My first bike race was supposed to be at the Seabring 24 hour in February. Because of schedule conflicts I had to cancel it. So a decision was made to sign up for Calvins Challenge. This was a good decision to test my abilities in a shorter -12 hour race .A good preparation for a future 24 hour event.
Unfortunately , there was injury from work that was still bothering me. My ribs were almost fractured . It was so painful to breathe, walk and move. . .Consequently I wasn’t able to do much training for almost a month. Just few permanents of 100 kilometers , and the occasional 20 to 30 mile training rides. But I was determined to give it a shot and race hard.
Andrea Matney ( DC Randonneurs) made a lot of noise about Calvins Challenge the previous year. I have to admit – racing never appealed to me before.That changed when I realized that randonneuring and ultracycling have a lot in common. There is few general rules to follow in both :
- Be comfortable on the bike. You will be together day and night !
- Eat before you are hungry, and drink before you are thirsty !
- If is hard, work harder !
- Don`t believe in forecast !
- Don`t go hard too early , save the best for the end !
- Have a plan for anything that can happen !
- Study your course !
- Don`t forget to have fun !
After a 12-hour work shift on Friday I drove 500 miles to Ohio . . . What is crazier is that I would race for 12 hours straight the next morning.
Upon arrival, I received my GPS tracking device, map , instructions and my racing number. Shortly after I went back to my hotel room. Last check on my bicycle and equipment. Rain was in the forecast , so rain gear was prepared :
- The main thing in my arsenal is my new Giro Air Attack Shield. That helped a lot with visibility.
- Second was wool – wool Jersey, wool socks, wool gloves. Wool will keep you warm and dry in the rain.
- Third was neoprene overshoes to keep my feet dry.
- And lastly a form-fit Rain Jacket from Voler.
I was up at 4:45 am . Start time was at 7 am. The hotel never called for my “wake up call” at 5am. You will not be seeing me again there! A final bike check was done and I warmed up with an easy spin to the start location.
When I got there, it looked like a serious event. There were support crews and a lot of racers. All kind of bicycles- recumbent, mountain, tandem , speical bikes, eliptiGo. It was amazing. I met the other riders from DMV and DC Randonneurs – Calista Phillips, Nancy Guth, Andrea Matney,John Guth, Mike Scott, & Chip Adams. The race director shouted final instructions as we all lined up at the start.
My uniform was the most colorful .
Now everyone knew – BULGARIAN is racing.
The race consists of 3 laps on a 50 mile loop,and then as many as you can ride on the shorter – 7 mile loop. The goal was the special – 200 miles mark. Considering the weather – a tough goal.
In the first 30 miles I was feeling strong and flying with around 23 miles per hour. As we were closing on the last 10 miles of the first loop the rain started. It never stopped until the end. Rain gear was on. In the first loop I was doing really well. On the second 50 mile loop, I started feeling a bit sluggish. The average speed dropped soon afterwards.
Around mile 75,Calista caught up to me , and we worked together for a little bit. She quickly checked on me and sped off. It was nice to be in a drafting allowed event behind a tandem flying above 20 Mph. This is where I spend my next 5 miles 🙂
With fresh legs and high energy I continued to press on. There was this amazing girl ( our biggest fan) at around mile 40. She was standing in front of the house and just screaming words of encouragement every time we passed. In the rain! I was looking forward to seeing her again on the next lap.
After the second lap, I had to stop for some food and water. Since I had 1 full bottle left after loop 1 , I figured I will leave with 2 instead of 3 for lap number 2. What a mistake! I ran out of water 5 miler before closing the second loop. It was hard to even talk properly while shivering from the cold rain. I asked the race director if the short loop was open. No , It wasn’t ,but my brain was not working properly at the moment. Had to wait another lap. My stomach was also empty , so a decision was made to get real food from the food truck. That cost me valuable time – around 18 minutes from the total 22 minutes I was off the bike. It felt like 10 miles were wasted. Important 10 miles! Another lesson learned!
With one water bottle left, I kept pushing. We are here to race.To be lighter , I left one of the two bottles. As a result of that , I had no water for the last five or six miles!
After the third lap,It was time for us to move to the short 7 mile loop.
I was pushing as hard as I can. The rain was so bad, but I knew I had to just continue pushing hard and embrace it. It wasn’t going away. . .While biking ,all of a sudden it started pouring rain , so hard you can barely see.
It took me about 20 minutes per loop,so when I had 15 minutes left I was ready to stop. Luckily, while passing through the start/finish line , Rick was telling me not to take the jacket off and continue biking. He didn’t even know I was ready to stop. That actually was the reason why I was able to go over 190 miles.Those 15 minutes gave me another 4 miles to get me over 190 miles. Thanks Rick !
Despite my lack of training , the injury and rain,I was still able to get 192.5 miles. According to my GPS – 194.5. Good for second in my age group.
This was also the last edition of this even. We are just hoping that a new race director will emerge and do it again next year. Thanks to the great organization and my cycling friends from DC Randonneurs.