“Jacoby’s crank busted, Jim’s riding his two laps now,” the text message read. I adjusted my wake up alarm from 1:30am to 12:30am. This is just one of the unforeseen occurrences when riding a 24-hour mountain bike race at Vulture’s Knob, Wooster, Ohio. There were four of us on team Potawatomi Revival Tour; Jim Belcik, Jacoby Baab, Joe Campbell and myself. Our name came from the 18-mile Potawatomi Trail in Pinckney State Recreation Area of Michigan that Jim and I would ride in high school after begging our parents to drive us.
The 24-hour race was a first for all of us and we had lots of questions that would soon be answered. The race started at noon Saturday, August 15, 2015 with one member of each team (Jim led us) spinning in a circle for 20 seconds and then scrambling to find his shoes among all the other racers’ shoes before getting on his bike to start his lap. Each lap of Vulture’s Knob is about 6.7 miles long over some of the roughest terrain around. We planned to trade single laps until dark and then perform double laps at night to give everyone a bit more sleep.
Jim completed his first lap and Jacoby followed but was dumped on one of the steep drops into a ravine. Along with a few scrapes, his seatpost broke leaving him with an uncomfortable 3 miles to finish the lap, which he managed with his constant positive demeanor. I rode third and Joe, fourth before starting the cycle of laps again.
Darkness was approaching as Joe finished his 2nd lap and Jacoby was going to pull the first nighttime double, so he could head home and go to work Sunday morning. Somewhere during his first night lap his crank arm broke off but was capable of finishing the lap. Jim took over and began his double while the rest of us adjusted our sleep schedules.
My 12:30am alarm went off and I put on a fresh pair of cycling shorts and jersey, clicked on my headlamp and headed to the transition area. A large bonfire had been started and only a few people milled around. Jim arrived on schedule just after 1am. We exchanged a few words as he passed our team baton, a clothespin. I was off into the night for two laps with my bike light leading the way. I rode gloveless because I was unable to get them to dry after my last ride and blisters were already starting to be a problem for me. This eased the tension on my hands but the new problem was slippery grips that were also wet from the evening dew and sweat. Regardless, mountain biking at night is one of the coolest experiences ever.
After 2:11 I finished my laps and passed off to Joe for his double. I crawled back into bed for another short nap from 3:30am to 6:30am. Another alarm and back into my cycling clothes, this time still saturated in sweat from the night ride. It was only uncomfortable for a moment. The good news was that we were back to single laps, which seemed pleasant after the doubles. My energy felt great for the first 4 miles, then I hit a wall. Climbing the hills was reduced to a walk and I felt shaky. I quickly realized I’d made the mistake of not eating during and after my double laps at night, my body had run low on fuel. I slowly finished this fifth lap in 1:15.
Joe was out at this point, saddle soreness had gotten the best of him. Jim still had reserves and went out for his sixth lap. Again he was smooth across the finish line in 1:15 and proved to be the best on the team with his steady performances.
Coffee had arrived via Jim’s wife Jen and neighbors. We sat under the pop-up tent and reflected on the past 24 hours with the little energy we had left. We finished 18 laps: Jim with 6, myself 5, Joe 4 and Jacoby with 3. It was a challenge, it was an adventure, it was everything we expected and more. We would all do it again without hesitation.