’25 Hours in Frog Hollow’ delivers beautiful, grueling, wet rides; STGnews Photo Gallery

Riders traverse the trail through rainy conditions at 25 Hours in Frog Hollow, Virgin, Utah, Nov. 1, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

VIRGIN – The sun was barely rising over the eastern ridge as we pulled into “Frog Town,” the official hub of the “25 Hours in Frog Hollow” mountain bike race. Tents and recreational vehicles were sprawled across the desert landscape on the outskirts of Virgin as hundreds of riders shook sleep from their legs and got set to participate in quite possibly the most epic single-day endurance ride around.

L-R Andy Kerlin, Josh Heaton, Ralph Reina, Stan Young, Hollie Reina, Bridger Wilson, Will Shake and Bart Finklea representing High Knees Cycling are all smiles before the start of the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow endurance mountain bike race, Virgin, Utah, Nov. 1, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Sandy Wilson, St. George News
L-R Andy Kerlin, Josh Heaton, Ralph Reina, Stan Young, Hollie Reina, Bridger Wilson, William Shake and Bart Finklea representing High Knees Cycling are all smiles before the start of the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow endurance mountain bike race, Virgin, Utah, Nov. 1, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Sandy Wilson, St. George News

My husband and I camped and rode with a motley crew of riders representing High Knees Cycling’s corporate team and we had little idea what to expect as we pulled into our campsite and introduced ourselves to our teammates; Josh Heaton, Andy Kerlin, Bart Finklea, Stan Young, Bridger Wilson and William Shake.

High Knees’ owner Shake with the help of Finklea put together the team comprised of shop employees, friends, friends of friends, one intrepid reporter and her husband.

We were pumped and a little bit scared as we watched the ominous clouds sitting just north of us and wondering if they would bring rain.

“25 Hours in Frog Hollow” is an annual race that takes place on the weekend daylight saving time ends and the clocks “fall back” one hour giving it the honor of calling itself the longest one-day mountain bike race in the world.

Frog Hollow also boasts an international field of professional and amateur athletes hailing from as far away as Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, France, Canada and other countries around the world as well as states across the nation.

Near the Lions Club vendor tent I met Jean Francois Grosjean of France and in my broken high school French I managed to ask him what he thought of Utah and the course.

“Beautiful single-track,” Grosjean said amid words like “magnifique.”

The race pits solo and relay team riders against nearly 13 miles of desert trail and the clock; 25 hours to complete as many laps as possible.

My husband and I toed the line at the back of the pack for the Le Mans style (all riders run to their bikes) start at zero hour and as soon as we mounted our saddles it was clear I was way out of my league – with riders like St. George resident Lynda Wallenfels, a once overall winner of the “Arizona Trail 300” and 2009 National 24 Hour Singlespeed Champion out on the course, how could I not be?

Lynda Wallenfels dismounts after the completion of another lap at the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow endurance mountain bike race, Virgin, Utah, Nov. 2, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Lynda Wallenfels dismounts after the completion of another lap at the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow endurance mountain bike race, Virgin, Utah, Nov. 2, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

It was only my second mountain bike race ever and already in the space of a month I had run a marathon, done my first mountain bike race and gotten myself into this crazy endurance ride without much training – or recovery, for that matter.

That being said, 3 miles into the ascent with a brutal headwind is not the time for second thoughts and I kept my mind occupied bantering with my husband, taking in the view and trying not to die.

Frog Hollow’s course is both breathtakingly beautiful and physically grueling, snaking through double-track ascents, some joyously flowy single-track and a wretched rock garden that had even the best riders cursing that section of trail.

For my part it was some of the best riding I had ever done and I was happily listening to the hum of my tires thinking that I had never gone so fast when, from out of nowhere, I heard the call of the lead rider letting me know he was about to pass … I was lapped.

Of course it wouldn’t be the last time I pulled into the bushes to watch faster, fitter riders fly by with an elusive and elegant ease that had me gazing with awe and left my husband’s jaw on the dust drooling with envy.

By the time we finally rolled through the finish arch and into the timing tent we were tapped out. We spent the rest of the day hanging with our team and volunteering at the treat booth where we supplied tired riders with energy gels, water, sugar and a small dose of humor to, hopefully, aid them through the long day and night of riding.

Race promoters, GRO promotions, bill the atmosphere at Frog Hollow as an all-day party and with costumed riders, continuous music, cozy fire pits and teams of jovial people, the scene was set for a day that was almost a festival.

Steady rain caused muddy, soupy conditions on the course which stuck to tires and chewed up gears during the night laps of the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow endurance mountain bike race, Virgin, Utah, Nov. 1, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Steady rain caused muddy, soupy conditions on the course which stuck to tires and chewed up gears during the night laps of the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow endurance mountain bike race, Virgin, Utah, Nov. 1, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Almost … were it not for the rain.

After several drizzles throughout the day, the threatening clouds finally broke open around 7 p.m. and rarely eased up during the night, turning the course into muddy soup that collected on tires, chewed up gears and made Utah’s famous rocks extra slick.

High Knees team member Young competed in the solo competition and spent an extra muddy lap doing a lot of hike-a-biking, he said; when he finally mounted again, he was surprised to find that the bike would still pedal, he said.

Other riders said less friendly, less printable words about the weather as they returned from or headed out on laps soaking wet, covered in mud, and cold.

But weather didn’t seem to stop the juggernaut that was Frog Hollow’s winner, Ulrik Andreaseen who completed a whopping 21 laps in just over 25 hours.

My husband and I retired to our tent in the late evening while other riders like our team’s Kerlin, Young and Heaton took advantage of a brief lull in the rain to get in one more night lap.

The deluge returned around 3 a.m. and I was glad to be snuggled in my sleeping bag listening to the music still blaring on the speakers and the rain hitting my tent.

In the morning, at High Knees camp we all gathered around a warm fire and took stock of our rides.

Team member 14- almost 15-year-old Bridger Wilson, one of the youngest on the course, got in some really good laps and said that he had had a lot of fun.

Riders participate in the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow endurance mountain bike race, Virgin, Utah, Nov. 1, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News
Riders participate in the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow endurance mountain bike race, Virgin, Utah, Nov. 1, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

Wilson is new to the sport but already shows promise and passion.

Many on the team came just for fun and were happy to get two or three laps in. Shake, who rode solo on a cyclocross bike got in seven laps for a total 89.6 miles and Young came in just behind him with six laps.

And me? I was a one lap wonder but don’t worry, my husband and I are already plotting our grand return and next time we will be ready.

I once read an article in which the author was lamenting the degeneration of the word “epic.” What was once reserved for serious adventures, á la Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic explorations, was now casually thrown around in everyday vernacular: “Dude, last night was so epic!”

After what transpired during the 25 hours I spent in “Frog Town,” I can unequivocally say; “that ride was epic.”

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Resources

For more information about 25 Hours in Frog Hollow including results click here

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Email: hreina@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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2 Comments

  • Steve B November 3, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Great article Hollie! Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Congrats on being a racer/writer/photographer on this one.
    It’s good to see the St. George area continue to become a Mt. Bike mecca.

  • Zonkerb November 4, 2014 at 2:48 am

    Yeah it’s okay to ride a bicycle here but just don’t go dancing because you will get arrested for dancing in St George

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