The format of the race is as such:
At 7:30AM, all people in the 12 hour race start on a 50.5 mile loop that is labeled by the mile. That loop and the 7 mile loop start and stop at the same place (Shawnee High School) with a checkpoint in the middle (of the 50 mile loop) to keep people honest. Everyone rides the 50.5 loop until at least 3:30pm when the 7 mile loop opens. Between 3:30pm and 4:15pm, you have the option of which loop you want to ride, the 50 or the 7, but at 4:15, they close the 50 mile loop, meaning no one else can start a 50 mile loop. Now, there is a 50 TT, a 100 TT, and 6 hour race. Plus, there are relay teams that do the 12 hour race. Everyone wears an electronic chip that is suppose to count how many loops you do and of what distance, and they also had people writing down numbers as riders went through the checkpoints. At the end of the race, at 7:30 PM, they give partial credit for miles so if you only make it to mile 3 on the 7 mile loop, you get those additional 3 miles added to your total.
Going into details for a 12 hour race is very dangerous, so I think I will just try to go into the highlights.
1. Riding the first loop with our big “Long Distance Cleveland” group. I adore all of these guys, and I think they are incredibly wonderful. Spring is my favorite time of cycling season because I feel so lucky to get to ride with this group. Eric’s ability to convince people to do some crazy things has made my springs awesome!
2. Meeting the competition on the course, seeing a younger woman riding like she was on a spin bike, telling myself, she might be fresher now, but I will have higher mileage when we finish. (I did by over 40 miles).
3. Riding with Cassie for about 40 minutes on the first loop. Now, Cassie and I have ridden thousands of miles together, I think nearly every mile I rode in 2008 was with her. Our group caught up to her, and she just took off, and it only seemed natural that I follow. I mean, chasing Cassie down when she decided to kick the pace up was something I did for years, and I was nearly laughing at the ease I found doing it again, just minutes after falling off the back of the group she was now leaving in the dust.
4. Our AMAZING crew. Tim and his wife Lisa are about as top notch as you can get. Tim was driving out to the checkpoint to make sure we had all we needed at every point on this race. Tim is one of the most knowledgeable cyclist I know, particularly at long distance cycling. Without ego or attitude, his years of cycling knowledge enabled this race to go as smoothly as possible for our entire group. Both he and Lisa were super-supportive, I hope that someday I can pay them back for how much they helped me at this race. Even the family members of other riders were awesome and supportive. I think we have our individual battles, and while they weren’t experiencing them, they were supportive of our fight with them.
5. JERRY! Now, Jerry is an awesome guy, awesome cyclist, and the reason I accomplished my goals on Saturday. On our 3rd 50 mile loop, my stomach was beyond upset. I could see him ahead of me, but I just couldn’t bridge the gap with the headwind we were facing. I believe I rode about a tenth of a mile behind him for 20 miles. Then, a guy came up, and I suffered to grab his wheel and hold it until I got to Jerry. Once I got to him, I decided to pull up and ride with him rather than this stranger who was going faster than comfortable. We talked and talked about our strategy for the rest of the race. While we knew we would get back before the 50 mile loop would close, we decided it would be best to go to the 7 mile loop as to break up the headwind sections. We worked together even though he did more of the work, I feel I helped him a bit too by giving him some chance to recover. I told him how upset my stomach was, and he told me about how he had dealt with a similar problem a few years ago. He suggested I stop eating until we got back, then to take a bit longer off the bike to feel comfortable riding again. (At that point, 7 hours in, I had about 5 minutes off the bike). We finished out the last 30 miles of that loop together, then we did the first 4 loops of the 7 miler together too. He wouldn’t let me check out mentally, which is what I wanted to do, and he encouraged me when I started showing signs of rebounding. Endurance racing is all about highs and lows and working through the lows. It is much easier with people around you helping you get through them.
7. (A lowlight) SO had a bad race. He crashed on the first loop, and that crash was giving him some tire issues. I had asked about him after my 2nd 50 mile loop and was upset to find that out. He worked so hard for this race, and I found it disappointing that some bad luck had cost him some serious time and some significant pain.
8. The little pistol. There were 2 kids in the 6-10 category, and this one little ball of spit wouldn’t let me pass him. We (was riding with Jerry at the time) came up to this 7 year old boy and his father around mile 2. Well, every time we tried to pass, he would speed up and not let us pass him. I snuck behind him just in time for the photographer to take a photo of me drafting off this kid. Eventually, the slight uphill on the 7 mile loop was enough for me to get past the kid (even if it took me 2 miles to do so), but it made me laugh. As I passed, his dad said, “oh, he finally let you pass him, huh?” That kid ended up riding 157 miles, and he was 8!
9. Tug-O-War. Every cyclist is going through the same thing. The same guy who pulled me up to Jerry on the 3rd 50 mile loop was now struggling in the wind on the 7 mile loop. He would duck behind me through the headwind, then pull ahead of me during the cross-wind and tailwind sections. We rode like that for 3 loops, I think until I pulled off to get some candy.
10. Mile 200: Having nearly thrown in the town at mile 150, I was pumped with starting my lap that would end with mile 200. For some reason, as I rode through the checkpoint around our crew, I opted to share that with the crowd. Well, little did I know, SO was taking a break in the port-o-pot, and when he heard my announcement, he opted to chase me down. While it did boost my confidence to hear him say, “I time trialed it to catch up to you,” (probably a first) I wasn’t expecting to see him, let alone to see him slow down when he caught me. Per usual, I told him to take off, not to wait for me, but he told me that he knew he wasn’t going to place so he wanted to ride with me (read, pull for me). At this point, I knew I had enough time to break my record, that I would probably get about 210 miles. Well, with SO pulling me through the headwind section, I rode my fastest lap. After about 8 miles, I told him that I appreciated it, but I wanted him to ride hard, and I was already suffering, suffering trying to keep his pace was a bit more than I wanted at that moment. The photographer took a photo of the two of us as well, hoping for a copy of that one!
11. Mile 215. I broke the record for my age group last year. Now, it was low hanging fruit, but I was nervous coming into this race that I wouldn’t be able to compete with what I had done the year before. Truth be told, I had some strong motivation to beat someone last year, and without that person being there, I was nervous I wouldn’t have as strong a race. So, having an even better race was an emotional experience. The lap before SO caught up to me, I had looked at the time and knew what I needed to do to break my own record. I kept thinking, “don’t give up on yourself and your goal, you have this.” Then, with SO’s push, I knew that I more than had it. I had planned to have a nice finish about half way through the loop, but with SO’s boost, I was pretty confident I had just enough time to finish a full loop more than I did the year before (not that I really wanted to ride the headwind section again, but what can you do). Now, I did draft off a recumbent through the headwind section (apparently, he drafted off me for a while as well), and I made it to the end of the loop with a minute to spare for 215.5 miles! This last loop was pretty emotional for me. I was physically pretty spent and so proud of the effort I put forth to persevere through the highs and the lows. I was also happy to know that I didn’t need to beat someone else to do well, that I could motivate myself sufficiently to keep moving forward.
12. For the second year in a row, I won my age group and broke the age group record. I honestly have no clue how I am going to top this performance next year. For my mileage, I rode 17.9 mph for 12 hours, but with the time off the bike, I was at about 18.6 mph. Those stats just blow my mind!
13. Sunday morning, SO and I went to Tim Horton’s, and we wolfed down a box of donut holes. Those donut holes are the first donuts I have had in about 5 year, and man, did they taste good!