This will be my second attempt at the Maryland Endurance Challenge. I was not completely recovered after Calvins 24h, but will race as hard as I can. The goal was to simply do better than 2017 when I finished with 207.9 miles. Making the top 3 would be nearly impossible considering the competition – James McNaughton, who is Superhuman and expected to ride well over 250 miles, Damon Taaffee – last year winner with 261.5 miles , Ken Ray – who did 221.1 miles last year and finishing 6th at TransAm, Mark Poland – who did over 227.39 the previous edition and Jesse Stauffer finishing 4th at Trans Am 2014 (Cat1 road racer ).
My goal is actually 220 miles and this was enough in 2017 for 3rd place, but the event is now the National 12h where greater performances are to be expected ! After all ,these races are personal best first , podium second, while also realizing that anything can happen in that 12h span.
First , I should thank Duncan for organizing. In only his second year, the event was awarded as being the National 12hour race , Congrats !
This year, there were more sponsors, more volunteers , professional camera crew taking awesome pictures, mobile bike mechanic and 2nd Aid Station. The signs along the route were also great, making it easy to navigate and very encouraging !
My riding buddy Andrea Matney was racing this year as well. The women field was also extremely tough – Janie Hayes , who finished 3rd in TransAm in 2017 , Jessica Anderson who posted a 424.3 mile performance at the National 24h in 2016 and Nancy Guth- Ultracycling Legend holding many records and RAAM finishes ! I am definitely missing names of other strong riders that I am not familiar with, so Kudos to everyone for taking on this challenge and racing hard for 12 hours !
The race was once again held on the beautiful Mount St.Mary University Campus near Thurmont, Maryland.
With about 40 feet of climbing per mile , the course was not exactly hilly , but rather challenging.
Group of 48 racers departed in a damp Saturday morning, just 1 day after major rain storm punished the area for a week.
Immediately after the start, group of about 8 strong riders formed and I followed. They were moving at a blistering pace ~ 25 mph.
Long Loop – 34.2 miles, Elevation -1137 ft
I was watching my heart rate at this point closely. Halfway through the first Long Loop, the pace was still too high and I decided to slow down ( my heart rate was 183). There was no reason to go that fast, crash on the wet pavement or blow up early. I just wanted to pace myself at a speed that is sustainable. Drafting is nice, but only when you can manage that kind of effort.
At the end of the 3 Long Loops , around the 100 mile mark , I was maintaining 19.8 Mph. Finishing with 230 miles appeared doable at that point if I can reduce my stops and maintain the same speed.
The plan was to go hard early in the morning while it was still colder. Between 1 pm and 4 pm, the temperature was expected to exceed 80 degrees – This could be the deciding factor of the race !
My GPS was still off for the first 1/3 of a mile, so I cant really compare the first lap with the previous year. However, the average speed in 2017 was 20.9 mph for 1:37:43, and this time it was 21.2 mph , suggesting that my lap was about a minute faster. My second Long Loop took 1:44:04 or 19.71 mph, and the third – 1:49:51 or 18.68 mph. This was actually fast start , but also much better pacing . In 2017 my first lap was fast , but my second and third were 13 to 15 minutes slower. This year my second and third laps were “only” 8 to 13 minutes slower…
Short Loop – 6.6 miles, Elevation -182 ft
I started the short loop at the right time, when it extremely hot. The climbing was less, so hopefully my speed will increase as well.Everything was going according to plan.
In addition, the heat was so bad that my digestive system was not having it. I had to stop few times and eat proper meal ( lesson learned during Sebring )! While taking a break, I spoke to Andrea and her situation was even worse. . .We ended up pedaling together for one lap and chatted along. The heat was slowing everyone down, and the racers uniforms were covered in salt !
My knees were giving me tingling sensation as well. Not being fully recovered from Calvins and going hard on this hilly event had its consequences. On top of that, my feet were running extremely hot and I was in pain. My next stop was long as well. I decided to change my shoes, remove my shoe covers and fill my Camelback with ice once again.
The above chart is comparing my short loops in 2017 and 2018. It is nice to see that I managed new PR with 18:34. Only two out of my top 10 fastest short loops were from 2017. This is encouraging , despite the tired legs.
The next issue was my Neck and wrists, as they were not completely recovered. At times, it was hard to move my head around. Holding the handlebars was also painful with all the climbing involved !
I raced few loops with some 6hr racers at this point. They were really impressed that we are actually biking for 12 hours. And I quote :
– ” Are you really biking for 11 and a half hours already ? “
My explanation was that many of the 12h racers actually do 24h races , Race Accross America, Trans Am . . . I am completely sure that my answer made us look less crazy or any normal, but it was honest.
Later on, I caught up with Andrea once again while she was taking a break and recovering from her bad digestive issue. We ended up riding another short loop together and this was great morale booster…
I was going hard again as soon as I felt a little better. With less than two hours to go , I was managing to keep up with some of the leaders. They were extremely tired and had way more miles than me at that point . . .
My Average speed this year was 18.2 mph and my final mileage 213.1 miles. That is about 5.8 extra miles compared to 2017. According to Damon, everyone suffered more this year and our results are about 15 miles slower due to the heat. This is scary considering the mileage covered by everyone on the podium.
I finished 9th out of 48 racers in the 12h event. I am 5th in my age group and the 6th fastest male Nationally. Considering the weather and my current level of freshness and fitness , I am happy with the result.
Age Group 18 -49
National Winners – 2018
12h – Men
My fellow DC Randonneur Damon Taaffe was not able to defend his title , but was fighting like a lion and finished 2nd with 262.5 miles. I should add that he had no support crew ( and cooler for his drinks). True Warrior !
12h – Women
More Strong performances