PRERACE-Race Preparation and the Pre-ride
I was excited and a little anxious about competing in my first 24-Hour Mountain Bike Race. Lacking a teammate within 1,000 miles and unable to find a local friend to race with, I had signed up to compete in the solo division. How hard could it be? You bike until you get a little tired, rest, eat, drink, then bike some more and repeat for the 24 hour duration. I have done other types of 24 hour races as part of a team in the past so I figured I could do this one by myself. Since I was lacking experience in this specific type of race, I drew upon my other racing experience, as well as advice from my Virtus teammates, to prepare as best as I could.
I received advice on how to butter my chamois (and various body parts),how to lube my feet, that I should bring diaper rash cream “just in case”, I needed to pace myself out of the gate…it’s a long race, as well as stay on top of my nutrition and hydration needs. I took all their advice to heart and pulled together a bit of a game plan. After some discussion with Dragon, I decided anything less than 10 laps (70 miles of single track) would be a disappointment. I thought 12 laps (84 miles) was reachable, and my super stretch goal (if everything went perfectly) was 15 laps (105 miles of single track).
Dragon advised not to look at the time per lap or the miles per 24-hours but instead at the actual miles I planned to ride. If I hit my must reach goal of 70 miles, I would surpass the furthest I have ever ridden any bike, on any terrain by almost 20 miles. The furthest I had ever ridden single track was probably only around 15 to 20 miles. I initially thought the goal I set was too low but when I looked at it this way, maybe it was a little too high. Well, I’d find out in a couple of days at The Hardcore 24.
The race was at Ontario County Park (OCP). My plan was to go to OCP right after work on the Friday night before the race, register for the race, and pre-ride the loop before heading home to pack my gear for the race the next day. Well, I got down to OCP (yeah you know me) right at 6:00pm and was the first person through registration. I picked up my shirt, my raffle ticket, and my schwag bag and headed out to the well marked trail to pre-ride the loop that I was planning on owning (at least in my own little world) the next day.
Well, 1 hour 13 minutes later I was back at my car and my clothes were soaked with man sweat. It wasn’t super technical but had a few challenging areas. It was wicked rocky and only had a few short burner climbs. In all, I felt pretty good about the course and felt it was something I was capable of riding over and over and over and over and over again. I also felt that the course would produce some fast laps and that the top riders would be logging some serious mileage. I headed home and with the help of my wonderfully supportive wife, Lauren, I packed my stuff (while she packed hers and the two little kids). You see, Lauren, Colton, Joselyn, and Big Mac (my wife’s annoying miniature wiener dog) were going to be my support crew for the race. The forecast for the race was mid 90’s, humid, with a 30% chance of “isolated” thunderstorms. I popped a couple tablets of electrolytes, had some water, got to bed before midnight, and had a good night’s sleep.
RACE DAY-The first leg of day light riding
I got to OCP about 90 minutes before race time and located an area for Team Virtus Head Quarters (TVHQ).
We were right off the course (literally about 20 yards) and even had a tree (the only one in the area) to provide some shade. We quickly set up our area and put up our new ridiculously large Eureka tent (15’ x 12’ x 7’).
Lauren and the kids were great at supporting me. They helped me get my bottles filled and ready for my first lap. Lauren even made me a slice of currant bread with natural peanut butter and clover honey to eat while we waited (it was the bomb) for things to going. There was a racers meeting at 11:45 over at the main pavilion.
They informed us that at the end of each lap you had to enter the chute, dismount, and walk through the pavilion calling out your race number (I was 305) as you passed the officials table. They said to call it out a couple of times to make sure your lap was recorded. It was very hot, I was already sweating and I hadn’t even started to ride. Then they quickly raffled off a sweet bike light (I didn’t win). Before you knew it, it was race time and they led a procession across the parade field, down the road a bit, and then back into the single track. The purpose of this was to let us spread out a bit. I hung back towards the back of the middle of the pack and chatted with some fellow solo riders as we made our way to the single track.
I guessed my place in the peloton about right and rode the first lap with a group of riders. The solo rider right in front of me, John, and I chatted the whole first lap away. The first lap went by uneventfully but fairly quickly. As we finished the lap I looked down at my watch and saw that we rode the first lap in about 66 or 67 minutes. The fastest first lap was 41 minutes and 6 seconds. It was logged by Bob Pilato, another solo rider, who is a serious stud. I cruised over to TVHQ, swapped water bottles and headed back out without any rest. As I passed John he questioned if I was going to stop and rest. I told him I felt good and would stop for some rest after the next lap.
The second lap went by pretty quickly and I felt like I was finding a bit of a groove. I was riding pretty well and would get over to the side of the trail and let the faster riders pass when they came up behind me. Then I would watch them (until they were out of sight) and try to follow their line through the trail and emulate their riding style. I would brake where they braked, trying to learn from observing their skill. Believe it or not, I think I actually picked some things up by the end of the race by doing this.
Towards the middle of lap two, John (not the same guy as above) from my local bike shop caught up with me and I offered to let him pass. He said he wasn’t in a hurry so we rode the rest of the lap together. Towards the end of the lap he got a flat tire and stopped to fix it. I offered to help but he told me to go on. I figured he would be fine (he works on bikes for a living) so I finished the lap on my own. I forgot to look at my watch until I was back at TVHQ but it was around 75 minutes of riding time.
This time I sat down and took a good 20-25 minutes break. I drank a couple more bottles of water (I drank 1 bottle full of e-Fuel each lap while riding) and ate at least 300-400 calories. I talked with the kids (I actually played a little catch with Josie), then the little ones shot me with the water guns (which felt awesome in the heat), and I got ready to head back out.
I was feeling pretty good at this point and was starting to get comfortable with the loop I was riding. I was flowing into curves and hills with more ease, breaking less going into curves, and carrying more speed around the course. I felt as if this was getting easier. I even had the idea that I would count how many pedals I would need to complete the next lap; I pondered what the least number of pedal strokes I could use while circumventing the course (I forgot to actually count the pedal strokes once I started up again, though).
Suddenly I was passed by a very fast rider and tried to do what he was doing. I was a dry sponge absorbing all the liquid skill he was spilling all over the trail. I actually was pulling it off. I was flying through the single track; this was fun, almost effortless. I was free and fast. This must be what it is like to really ride. I could get used to this. It was so easy, so fun.
And then… I was in the air and bouncing on the top of my helmet on the side of the trail (literally).
I paused for a second and took stock of the situation. I wasn’t hurt, just a little adrenaline surge. I was ok, a little amped up, but ok.
I would love to get to the point to where my skill level is such that I always ride this way. Where I take speed into turns and obstacles and fly out of them without losing any speed or momentum. It makes sense and is so much more efficient. You work so hard to get to the top of hills and then lose all your effort by braking on the technical downhill or sharp curves and then you hammer away on the pedals to get going again. The top riders recoup every bit of their uphill effort on their downhills and maintain their speed through the flats with minimal pedaling. However, I realized it wasn’t going to happen all in one race for me. I would watch what they do and practice it another day. I will ride at this level again.
I hopped back onto my bike and hammered away at the pedals to get going again. I was still on pace for my fastest lap yet. I was cruising down a pretty steep, rocky grade when my front wheel hit a pointy rock and went flat instantly. I actually saw it all happen in slow motion. I saw the tire go flat instantly, slide off the rim, and then watched as my rim dug into the dirt. You could see the little groove in the trail that my rim was digging. And then my back tire started to rise up slowly and then everything went flying by in fast forward.
I was airborne… Again.
The handle bars jabbed into the right side of my rib cage and slid along my ribs and passed in front of me, I went up in the air and paused for a second above my handle bars, and then I came down hard on the crosspiece of my bike, fell off my bike, and was standing next to my bike, bent over, holding my ribs.
A rider quickly caught up to me and asked if I was alright. I answered with a bit of a choke, through gritted teeth that I was fine. He looked at me questioningly and I nodded my head as I rubbed my ribs. He probably saw the whole thing and was wondering if I was really ok. I waved him by me as I picked my bike up and dragged it off the trail. I quickly changed my front tire and was back on my bike in no time (well, probably more like 10 or 15 minutes). I would probably have a nice bruise on my ribs but nothing was broken.
I rode the rest of the lap cautiously and finished with an actual riding time around 85 minutes. I rode into TVHQ covered in dust, with a bloody knee, elbow, and shin, and a great story to tell. I went through the same routine as I did for every lap. I drank couple of water bottles, and then ate at least 300-400 calories (often much more) of food.
Laps 4 and 5 were pretty easy and uneventful. I was no longer looking at each lap as a whole but at each mile individually. There were clear, distinct mile markers out on the trail, and I knew that I would pass one every 11 minutes (plus or minus a minute or two) almost without fail. I could ride a little harder or take it easy and I still seemed to be hitting this mark. Instead of having to ride 7 miles each loop, I only had to ride 1 mile at a time. I was taking baby steps, like “Gil” was taking on his first attempt at ascending.
It was much more manageable mentally to know that I was only going to ride a mile. You always feel like you can ride 1 more mile right? I felt pretty good but was starting to fade a bit during the 5th lap. My body was achy and my core was shot. My lower back and my abs felt like I had been kicked 50 times with a Thai kick through a cheap belly pad (not recommended). My palms were numb and I was looking for a reason to quit. Plus, it was getting dark and I would have to take lights with me on my next lap (as I was directed to do so by the race volunteers).
As I was riding my 5th lap I began to doubt myself a bit and had a little argument in my head. I reasoned that most people doing the race wouldn’t ride more than 5 or 6 laps for the entire race. You see, most people were on a team of four. I thought about being on a team of 4, and how only the top teams would get more than 5 or 6 laps a person, right? This was my first 24 hour MTB Race, and I should have probably done it as a team of 4. Had I done so, I would only ride 5 or 6 laps at most. I had 5 laps down, so I could walk away and not feel bad. I knew I was lying to myself; that my mind was grasping at straws and trying to find a reason to quit. I knew I would be pissed later if I quit now. I knew I had more laps in me, that I could keep going. It might hurt a bit, it might not be as fun as the last 5 laps were, but I knew I could do more. This wasn’t like me. I have never quit or given up on anything ever in my life. I’ve lost my share of competitions but I have never thrown in the towel (literally or figuratively). The referee might stop a fight but I never have quit, I have never tapped.
Is this what quitting is like? Is this what quitters go through? Was I consciously looking for a reason to quit or was my subconscious kicking into self-preservation mode and trying to get my body to call it a day? I fought these thoughts down and made my mind think other things. I remember a quote from an old article in The Pitch Newspaper where Bob was quoted as saying that he thinks about boob’s when the going gets tough. I tried that for a while… it didn’t work. Lauren had boobs and was back at TVHQ. What if I called it a day and we put the kids to bed and…? No, I quickly abandoned that trail of thought and just focused on the ride one mile at a time. 11 minutes and I’d hit my next mark. My sudconscious mind wandered and struggled to find a reason for me to quit while my consicious searched for a reason to continue.
My mind asked about the one unknown; what would continuing to push myself do to my body or how I would feel afterwards? This was new territory for me and I did not know the answer. I wasn’t sure how my body would respond to what I was preparing to ask it to do. Then I thought about the upcoming race with my teammates 3 weeks from now, the 24-hour Lionheart Adventure Race. Would I be able to race so soon after doing this to my body? Now I was concerned, perhaps I had found a real reason to end my race. My subconscious mind had found the only possible way that my conscious mind might allow my body to quit.
What if I was unable to train for a couple of weeks due to my efforts at this race? How would that affect my performance at the Lionheart? I really did not want to ruin everybody else’s race because I was selfish today and pushed my body too far past it limits. I knew I wasn’t lying to myself about this, this was real. Somehow, my mind had found the one way out for my body. Somehow, it knew that I could walk away without regret if it meant not letting my teammates down at the Lionheart.
You see, my teammates were driving halfway across the country to race in Pennsylvania with me (which is only 5-6 hours from my house as opposed to the usual 12-15 hours I travel to race with them). I did not want to let them down and be the team anchor on race day only 3 short weeks away. I was really thinking about calling it a day. However, I kept resting, eating, drinking, and thinking. What was the answer? What should I do? I wanted to keep going, but what about the Lionheart in exactly 3 weeks from today?
I asked Lauren what I should do. She didn’t have the answer and was unsure of how hard she should push me. Then she told me she posted how I was doing on Facebook and there had been some responses and words of encouragement. She powered up her fancy phone and read the comments to me. I decided I’d call the Dragon and get his take on the situation. The Dragon listened to what I had to say. Then I asked him if everybody was 100% committed to doing the Lionheart adventure race in 3 weeks. I told him I had more in me and could push harder and longer, but I wasn’t sure what it would do to my body and my ability to race well at the Lionheart.
He said yes, everybody was in for the Lionheart, Bob already had his leave approved at his job. Dragon’s advice was to do what I wanted to do. He said that I had nothing to prove to him or any of my teammates either way. If I wanted to keep going, he felt that I could adjust my training accordingly and in the shape I was in, I would be fine come race day in three weeks. He said I could take a rest, refuel, then ride a couple more laps in the night, sleep for a few hours, and then hit a few more laps in the morning if I felt like it. I thanked him for his advice, hung up, and sat in my chair pondering my next move.
I knew immediately that I was going to keep riding, but I sat and thought it through anyway.
As I thought, I prepared my lights for the night riding. I rigged my Corona bike light onto my handle bars and jerry rigged my Apex headlamp onto my bike helmet using an extra byekyle Simple Strap. Once I had everything ready, I drank and ate some more. I think this is where I ate some of my turkey sub. It was good and way tastier than the other race food I had been eating. I had to wait a little longer before heading out because the sun was just starting to set and it was dusky (too dark to ride without lights but not dark enough for my affordable lights to work). So I took a few more minutes of rest. This was by far my longest break, probably a good 45 minutes of rest. Lauren said that right before I came in they announced that the temperature was down to 88. It was starting to feel a little cooler and I was starting to feel a little better.
It is only now, as I look back, that I can see that I was starting to bonk a bit. I tried hard to stay on top of my nutritional and hydration needs but you can only eat and drink so much. I was losing water and burning calories faster than I could replace them. This longer rest was giving me the time I needed to catch up to my body’s needs. I continued to eat, drink, and rest. It was finally dark enough for me to head out, so I kissed the kids goodnight, told them I’d see them in the morning and headed out for my first ever night mountain bike ride (I rode once for about 50 miles on an old rail trail in the dark, but that was my only other night ride other than around my college’s campus after a night class).
RACE NIGHT- My first taste of single track after sundown
With my decision made and my mind at ease I was ready to continue my race. It was much cooler with the sun out of the sky and physically I was feeling much better and actually looking forward to getting back out on the trails. I was excited to try out my lighting system on the trail and get a taste of real night mountain biking. I was not disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed riding the trails in the dark; it was a new experience for me. I can’t believe I have waited over 37 years to try it. If you haven’t ridden single track after the sun goes down, I recommend that you give it a try. It is much different than biking the same trail in the daylight; you experience the trails on a different plane and truly get to know the trail, you become one with it (I am serious).
The first night lap I was getting used to the whole limited visibility, tunnel vision phenomena. The limited visibility forced you to really focus on the trail and take everything in. You had to use all of your senses. It was like my senses were hyper acute. I was seeing every little bump or deviation on the trail. I was hearing my bike creak and moan, smelling the leaves and dirt, and feeling the air on my skin. I made good time and enjoyed the ride once again. I felt revived and ready to ride several more laps in the dark. I finished the last technical stretch and the cruised through the TA and back to TVHQ. I rolled into an abandoned camp with a time around 1 hour and 18 minutes. It’s amazing how a little rest and refueling can make you feel like a new man. I was definitely back and knew that I had made the right decision.
I sat down in my chair alone in TVHQ. However, within a couple of minutes Lauren and Colton came sliding out of the tent and asked me how it went. I told them I was back and that I had a blast. We sat and talked a bit while I ate, drank, and breathed in the cool night air. I told Lauren that I was going to do at least 1, possibly 2 more laps before catching a couple hours rest. I also told her that I was still seriously considering riding the whole night through because I was feeling strong and I was still feeling pretty exhilarated after my first night ride. She said that she would have to go to bed because at least one of us had to be functional in the morning because the kids would be rested and ready to go. She told me she’d fill all my water bottles and lay out my planned snacks before heading in. I thanked her and told her that I wanted her to go to bed and sleep through until morning. I told her that since there weren’t two trees together anywhere near TVHQ that I would crash on the ground next to her and the kids if I decided to nap (I had planned on sleeping in my Hennessy Hammock).
As I prepared to take off again, I kissed Lauren and Colton good night and was about ready to ride away when Lauren asked me my plans if it started raining (foreshadowing or jinxing me?). I told her that if it rained much that I would probably sneak into the tent for some shuteye. She seemed relieved to hear my plans and I rode away into the darkness as she headed back to the tent.
The second night lap went smoothly and was pretty uneventful. I felt more confident in my night riding ability and pushed the pace a little more this lap. I thought that I was beginning to feel an occasional rain drop but due to the lack of consistency I wrote it off as sweat from my helmet. Between miles 2 and 3 there was a nice little climb on a wide grassy path. About half way up there was a nice little meadow with a pine tree and a picnic table inviting you to stop for a breather. I finally gave in to the urge and hopped off my bike on onto the picnic table. I wasn’t as lucky as Bob and found no mulberry tree to offer me any nourishment so I had to settle for a delicious Honey Stinger Waffle and half my bottle of E-fuel. A rider passed me and asked if I was ok. To which I answered, yes I am great – just catching a quick drink and snack. I finished the lap strong and was feeling like I might actually be able to make it through the whole night without any rest.
I made it through the TA and back to TVHQ a couple of minutes faster than my last lap. I sat back in my chair, loosened my shoes and repeated the refueling ritual that was quickly becoming habit. I was sitting there relaxing and contemplating heading out in about 10-15 more minutes when I felt a rain drop. Then I felt another one, and another one. The rain began to fall more steadily. I quickly tidied up the area and got everything put away so that nothing would get wet. I thought about heading out for a quick lap and the rain began to pick up. I stood my bike up under the tree and headed into the tent, disappointed that I was unable to get 1 more night lap in (I really planned on at least 3 night laps and then I’d need only 2 laps when I got up to hit my minimum goal of 10 laps).
I laid on the ground with my head on the air mattress as a pillow, without a blanket, and stared at the tent ceiling while I listened to the rain pitter-patter on the tent’s fly. I was unable to sleep. I laid there hearing not only the rain but the occasional rider heading out, getting another lap while I lay in the tent trying to sleep. You could feel the cool night air on your skin and smell the earthy rain. I couldn’t seem to get comfortable and noticed the rain was letting up. Wait… it had pretty much stopped all together. I was about ready to sit up and head out for another lap when it happened…all hell broke loose.
It began to rain hard, monsoon hard and the wind was beginning to pick up. Then there were several bright flashes followed immediately by a series of thunderous booms that rolled away into the valley in the distance. The storm, the one that only had a 30% chance of happening, was here right on top of us. I decided that I had made the right call and was better off in the tent than out on the trail trying to get one more lap in. I decided that I’d sleep until 6:00 (the sun would be up by then) and then head out and see how many laps I could get in before the race ended.
I wish I could tell you I slept soundly and straight through until 6:00 but I wasn’t so lucky. I got cold without any sleeping bag and eventually managed to wiggle my way onto a deflated queen size air mattress shared by my whole support crew. I had about 12 inches of mattress and maybe 8 inches of the sheet. I seemed to sleep well for a while until I was awoken by something and realized it was the call of nature.
I snuck out the back door of the tent and relieved myself in the shadow of my tent. When I snuck back into the tent I found that Colton had taken my spot on the mattress and there was no room for me. I probably should’ve headed out right then but it was foggy and still raining. I decided another hour or two of sleep would be best. I’d wait until daylight before heading out again. I laid across the bottom of the air mattress and slept with Lauren’s feet under me and my 2 year old, Joselyn’s feet on my chest. She’s only like 2 feet tall but somehow her feet were down at the foot of the air mattress. As I lay there trying to get back to sleep, I heard a couple of riders slide by and head out, getting in more laps in these less than ideal conditions.
Somehow, I fell back to sleep and woke up a little before 6:00 and climbed out of the tent to assess the situation and pull a game plan together for what was left of the race. The first thing I noticed was how foggy it still was.
I imagined that as the sun finished rising that the fog would burn off pretty quickly. The next thing that I noticed was that physically I felt great. I wasn’t sore anywhere and sure as hell didn’t feel like I had ridden 49 miles of single track the day before. Hell, I didn’t feel like I had ridden 25 miles of rail trails. I felt as good as I had on the previous morning. I checked my watch and realized that I had a little less than 6 hours to get in as many laps as I could. Since I was feeling so good, I was hoping to get in at least 3 more laps, which would give me my minimum goal of 10 laps. That meant I had roughly 5 hour s and 50 minutes to complete 2 laps and start my 3rd lap since you could start a lap anytime before the noon cutoff. If I was anywhere near my usual 75-80 minute lap with my 20-30 minute rest and refuel breaks I should reach my goal without much trouble, if the trails were in good shape or at least reasonably rideable. After the rain we had gotten overnight, though, I was afraid the condition of the trails would be terrible. I headed to the team area next to mine on a reconnaissance mission to gather some intel on the conditions of the trail and their ride
SECOND RACE DAY-The Morning After The Storm
After some discussion, I quickly found out the trails were in surprisingly good shape. They said the first couple of miles were in real good shape because of how rocky it was and the elevation. Then they said it got a little soggy in the middle and between miles 5 and 6 you had to be real careful because it was pretty slick, especially in the off camber section (this is just before where I crashed the previous day). His main complaint was how foggy it still was in the low areas of the trail. Overall, this was a much better report than I was anticipating, and I was optimistic about reaching and possibly surpassing my 10 lap minimum goal.
I had a quick breakfast and prepared to head out again. I said goodbye to Lauren (the kids were still asleep) and I headed off.
As I was heading out I ran into John (the guy I rode the first lap with) and he was packing up. I asked him how the trails were and he said he didn’t know. He had called it a night when it started raining. I asked if he was heading back out and he said that his race was over. He informed me that every time he rode in these conditions he messed up his bike (he had a nice Canondale Lefty) and had to have brake work or his cassette replaced. I wished him well and said it was nice getting to know him, and then I headed out for my first lap of the day.
The beginning was much like the day before only with less dust. I was flowing nicely and making good time. Around mile 3 the fog got much thicker. My visibility was limited but not like it was the night before. I actually thought the fog looked cool and regret not stopping to snap a picture to share with everybody. There was one stretch of trail that meandered through a bunch of ferns and with the fog above them and water dripping from the trees. I felt like I had been transported to a rainforest and was half expecting to see a monkey or exotic bird jump out. I wish I could tell you this happened but it did not. I continued on and quickly came to the area where I was encouraged to use caution due to it being so slick. I slowed down a bit and took a little extra care and had no issues. If anything, I thought the rain made most of the trail more fun to ride. There were a couple of wet spots and a stretch or two of roots that were as slick as snot because they were wet. But other than that, I had a great first lap and had a riding time of about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
I hit TVHQ and found everybody up. I got hugs from everybody and quickly told them how much fun the last lap was. I wanted to head right out for another lap but my experience from yesterday had taught me that rest was pertinent. As Jason Bourne says, rest is a weapon, so I took a good 20-30 minute rest and refueled my body. I was feeling so good and was sure that 11 laps was within my reach, and I was doing some math in my head to figure out if 12 laps was attainable. I decided that 12 was out of reach unless I rode without any breaks from now until the end of the race and I’d have to push the pace the whole time. Could I do that? Did I have it in me?
I had about 4.50 hours to finish the rest of my laps and start my final lap (before that noon, last lap start cut off). This meant that I’d have to hit my 80 minute per lap pace with only about 5 minutes between laps to rest and refuel. It was another hot day and the mercury was already starting to climb. I thought for a few more minutes and made a decision. Although I think I might have been able to sneak in a 12th lap, I could be happy with 11 laps. I decided to continue at my usual pace, with my usual routine between laps.
So, I finished my routine and headed out for my second lap of the day. I felt great and was pushing the pace a little more this lap. I was enjoying the ride, and the fog was getting a little thinner. As I came around a corner, I found a young woman standing beside the trail and looking at her chain. I assumed that she broke her chain and pulled over to see if she was alright. She said that she threw her chain and didn’t know what to do. I offered my assistance and quickly showed her how to push the rear derailleur forward to slacken the chain and then loop the chain back over the front gear. I lifted the rear tire, pedaled a few strokes with my hand and shifted the front gears to make sure she’d be all right. I asked if she needed anything else and she said she was all set. She thanked me, and I said no problem, hopped on my bike and rode away into the fog. The lap flew by, and I was still finished in about 80 minutes. I was back at TVHQ and checked in with everybody.
Lauren had already started breaking camp and had things laid out to air dry from last night’s thunderstorm. I refueled and relaxed while throwing a ball around with the kids (I was seated in my chair). I told Lauren how strong I felt and how much fun I was having. I was actually beginning to dread the end of the race. I wanted to keep riding all day (I guess I could have if I really actually wanted to). I took a relatively short break and headed back out with plenty of time to finish my 3rd lap and still get my 4th (11th lap total) started before the cutoff.
I jumped on my bike and took off. I was making great time. My legs felt great, and the single track was flowing beneath my tires. I got passed by a couple of riders and was a little surprised by how fast they were still going (must be on a team or Bob). One rider came up, and I pulled to the side of the trail to let him pass. He begrudgingly passed me and said that he was enjoying using me as a pacer, because he always goes out too hard. He let me pass him, and we rode the rest of the lap together while getting to know each other. Turns out he was only 16 years old and on a team with his twin brother. He was riding multiple laps to his brother’s single laps because his brother didn’t keep on top of his nutritional needs and bonked pretty hard. They were fighting to stay on top of the 2 man team division.
The second place team, a team consisting of a father and his two sons – ages 5 and 8, was closing hard so my friend and his brother really needed to finish this lap and get at least 1 more if they hoped to win their division. I had passed this father and children team earlier in the race and thought it was pretty cool. I figured it was a dad doing the race and letting his son pedal a stretch between the roads with him. Either that or maybe he was a volunteer. It turns out that they were registered competitors. The father would ride a lap with each kid and then pound out several laps by himself to keep them in the running. I hear he is an extremely strong rider and I thought it was a cool thing to do with his children. I am not sure how they ended up, but win or lose, I am sure it is something the kids (and probably the father) will never forget.
My new friend and I continued to make good time and the conversation made the ride seem effortless. He seemed to be a nice kid and a strong rider. He told me biking was his thing and he did cross country skiing for his school only to keep himself in shape over the winter and ready for biking season. We came up to the stretch between miles 3 and 4 where I always tried to drink half of my water bottle when I realized my cage was empty. How the hell did I lose my water bottle? Did I miss the cage when I was putting the bottle away (like Adam did on the bridge this past spring)? Or had it bounced out as I rode over the last rocky section? I had no idea what had happened. What I did know, was that I was without water, had close to 4 miles before I’d get any, and it was hot.
We continued on and held our good pace and good conversation. Before you knew it we were crossing the rode to ride up the hills in the meadow before entering the last bit of single track on this lap. We pedaled on and as we left the last bit of single track to ride the asphalt around the upper field, he said his Dad was up ahead and he had to go. I let him pass me, and then I heard a full grown man go completely bananas.
He was hooting and hollering and jumping around, encouraging his son on. It made me think of my Dad and how he used to cheer for me and my brothers in our sporting endeavors. Then I thought about how I cheer for my kids at their events and wondered if I ever looked as ridiculous as this guy did. I am sure that I have (at least I hope I have) and I am sure that I will again. I finished my lap and looked at my watch. I had just turned in a 70 minute lap without any water. This was my second fastest as well as my second to last lap of the race. I was thirsty, but other than that I was feeling good. It was a little before 11:00. Could I sneak in an extra lap? I decided probably not, especially since I had ridden the last lap without any fluids.
I headed back to what was left of TVHQ and proceded with my usual routine. The first thing I saw was my water bottle full of E-fuel sitting on top of the cooler. I had left it there in my haste to leave on my previous lap. Lauren had noticed my error and tried to flag me down but it was too late, I was gone. If she’d known the course she could have caught me at one of the road crossings but with two kids to chase around she never had the opportunity to get to know the course nor did I expect her to chase me down with the 2 little ones in tow.
I made sure that I took a little extra time during this break and drank a couple of extra bottles of fluids. I had plenty of time since I only had to start my last lap before noon and regardless of what I now did I was only going to get 1 more lap. I left around 11:20 for my final lap. This should have been a victory lap, finally my last lap. However, I was a little sad that it was almost over. I was only passed by a couple of riders. This surprised me since I thought everybody would be trying to sneak in one more lap. I finished my last lap and crossed the finish line with a final lap riding time of around 76 minutes. I think I was the last rider to leave the course.
I clearly had gas left in the tank and either could’ve have kept riding longer or pushed a little harder throughout the race. But you never know how that might have affected me. It might have caused me to bonk. It was my first go at something like this, and now I’ll know how to better pace myself next time. I also have learned how my mind works and how it tries to trick me into quitting. I also learned that I can beat my subconscious and continue racing even though it wants me to quit. As I crossed the finish line the award ceremony was just starting. I found a seat near the guys from Trailblazers Bike Shop.
I applauded everybody’s accomplishments and was impressed to find out the winner of my division, Bob Pilato, had turned in 24 laps or roughly 168 miles of single track in less than 24 hours (I later found out he slept for about 2 hours because the weather sucked, and he usually rides straight through for all 24 hours). I finished 10th out of 16 in the solo riders division. The most laps ridden were 29 by a team of 4 , Tryon Bike, and they rode straight through the night without any breaks. The fastest first lap went to Bob Pilato and was an amazing 41 minutes and 6 seconds.
After the awards were handed out they raffled off an entire table of goodies. If your name or number was called you headed up to the table and got to pick your prize from the mountain of goodies. My name was called so I ran (probably more of a slow walk) up to pick my prize. I thought about going for a set of fenders since I need or at least want a set but was unsure of which ones to take or if they would even fit my bike. I finally decided on my prize and picked up a Sunlite Slimline 18 Cadence Cycle Computer. What a great way to end a great race.
I headed back to TVHQ and my crew had everything packed up and ready to go (thank you crew).
Lauren said she heard my named called, and I showed her my prize. I found out that a pasta dinner was included with my registration fee, so I quickly headed over to the pavilion to get some grub. Since I was one of the last to eat and there was plenty of food left (and probably because I look like I need some extra nourishment because I am so tiny and frail) I received a mountain of pasta to go along with my tossed salad (insert joke here), delicious dinner roll, and my two brownies. Lauren tried to buy a dinner (only $8) for her and the kids but they wouldn’t accept her money. They said they had plenty left and not to worry about it. So my crew and I sat at a picnic table and enjoyed our hard-earned pasta dinner. We loaded my bike and the few items that still needed to be thrown in the van and then loaded the kids into the car. We were one of the last teams to leave the race site; it was amazing how fast everybody disappeared. They vanished almost as fast as a tub of strawberry cream cheese disappears when Bob is around.
Overall I am happy with my performance but think 12 laps was definitely attainable for me had I ridden a little smarter or had a little better weather. I completed 11 laps, 77 miles of single track. Plus, my body feels fine and after forcing myself to take two days off completely, I was right back to training. I guess, overall, I did pretty well and should be happy with my effort. However, I’d definitely do some things differently next time.
I would take a break after each lap no matter how great I think I feel, even if it’s only a short 5-10 minutes (and that’s all it should be…weather permitting) . I would record my actual lap times, rest times, and nutrition for the race in a log at the transition area. I think this would help me fine tune my nutrition and game plan at future races. Plus, it would help me in writing up a report. Oh yeah, I would train a little more in preparation for the race.
It was a great race, at a great park, put on by some great people. I’ll definitely be back next year, hopefully with some Virtus teammates. Thank you to all the great sponsors that made this race possible.