Mud, sweat and gears

by • June 17, 2013 • Single-track mindComments (0)1000

If you love mountain biking, this 24-hour race is for you


Dana Tower enters the stadium during last year's 24 Hours of Mud Sweat and Gears race. By Janice Tower

Dana Tower enters the stadium during last year’s 24 Hours of Mud Sweat and Gears race. By Janice Tower

The Arctic Bicycle Club’s 24 Hours of Mud, Sweat and Gears is a mountain bike race that proceeds for 24 hours over solstice weekend. The event begins at noon Saturday, June 22, and ends at noon the following day. It’s probably the only 24-hour event in the country that doesn’t require lights at night.

Race director Megan Piersma describes this ultra-distance event as both a race and a cultural happening in which participants test their mettle and metal in a contest of man and machine. For a peculiar 24 hours, the Kincaid Park stadium turns into “a musical event without the live music,” according to Piersma.

“Everyone’s hanging out in their lawn chairs with their sunglasses (hopefully) on, with tents and sleeping bags. It’s like a big party without alcohol.”

Or music. Unless the music is in the riders’ iPods to help them pass the time while relentlessly hammering out laps on a 10-mile course that mixes ski trails and singletrack.

The 24 Hours of Mud, Sweat and Gears offers mountain bikers the opportunity to compete in solo, duo and four-person categories. If biking for a day out of your life seems impossible, riders can choose to enter the 12-hour race (solo or duo) or the six-hour event as a solo adult, or as a junior team of one, two, three or four riders.

“Personally I don’t think that riding for 24 hours is appealing at all,” Piersma said. “It’s grueling. My husband, Chet Fehrmann, explains it as an opportunity to get out of his mind and into his body.”

Indeed, if you can picture yourself sitting in a La-Z-Boy from noon one day to noon the next, imagining yourself physically active for that same amount of time is a tough order. But for dozens of mountain bikers, riding for 24 hours is their idea of a good time.

“Last year there were 81 people that rode a total of 5,475 miles,” Piersma said. “Eighteen men and three women competed in the solo category.”

24 Hours of Mud, Sweat and Gears is family oriented. In years past, teams of kids have competed head to head with their parents’ teams. While kids may have an advantage because of their youth and ability to recover between laps, their elders have the benefit of patience. Often, it comes down to the team that can stay awake the longest without retreating to sleeping bags.

The 24 hour event receives impressive support from community businesses including Speedway Cycles, Backcountry Bike and Ski in Palmer, The Bicycle Shop on Dimond, Paramount Cycles, Chain Reaction Cycles, Anchorage Yoga, and Food Services of America, which supplies beverages and ribs for the grill. Where else can you find a 12-hour barbeque as part of your entry fee?

Piersma offers some tips for success. “Make sure that your home base is dialed in so that when you’re done with a lap, everything is set up for you. For soloists, it’s best if you have a support person who makes sure you’re drinking, eating and changing your clothes when needed. One of the things people forget to do is hydrate and eat. Once you get tired you have no motivation to make yourself eat food. Have things as ready as you can before the race starts.

“We don’t want people to be intimidated,” Piersma said. “Come on out, sit on your bikes, have a good time and be relaxed. It’s the cheapest 24-hour race in the country. We just want people to come out and hang with us. It’s not super-elitist where you have to be in a training program to do it. All abilities are welcome. Spandex is definitely not necessary.”

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