May 24-25 of this year will mark the 15th running of the 24 Hours Round The Clock Race at Riverside State Park. This year’s race theme, “A Hard Day’s Night,” is one of the most appropriate themes yet.

The race is a loop of trails about 15 miles long covering a wide variety of the topography offered by Riverside State Park, much of which is infused with rock. There are rocky climbs, rocky descents, and rocky traverses. Also along the way you’ll find some tight single track weaving through trees, some dirt/gravel double track, water puddles and mud, about five rock gardens, and if the Spokane River is in flood stage, the asphalt of the Centennial Trail.

With a course this long and so many disparate trails involved, it helps to have names on parts of the course. Some areas bear names indicative of their makeup. The Lake District is where you’ll navigate through or around pools of water. Five Minute Hill gets its name from the time it takes to climb it, which tends to grow longer for some as the race wears on. Devil’s Up and Devil’s Down are, respectively, the steepest climb and the most treacherous downhill parts of the race. (There is a much less stressful alternative to going down Devil’s Down). Other areas have names that stuck after the theme of that race. Marrakesh Express and Purple Haze, for example, got their names during the Woodstock-themed race.

Waiting teammates warm their hands in the early morning. Photo: Hank Greer

Waiting teammates warm their hands in the early morning. Photo: Hank Greer

The race begins at noon on Saturday with a Le Mans start. The bikes are in racks just past the start line. A couple hundred riders run a quarter-mile loop that brings them back to the start where they grab their bikes and go. The tires hit the trail and keep on rolling for the next 24 hours. At the completion of each lap, the rider dismounts and enters the timing tent. They pass a wristband over a sensor and electronicaly check in after which they either get back on the bike or pass the wristband on to a waiting teammate. A running tally of team and solo scores is posted on a bulletin board so you have an idea how you and the competition are faring. The latest anyone can start a new lap is 11:59 am on Sunday.  Those left on the course will complete their final lap. Once everyone finishes, the scores are tallied and awards are presented.

Who races on a mountain bike for 24 hours? The skillset ranges from the experienced and extremely fit to those who are new to mountain biking. The beauty about this race is that there’s a category for everyone. If you want to limit yourself to just a couple of laps, a ten-person team is the way to go. If you want a little more race time, then a four or five-person team would suit you. If that’s not enough saddle time for you then you could share the suffering with someone else on a two-person team. And if you’re greedy and you want the punishment all to yourself, then solo is the way to go.

I’ll leave the question, “When will I sleep?” for you to figure out. But getting some rest that Sunday night is a sure fire bet.

Smiling through Strawberry Fields. Photo: Hank Greer

Smiling through Strawberry Fields. Photo: Hank Greer

Wendy Zupan and Gino Liesicki, Round and Round Productions, and an army of volunteers are the persons responsible for this unique event. Wendy strives to maintain her sanity while managing registrations, answering questions, getting volunteers, assigning volunteer duties, and more. The creative team names and campsite decorations are one of the favorite parts of the event for Wendy. Last year, the event was graced by the presence of teams with names like Old Farts With Squirts, Nine & One-Half Legs, Oh Shift, and I’ve Effin’ Ridden Only Once This Year!!!

Gino maps out the course, parking, camping, and vehicle access areas. He and volunteers, like Dave Nelson, also prepare the course for the insanity of a daylong race. They avoid long straight, flat stretches, which will bore riders. But they don’t want to surprise riders with potentially dangerous situations such as a sharp turn at the end of a high-speed stretch. The flow of the course is very important so they mix up the single and double track throughout the course to give riders plenty of places to pass and be passed.

A Hard Day’s Night will be a lot of fun for several hundred mountain bikers. But don’t take my word for it. It’s not too late to find out for yourself. (roundandround.com). //