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!!