12 Hours of Santos - Vortex Trail Head
12 Hours Solo - 2nd Place Female, 6th Overall
|12 Hour Solo Podium: Beata Wronska, Ally Stacher, Heather Davis|
I rode 118.5 miles through the most grueling and technical terrain Florida has to offer. Four of those 12 hours were in complete darkness. The steep and rocky climbs and descents and numerous roots and rock gardens made things even more difficult. I crashed 3 times in the first 4.5 hours, one time going totally over the handlebars therefore most of the race was in complete pain. Almost 5 thousand feet of climbing and 4500 calories burnt later with a scratched up body and blistered hands I crossed the finish line just 2 minutes off the 12th hour of the race.
I did the same distance and amount of laps as the only woman ahead of me today who was Pro Ally Stacher (
This was more than a testing day. It was a journey of highs and lows that I hit during it and immersed myself in the constant internal battle that had to be won again and again in order for me to keep on going. I could not have accomplish that without the selfless support from my husband and all the incredible people that cheered me on throughout the day..
The massive trophy that I received will be reminding me for a long time about this unforgettable day.
Some Videos of the Race...
I’m always happy to come back to Santos and especially to race on the Vortex Trails. It is just so challenging here and all the rocks, drops, rock gardens and never ending steep short climbs and descents with twisty and bumpy elements in them make the track super exhausting.
|Craig Evans and I right before our group pre-ride|
So the last time I did a 12 hour race here was a whole 2 years back, it’s weird since back than I was just a beginner rider and somehow all taped up in KT tape with pure determination I made through the whole race. So knowing that with being so much more experienced now and also much stronger I knew that if nothing horribly goes wrong I should have no problem with riding for the long day at a decent speed. Especially that I just raced on a little bit easier course just three weeks back for a whole 9 hours. So I knew I’m quite capable and didn’t have the smallest feeling of doubt. I was confident and didn’t even care that much who is going to be racing with me as far and female competition goes and it didn’t add at all to any pressure to find out that our ladies field was going to be the biggest and probably strongest that it ever been for this particular distance.
I hardly knew anyone since most of the riders did come down from up north and we got some strong ladies including Pro Ally Stacher on the start line. So that made things a little more exciting since it is always better to have more people in the class. I was torn a little because each time I listened to my heart I just felt that a 6 hour race was going to be so much exciting to me. I felt it would bring me more joy and challenge and keep me charged 100 percent and positive throughout. When I envisioned 12 hours however I could only see the bleak 12 hours of constant pedaling through the day into the night and even though I knew that was going to be physically way more challenging and exhausting at the same time I didn’t find it would be as exciting.
So I was really looking forward shorter race but did sign up for the long one since I just felt it was the right thing to do at this point and if I was ever going to be ready for challenges like this it would definitely be now. So the way I went.
The weather was going to be on the cold side for the race but nothing to what it was just a night before when everything dropped to 28 degrees. I think the low preceding race morning was maybe in the 30s, the high of the day was going to be in the low 70s and then drop down to 50 later on at night. To be honest those were just perfect temperatures and it was going to stay dry which was a very good thing for this type of terrain. We did just a minimal warm up in the morning and scouted the parade lap section, it was a short double track all the way down to the quarry and back up and after that we were going to get into the easier part of the single track to keep riders separated as much as possible by the time we get to the tough sections.
|Staging of the bikes on the top of the hill|
We rested our bikes on the top of the hill and gathered for the race start on the bottom of the query. I was not nervous and really didn’t think much about the fact that the moment this horns blows I will be on my feet until 10 PM at night. What was important however was to have all my water and nutrition set and my husband Pax by my side who had everything under control and ready when needed. Like usual it was a big team effort…
|Race start 10 AM in the Vortex Pit area|
There was a big group of us representing what I estimate 1/3 of the racing field, since plenty of riders were going to race teams, therefor were awaiting their turn later on in the race. Just to the right of me I have a few of my friends including Scott and Jonathan and the brave guy in the speedos. It is quite normal on our bike races to find some really special characters that push the fun part of racing to another level. And we were off, we ran uphill in our riding gear and by the time we made a left turn and got to the bikes everyone started lifting bikes, jumping on and it was so crowded it was almost impossible to run in the mid of all of it. I had to hold one guys tush on the bike while I was still running and he was riding to make sure he doesn’t ride me over.
|And the race begun with the parade lap. Coming up same uphill we just run to get to the bikes...|
|Checkered speedo charging up and leaving in dust some serious riders|
|On one of many twisty uphills|
|In a company on the fast sections|
|Leaving our pit area and feed zone|
|Man made features are everywhere|
From there on I hardly remember what was happening on the trails, it was pretty peaceful there and silent. I felt lonely in a way since not that many riders were nearby for most of the time. Sometimes it was hardly anyone and then a group of team racers would go by, it kind of came in waves. I was craving my music now and for some weird reasons my Ipod died on me just a few hours into the race. Wonder if my spirit would be more elevated if I had my music for longer. I listened to my favorite Remix of Rammstein and on the end of the set I had my recent new favorite track from the latest Nine Inch Nails concert Tension with songs from the new album “Hesitation marks” and some really awesome older songs. When I had this music on I felt great and everything was falling beautify in the place, and all the riding was smooth and flawless besides the technical terrain. I was really tired but having Trent Reznor singing in my ears made me almost completely forget that I was biking and even though I was too tired to sing out loud I was singing right inside with joy.
But unfortunately this time was over now and it was still gloomy out and very silent. As far as food, my husband would just run next to me in the transition zones and hand me a peace of sandwich, banana, new Clif gel or Clif electrolyte or water. I lost my banana once and a piece of sandwich and the worst was that the bread this time felt pretty dry and It was just so difficult to get it down and the section to eat was so short that only time I had to take a sip of water was when I was climbing and turning into the next rocky single track. It did work out somehow and I never felt really very hungry so that was good.
|Another fast section|
|Generating some watts|
It was time now to stop quickly and grab a new helmet with a pre-mounted Light and Motion Seca and have a Taz set on my bars and of course Vis 360 for my back light. All of it with quick assistance of Pax while I was busy reapplying this chaffing cream as quickly as I could. I took off without lights on but just seconds after getting into the rolling hills and dim single track I knew the light will be my company for quite a few hours from now on.
Somehow this time I was not very scared or thought much about darkness. I just knew I have a few laps I have to put in there and just be strong. I remember riding through the more flowy sections and just very quickly glazing up from under naked trees and seeing just a little smear of the pinkish-reddish clouds on the already almost dark sky. That was it, that’s it, this tiny last speck of day on the sky was all that was left. Besides it there was darkness. The moment the day left suddenly it become really really cold. I knew I will have to stop quickly and put something warm on. This is when after those long 9 hours of racing I put my extra layer on had my first and only bathroom stop.
Right after the first sharp turn I knew it was going to be tough but the moment I rolled up the super steep pitchy uphill and while on top things turned downwards instantly, I froze and got terrified since the light on the bar was still facing straight and I looked where I was going and all I could see was a black hole, just complete darkness. Simply the bar light was not catching up quickly enough and I found myself throughout this lap relying into the semi dark corners and descents and just hoping for the best. It was not fun. The helmet light is much more desirable for this type of riding since you see where you will be going next a few fractions of the seconds earlier. That’s why I love to have both lights on so when wide light from the bar gives me nice overall hue the helmet one is for spotting more of the technical details in the trails.
|Almost out of the trail and once again into the feed zone|
|4 hours in the darkness|
But here I am now actually somehow trying to make the extra lap. For the longest time I was alone in this dark quiet place and for sure now I thought I was the last rider that decided to go in the final lap and whomever is also doing it got earlier and is probably way ahead. After the longest time alone I thought I saw some lights very far ahead. Ok I was not alone this direction but each time I looked back there was still nothing. I didn’t want to be last, because if anything goes wrong now I can’t rely on anyone but myself, it was simply pretty scary. I had to be somewhere half way or even two thirds through the lap when I had actually someone coming from behind. It was little relieving knowing I’m not last. Going one last time through all those brutal little climbs and forcing your body to push and raise your heart rate up to go over one more time was really tough, not only mentally but on the body too.
My body couldn’t make sense now of what was going on after riding a bike for 12 hours with an elevated heart rate. Now I didn’t have to do anything and it was a shock and reality actually. So I spent the longest time just lying there and had my husband running back and forth to the car getting me something to drink (Clif Recovery) and some clothes to put on since I was suddenly just freezing and shivering intensely. I also had a nice man who was a chiropractor here for the race day watching me and making sure I’m doing alright and even gave me his spare jacket so I could cover up my trembling body. The aftermath was even more challenging than the race itself. I really didn’t like the spot that I was in right now and just wanted to make sure I will recover from it shortly.
|Yes it was a long day in the saddle!|
|I'm very glad Austin is still full of energy. At least someone is!|
I think I did pretty awesome job and I’m proud of my performance and there is nothing more I could ask for. After all I biked for the full 12 hours and 118.5 miles which is the record for me time and distance wise. Also having the same lap count, mileage and standing on the same podium, and being second two only someone like Ally who is a professional bike racer and does it for a living is pretty neat.
When in the contrary myself having a full 45 hour desk job and to only be able to train and race after hours and on the weekends my placing in this race it’s a big accomplishment and great success. I can only imagine how enjoyable and fulfilling is to live your dream life full time like some do.
Huge thanks goes to as always to my Pit Crew Pax who did an incredible job during this long day!
I could not achieve what I did without my incredible bike, I simply LOVE my Sonia S-Works WC Epic which did amazing on this technical track. It is important to love and trust equipment that is being used, it gives peace of mind to know you can rely on your closest company, in this case the bike during a long journey as a 12 hour race.
And also big thank you to everyone who contributed to the journey, started with Light and Motion with the amazing lights which were perfect for this mighty adventure, but also everyone else who contributed to bringing my race bike to life and also supported all my nutritional and gear needs. The bike’s chain was perfect for all 12 hours because prior I used ProGold Xtreme Chain Lubricant. And my first stop after this grueling race was to the Health-Fit Chiropractic & Sports Medicine in Boca Raton which assured that in a short time I will be back to being myself again! Thank you so much everyone!
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
One of the albums I listened to during my race: