feasibly re-take the lead and the win. When Landon rolled through with one lap to go, he had cut Brad’s lead by 13 minutes, so we began freaking out as I screamed at Landon to ride through the pit and try to catch Brad. 24 hours of racing and it was coming down to minutes, what?!?!? We sat there watching the clocks, getting more excited as the window of time Brad needed for a third lap was quickly ticking away! But he had other plans and played it out amazingly. About three minutes before he needed to start a third lap (making it impossible for Landon to match) he calmly rolled in, grabbed a new bottle and headed out with 2 minutes to spare, playing it to absolute perfection. Nonetheless, when Landon came across the Finish line for his final lap, I couldn’t have been more excited or proud of how tough he had been in his FIRST EVER 24 hour race. It was so cool and I was so excited to run across the finish line with him, cheering like a mad man after such an incredible effort and experience!
7:30am rolled around and we all woke up to fully knowing I had to get back on the bike. I had an hour and half and knew I could easily get across the line twice before my cut-off time of 9:01am. By then, Brad Herauf had made up considerable time by toughing it out through the night and was a little less than half a lap up on me. I managed 2 more sub hour laps and rolled across the line with 18 hours of ride time, 217 miles, 20,000 vertical ft, 19 laps and the open/pro men win, 2nd overall. I was greeted by probably a hundred socially distanced people, cheering and clapping as the 2nd to last person across the finish line. Brad was able to sneak through 2 min ahead of his 24 hour cutoff to put in a 20th lap and secured the overall win.
I knew right after the race it really wasn't the effort or pace that got me. The early morning, 19 hours into the race, made it difficult to get my heart rate over 120bpm and at 19 degrees, that's just not enough to keep a depleted body warm. Congrats to Brad for taking the overall, Continuous Threat, a junior team from my hometown that took the team win, and all the other finishers of both the 12 and the 24. Huge shout out goes to Mike Ripley and the Mudslinger Events crew for making this season an actual season. They have been one of the few that were able to adapt to continue putting on events and I've been fortunate to make it out to all but one of them. Thanks!!!