Sunday, July 29, 2007

12 hours of 9-mile "The Bloody Steak"

Take a second and think of your absolute favorite thing to do. Reading, Watching T.V., Running, Eating, Drinking, whatever. Now imagine doing this activity non stop for 12 hours. Doing something you really love for half a day may sound fun at first, but consider the physical and mental efforts needed to accomplish this task for 12 straight hours. I love to ride my bike, and this weekend I signed up to participate in a 12 hour mountain bike race. The objective is simple, ride as many laps as I can from 10am to 10pm. If a I finish a lap before the 12 hours is up, I have two choices. 1. Cross the starting line and do another lap, or 2. Wait for the 12th hour to end and finish the race.

When riding a long distance like this the most important thing to do is make sure to eat and drink enough to keep your body working properly. This sounds easy at first, but after 6 or more hours your mind starts to lose focus, your digestive system isn’t happy and it is easy to stop eating. That is why going into a ride like this you need to come prepared and have a lot of foods available that sound appealing when you are absolutely exhausted. My food list included, some energy gels, potato chips, Oreos, pasta salad with tuna, grapes, lots of water, an energy drink and some cola soda. The nutritional value of the food isn’t as important as just getting calories back in your body.

Another thing that makes a race like this much easier is having someone at your camp who can support you as you come through lap after lap, refilling your water bottles, having food options ready for you and doing minor bike adjustment like lubing your chain or putting your lights on when night comes. It is also nice for this person to give you race updates to let you know what place you are in or where the other riders at your pace are in the race compared to you. I was lucky to have Katie give up a nice sunny weekend to come and be my race support. This is not an easy job, there can be a lot of responsibility and at some times you are doing some really crappy jobs to help the rider out. Katie did a great job helping me and I am very thankful for everything she did, even when she sent me out on my last lap at 9:20pm.

Yep, thats a pink head band. They really work, I got it for free, and luckily most cyclist accept silly clothing as tools of the trait.

Going into the race I had set a goal of riding 10, 12-mile laps. If I could finish 10 laps, I was hoping to finish in the 5 of the participants. The course this year had some new trail cut so it was longer than past year. I was told each lap was close to 14 miles. In the beginning, my average lap times were around 1 hour and 17 minutes. The first 6 or so hours went really well, I was riding good, eating food and putting down enough fluids to keep me hydrated in the mid-80 degree heat. After the halfway point in the race I was having a harder time keeping my pace up. My feet were starting to go numb and my arms were really sore from the relentless jarring of the rocky single track, not to mention my butt was starting to feel the effects of sitting for over 6 hours in the saddle. My lap times started slowing a bit the second have of the race but still managed to keep them around 1:20.

After 6:30pm every rider had to have lights on their bike when they went out for another lap. I managed to start my 6th lap around 6:00 and avoided hooking up my lights until later in the evening. When I did put my lights on my lap times started to slow down. I am not used to riding at night with lights on, obstacles came up much faster than I was used to and I was reacting much slower, making me more tense and I was not riding as smooth as I was during the day. Plus, I was becoming exhausted and my body had reached that point I mentioned earlier where I didn’t want to eat and I was getting deprived of fuel.

During my night laps I started adding my lap times up in my head and I started to realize I would be finish my 8th lap well before 10pm. At this point I didn’t want to go out and do another lap. I wanted to do more than 8 laps but I was really starting to hit the wall and I wanted to stop riding. I finished my 8th lap around 9:30. When I reach my tent Katie and our friend Johnny Mohawk presented me with my options. There were other riders who just started their 9th lap, I could go and try to catch them and move up in the standings, or I could sit at camp for half an hour and hope that no riders behind my would start another lap before 10. If they did they would move a head of me in the standings.

At that point it seemed like I didn’t have much of a choice. So, I gingerly got back on my bike and pedaled off into the dark. That is when everything took a dramatic change for the worse. Not more than a ¼ mile into my last lap my legs started crapping up. I tried to pedal nice and easy and try and ride through the cramps. This was technique was working until I got into the single track and I crashed on a rock I didn’t see in time. I fell over the handlebars and landed on a pile of rocks, bike on top of me, with cramps shooting up my legs. I was able to rub out the cramps and slowly get going again, only to crash again. This time I taco’d my rear wheel to the point that it was rubbing on my frame as it turned. At this point I was completely worked and demoralized. I was walking my bike through the rock gardens and I was starting to get cold. All I wanted to do was finish this lap. I did everything I could to stop myself from sitting down and taking a nap. Finally around 11pm I finished my 9 lap, it took my over 2 hours, I scrapped up my arms and legs and wrecked my rear wheel, but I was ecstatic to be done with the race. I finished 7 out of 57 riders and moved up one place by going out for a 9th lap. If I didn’t go out I would have lost 2 places, or something like that.

In the end the race was a lot of fun. I am proud of my accomplishments; I am glad I did an extra lap at the end and am happy to have a solo 12 hour race crossed off my list of rides to do.


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Anonymous said... are a beast and I am not sure what drives somebody to abuse their body as much as you do, but it is impressive.