My first planned race of the year was the Inaugural Maryland Endurance Challenge. This is a 12 hour race in northern Maryland. A week prior race day I was down with a nasty stomach virus. It was haunting me like a bad dream for about 4 days. Luckily, few days before the race I was feeling a little better. Another concern was my IT band. It was giving me some issues after the 400 km brevet recently. As a result I decided to rest well and do a lot of yoga and stretching. Taking few days off before a race makes me really hungry to ride my bike. Perhaps its a mental thing as well.
My target for the day was at least 200 miles . Considering the technicality and elevation on this course this would be a great accomplishment. Do I have a chance for a top-three finish ? I always come to fight and anything is possible. Two elite cyclist that I am aware of were on the start list – Damon Taaffe and Billy Volchko. I do not own the prettiest and most expensive bike , so I will rely on my experience and mental toughness. It is a 12 hour race and anything can happen – from weather to terrain, and from medical to mechanical issues.
On the plus side I don’t need to get off the bike. If someone is faster than me I can make up for it by not stopping and still beat them . My total time off the saddle for the race was actually less than 5 minutes. Steady pace mission accomplished !
The start was at Mount Saint Marry University in Emittsburg, MD. A very pretty location that is close to Gettysburg and Catoctin Mountain.
After some final instructions from the race director Duncan we were ready to go. The start was a rifle shot from a Civil War reenactor. How cool is that !
Very quickly we separated into groups that will continue to bounce into each other for the remaining of the race. Damon, Billy and Ken were in the front and established a fast pace. Behind them was me, Nancy , John, Ricky and few more riders chasing the lead group.
I went out strong in the first lap but decided to slow down and stay with everyone else. We took a wrong turn but quickly realized our mistake. This only added a few hundred yards. I realized that immediately and made a U- turn. Now I was in the lead of the chase group. Five minutes later I thought that I made another wrong turn 😦 When I looked back I can only see Ricky and his orange jersey. So I waited for him to ask if we are heading in the right direction. He insisted that we were OK and we moved on.
To my surprise Damon and Billy came from behind and now I was really confused. Apparently, they took a wrong turn as well . . . Unfortunately , they realized that 3 miles down the road. That is pretty much how I finished with the third-best time on the long loop according to Strava (and possibly the fastest 1st long loop of the day). According to the tracking chip I was second behind Ricky. Solid time either way – 1:37:43 for the first 34 miles with an average speed of 20.3 Mph. David Whitaker is the only one not on Strava and perhaps maybe faster.
On the second long Loop the wind was intensifying and adding extra challenge. The course is already hilly for a 12 hour race -1137 ft for 34 miles. Just great !When you get tired, the little rollers feel like serious hills. At least we can get of the saddle and stretch.
We ride over three beautiful covered bridges on this race. This adds extra beauty to the course while making it more dangerous. How about crossing at least two railroad tracks that were in bad shape !
Around mile 50 there was a sharp left turn at Old Frederick Road. When I pressed on my brakes my rear wheel started “dancing ” and I lost control over the bike.
I ended up in the ditch, on my side, under the bike and sitting in a creek ! Where is my soap and towel when you need them ?
At least I landed softly in the grass and only had a small bruise on my right thigh. My wrist was also hurting a little but I definitely got lucky . I got back on the bike and kept on moving .
Sadly , I was now dropped by the chase group. Riding a paceline in the wind is different than facing the wind on your own. The dilemma was real – Should I kill myself to catch up, or maintain my pace and make slow gains? I chose the second option as I didn’t wanted to burn any matches that early in the race. My hope was that few of the riders in front will get dropped. There is always someone going hard in the beginning until they bonk !
As a result of the crash my second lap was 13 minutes slower than the previous one and my third lap 15 minutes slower. I lost not only time and mileage but any momentum I had. 200 miles was still doable. No Excuses . . .
Part of this new plan was to take out as many riders from my age group in the process . It was hard to judge who am I racing against since the age group was from 18 to 49 . I thought that Ricky was in my age group. He was ahead of me after the 3 long loops were over . Turns out that we are in different age groups. At least not knowing who I race against motivated me to work harder.
After three long loops we moved the action to the short loop. Since it is only 6.6 miles we only had to face the wind for about 3 miles.
Andrea Matney of DC Randonneurs was volunteering at the Start/FInish line. She told me that the chase group is about 3 miles ahead of me according to the following video. It was so windy that I heard nothing when she said that 🙂
Looking at the splits Ricky slowed down while I kept steady pace on the first short loop and I was catching up quick. As I was entering the time station he was always exiting .We almost had identical lap times until lap 8 where I had 4 minutes advantage.
It was so nice to have a 12hour race in Maryland that is one hour drive from home . There were a lot of familiar faces tirelessly supporting us. Big thanks to Andrea ,Greg and Calista on Volunteering. They had the same big smile for the whole 12 hours straight. And it was windy out there. I can’t thank them enough.
How about Billy Volchko crew – simply amazing . They even rang the cow bell once I passed by and gave me some words of encouragement. Thank you!
This was also very strong day for DC Randonneurs taking a third of the top 20 places in the standings. And congratulations to Damon Taafe for putting together a spectacular performance and establishing a course record of 259.65 miles. That will be hard to beat.
After few final short loops with Barry Benson I finished with 207.9 miles. Good for 4th in the age group.
My next race will be another 12 hour event in Illinois. The National 24 in Michigan is also a possibility.
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