Racing the 24 Hours of Adrenalin, and Loving It

By Chris Kostman

Was to have been published in Mountain Biking Magazine, May, 2000, but those hosers never published it, nor paid me!"

It was deep in the middle of the night when reality started to set in for my competitors. Solo artists in a predominantly team relay-oriented event called the 24 Hours of Adrenalin, held the weekend of September 18-19, 1999, we were grinding out lap after lap on our own, our only influx of energy being the warm smiles and food given to us in the pit area by our support crews.

While the hundreds of team racers blitzed the course on a testosterone shot of team spirit, we twenty soloists got intimate with the course like newlyweds on their wedding night. Now, around midnight, most of my fellow solo heroes were dropping like flies, succumbing to nausea, blown bodies, and total bonkage.

I was in seventh place and moving up, mainly because everyone else was moving back.

Insanity Begins Young

I’m only 32, but I’ve got the experience of a grizzled old cycling grandpa when it comes to racing insane distances on little sleep. I did the Race Across America (RAAM) when I was 20-still the youngest guy on record to finish. The next year, I got too cocky, went out too fast, and didn’t finish at all.

I started racing Iditabike back in 1988, doing it three times before John Stamstad ever showed up and became a celebrity. (I switched to the snowshoe division once he headed north for what had become known as the Iditasport.) Back in 1989 I set the first 24 hour off-road record before anyone ever thought of it (242 miles); Stamstad, of course, has since reduced that effort to a footnote of history. But there’s one thing I’ve learned and never forgotten in all my years of endurance racing: if you hammer out hard, you die later.

24 Hours of Adrenalin Race Series

The 24 hours of Adrenalin race series, known as the "Woodstock of Mountain Biking" and created by Trilife Sports International, originated in Canada in 1994, but has been spreading like wildfire across North America. 1999 brought eight events to this series (four each in Canada and the States) and the 2000 schedule will feature ten events, making 24 hour off-road racing one of the biggest movements in cycling. Indeed, the Canadian Adrenalin races are routinely selling out with up to 2,000 competitors and triple that in spectators. Factor in the mud, the music, the party atmosphere, the staying up all night, and the adrenalin rush of non-stop racing, and you’ll understand where they get their Woodstock moniker.



2 Person

4 Person

5 Person Open Age: Under 100/100-149/150-199/200+

5 Person Co-ed (New)

5 Person All Female


United States

24 Hours of Adrenalin California
Laguna Seca May 13/14

24 Hours of Adrenalin New Jersey
TBA June 3/4

24 Hours of Adrenalin Wisconsin
Devils Head June 17/18

24 Hours of Adrenalin Colorado
TBA Aug 5 /6

24 Hours of Adrenalin Georgia
Conyers Sept 16/17

24 Hours of Adrenalin California
Idyllwild Sept 30/Oct 1


Kokanee 12 and 24 Hours of Adrenalin Ontario
Mansfield July 1/2

Kokanee 12 and 24 Hours of Adrenalin Alberta
Canmore July 22/23

Kokanee 24 Hours of Adrenalin Ontario
Hardwood Hills Aug 19/20

Kokanee 24 Hours of Adrenalin BC
Silver Star Sept 2/3

World Solo 24 Hours of Adrenalin Championships

Idyllwild, Hurkey Creek Park, California
Sept 30/Oct 1

So, from the very beginning at 12 Noon, from the run-to-your-bike "Le Mans Start," I repeated the words "start slow." While everyone sprinted, I loped. As the nine mile loop hit us with a long single-track grind up a rocky, rooty creekbed, I concentrated on relaxing, breathing, and getting into my own groove.

I watched in amusement as the rest of the solo field sucked wheel in pacelines with the team racers like it was the Tour de France. Twelfth place would be fine for me for quite a while, thank you very much.

My only goal was to memorize the course, a remote, wooded circuit up behind Palm Springs and Hemet at 5,000 feet of elevation. Almost entirely singletrack, it was technical enough to require total concentration all the way around, even on the climbs. Drop-offs, sand pits, and rocky, razor-sharp, downhill gullies that required putting out one foot as an outrigger provided plenty of opportunity to become road pizza. My life flashed before me more times than I could count.

The Stroke of Midnight

Racing 24 hours solo takes a different mindset. Team racers, grouped in twos, fours, and fives, find their only limiting factor is the overall horsepower of their collective effort, which keeps their pace pretty steady and their place in the overall standings surprisingly consistent as the hours go by. Of course, team racers spend most of their time chilling in the pit area, rested and pampered.

Solo racers, on the other hand, find lap times varying widely as the race progresses. Bent wheels and gunked-up chains, clothing changes, calls of nature, and refilling of Camelbaks contribute to pit stops. Exhaustion, dehydration, glycogen depletion (the bonk), lack of motivation, and that ultimate sin, sleep, are the worst time robbers in the solo race.

The first big test is around midnight. Anyone can go hard for seven or eight hours. But after that, lack of conscientious fueling and pacing takes its toll. RAAM being the testing ground of liquid diets, I’d happily been sucking down Endura Optimizer like mother’s milk. Optimizer’s a complete meal replacement drink that includes protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals in a 300-calorie per serving mix. It was a big reason why my energy and speed were not faltering-and why I wasn’t getting cold, despite wearing only a vest and arm warmers against temps in the 30’s. A well-fueled body and and quick two-minute pit stops (thanks to another essential I had picked up from RAAM: an efficient crew—my girlfriend Dana, brother Keith, and buddy Rob) kept the chill and bonk from sinking in.

All those first-day heroes, meanwhile, were stopping for extended breaks to gorge themselves on chili, cold pizza, macaroni and cheese, candy, and donuts. They also stopped often to puke—no surprise. Of course, that’s what going out too hard, stopping for breaks, and eating garbage will do to you.

A Shot in the Dark

Nightime in the Adrenalin world is creepy and scary. First, even seeing other riders is so rare that it’s kinda spooky when you cross paths. I had just seen the Blair Witch Project and there were a lot of trees out there in the remote wilderness of the San Bernardino Mountains. (I found myself screaming "Josh!!!!" a few times, just to keep it humorous.) With my borrowed Niterider lights working perfectly, I cruised along without incident in the deep hours.

Then around 3 AM something blasted me in the chest like a rubber bullet from a member of Berkeley Riot Police. Screeching to a stop to inspect for damages, I spied something shiny and red in the dirt in front of me. Reaching down to pick up what was apparently part of a suspension fork, I also spied a second, yellow, sticky tube-shaped item. Stuffing the parts in my pocket, I thought I’d play good Samaritan and turn them in for whoever had blown their shocks out.

Hours later, after sunrise, I noticed that it was the cap and guts of my borrowed Ritchey P-20’s left Judy SL fork blade that I was carrying in my pocket. That explains why my forks seemed a little mushy. (But what do I know? I don’t mountain bike on shocks normally.)

Then came another surprise: Trilife head honcho Stuart Dorland told me I had moved up to third place. With the sun climbing in the sky, I had 20 hours and a dozen laps in the bank, and I was stoked. Within two hours, I moved into second place without even realizing it until my crew told me. Greg Blackwell, a big-time veteran who probably had a few tricks he could teach me, was a lap ahead and out of reach.

With one and a half laps to, as I stopped to put on some sunblock, a little guy with the Number 8 plate rolled by. Anyone with number 20 or lower was solo, but I assumed he was on a different lap. My crew had only warned me to look out for racer Number 14.

But that was bad information.

On a Mission from God

Heading out for my last lap, I learned that I was back in third. Worse yet, Number 8 was now five minutes ahead. Damn! It would be the end of pacing myself, if I was going to get back into second place.

My mantra was now "don’t fall, don’t lose the line, don’t dab" as I hurtled around the course. I flowed like melted butter over the tree roots, rocks, drop-offs, and everything else in my way; I climbed the mountains like they were only a flat at an angle. I was in what I call my "zen-euphoric" state where barriers seem to fall away and I blend seamlessly with my environment, my bike, and my breath.

With each rider I passed, I peaked at their plate. I couldn’t believe I could pass so many people and still not find 8, whoever he was. I was on a mission, maybe a mission from god.

But I was running out of race course, and time, fast. I was not quite going to make it back before noon, so I knew this was my last lap, my last chance. I poured it on even harder.

And then, not even a half mile from the finish line, with the crowd in the distance roaring as 12 Noon ticked by, I rode right on past Number 8 as he walked his bike up the last little hill. He was shot and he didn’t register any recognition as I rode by. I didn’t dare look over my shoulder.

At 12:04:14 PM, I sprinted on foot over the finish line with my bike held above me. With my chest still heaving, the adrenalin flow almost narcotic, I watched Number 8, Morgan Foster, cross the line a mere 73 seconds later.

It was a close and well-fought race. The difference? To the bitter end, I didn’t slack off on my diet and pacing system, plus my crew told me who to watch out for on that last lap. Foster, easily as good a rider as I am, wasn’t eating and didn’t even know who I was when I caught him in the final yards. No doubt he’ll race smarter next time and we’ll be trading places.