October 9th I set out on my first 12 hour solo mountain bike race. For the uninitiated, this is a mountain bike racing where competitors try to finish as many laps as possible, in the least amount of time, up to a specific cut off.
This was also the first time back at the Burnin since 2008 when I completed my first 6 hour solo. Back in ’08 I knocked out 3 laps in 6:25 (it was my second race ever!). My goal this year was to complete twice that in the 12 hours, but I’m stoked with finishing 5 laps in 10 hours.
Once again, the race started with a le mans start and the same choke points as usual (the singletrack entry and a rock about 1.5 miles in). Lap 1 went really smooth. I worked at keeping the pace easy and I was riding near some experienced endurance riders which was good. The 1st lap at Council Bluff is always a bit “loose” for me. During the first lap that I decided that I could manage a slightly higher pace, and benefit from less traffic, so I pushed ahead of a few riders but generally controlled my pace. I kept the hills in the granny gear, watched my cadence, and tried to stay on top of my speed.Lap 1 took roughly 1:25-1:30, which killed my old record of 1:48. I stopped at my aid station, switched bottles, and grabbed some food. On the first lap I believe I downed out a plain H2O bottle, a Nuun bottle, and 5 Clif Shot Bloks. This was more or less on track for what I had planned. The second lap I felt pretty decent still, but did have my first minor fall when I took one of the infamous dip-then-climbs too wide on the exit. No issues here though as I more or less caught myself. This lap I did make it farther in the famed rock garden than I usually do, which felt good. Just keep things simple was the moto. Lap 2 was about 1:40 which is where I really hoped to keep my pace for the day. My fueling had gone down a bit, though: about a shot of Hammer gel and 3 Clif Shot Bloks and this should have started to spell doom.
Lap 3 is where the fun began. Suddenly my body was not happy; drinking water and eating weren’t really “working” for me. I would force myself to drink, but eating was difficult. My pace was failing and I was going backwards. My legs still felt fine, but my mind was concentrating on how riding for 7+ hours like this was not going to work. This lap was slow at over 2 hours. I felt like crap. I took a plain H2O bottle and sat down, had some caffeine and my first non-gel food (PB & a slice of banana on pita and, my fav, nutella & banana on pita). I tried to leave after about 10-15 minutes, but my stomach was still not settled. After about 30 minutes I felt better and took off.
I won’t say that lap 4 was speedy or back to my old self, but I think I got my pace back to about 1:40-1:50. I did opt to take another sit after the lap and process some more solid food. The good, but not too surprising, news at this point was that I had beat my 6 hour race pretty handedly (I think lap 3 and ended just over 5 hours on the race clock). Back at the campsite, I grabbed my lights, some food, some energy drink, and took off for a twilight ride around the lake. Pace wise this felt the same as lap 4. An amusing moment came after I passed the beach: I decided it was time to turn on my headlamp so I reached up and pressed the button and nothing happened! I checked that cable was attached to the battery and that was fine. Pushed the button again. Nothing happened. I checked the light before I left for the lap! It was working! Suddenly it hit me: I needed to press the button twice to turn it on. Yep, racing for 10 hours doesn’t help the brain cells.
All the way through lap 5, I felt good and felt like a 6th lap was totally possible. I eyed the clock and decided that if I made it back by the 10 hour mark, I would definitely go out again. But by the time I crested the final climb to the line, it was a little after 10 hours and I didn’t feel so confident in another lap. Back at the campground I had the distinct feeling that I could make it another 6-7 miles, but when I hit the rock garden things might be pretty difficult. So I rode back to the start/finish and called it a day.
I’m very happy with this result even though I missed my goal. The race results have me down as a DNF, but I don’t think that’s scored right. If I’m not a DNF, then I finished 10th our of 20 and I’m proud of that for my first 12 hour. While I had a little more time and a little more to give, I’m happy just to take it in the way I did. I didn’t feel so cooked that I was dead-to-the-world after the race (or the day after) and Council Bluff is a tough course to be tired on.
Up next: 1 or 2 cyclocross races this weekend and some MTB training for the final MTB race of the year: the BT Epic. In the meantime, cheers to my race support (who I could not have done it without), the other racers, and see you all at the Epic!