The inside of our Prius has seemed like home lately. We've spent more time there than we have in our humble abode. As I pondered what it would take to hook up a small flat screen somewhere near the rear view mirror I shifted my thinking to what it was I wanted to achieve as I entered the first 12 hour solo effort of the Wisconsin Mountain Bike Series. I'd be flying solo on this one as Amy would head north of Green Bay for a huge family celebration while I went south to the coveted single track of the Northern Kettles race course. What did I want to achieve at this race? I immediately started thinking about positions, top 3 would be nice. No, I'd change focus this time. How about ride the whole 12 hours and complete at least 100 miles and whatever position that gets you is going to be good enough. This seemed realistic, but the 100 miles could come into question depending on what the "Kettles" had in store for me.
I arrived at the race venue in dense fog with a nervous energy in my belly. First order of business, set up my pit in a semi strategic place for quick bottle and food exchanges. Then, 'kit up' and start thinking about what lie ahead.
True to form in all 12 hour races we'd start in LeMans fashion. This one however involved a disturbingly long uphill run to our bikes. Oh well, I'd run hard, but not kill myself for it as this will never play a role in the outcome of a 12 hour event. How quickly that thinking changes when the director says "GO!" Five steps into the run the competitive nature in me demanded that I get to my bike first, thus into the single track first. "Why was I running so hard? Why was I so worried about the four guys in front of me?" Fifth to my bike and fifth to the single track left me frustrated. I cursed myself for getting there late and wished I was in front. I told myself that "if I were in front I'd probably be pushing too hard anyway, stay relaxed and slide up a position here and there if you can". Sure enough opportunities soon began to present themselves and I moved through the four riders in front of me. Twenty five minutes into the first lap I found myself away with one other rider who was riding the '12 hour duo'. I slight bobble put him on the ground, after a quick check on his well being I was in front of the field. I opened up the pace a bit as I started the second lap, but not fully. After about forty five minutes of riding I was alone and unsure of my decision to be in the lead so early. "Oh well, I was here now, I might as well go with it I thought."
The morning wore on and I continued to ride alone, but soon I began to enjoy the brief company of young, fast team riders. They looked clean, smooth and athletic as they moved past me. It was fine, I knew my role was to 'ogger in' and get comfortable, I had a long day ahead of me. I focused on turning consistent laps, but realized I'd slow as the day wore on. I wanted to manage my nutrition effectively, stay hydrated and most importantly keep me and the bike safe.
The doll drums hit, soon I felt like one of those ships from the 17th century that gets stuck in that 'no mans' land out in the ocean where there is absolutely no wind. I had nothing left to think about, I'd covered all areas of my life in my head, but one thought was dominant - I was getting tired!
My lap times were getting slower as approached the early afternoon. So slow in fact that I was sure I'd see solo riders approaching my wheel any minute. "Had I mismanaged my nutrition? What was with this deep ache I had going in my upper quads? Am I drinking enough? What's going on?" I repeated these questions over an over until finally the words of my training partner came to me and it was as if I was reading the email he sent to me all over again. He said, "Remember, the dark times will pass." I shifted to the positive.
I knew I'd be entering into what I refer to as my "lunch lap" soon and then I'd bury a bunch of calories and wait for them to take hold, when they did I'd lift the pace. Like a B12 shot the calories hit me and I began to accelerate. I was heading for home now as I'd passed the half way point. The winds were filling my sails, so to speak. I pinned two 'hot' laps and felt good about them. I began to sing the lyrics to Megadeth's 'CRUSH 'EM' over and over in my head searching for more inspiration. I hoped I was widening the gap, but it was the mileage I was looking for, I wanted 100 and at half way I had 51 completed.
Updates from Cale and Katy, acquaintances from before, now friends, were telling me that I was in 1st position with a respectable gap of around 20 minutes. I appreciated their support and kind words while I made quick bottle exchanges in the pits. I'd gathered that they were winning the duo and I was pumped for them. They are what people are talking about when they use the phrase "salt of the Earth". I had the opportunity to ride with both of them briefly throughout the day and they looked super smooth. Their updates informed me that Justin Lund (buddy and fellow competitor) was driving hard in 2nd position. I know Justin's motivation and he'd be gunning for me. "Just keep riding and stay safe, you'll be o.k.", was my mantra.
The six o'clock lap had me determining that I'd stay out front and I'd only have to
do one more lap in order to finish 1st. However, stopping at 7:05 p.m. would leave my two goals hanging in the breeze. My mileage indicated that if I stopped I'd come up short with about 96 miles complete and the time spent on the bike wouldn't be 12 hours. Although I was really hurting I made a deal with myself, I'd continue on for one final lap if I finished my "last" lap at 7:10 p.m. or better. You see, one has to be done riding by 8:00 p.m. sharp in order for that particular lap to count toward the race. So, in other words finish at 8:01 p.m. and that lap you just did doesn't count for squat. I vowed to stay true to my original goals, I'd give an honest effort at finishing before 7:10 p.m. in order to go for "one more". I hammered that lap hard, finishing at 7:07 p.m. I pulled through the timing area to some much appreciated acknowledgement from spectators and fellow racers, but I wasn't done. The directors congratulated me as I passed their table. They looked at me confused when I flatly stated, "one more time". "What!?", was the reply as I re-entered the single track for my truly solo last lap.
The sun was getting low and the temps were just right as I moved through this final race against the clock. I had 53 minutes to get home and I knew that a lot could happen at this point and I didn't want this final push to be for nothing. "Be careful, ride hard and smooth" is what I told myself. I moved through the sections I hated as well as the ones I loved all by myself. I thought about how everyone was done, but I was still out there by myself finishing strong. I felt good! It's surprising how you get stronger as the end comes near. Running off of reserves I didn't know I had I was climbing well and railing corners. I'd finished this one with a respectably fast lap.
The only people there to greet me at the end were the two timing guys and 2nd place finisher Justin Lund. A couple hand shakes and "good jobs" and I was dismantling my pit area and trying to figure out what just went down.
I sat in my own filth throughout the small awards ceremony while others were clean and happy. I (still in my kit that probably should have been burned it was so toxic) could barely get out of my chair to leave due to seizing muscles after awards were passed out. Slowly I put away my gear and attempted to clean myself up for my two and a half hour drive to meet Amy and her family. Noticing I was the last one to leave the parking lot of Northern Kettles, I took a minute to think about everything that happened this day.
11 hours and 53 minutes and 102 miles later I was done. My aged sore body climbed into the driver's seat...
Thank you Salsa Cycles for creating the 'Big Mama'. What a great all day bike!