Amelia 369 Endurance Race.
9 hours - 95 miles - 1st Place Overall
|All beautiful pictures credit to my husband Pax Tolosi!|
While most of the racing events are a battle against the tough competition, others like this one are quite the opposite. This time it was rather me against myself and my own body and mind. Of course the ever changing terrain and the passing day were the additional elements, but mostly it was just the internal journey. It wasn't important after a while what was going on outside, the wind, clouds, rain, sun, beautiful sunset settle behind the trees and the night fall. It was all different, challenging, special and beautiful and just made the whole experience even more fulfilling, but only thing that was certain and mattered was the fact that I was going to keep on biking no matter what.
Most of the day not surprisingly I spent on the internal conversation with myself, trying to constantly evaluate my state and make sure I do stick to the previously set plan.
Luckily for me I think I learned a lot from my previous (even though they were a long while back) endurance races. Back then I had no clue about nutrition or how to even prepare myself. Therefore I could only rely on the kind recommendations of friends (by which I was and am most appreciative) and just simply instincts and listening to what my body wants. The problem was that it worked only partially and I did run myself to quite trouble and not necessarily in the physical way, since you really can’t do anything much different than quiet down the pain and keep on biking in an event that long. But it was rather relating to the state of mind. I run into such dark and depressing places in the past that I kind of knew they were part of the game and I will have to deal with them and overcome it once again. But those moments are tough, really tough. I remember riding by my husband Pax and friend Wally in one of the races and saying to them “I don’t want to bike anymore…” in a baby crying tone of voice and expression. Now we all laugh about it but it was really not fun at the time…
I remember being in so much pain that I didn’t want to sit back on my saddle again and that I thought that this experience makes me hate what I love and it become a complete absurd. I wanted to get off the bike and just stop and be done with the misery. Everything was grey, I hated my bike and the universe, my body felt empty, stripped from everything that resembles why I actually got into biking in the first place and what brings me happiness.
I didn’t want to go there again. So I decided to do things a little differently and set a pretty regular plan for the nutrition today and decided to stick to it.
Amazingly throughout all the 9 hours I was in a pretty good mood, always smiling, never having a negative thought. I was on the journey and I took it all in and dealt with what was thrown at me without the smallest display of frustration. There was just a tiny few minutes long spot maybe 4 hours in when I got cranky since I started having a small faint feeling of hunger besides actually eating everything I had prepared and demanded food right NOW out loud and with authority. The moment I had my gel and a sandwich I was a happy camper again and never let my mood drop ever again. Amazing what our loving and caring Pit Crew (my husband) has to deal with sometimes, thankfully he understands and is right there to assist as needed (Thx Mucha!).
But let see how it all started. After all this is just a first glimpse to the beginning of the new season. This was supposed to be my third week of getting back to training and no matter who you are this is just a definite fact that you are simply not ready for an endurance race coming off the off season mode. So I was not ready, not physically, not mentally, I still had lingering injuries in my leg. I simply signed up for a long ride and wanted to see what will happen next.
The moment I laid down my bike by the lake and rushed to the start line there was a countdown already going and we were sent off for a lengthy run. To be honest this was probably the most worrisome part of the race for me since I really didn’t run for months now and my foot had been bothering me and I was not sure how the run with the biking shoes would go.
Surprisingly I was alright and by the time everyone got so winded we reached the bikes.
The course setup was 8.9 miles of single track and right from the start we would dive into the slow and winy sections of this trail system. After that pretty much everything was in and even more, some parts that I always disliked on the back of the park. Those are always dark, creepy, rooty, muddy and slow. They didn’t bother me as much this time around but somehow they also don’t make me happy in any way that riding the rest of the park does. I felt that this setup along with the early entry to the trail was catering more to the team riders and shorter distance racers who didn’t need to worry about recovery and nutrition. I had trouble since I was on the bike for almost 9 hours practically without any breaks (just one potty break after hour 6) and each time I would grab nutrition and or food I would not get a chance to actually eat it. One time I was so ready for my sandwich but the instant berm and roots and turns did come in a way of eating it and I struggled to bike, chew, hold the sandwich in my mouth and try to maneuver the terrain at the same time. I had to shovel it in my back pocket and for a second thought I had lost it! I was upset than. I really felt that this type of race should have a long gravel stretch around the lake let’s say where people have an opportunity to stretch and refuel. On the one before last laps I ended up carrying my sandwich in my pocket for over 45 minutes until I was finally able to reach out for it and eat it on the last flat short gravel stretch that we had. So it was a bummer.
I rotated throughout the day simple foods, mostly I made sure I had my Clif gel pretty much on every lap and besides that I would eat every other or homemade almond butter and jelly sandwich (which did taste so good and I would simply devour it in seconds) and bananas. I arranged things that my husband would peel the fresh banana right before my approach and hand it to me broken in half in a little lunch plastic baggie. It was easy that way, assured I was not going to lose it and things would not get messy. Than you simply store the baggie in the back pocket for the time being. Pretty same setup with my almond sandwich worked great. For drinking I rotated Clif electrolytes with plain water to just refresh the pallet and don’t oversweet myself. I think this was first really successful nutritionally endurance race for me.
On the biking side there is a whole different experience. The body goes through such a different states that it is important to monitor what is going on and assess again and again. First three laps were just like the normal cross country race just slower, no stress and I knew I had nothing to worry about. Coming out of the 30 mile mark I knew I’m getting to a different zone. I have not been there for a long time now. The moment my right foot cramped up and toes almost crossed in the shoe I thought “oh boy this is little early in the race to experience that”. With time I figured out what movement caused it to happen and I just paid attention. I’m very glad the cramping subsided and disappeared completely after a while. But then goes the neck, extreme tightness and burning to the point that it hurts so bad to look down. I made sure from early on that I was consistently going to stretch all the muscles that might be in danger of cramping, so I worked on my neck, arms, back and legs while tackling the terrain. It all worked wonderfully also.
At some point in this gloomy day the wind picked up and it started drizzling. At this time I felt like I was on auto pilot, really not sure where I was going and why, I just kept on spinning away and was in an almost trance mode. I also hoped that with time it would go away and I would get some clarity on what was actually happening with me and around me. Thankfully it never rained and I regained my focus.
I felt quite lonely out there for most of the race and had only my mind to keep me company. Luckily to me I’m this type of person that is never quite bored or alone on my own and my mind always finds a way to keep itself occupied. I just remember passing by the big carpeted downhill with a berm and one guy sitting on his comfy picnic chair next to his RV. On one lap he was watching riders going by, on another reading book, other not caring at all what was happening on the trails, another having a cookout and then watching TV. All of it while I kept doing the same thing over and over again. And even though it was the same lap again and again they were all so different. At some point I though I heard someone yelling “Go Beata” and the berm and I said back “Wally?”, I really though that our friend Wally showed up to cheer me on, but later on I found out that it was actually Jonathan who kept yelling to me and encouraging during this race. Thx Jonathan for that! There were a few nice cheering groups out there today, including our local Maria with her children and we even had my husband’s mom who spent the whole day around the race course somehow keeping herself entertained.
I think I enjoyed the last three hours of riding the most because all of a sudden this mostly grey and gloomy day turned to something beautiful. The gorgeous, lower to the ground now sun came out and gave this nice glow of warmth and happiness that turned the day to something special. Everything looked just more positive and I was stunned by the moving magical light peeking through the trees while I was exhausted and still blazing through the man-made ramps and obstacles. I found time to look to the side and reflect on the majestic moments. My husband often looks at me in our everyday life and says (always happy about it and kind of newly surprised) “the smallest things make you happy”. And it is very true, I look for beauty and inspiration and even happiness in things that might cost nothing and really don’t matter to most. Those are the amazing hidden in our lives treasures that really cannot be taken away from you because you don’t own them really, you just immerse yourself when they are there and then let them go…
At lap 9 I knew the 10 lapper at this point today would be my goal. My lap times however didn’t get that much off with time passing, therefore I kept realizing that I will most likely have time for additional 11th lap after that. So I had to reroute my previously set mark and find a way to agree with it.
Now the chafing in my shorts and in the gloves was really getting to me more than anything and with every single rock and bump my bike hit I felt the pain piercing my skin. There was nothing at this point that I could do about it. I already changed my gloves and reapplied chafing cream, there was no escaping that one.
Course wise I was looking forward getting my laps on and tackling the darkness. I saw quite a few riders on my 10th lap already having lights on. When I arrived at transition I loaded my Light & Motion goodness. It didn’t take long since all I had to do was to put on my 2nd helmet with my Seca 2000 already pre mounted on it and my husband just stuck the battery back in my back pocket and I was off.
It was not completely dark yet but the moment I hit the single track I did put my light quickly on. Things look very different lit. By the time the course started taking me to the darker sections I enjoyed my light more and more. Since it was going to be only 1 lap and not pitch black I was fine with just a single light and we didn’t bother installing the handlebar light. If the scenario was a little different I would surely have it with me.
I loved having my husband at some sections of the course snapping pictures since it made me feel just “at home” I didn’t have to feel out there in the darkness totally alone. However those parts did creep on me in the later parts of the final lap and I was glad to notice someone else’s light on one of the tight turns in the darkest section of the course. I wasn’t sure if the rider was ahead or behind me and I sped up to catch up, but when finally I did come out to small straight away I realized no one was in front.
It was a bummer, but I saw the light again and again and next time an opening came about the rider was close behind. With time he did catch up and we kept each other company and rode to the finish together. It was great to hear from the rider after crossing the finish line that actually my presence there led him to ride faster and therefore having a better finish. I was done, it was completely dark now and it was all over. I got off my bike after all those hours of biking with a smile on my face. I enjoyed my racing machine today more than words can describe and really had multiple times when I just kept reminding myself how happy I was with my bike choice. It was my Sonia, warrior princess, Specialized S-Works Epic WC, night hoover, star gazer which was just perfect mate for this length of racing.
The trophy I received for this 1st place effort is massive and beautiful and reflects the amplitude of the journey one must take to own it.
It was a great test and I think I passed it. I need to thank my husband who thought that I was capable of pursuing this challenge. For me it was more like throwing a dart and seeing if it lands. I wasn’t sure if I was ready yet for that much riding, but thankfully we did hit the bull’s eye with this one.
Today's race also was run without Dave Berger the Goneriding race director who got injured in the dirt bike accident. It was definitely not the same without Dave here but I though his wife Terry and son Austin and volunteers did great job hosting the event. We all hope to see Dave soon, back to health and on the start line to send us off for our next adventure and announce our names out loud each time we pass the check point!
And of course I’m always grateful for all my supporters that make those testing days as good as they can be.
Thank you goes to:
Syntace, Magura, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Trainer Road, Garden of Life, Pro Gold Lubricants, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, KT Tape, Cycleops and New for 2014 - Mack Cycles, Oakley, Pocketfinder, Hawk Racing, Specialized, Louis Garneau, Selle Italia, KMC Chains and Rotor Bike Components