National 12h Road Race- Maryland Endurance Challenge 2021

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My 4rd consecutive time lining up for the National 12h in Maryland. Exciting to finally participate in an outdoor race. What a good opportunity to see my current form and fight it out against some top racers. This is also by far my favorite 12h race.

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Race Director Duncan ready for the final announcement. Photo credit Eichholtz Photography

The timing mat this year was in a different location, just short distance ahead compared to 2019. At least we did not have to come to complete stop on a 90 degree turn like before. This resulted in added distance to both loops. Honestly, I wish we did 4 Long loops instead of 3 as you get tired of the short one 🙂 In addition, we had once again Aid station mid way through the long loop and some food / drinks at the start/ finish line. Thank you

Photo credit Eichholtz Photography

Everyone was lining up on College Lane in the morning of the race at Mt. Saint Mary’s University, just north of Frederick and close to the Mason- Dixon line.

Photo credit Eichholtz Photography

Being local, I might have been a bit too relaxed and left late in the morning. I like having at least 1h to set up and ensure everything is the way it should. There were many familiar faces here and I would have loved to chat with everyone. The reality is that all I could think is getting myself ready for the race and checking every little detail. It is game time baby 🙂 There were 54 racers registered for the 12h race with many known racers including the current 12h Champion Ryan Collins & 2nd Place finisher Jessy Strasser. This wasn’t going to be an easy race. Jessop Keene was also here. I’ve seen him do 500 miles in 24h and over 270 in 12h. Top athletes! The race was draft legal and I knew that working in a unit will be super beneficial. If I loose the draft , its game over for me. At a minimum, I promised myself to stick with the lead pack for the first 3 Loops ( 100 or so miles ) before all the attacks start. I had no crew so this would definitely play against me.

It was great to see fellow Spiegel Bikes Ambassadors Mike Garcia, Nancy and John Guth, as well as Michael Phillips. Spiegel Bikes rock. Talk to me if you want one. I was setting up close my riding buddies Misha, Andrea and Greg. It felt like we all know each other so lets stop with the name dropping and go race some bikes 🙂 You are all loved. I truly appreciated everyone yelling my name after each loop at the top of their lungs.

Right before the gun went off, someone approached me because my race number had to be rotated 90 degrees. I was not allowed to use my Nopinz arm sleeve race number holder (here we go again with the safety pins). Now I have a hole on my expensive Assos Skinsuit. Freakin great. Id be looking for alternative for sure..

Photo credit Eichholtz Photography

As soon as we left the University Campus , 11 riders were clear at the front. I kept a count so I know what my position was. My goal today was 250 miles or at least to better my last result of 237.4 miles. We were still a bit disorganized & racers were not taking regular pulls. Few went up the road for a brief moment but I did not think it was worth responding. I was correct as we closed the gap very quickly. Keeping my eyes on Ryan, Jesse & Jessop here. Ryan told me that he is not in the best shape but I wasn’t buying it . I was however going to look for opportunities to attack. My race tactics were very questionable but we learn every day, dont we? Honestly, I was feeling strong and probably missed my chance to attack early in the race. My expectations were that the leaders will wait until we get to the small loop in the middle of the hot day and start attacking for position. Or go for it on the only climb on the last long loop.

Photo credit Eichholtz Photography

After the first long loop, our group was almost intact but was slowly diminishing in numbers. I assume some racers had no crew like me and stopping to resupply was a killer for them. I tried to close each loop strong, arrive at the front and when I stop for a bottle , I wouldn’t loose the front group. Each time we passed by the pit area and I stopped, the group was about 100 to 200 yards ahead and I was forced to do solid work to stay with them. By the time we were done with the second long loop, our group was down to about 9 racers.

At some point I went for a big effort up the only climb. One or two racers followed. At the top , I slowed down and was swallowed again by the blob. What a waste of energy that was! I should have gone for an hour long effort and attempt to create advantage. Being draft legal race, it was really hard to create separation if working alone. I could have talked to someone else so we can team up but that did not happen. There was a recent social media argument for drafting on a Ultracycling National Championship event vs no drafting . Honestly, i see no difference. The final standings were almost identical as the last time and the best man won.

Jessop water bottle came down flying next and he stopped. Ryan stayed with him and Jesse was controlling the group so we can regroup. He apparently flatted as well so big shout out on making it back. Soon thereafter, Ryan chain dropped and someone went off the front. I went hard once again and pushed the pace just to slow down for no reason and be absorbed fast into the baby peloton we had. Ohh baby, another dumb move that backfired on me eventually.

As we were approaching the end of the 2nd loop, I went back to the front and a racer with a Red Jersey started shouting that we should all stop so he can refuel and use the bathroom. I told him that this sounded very good but I doubt everyone will stop. This is a race after all 🙂 To no surprise, it was just 6 of us remaining in the front. I was still in good position. If I just hold it, the worst that can happen is finish 6th. But wait, there is plenty to follow.

Midway through the final long loop, the racer in dire need of bathroom stop finally chased us down. By this time the temperature was above 80 degrees. He looked like he used a lot of his matches and honestly did not appeared like he can sustain this effort until the end. As we crossed the timing mat after the 3rd long loop, my GPS was still showing 23.4 Mph. The boys were working hard for sure. First 100 miles in about 4h 17 minutes or so. I was happy to still hang around.

Sadly, my stomach was starting to act up but I wanted to wait for the short loop until I address it so I don’t loose much time. I was just trying to stay with the front group but was not feeling it. By this time , the temperature was a problem for everyone. I am not even sure what caused my issues. I used the same trusted nutrition method except I forgot some of my Ensure in the refrigerator by mistake. One thing to consider is that at this high effort , the hydration and nutrition consumption is much greater than your typical training ride. I think my stomach was just sick of the same flavor drink.

Photo credit Eichholtz Photography

I began seeing many racers struggling and sitting on the chairs in the pit area. A quick stop at the refuel table and surprise , surprise , they had pickle juice in small packets. I grabbed few as well as a bottle of Coke. Mind you ,I only drink soda if I race and I am in a poor shape. My Skinsuit was also not helping as I felt like I am being squeezed like a dahm lemon.

Here I am am on my own and 5 others ahead of me. Racing on the short loop was good but really hard to tell what my position was so all I could do is make sure I don’t get lapped by others ahead of me. Tell you what, forget the coke and pickle juice- this was a recipe for disaster . After the first short loop, I was expeditiously running for the the door with the double zeroes. As I exited , the group of 5 racers with Jesse in the mix were coming back into the pit area and staring at me, just great. There were son and a father in the mix and eventually I would pass the father. It was super cool to see them work together and helping one another.

Things were not looking good for me. I was feeling like shit to be honest. All I could do is slow down, digest some food and hope I feel better soon. At this point, I was happy to join forces with Nancy Guth, a women that need no introduction in the Ultra World. She was also suffering but pushing through as usual. Nancy told me that she will have hard time getting to 200 miles this year but I didn’t believe her. If anyone could do it, it is her. The heat was also making things worse for her. After almost a loop together, I felt a little better. We made it to the start/ finish line and she now joined forces with John. I took off like a rocket again.

I also biked with Mike Garcia at some point when things were going downhill. Very strong racer and a super nice person. We had matching bikes as well. What is not to like ? Apparently , his DI2 kind of let him down at the beginning and he was dropped. We pedaled together for a bit, complained about what went wrong, exchanged few good stories and I decided to push on.

Is this a light in the tunnel? I decided to go for it and see how much ground I can make up or at least not loose any. It was Ryan with Jessop and then the group of 4 with Jesse. My goal was to make sure I don’t get lapped by the 4 racers riding together. Tough task as this was a battle of 4 vs 1. My feet were so hot with those dahm shoe covers that I couldn’t not wait to take them off after the next short loop. I was so out of it that I had them tucked under my bibs but forgot to drop them next to my cooler. Agghh.

Photo credit – Didi

I didn’t gain any distance on the 4 racers ahead but did not loose any either. Well, except to Ryan Collins & perhaps Jessop. Ryan must have passed me about 3 times on the short loop . Just like the last time we raced 🙂 Each time I was exiting the University and crossing the timing mat, 100 yards later , I was seeing the group of 4 coming in. The headwind was the strongest going into the University Campus. From here until the end this repeated every short loop ( 6 miles). I ended up doing 18 short loops. My head is spinning just thinking about it. Every inch of the road counts on such races. This was true once again as I only had a 2 mile advantage over the next racer.

At the end, I am super happy with my performance. Yes, there is some disappointment as my race tactics were not successful but this is how we learn. Yes, I was hoping for 250 miles and that didn’t happen but I know now that it is not out of my reach . My final result was 238.2 miles. Good for 6th Nationally. I was also 5th in my age group. A large age gap of 18- 49.

2nd ,3rd and 4th must have had sprinted to the finish line. How exciting this must have been. To no surprise , Jesse had them all beat.

Most importantly , I finished one position ahead compared to 2019 and covered more ground. I felt like I did a lot of extra work and was in much better shape but only did extra 0.8 miles 🙂 However, my stoppage time was 17 minutes compared to 2 minutes and therefore my average speed higher at 20.2 Mph. NP 208 W is also another number to be super happy about for a 12h event.

We were off to the awards ceremony now. Shout out to Ryan Collins and Nancy Guth. Overall Male and female champions.

Shout out to my buddy Misha Heller. – Age Group National Champion

Shout out to my sister Andrea Matney – 2nd in Age Group

Shout out to Mike Garcia – 3rd in Age Group

Shout out to Greg Conderacci – 2nd in Age Group

Shout out to everyone ! And last but not least the race supports a non profit called SHIP. They are helping homeless youth in Frederick county. Be a part of the change https://shipfrederick.com/

Awards Ceremony coming up
Photo credit Eichholtz Photography

Stay tuned. I will be taking on Bike Nonstop US 2021, crossing the Continent from Portland to Washington DC and raising funds for breast cancer.