24 hours in 5 weeks

Yesterday I finished my first 24 hour event of any kind, the 24 hours of Grand Targhee mountain bike race. It was a spur of the moment thing. The race started Saturday at noon and I decided to do it Friday afternoon….for that matter I was still wavering on Saturday morning. I’ve had 5 weeks of training on the road bike, riding most of Lisa‘s training rides for the 508 with her and crewing longer rides. I mention the crewing, because watching Lisa on long rides, enduring cold and dark and boredom, and at times severe back pain and very bad saddle sores, contributed as much to me finishing the race as my time on the bike. When I wanted to crawl in the back of the car and sleep instead of going back out on the trail in the dark, when the saddle hurt, when I felt just too tired to keep riding, I thought of Lisa, continuing on and never complaining, and kept plugging away as well as I could.

I don’t remember the last time I rode my mountain bike on a trail before we checked out the 7.3 mile course loop on Thursday. I do have some pretty gnarly trail rides in my memory bank, most of them trying to keep up with my friend Abi. I wished that Abi was here. She might have been able to win the solo. More about the results later.

I really did not feel like I had enough training for this. My longest training ride was 5 hours. Lisa, who is also my coach, said go slow and steady. My goal was to not feel it in my legs at all for as long as I could and I was going very easy. I didn’t seem to be losing much time on the uphills, but my lack of any recent trail riding, and possibly my 15 year old bike, meant I was getting passed a lot on the descents. After 12 hours, I was no longer able to pedal up some of the big hills. For the purposes of conserving my NiteRider batteries, neither of which could make a full lap, it was more efficient to walk the slowest sections and turn my main light off anyway.

I was there for one reason, to win. I was second. One of the late entries in the women’s solo division was Rebecca Rusch, the winner of the 24 Hour World Championships in Laguna, CA, September 1-2. The results may show she only beat me by two laps, but she did that easily and could have beaten me by many more. Her lap times were about half of mine. To get in 19 laps, I was on the course the entire time except when I was eating, changing clothes, or working on my bike.

I had great crew support from Colleen and Jay and Lisa and their kids!!! Colleen was helping me nearly the entire race and when she showed up with peanut butter and jelly it was a wish granted. I had spent much of the lap before wondering how I could have forgotten to bring peanut butter. They also made hot split pea soup and hot coffee and brought fruit, potato chips and hot water for tea. Colleen brought me yummy, hot burritos Sunday morning. That was a real treat! She must have driven up and down Ski Hill Road ten times getting hot food and supplies for me. I also want to thank Mike Evans who was on the Badwater crew relay. He was a race volunteer, but almost like another crew person helping me with my lights at night and cheering me at the start and finish of every lap.

One thing is for sure, it is MUCH easier to eat during a bike ultra, as compared to running. I never felt sick, where I have always been sick during long running races and training runs. In addition to the smorgasbord mentioned above, I drank a mixture of Hammer Sustained Energy and HEED the whole race and was taking a couple Endurolytes every hour or so. I also ate Clif gels, GU and Sharkies and took a few UpTime during the night to help stay alert.

I was tired after the race especially my back and neck and arms, but my legs were not sore. And wearing my Russ Bollig orthotics, I had zero foot pain. We had perfect weather. I added a couple layers on top and switched to knickers and then shorts and tights at night, but I never needed gloves or a hat.

I guess I am supposed to make some kind of “race report”. Well, it was easy and then it was not. It was scary riding at night, mostly because of my poor lighting system and not being able to see the trail well a lot of the time. I fell twice. Once at the turn around, and once going off the trail at night. The last 6 hours went by much faster that the first 6!!

21 thoughts on “24 hours in 5 weeks”

  1. all I can say is this is so impressive, so impressive!!!
    not a chance in the world I would have been able to do this. Cathy is a World class biker and if she really wanted to be the best in this sport..there is NO doubt in my mind she could and would be.
    Thank you for all the love and support for my 508 ride..it’s a one shot deal for me..next year is your turn!

  2. wow, way to go Cathy. i knew you were good but i had no idea. quit hiding you candle under a bushal, would ya!!! great job and i was glad to be able to read your report! what a crew too! fun fun fun!!!

  3. Congrats Cathy, so sweet how you accomplished this on a last second decision….you just validated what I been saying for the past 8 months since I met Coach Lisa, YOU women are SOOO friggin tough & just MOVE forward with no quitting options allowed…

    nooo Jay not going to get a sex change–lolol but umm next life ahhh ya never know:-)

  4. You think I could win? I doubt it. I am WAY too much of a whiner. ( not a winner, a whiner) I know you think I would kill myself to win anything… but… I guess the big difference is that I wouldn’t start something like a 24 hour race…or at least I don’t think I would. I have to admit I was thinking about you this weekend… while I was stumbling around kissing asses at art galleries I thought “what I need is an epic adventure” and that is what you were doing. Congratulations! You entered AND you finished. You get the “most stubborn” medal for sure. (I know I have been promising it to you for years)
    I am inspired, to do what, I don’t know, but inspired! Congratulations again.


  5. If brevity is the order of the day…can I break it down for you here?

    Cathy decided to do the race less than 24 hours before it started, she rode an old mountain bike with a lousy lighting system, she went through the night crewing herself, and the woman she cam in second to is the World Champion.

    ‘Nuff said…way to go Cathy Cramer – you are a CHAMPION!!!


  6. Lisa, did you still think you could not have done it when you were kicking me out on the road today? I think I was 5 minutes off the back when you realized you had dropped me. : ) -cathy

  7. Bob, Pretty funny about the sex change, but I have to say I was very impressed by your finish at the GTR 50. It was amazing coming from Florida and your first 50! AND you are male! ; ) You made it look easy. -cathy

  8. Abi, Are you having a DID moment and confusing yourself with me? I have never heard you whine on any of the insane adventures you’ve led me into … even when you were riding your rim down a rocky trail in the rain with both of us nearly hypothermic. I don’t even think you whined when you hammered your forehead! -cathy

  9. seen you run so I knew you would be better on a bike-its the quiet ones you have to watch out for.Lisa is very smart she surrounds herself with great people.

  10. cathy,
    you are such a super star! I am inspired by your quiet strength and your gratious and giving spirit. congrats on a great race and for leading with your actions. So many times this summer you have been a source of great energy and never ending enthusiasm for me – thanks. Hope you are enjoying the glow! -Laurie

  11. Laurie, Thanks for your kind words. You are a real hero to me. You saved Bonnie and I from a large fine and possibly prison time. : )

  12. great job out there. continue to have fun riding and cannot wait to ride with you again. maybe soon. how long are you in ID?

  13. Wait, wait, wait. What’s this?

    This is amazing, Cathy! Just amazing! It sounds like, according to your commenting fans, that the self depreciation is unwarranted and that you rode like hell out there. Nice! Very nice!

    Hope the recovery is going well!

  14. Meghan, It was a fun to try the 24 hour. I rode up to Mesa Falls Friday. It was beautiful up there and very little traffic. You probably know the area. -cathy

  15. Holly cow! I mean, if it wasn’t Lisa, world would have never guessed about this quiet woman’s achievements! And since I loved the way Colleen expressed it – sign my name to it:)
    Cathy, superb. Really.

  16. Hey Cathy!!

    We met briefly up at Targhee when you were riding with Lisa and Colleen. I don’t know if you’ll remember me…

    You did so awesome on that course!! That’s one hell of a bunch of laps!!

    I’m so impressed.

    Email me and we can go mountain biking when you’re here in Teton Valley – If you want to get back on the bike!

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