Friday, October 19, 2012

24 Hour Race for a Supporter

Ollie thought it might be interesting for me to write about being a feeder/supporter for a 24 hour race to share my thoughts and observations.  So that is what this post is about.

When Ollie first mentioned going to Canberra for the National Australian 24 hour race he didn’t explicitly say that I needed to go with him.  It wasn’t till further in to our conversation about the race that I found out it is compulsory for solo riders to have at least one support crew.  That’s when I figured I was going to Canberra.  I was excited to be going away for a weekend and being a part of another adventure with Ollie.  But as the time drew near I started to dread the race realising that it required me to be awake and functioning for the same duration as the race.  Not that big a deal, I know.  But not your holiday weekend away, sun bathing and napping on a tropical beach which, by the way, we haven’t been to yet. 

After our exciting taxi ride to the venue and a good night sleep in our trusty wee tent we rose to a lovely morning in Canberra.  As Ollie started assembling his bike I asked him my final questions mostly about what should happen upon him finishing the race.  I suspected he would be super out of it. I was a little worried about packing up everything and getting him back to the airport. 

As Ollie mentioned we were in the line up with high profile solo riders.  They started to arrive and set up camp and I watched with curiosity.  Jason English had two tents and so many supporters I lost count.  I think they were mostly family, his mother checked in on me at 1am to say if I got cold to come down to their tent where they had a heater.  Isn’t she a nice lady.  I’m pretty sure it was his Mum anyway.   Other riders had their table brimming with food and sagging under the weight of what appeared to be thousands of drink bottles.  Because of our travelling situation we decided to take our food with us from Brisbane.  It didn’t look like much in comparison.  But Ollie was confident it was more than he needed.  Turns out at the end of the race he’d only eaten about half the food that we brought.  Also, most of the other solo riders had multiple bikes.   
Ollie is such a hot shot now with his tent label.  

Ollie being interviewed before the race.
The start of the race was very fast but soon appeared to settle and Ollie seemed to just be ticking away, sticking to his eating regime and getting work done.   At around 8 hours he started to fade and at 9 hours he pulled in to our pit saying he needed heaps of food and that he was falling asleep.  This is when the spread sheet feeding plan went out the window.  We pumped him with caffeine and stuffed his pockets with food and off he went again.  Previously when supporting Ollie at a 12 hour he requested coke and didn’t go back to drinking water for the duration of the race.  I didn’t think that would be the case this time, but I thought he might want a second bottle of coke and then go back to the water or Gatorade.  Little did I know that the caffeine had taken effect strongly and all he really wanted to was water.  Unfortunately every second lap he passed through the camp at an alternate place, so I wasn’t near the tent where I could just swap the coke for water.  Anyhow, he seemed in great spirits after that until 1am.  It was raining and his lap times where getting considerably slower.  I took advantage of the longer lap times and had at 30min sleep.  It was so cold I put Ollie’s sleeping bag inside my own for warmth.  Fortunately Ollie wasn’t having any problems staying warm on the bike. 

At around 2am I was almost back on schedule with the spread sheet feeding plan and was about to give him his first treat, a bag of snake lollies.  Instead though, he pulled in and said he needed a break.  WHAT!  You’ve been riding for 14hours and you need a break?!?! You gotta be kidding me. (Sarcasm)  He was going to lie down on the grass floor of our tent and curl up, but I got his Ground Effect bike bag and he laid down on that.  I covered him in his jackets to try and keep him warm.  He said to wake him after 10 minutes.  As soon as he lay down he was sleeping deeply. I could see his eyes moving beneath the lids and he was twitching.  I figured 10 minutes wasn’t long enough.  He had the lead by over an hour at this stage, so I wasn’t worried about him loosing places.  I was worried about him getting cold though.  I thought about using the sleeping bags... but he was so heavily caked in mud I decided not to.  After 15mins I woke him.  I tried to say something comforting and positive, but was unsuccessful.  I told him it would be easy once the sun came up and that was only four hours away.  He responded with a cheeky grin who’s meaning can be interpreted as “yeah, you go ride out there for ONLY four more hours, till the sun comes up”.  None the less, he didn’t procrastinate.  He got up and went straight back to doing what Ollie does best, riding his bike when actually it would be so much nicer to stop.  His mood was hugely improved after his nap and he continued on till day light without drama.

At the end of each lap he would pass by the feed station twice, once on his way in from a lap and once on his way out for the next lap.  We used the first passing to swap drink bottles and pass food, the second for clothes or for me to quickly give him an update on where the competition was.  Later in the race we didn’t really need the second slot, so I’d just stand there at the side of the track trying to think of something to cheer as he rode by.  I found heckling difficult though.  So many of the standard ones I have picked up from fellow hecklers at bike races just were not appropriate.  “Put it in the biggie”  “Get off the brakes”, not really that kind of race.  “Good job”  “You go you good thing you”, so cliché.  Finally I decided to go with the “you know you love it”.  This turned out to be a winner even getting a smile out of him. 

During the night Ollie was riding pretty closely to a guy named Callum.  Callum’s father was supporting him and we were often waiting at the feeding stations together, chit chatting about our riders and general other stuff.  It was nice to have some company. 

I was slightly confused about the finish of the race.  In other 12 hours I’ve attended at the finish you need to complete a full lap before the 12 hours is up.  Not the case here, you only have to start your last lap before 24 hours.  Ollie was a little disappointed when I told him this and in all honesty he probably could have sat out the last lap and still won, but he was a good sport and did it anyway just to be safe.
There were two guys doing a running commentary and handing out spot prizes throughout the duration of the whole race.  At the finish line they were interviewing winners of prominent categories and as Ollie finished they pulled him aside and talked to him for a couple of minutes.  It was pretty obvious he just wanted to sit down but he humoured them anyway.  Finally they let him go and we went back to the tent so he could have a sit down.  He was surprisingly functional.  I sent him off for a shower while I washed his bike.  He instructed me on how to pack his bike, which wasn’t too hard after all.  Prize giving was prompt and speedy.  Then we were in a taxi back to the airport. 

So much drool!  While we were waiting for our flights Ollie leaned on me and promptly fell into a deep sleep.  When he awoke and sat up there was a small lake of drool on my arm.  Later we moved seats to be closer to the gate for Ollie’s flight.  We sat and again he half leaned/lay on me and fell asleep.  I was also very tired and set my alarm so I could sleep as well.  I was just dozing off in a seated position when a dribble of drool fell and landed on Ollie awaking him and me.  With so much drool and wearing our scruffy clothes from our long and tiring weekend we must have looked like retarded homeless people waiting for our flights.
Ollie at the airport in Canberra after his 24 hour race,
creating a puddle of dribble on the floor, rather than my arm. 

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