Monday, February 20, 2012

12 Hours of Amelia (January 7, 2012)

Oh what a race…

Before I showed up on the starting line I had my doubts. I never did an endurance race before and I didn’t really know what to expect. How will my body handle it, how I “my mind” will handle it. I had a simple plan in my mind but mostly knew I will need to play it by ear.

First of all after sorting out all the options I had for this type of race, like going with a team for the whole 12 hours, having a team of 3 or 4 riders and how much work I will have to put in, it looked like the best and most challenging choice for me at this time would be riding 6 hours solo and trying to learn what I am made of.

Looking back I think it was an excellent choice and I enjoyed this long, lonely, brutal but how rewarding ride very much.

We started with one big mass start, our bikes some 200 meters away lying on the ground. The gun went off and running in the clipless shoes is an art in itself but somehow I managed. It was good we had some nice soft grass to run on. We got to the turn and were heading closer to the bikes and I was already winded. Really, I’m so tired already and I have to go bike now for 6 hours!  I grabbed my bike and mounted as quickly as I could, but in an instance I had to practice a track stand since everyone was doing the same thing at the same time and the way to the trail was all clogged up. Amazing bottle neck in the trail entrance made all of us stand and wait in like we were waiting for some baked goods. We looked at each other thinking, this is going to be an interesting day. The train started to move slowly and we managed to pick up some speed little by little. I knew that sorting of the fast riders from slow riders will take a while. There was a lot of passing and slower people on the trail were blocking some major climbs on the first lap and even experts were doomed from making them since riders were walking their bikes up. But the pace was quite easy and when the sections were done the path started to clear up and the biking begun.

I settled into the nice pace and just enjoyed the ride. It felt so good, my heart rate was nice and low and I felt strong and steady and was getting more confidence and enjoyment with each lap. I was planning to take a little break after 2 laps but when the time came I had no need, everything was great.  I had time to have my nutrition and kept on going. Only moment that I didn’t like was when I was riding through the new section in the park that was just freshly cut and there were four elevated above the muddy ground long logs that I was not very familiar with. I made one, didn’t make another and when I fell off the 3rd one again I had girl pass me there and she is the one that took 1st on this race.  With time I started managing them better but on the 4th lap I fell off again and there was where another girl from higher class passed me. I was able however later on to catch up with her and when we were head to head on the loop around the lake we spoke few words and I jetted away. I noticed a lot of girls taking breaks and resting, getting nutrition etc. With each lap end you had to dismount the bike and run/walk small section before biking again. That was not easy, not only with each lap I was more and more covered with dirt but also the longer I rode the less my legs remembered how to walk and this little transition would throw you off a little walking your bike on those noddle like legs. I kept telling myself one more lap and one more lap and the laps kept adding up. I never rode that much before, not on the road, not on a dirt path and definitely not on off road mountain biking terrain. I figured I can maybe do 30 plus miles in this environment, but laps were 10 miles long and I already completed 4! Don’t know how it was possible but I kept on rolling and felt great until my body started telling me otherwise. This is when the knee pain started to kick in and some stomach cramps. But I kept on biking and all I did was to take a few seconds to grab a new camelback and on another occasion I was able to stop for 30 seconds and wrap up my hurting knee with some adhesive tape. Oh did I tape the knee tight, to tight. I biked away and didn’t have time to undo all the wrapping; I started feeling the pressure and the rubbing of the tape behind my knee tearing into my skin pretty instantly. But I didn’t stop I knew I will just have to deal with it no matter how unpleasant. My arms started to get tired and the bathroom break seemed like a good idea when I got second set of stomach cramps. I told myself not yet, after this lap and kept on going. When the lap ended I said ok this is definitely the time for a nice break, but… but it’s the last lap most likely. Pax said to me “keep going Bebes, you are almost done”. Can I still try to be strong for a little longer and keep on biking I wondered? Not sure how well would that work I decided to keep on spinning those cranks and to complete the 6th lap again without break. This is when I realized that I will be on the time crunch and with my lap times it will be very close and I will need to really rush not to miss the cutoff time. I biked as fast as I could considering my state, where all my limbs were really fatigued now and it is hard to even hold the handlebar without my hand cramping. My world was made up of pain and I met a group of great people on this journey who shared this time with me.

My husband was there this long day with me always by my side, handing out drinks, nutrition and telling me to be strong when I needed it the most. We made a great team that day and I accomplished more than I expected. The quote from my friend “amaze yourself with your own strength” might summarize my experience for today. I did amaze myself and now I know that I can bike for a long, long time and that I have a very strong mind and determination to finish the task on hand no matter how difficult circumstances are.

I rushed all the way around the lake and on the last stretch to the finish I was pushing as much as I could to find out that I missed the cut off time by just seconds. Did I really want to go another lap however? I just biked 60 miles! I think I did a lot already and when I crossed the finish line I went straight to the sticks and collapsed there. My body thanked me for not making the cut off … :) It was good to be done and just rest now.

After some time to regroup and clean myself from all this dirt that accumulated all over my body there was time for the presentation. No one could see it but having my name called out and walking up this podium stand brought little tears into my eyes, there were tears of happiness and accomplishment nicely camouflaged behind ultra-fast and mean green Cavendish glasses that I was wearing that day.

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