I'm home and I'm back at work today. It feels so good to come home from a tough event and not have to go back onto a grueling night shift regimen or co-depend on 5 cups of coffee along side the other night nurses after something big! More than I can say here! <----- This is the highlight of my year by far!
I went back to the 24 Hour World Championships in Borrego Springs as my season-ender on an excellent season of biking this year!
Last year I didn't quite feel prepared enough ahead - I had trouble with the cold temps in the wee hours... I'd experimented with a new nutrition carbo drink that seemed to leave me feeling empty. There's a long somewhat entertaining sufferfest write up here if you remember : http://ryantetz.com/blog/2016/11/8/how-did-my-bike-ride-go
This time I was more than ready. I'd trained much harder. I would be smarter! No new nutrition shenanigans... Only tried and true! I would take exactly at least 350 calories a lap of gels and sports drink and additional salt tabs to bring my sodium up to 500-600 gm an hour. I would take in additional solid foods consisting of fruit, PB & J, or instant mashed potatoes, and 350 calorie Ensure drinks with any signs of slowing down or shivers with the cold night laps. I'm going to go out at 85% of my steady pace learned from the new Badwater to Whitney Record 9.5 hour bike and just cruise around out there!
Okay sounds good! Now for some humble pie to come along.....
The nutrition worked well - like a well oiled robo-enduro machine, I religiously consumed my calories from Roctane and Gels. The riding felt good... there was a bit of annoying wind, but the sexy new TT bike was cruising. I aimed for about 200 watts and managed to average 196. Exactly 85% of the 232 I'd held during the sustained 6 hour uphill start of Badwater to Whitney just 2 weeks ago...
I had extra warm clothes prepared just in case for the cold this time too!
I felt good. I brought about 50-60 more watts to the table across the board this year in my cycling with all the training up till now. This worked and I managed 127 miles in the first 6 hours, not quite my fastest flat solo century pace (so I was holding back some??), but in hindsight it was probably pretty fast!
At 8 hours something switched and I watched my HR start to drop no longer wanting to sustain my favorite 145 Beats Zone II cruising pace. I sensed trouble, but this time I was ready for it!
I stopped and put on warmer clothes and tights and ate an entire thing of olive oil doused instant mashed potatoes, some fruit, and a coke! Okay just got to continue along steady!
I couldn't really move the bike. It watched my HR drop 10 more beats on the next lap and came in and ate more food putting down a couple thousand calories + over my base normal at this point. More warm clothes! I wasn't shivering really at all this year, nothing like the uncontrollable shivering cold lap I'd done around this time of night last time. More laps, more food... I watched as my HR continued to decline 10 beats a lap until finally I did a 2 hour lap...
This is all too familiar.. With a HR locked down to the 80's and now 13 hours into the race with a 2 hour lap I knew what came next after this all too well - A 3 hour and 4 hour lap of ultimate depletion with HR heading toward 60 and getting kicked off the course for "drunken biking" by the officials... No!! The race referees had already trailed me around specifically at this point yelling things like, "Hey!! Good morning! Are you awake???!!" Other bikers looked at my slow pace and always passed asking. "Are you okay? Is something wrong?? What's wrong?" Or "Woah geeze man steady there passing!!" Yeah I knew this whole cycle all too well. The race director gave me an old familiar dirty look coming into the pit seeming to mean to me, "You again, this? I'm going to have to kick you off the course soon again same thing all over this year?"
The kicker was I wasn't going to make my 400 mile goal now at this point. I'd said to my close friends ahead of time that I wouldn't leave the course to go home without 400 miles, but it wasn't going to be possible now. Nothing left to race for/against and pending ultimate depletion/being kicked off the course again 2 years in a row?! I officially called my race at 13 hours. This one hasn't gone well.. It was so very easy until it wasn't...
I took a 5 hour downtime and sat around sleeping and eating/drinking a ton in camp seemingly endlessly. With no tangible objective left to race for I was hesitant to even stay for the rest of the race this time (I'd already done 300 miles before, so that wasn't really a carrot now either). I hated the idea of just going home right now already though and had a hankering curiosity to know if I would recover like I did last year at all? Assuming this is total glycogen depletion probably, is it possible to recover? Last time it took 12 hours to be able to move the bike again? What do you do?
I went out for at this point what I considered some novelty laps. "Just to get a few more!" I was still slow. HR around 100, just didn't want to kick back on, but it wasn't impossible slow either - but slow enough for lots of cyclists to still ask what is wrong constantly.... Yeah I'm just riding guys. I'm way slow don't care! A few laps of this perhaps! It was 92 degrees out now and other cyclists were struggling with heat, but I was so slow it didn't seem to matter or phase me much from my "novelty cruising" pace.
At one point Marko Baloh passed me again and I remembered last year my success chasing his pace for the last 6 hours or so of the race... maybe it would work again. I tried! Sorta.. I could kinda at least keep him in site in the distance, but nope HR max 139, not willing to go over the 140 governor yet, not quite! My fancy aero water bottle found this exact moment as the perfect time to fly off my handle bars and I had to dismount the bike and walk backwards looking for tiny small pieces of metal that had come unscrewed. Guess I won't find out if I can hit 140 or not right now!
I continued on and realized I still felt pretty darn drained slogging around out there and phoned ahead to my brother to ready another batch of PB & J, coke, and instant potatoes! I'd sit and eat and just grind this thing out to the finish now! I continued on another slow lap with many more cyclists passing me and cheering some now, "You got this only a few more hours!". Finally, my old coach, Hoppo, passed me again... but not quite as fast as he had been most of the day up till now! I wanted to catch up and chat a bit before he went out of sight, so I tried chasing him down and rode side by side for a little bit. Hey it kinda worked this time woohoo!
He said he had gone out too hard too leading the entire race for 12 hours and I figured I must have done my version of the same thing, he was really feeling it now. A switch had finally flipped now for me... Glycogen available now loading up reboot!!! My HR bumped up to 146 and all a sudden I was cruising at 200 watts again.... Geeze 15 hours later?? Instead of being passed by every cyclist in sight, I was now passing every cyclist in sight! Wow okay this feels easy again, the pain in my knee from the low grinding cadence was gone too sweet! Later other riders would comment to my Dad and Brother (I've seen Ryan out there a few times, he either looks like death curled over on the bike or he is hauling ass past me!!!)
Only 2 hours left in the race, but at least it will be fun to finish at pace! A nasty headwind had picked up for the final push to finish this last long lap before the short course, but my power was holding, cool! I hit the short course line with 60 minutes left to go!
I finally had something tangible to race for, so I picked a hard pace and dialed my HR up to 165-175 and locked it down for this final hour at 250 watts and attempted holding 28 miles per hour on the flat. Nothing to lose here if I crash and burn now what gives??! It felt easy and again and I had power to burn! I wondered if I could sustain this for an hour?
I did my first laps in 9 minutes each. I was passing the whole field! WTF when I got it I got it! I passed Hoppo again and cheered him on. It felt good to be doing something well finally. Maybe I could be fastest on the final hour TT course for the day? I don't understand myself or how my body works sometimes, but this was fun! Maybe I built the wrong athlete? I'm pure power! I ended up only being passed once on the final lap, by the guy that won the 6 hour TT. He was cranking 280 watts the whole time! I was indeed 2nd overall for the day on the short course behind him and if you believe Strava the 6th fastest of all time to do the short loop. Finally a small carrot!
I think I went out too hard. I think I probably wasn't totally recovered also from the signature all out effort on Mt Whitney just 2 weeks before (I originally planned 3 weeks between events, but windy weather forecasts on Mt Whitney had forced me to push it back a week).
It's these kind of racing days that make me question everything mentally even coming off a hot win on the Badwater to Whitney record a couple weeks ago. Am I any good at this? I feel like I suck. Is any of the stuff I've done legit of these various records I hold?? Adding 50-60 watts to the bike in a year isn't too bad (after crutches and 2 months of forced rest this summer too)!? What am I doing out there though? I feel like I've got a lot to learn, so investing in loss is a very valuable thing figuring out these ultras. I wish I had it figured out though! Failure is sure humbling....Thanks to my friends, family, coaches, and (gulp) sponsors for supporting and following along!