Wednesday, February 5, 2014

24 Hours of Oak Valley

It was the 1st of February and another milestone date was here. It was time for the 24 hour of Oak Valley. The aim is to see how many laps you can do in 24 hours. Each lap is 11.6 kilometers long with about 240 meters of climbing per lap. The last lap must be completed after 12:00 on Sunday or else the competitor will be classified as a non-finisher. Some people decided to ride for 24 plus hours, while others opted to ride, go for a sleep and carry on riding. To be in contention for an overall placing, one could not afford to sleep more than three hours.

I arrived at Oak Valley at about 10:30, received my race number and pack form registration and got everything sorted for the start at 12:00. We found a nice “camping site” under some trees, but it was about 500 meters from the actual track. Race briefing was at 11:30 and just before 12:00 we line-up for the Le Mans start. Our bikes were at one end of the rugby field and we had to run the length of the rugby field to start the race. We got going at 12:00 sharp. This is a long race, so I did not try to get to the other side first. I got on my bike and joined the initial procession. Fortunately the first two kilometers consisted of farm roads, so the congestion was not that serious. The first completed lap took me 41 minutes, the next two 39 minutes and then I settled into a rhythm of between 44 and 49 minutes. The route was the same as two years ago, with the exception of going around the dam instead of through it due to a higher water level. The first 6.9 kilometers of the lap was 90 percent climbing with some awesome single tracks including a ”weaving “ track cut out through some wild ferns. This was in a small valley and became pretty hot during the heat of the day.  The second half included some more awesome single tracks especially a specific section running next to a stream, followed by a rough section, a scary downhill and some more good single tracks through the trees.

Everything was going well, with no mechanical problems. I did loose my water bottle on lap three, but was fortunate enough that I did bring a spare bottle along, so that problem was resolved at the end of the lap when I received spare bottle from my brother. He was seconding for me as well as his son Leon, who was also riding. The heat was quite intense with the temperature reaching 34 degrees Celsius! Things started cooling down from 14:25 going down to 24 at 14:45! At 24:00 we were still looking at 20 degrees. This did decrease to 12 - 14 during the night. I even had a lap with some rain. Not enough to cause any problems, but enough to wet the ground. I did nearly loose my head against a low hanging branch on a short single track section just after passing the highest point of the course. This did proved to be a bit of a problem, because the impact cracked the bracket, which held my helmet light. When I tried to fit it just after dark, it broke. I was fortunate in that I did borrow a backup light and therefore decided to use this to alleviate the matter. It did help in illuminating the tracks, but I still had problems replacing my water bottle after having a drink. I normally used the helmet light to make sure I get the bottle into the bottle cadge. Without a light, that was quite a problem, so much so that I ended up stopping whenever I took a drink. It also gave me a small opportunity to rest.

Leon lapped me after 10 laps. At the end of lap 11 I stopped to fit lights as it was getting dark. When I came around at the end of 12 laps, I saw that the seconding chair was empty and realised that supper was being prepared. When I got there the fire was going, but no food was ready yet. I rested for a while and when I was informed that supper should be ready in a hour, I did another lap. At the end of the lap I was treated to a very well “braai” piece of chicken and ”braai brood. These two laps took me 1:19 and 1:41. After this “rest” I got into a rhythm again and did three laps in 51, 59 and 55 minutes. On lap 17 I had another lengthy recovery stop of 1:33! The effort was now really taking its toll and my next lap took me1:04 to complete. Next time round was resting time again with a lap of 1:20. This included a stop for a very well ”braai“ chop! The climbing sections were now really getting difficult. I once or twice considered getting off and pushing, but decided to grind on my teeth and managed to carry on.

It was a very interesting experience riding at night. Quite different to daytime riding, especially through the single tracks where it was more difficult to keep a rhythm going through the trees. It is just that much more difficult to judge your distances at night than to the day time and these single track are anything but straight! That “scary” downhill was extra scary at night!

During my stop at around 05:45 it was announced that three of us were lying third and we were all on 19 laps. On checking back it transpired that this was the situation before my 1:41 stop mentioned above. At this point the chap who finished third was all ready two laps in front of me. I picked up a nice rhythm again and did the next four laps in 1:02; 1:01; 1:04 and 59 minutes. This last lap was completed at 10:06 and at an hour per lap, I was due to start my last lap just after 11:00. That meant I only had two more laps to do.  When I came round at the end of this lap, my brother told me that there were three of us on the same lap and I was marginally in front. At this point I still thought I had a chance of finishing third, so this spurned me on. The next lap was done in 51 minutes and what was supposed to be my last lap was done in 48 minutes! The net result was that I started my last lap at 11:46 and therefore had to do an extra lap. This effort ensured that I was a safe forth as I completed one more lap than the guys who were on the same lap as me. During this time I also had a very interesting experience when my one contact lens poped out! I noticed it on the left lens of my sunglasses and the only option I had was to put it in my mouth untill the end of the lap. I then stopped, got into car and used the rearview mirror to put it back!

I completed 26 laps at about 11.6 kilometer per lap, giving a total distance of 302 kilometers. Total climbing came to approximately 6,400 meters.  That equates to 20 meters per kilometer. That is a lot of climbing! My average speed was 12.2 k.p.h. 

Here is a link to an article written by Chris Hitchcock, whose company PhotoSport took all the photo's during the weekend.

I attach the Garmin data, but this is only accurate for the firts 13 hours. I have updated the time, distance and total meters climbed to account for the full race.