Eight years ago Spencer Leuders rode his bike for 24 hours around a neighborhood in NC- a route fondly known as “booty loop”- in support of a friend with cancer.

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Eight years and three cities later, 24 Hours of Booty is raising millions of dollars in the name of cancer, with thousands of cyclists biking through the day and night in support of those who have fought, are fighting, or will fight the horrible disease of cancer.

This weekend I was honored to be one of those cyclists.

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There’s really no way to adequately pack such an experience into a recap, but I’ll do my best.

By the time the event clock started rolling at 1 o’clock Saturday, I’d already spent a good nine hours with the ‘booty crew’ playing the role of volunteer before I switched over to cyclist.

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The 24 hour ride kicked off with a ‘survivor loop’- those that had beaten cancer got things rolling (literally) by leading the riders around the first loop of the course- a 2.1 mile loop around a corporate park.

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Home base was "Bootyville”, where riders could get on and off the course as they wanted, to rest, eat, or just hang out.

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Beyond keeping things safe, there are no rules in booty land- you ride as much as you want, as often as you want, and as fast as you want. (Which also means you get to ride as little as you want and as slow as you want- it’s not a race, and there’s no winner, besides those the event is benefitting.)

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The course loop started out with a slight downhill which turns into a fairly flat area- though after riding it 26 times, I’d probably be more inclined to say it was a series of small up hills. The end of the loop was everybody’s favorite part- a long, gradual hill that turned into a fairly steep hill right at the end of the loop. After powering through the hill a few times, you start believing somebody’s raising the summit when you’re not looking.

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Some riders had lofty, specific goals: 300 miles in 24 hours, 100 miles without stopping, 75 miles before night fall, or simply “more than last year”.

The founder, Spencer, was challenged to ride 200 miles- he finished before midnight rolled around. (He rode fairly casually at first- chatting with other cyclists, but when dark fell and the number of riders on the course dropped, he kicked it into high gear and started booking it.)

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Every rider had their own approach: do as many laps as possible in a row, do a lap and stop, ride only at night, etc. Worried about my knee, I rode a few laps and took a break, rode a few laps and took a break, repeat, repeat, repeat.

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I skipped the first lap in order to watch my mom finish her survivor loop- she was nervous about being with ‘serious’ bikers and riding her heavy hybrid up the big hill- but she did it, and with a smile on her face.

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After she did a loop or two, I joined her & rode my first lap with her, then continued while she went back to her duties as a Booty Organizer Committee member- “BOC” if you’re hip.

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In between laps, I hung out in Bootyville, either eating, rehydrating, or volunteering. It was a beautiful, sunny day, but it was h.o.t & humid. It was hard to get enough fluid without constantly drinking.

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Before we knew it, the sun set and the heat started to subside. After riding a few laps at dusk with me, my mom & team headed home to get some sleep. I took advantage of a safe, closed course to do my first night time bike riding. (I had to use my new head & tail lights after all!)

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By 11 Bootyville had turned into zombie land, as the few people left sticking it out for the night were either sleeping or out on the course. The midnight pizza party brought the whole place back to life though. I didn’t even realize how hungry I was before I devoured 2 slices in a matter of seconds.

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After filling up on pizza, I tried to get a few hours of sleep in my luxury hotel for the night. Besides having to get up to pee constantly, I was able to get a little bit of rest which recharged me for some early morning riding.

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The next few hours went by in a flash- my teammates returned, riders with families brought their kids out to ride, & spectators came by to cheer.DSCN7078

My stepsister & brother in law should probably win an award for best enthusiasts- they not only volunteered for a shift, but stayed to cheer on the start of the race, then came back to cheer at midnight, and again at the end of the race. To show my appreciation, I joined them to cheer on the last loop of the event.

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But plans changed when two riders from Team Fight (Ulman’s training team) came by and said I was riding the last loop with them. I ran to get my shoes, hopped on my bike, and met them at the loop entrance to join everyone for a final lap.

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At the beginning, 24 hours seemed like a long time. During that last loop, I couldn’t believe it was already over.

Though many people did much more, I was proud of my 54.6 miles of riding- farther than I’ve ever ridden before, and more than I thought I’d be able to do untrained & recovering from injury.

All I could think was next year I’d be back- doubling the money I raised, and doubling the miles I rode. 100 miles—at least. 😉

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(More to come later, but first it’s time to drive back to NC!! :))