24 Hours in the Mud


Photos and words by brand ambassador, Devon Balet

I was drunk the night I signed up for 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. All good stories start with a little booze, right? It was a Saturday night in Steamboat Springs, after a few too many bar hops during the annual Mustache Ride. As I removed my costume I sat down and registered. Closing one eye to make sure all the info was correct and then hit “Confirm”. 

 

Fast forward four months with not nearly enough riding. Still recovering from hand surgeries, rides began with 6 mile spins on the easiest trails in Grand Junction. I probably shouldn’t have signed up for the race, but I am stubborn and a bit stupid so I just set my eyes on the prize and said screw it. 

 

A couple of spin classes, plenty of yoga, hundreds of commenting miles, a few gym sessions, a 180 mile gravel ass kicker, some more big saddles days and it was time for the big show. Nervousness never sat in until about 45 minutes before the start and that is when the shakes began. 

 

Putting down the camera and strapping on a number plate is something I have done only once before for the Breck Epic, which was no walk in the park. As the race approached the weather was not looking to be pleasant. Pretty much right at race start the weather man said it would begin raining and not let up until the following day.

 Photo Credit: Brian Leddy

 

I am not one to get scared off by weather very easily, but as the skies opened up around 2pm I knew I was going to be in for a long night. I happened to time to first two big waves of rain and hail, narrowly finishing my lap as the weather really hit. 

 

As the night hour laps began I wasn’t as lucky. On my first night lap I was snowed on with about 6 miles left. The snow switched to rain and then the wind picked up. I finished my lap shivering, wet and cold. 

Photo Credit:  Damian Alexander  

 

I began treating every lap like a short ride. Finishing a lap I would stop at my pit, devour as much food and hot fluids as I could and then head out for another lap. It wasn’t until about 3am that I figured out the exchange tent had massive hot blowers, which I sat in front of for several very long minutes each lap. 

 

As the horizon began to hold a faint glow the weather continued to be variable. Rain, wind, still, cold, perfect, tacky, muddy, dry, we saw it all. As I closed in on 10 laps it became an inner battle on how many more laps I would do. After struggling my way through the 10th, I told myself that was it. There was only 20 or so minutes left and I felt satisfied.

 Photo Credit: Scott Christy

 

But did I mention I can be easily influenced? With only minutes left before the official finish of the race I jumped into the exchange tent for one more swing at the course. This final lap was easily the most enjoyable; no other racers passing me or to pass, wide open trails with nothing but spraying mud. I screamed out in pain as I pushed harder. After 24 hours of riding in the rain I laid out my fastest lap time.

 

I blurry eyed rolled through the finish line. I could only imagine what I looked like as everyone stepped aside while I stumbled my way out. Having done plenty of big rides, this was the longest continuous ride for me. 176 miles over 25.5 hours with about 90 minutes of sleep mixed in. As painful and hard as that was, I must say, I am looking forward to the next big self induced ass kicking.

Photo Credit: Kenny Wehn