12 Hours of Glen Helen 2010
It’s around 4 in the morning, and I’m racing down a hill- a single-track, rutted mess with deep rollers. I have too much speed, so apply the back brake-too much and no front. The back end bounces and swaps, the front dives down the hill and my body slides forward. Too much weight on the front and it is over-the-handlebars time. Doing the counterintuitive thing, I let off the brakes and the increased speed straightens us out. Man! The last lap, I did the exact same thing. Okay, give credit to exhaustion. Twelve hours is a long race, and I haven’t slept in twenty- four. But I complete my segment and hand it off to Mark. He’ll do a couple laps and Jim will get us to the finish line.
Good lighting is the key to good night racing. And looking at our opponents, it’s obvious they have great lighting. It’s easy. Just spend money, and off you go.
We are short on helmet lights, so two share with two others. Then our light kit for Bob’s bike fell apart before darkness. So, we continued with Mark’s bike, with an aftermarket light and couple halogen helpers on the bars. Neither Jim nor I could get our helmet lights adjusted correctly until the last laps. So, besides money, maybe a little forward planning and training would help, too.
The track was mostly fast and open with a few interesting tidbits. Like up the stairway, over the bridge and down the stairway. A few loader tires and logs made for some interesting challenges, but the most unusual test appeared around two a.m. Perhaps it was a water main burst, but suddenly Bob encountered a huge volume of water, like a monsoon flash flood. The stuff crossed the track and ran down the course for half a mile, serpentining through the course. Once I raced along a straight section and two experts passed me, one on each side, soaking my goggles instantly.
Glen Helen has some huge uphills and downhills. Approaching the downill edge, my lights point straight and below is only blackness. I nevertheless carry some speed, yet the experts leap into it, landing fifty feet down slope. Incredible.
Being old and slow, the race holds few highlights for me. The payoff is racing bikes at my age. However, on one lap I caught a guy as we approached the aforementioned downhill. So I left it on a little longer down the hill (cliff?), braked harder into the right turn, and passed him on the outside before going up the stairway. Woo hoo! This offset the dozen or so (hundreds of?) bikes that passed me through the night.
So with only a few mishaps- mostly just small tip overs and restarting challenges- team 210 (our combined ages) finished fourth out of five in our class. We actually finished better than ten others from different classes. “But we’re only racing against ourselves.”