After 16 grueling hours spent pedaling in Sunday's Summit Century, brothers Kent and Joe Wirth of Council Bluffs, Iowa and Minneapolis, MN were just happy to finish when they coasted to the Mount Shasta Community Building at 9:30 p.m.; the last two riders to complete the 139 mile course.
They weren't expecting race organizer Michael Williams to be standing there in the dark, wearing a wide smile and holding their hard-earned Super Century pint glasses.
"It just shows what a wonderful, tight-knit, fun community Mount Shasta is," said Joe, age 47, who called the challenging Century "comparable to any marathon, anywhere."
Kent, age 54, said this was the farthest he's ever ridden. He recently completed the 130 mile "Triple Bypass" in Colorado, though he said the Summit Century was "by far the toughest." Kent also pointed to the volunteer spirit that gets the race off the ground.
As nephews of Mount Shasta's Joe Wirth, former president of the Mt. Shasta Trails Association, both brothers volunteered Saturday for about three hours. Then they got up early Sunday morning and embarked on the course at 5:30 a.m., when it was still dark.
By the time the coasted to a stop at the Community Building, it was dark again. The janitorial staff was cleaning the building, and all the other riders had already packed up their bikes and gone home to celebrate their accomplishment.
"That's why it was so special to have Michael Williams there, cheering them on," said their aunt, Michael Wirth. "It was just absolutely amazing."
Of the more than 400 participants in the Century, only 130 did the full Super Century, which includes 16,500 feet of vertical climbing and takes riders to summits at Parks Creek, Mumbo, Castle Lake and the Old Ski Bowl.
Kent and Joe spent months preparing for the event and said the experience was "unbelievable."
"The stars were awesome at 8,000 feet coming down Mt. Shasta in the dark," said Joe. "We left the Ski Bowl at dusk, and it wasn't long before it was pitch black."
They said the course was exceptionally well-marked and the rest stations were well run. Kent even got a massage at one of the summits to work out a cramp.
Though they don't think they'll ever do the full Summit Century again – they'll continue to revel in their accomplishment every time they have a beer in their pint glasses – both Joe and Kent said they'll return to Mount Shasta as often as Joe and Michael will have them. Perhaps for something less strenuous, like the Mount Shasta July 4 5-mile run.