My first appearance at the 24 World Championship. So exciting to compete against the best in the world. In addition, first time racing with crew. My good friend Georgeta was serving as a guardian angel in the desert. Watch out for her as she is already force in the women cycling (Cat 2 cyclist with appearance on a pro team).
This race is exactly what I love in a 24h event. Evening start, therefore racing through the night with fresh legs, flat terrain and simple to execute course. Moreover, low on humidity, turns and traffic. Just 1 stop sign where I didnt had to stop since traffic was controlled by a volunteer. There was only one main 18 mile loop and the last few hours we race on 4.8 mile loop in order for everyone to squeeze as much mileage as they can( only full laps count). Just the crewing alone should save me close to 30 minutes in my opinion.
I need to also thank Shane Trotter and his wife for the help and support. So awesome to witness Shane work ethic on and off the bike!
Training Ride with Marko
My plane landed early in the morning one day ahead of the race. Luckily, I arrived at 1pm in Borrego Springs, CA just about 1 hour before our training ride with Marko.
This race was also Marko Baloh 2019 RAAM crew reunion. It was all of us there except Shawn and Martin. Mike and Tom were racing (pictured above). Laurel, Irma and Elizabeth were crewing. They all did fantastic job helping Marko, Tom and Sarah Cooper.
The start was fast but I was determined to stick with the plan. My goal for lap one was 52 minutes and I did 50:52. We left at 5pm and it was dark almost immediately after this lap. I was hoping to turn this into advantage with two great lights and steady, strong pace. I’ve already had the headlights connected as well as shoe covers and a face mask on.
The goal was to go non- stop for 3 laps, then stop briefly to get some layers of clothes put on. It was getting cold by the minute. . . Walking outside my hotel room last night I realized how much we will suffer. Quite frankly, It felt so weird . . . Everyone goes straight on the big loop, then at the first right turn around mile 3.4 the temperature drops significantly. It felt about 5 degrees colder compared to anywhere else on the course. Hard to explain unless you experience it in person.
The pavement was better than expected but everyone commented how they felt slower compared to previous editions. Maybe its us and not the pavement that is so slow 🙂 I felt like the cold air resulting in adding extra layers slowed everyone down. Well, except the Canadians I guess. This must feel normal to them 🙂
So far everything was okay except my Power meter refusing to work. It was showing between 5 and 30 watts while resisting to calibrate. At least I wont have to worry and stare at it all the time. Average speed and heart rate will do it.
After few laps my nose was bleeding for no reason. I have childhood history of nosebleeds due to damaged blood vessel. Other racers were commenting how this is normal for this climate. Anyways, normal , maybe , but not fun at all. Instead of concentrating on my race, I was too worried about my nose, how do I tilt my head and breath normal. The issue stopped after few hours but then reappeared later on. I think loosing some blood affected my performance later as I felt weaker.
My lap times were still decent and the first seven were within one hour each and just two breaks for a total of 7 minutes. This was mainly to refuel and put more layers on as the night got colder and colder.
It was freezing cold. The temperature dropped to 36 degrees according to my Wahoo (about 2 to 3 C). The faster you moved, the colder you got. Ski gloves, whool Jersey and a vest were keeping me worm but eventually my hands were freezing so bad. It was hard to shift and brake, very familiar feeling from my recent PBP experience.
I’ve heard from my crew that many of the top racers were abandoning due to the cold. Honestly, I didn’t want to know about the standings yet, not until at least sunrise. Its a long race and it will likely be decided in the last 6 hours ,not the first 6. All I had to do is stay on the bike and set into nice rhythm.
Looking at the screenshot below it appears I was doing pretty well and maintaining over 19 Mph 5 laps into the race ( 31km/h). I was In 7th place, but almost tied with 8th and 9th.
By this point 3 racers already dropped and two more would drop within few laps. This included the favorite from Austria Patrick Grunner. It was down to 9 of us now.
Sadly, my right ankle was bothering me badly. The shoes I was wearing were not great for long distance. I like starting with them since they are small and light but will always switch to another pair soon afterwards. Interestingly, I wasn’t able to locate the other pair. We looked what felt like 15 times 😦
This was the beginning of a serious struggle. I was so uncomfortable and my ankle was slowly swelling. All I could do was avoid putting pressure on it and wait for the sunrise to feel better. The hope was the sun will really rejuvenate me.
Subsequently, I was in so much pain and unable to produce any significant power at this point. My average speed was slowly dropping below 18 mph. In fact , I took very long breaks for four laps in a row – after lap 11, 12 , 13 an 14 (total of over hour and a half). Most of the time I was inside the car with the heat on full blast. I was expecting a down moment as usual but then it always gets better. Just pedal on baby, pedal on !
Lap times from the tracker
A little before sunrise, I was closing in on 200 miles and my average speed was still acceptable 17.5 mph (27.3 km/h). I was also in 6th place.
Shane was also struggling so bad that I found him sleeping in the van for over an hour. Things were progressively going from decent to bad. Even a bit slower than anticipated at sunrise. After just over 12 hours of racing my mileage was 216. The hope to improve on my 410 mile performance was still alive. . .
Eventually, my right Achilles was swelling. As a result I was pushing harder with the left and now my left knee was not cooperating at all. It was actually locking up on me and I was in excruciating pain when attempting to bend it during each pedal stroke.
Within 3 hours the temperature was already above 70 degrees(21C). Everyone was slowly starting to get cooked. I was in real sufferfest mode but didn’t wanted to tell anyone. All I could think was:
Slow down, eat, hydrate. Is going to get better later on. It always does. Don`t be a wimp !
That wasn’t meant to be the case today and things were so painful that even the cheer of all the fast 12h and 6h racers now on course wasn’t helping. It was a struggle to even complete lap 16. I then Radioed my crew requesting to meet at the back by the car. Every time I said that, I was told that I should just pass by the front, grab a bottle and continue. Georgeta was so smart and trying hard to keep my complaining in check.
Stop looking for excuses to stop. Go on i was thinking!
We agreed that I will stop but at the front and just for few minutes. To be honest, I was in so much pain and ready to abandon at this point. Well, that thought was crossing my mind plenty of times during the cold night. Unfortunately, I was not even above 300 miles at this point. Definitely not what I was hoping for. My crew and everyone around were encouraging me to get back on the bike and continue to fight. I was just shaking my head ,telling everyone that I was in such bad pain and afraid not to get injured.
By this point I needed 2 more laps to secure 300 miles and that didn’t look possible. In the last 72 miles my average speed dropped significantly to 15.9 miles (25.58 km/h) with all the stops .Somehow I was now in 5th place and not far from 4th. We were on the same lap, the question was, who can keep going?
I owed it to my crew, everyone in the pit, back home . . . This was disappointing as I had high hopes for this event. Luckily, I listened and went back to race. The next lap was going to secure 300 miles for the day. It wasn’t even about standings anymore but rather staying on the bike.
At the end, my result was 306 miles. I also left 4 hours on the clock. It was hard decision to abandon but I also believe the correct one. With kids, work and more races coming up, health was always going to prevail as the correct decision. There is no reason to risk long term injury.
7th place out of 14 racers. The two racers ahead of me had slower average speed but maintained to bike for 24 hours.
Congrats to Shane Trotter for winning and being the 3rd fastest overall American. Congrats also to Alberto Blanco. He was giving us lesson in pacing. His crew saved me at one point of the race. Much appreciated!
Huge Congrats to the top Overall male and female:
- Andy Jackson with 528 miles
- Meaghan Hackinen with 460.8 and new women record !
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