1999 The High Peaks Cyclery 24-Hour Mountain Bike Race

Mt. VanHovenbergh New York
The Riders: William Martin and the rest of the field
The Record: 155 miles No record was set!
The Course: 6.2 mile loop at the Mt VanHovenbergh Biathlon Center 550ft climbing per lap East Mountain Climb Rolling Biathlon Terrain

Since my last 24-hour attempt had failed I went into a deep depression. I felt no purpose and had no self-worth. my racing went downhill also ending with my retirement from competitive racing in September of 1998. In 1999 I vowed to once again do the 24-hour challenge.

I had fanaticized about it for two years. I chose the 24-hour race in Lake Placid to make my comeback attempt. Things did not go to well in the preparation, as school had taken its toll on my fitness. I would begin the race with a total of less than ten training hours for the summer. I was totally out of shape.

The first lap went pretty well but I soon realized that this would be a long 24 hours and I settled into a slow but steady pace. With three laps done I started to feel back pains and fatigue. My body was just not ready to ride a bike for longer than an hour. Still, I trudged on getting slower and slower.

Suddenly all the eating and drinking started to pay off as I started to ride into shape. Each lap got better and better and I was feeling great in spirits. Darkness fell, however, and the biggest fear in my life started … the dark, cold, night. I knew that it would be tough, but was up for the task.

Suddenly my race came crashing down around me. There were competitors that kept right up with me and so I gave up on the win expecting to go for my record instead. By midnight I was within reach of my goals but the second letdown of the night came in the form of news. News that each lap was only 6 miles long instead of 7.

This would kill my hopes of a PR, as my mileage wasn’t as high as I had hoped. I would have to ride consistently and fast until noon. I determined that I could not go on however and decided to give up. I sat down for a piece of pizza offered to me by my friends, Charlie Mitchell and Chris Rose. Charlie was in the race too but in the 4-person division with team ROAR. I talked to Chris and Charlie until they had to go out to ride their own shifts.

I found myself alone. Could I finish or should I just call it quits now? I wondered and drank my coffee that I had attained in the main part of the lodge. The coffee then started to kick in. I thought to myself that I had might as well go out and ride and maybe see on of my buddies out there on the trail. I was just to miserable to just hang out at the lodge.

I knew that in the back of my mind that I wanted to at least keep awake and conquer the night. I had never conquered the night. I set off on a slow lap, walking at every chance that I got. I found comfort in the night with the moon in full and my shallow pants of breathing now becoming very therapeutic.

Chris Rose came up the trail with news. Apparently my competition had got two laps up on me and could not go any further. The competition had gone to sleep with intentions on getting up in the morning ready to attack. I came to life as my competitive juices began to stir. I would attack now and try to be ahead of the sleeping racer. I raced past the checkpoint and right back out for another lap.

After that lap, I then again did not stop for re-fueling and went out for a third consecutive lap. I was now tied and if I could get another lap in before sunrise I could take the lead. The gamble paid off and I went for a fourth consecutive lap. The pace had wore on me as the lap became long with I tried to fight from going into shock and passing out. I came into the checkout to find myself ahead by two.

I staggered into the pit area and said “He can have it , I cannot go any further”. And with that I passed out on the floor. Chris Rose woke me right back up with some news. The bad news was that the competitor went out for another lap and the good news was that he had finished behind me and he too was stopped. Apparently he could not stop vomiting from exhaustion.

I watched my competitor afraid that if I went out for another lap I myself would die out there. The sun had been up for a little while now and I started to recover from my pre-dawn attack. Suddenly more news – my competitor was attacking once again. I would have to go out one more time. Chris told me to wait. To see if my competition would decide to go another, and then follow me. I went to get ready and decided to go at that moment – before I died (I figured).

The loop was very long and when I finished I decided to quit and see if my competition would catch. I thought that maybe my competition had enough and would not attack any more. I was wrong. my competition went out for another but I stayed. Could this guy make up two laps on me before Noon? At the mid-checkpoint it was apparent that my competitor was on the attack and posted a 13-minute half-lap. That pace would definitely be enough to do three laps before noon.

I went and put on my cycling shoes once again and decided to attack like I had never attacked before. I filled my water bottle with Mountain Dew and took off. I decided to go all out and attack every obstacle. I cleared East Mountain Pass in record time and let it all hang out on the decent. At the midpoint I posted a 11-minute half-lap time and realized that I was on a record breaking lap pace. Suddenly Charlie Mitchell was in front of me and I passed Charlie like he was standing still.

I was inspired at my newfound energy and was out of the saddle for each climb. Finally one more climb. Now on the straightaway. I crossed the line at 25:24, a lap record for the entire race – totally amazing. My competition came in and found out about the record lap, he was de-moralized and decided to give in. I stopped and I won the race by two laps. A long way from the depression that I once had the year before, I would now know a new life from that moment on.