2022 Mid Atlantic 24h Race Report + witnessing the first North American racing 300 miles in 12h

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2022 was my 5th appearance at Mid Atlantic 12/24. This edition was selected as the Northern American 12h National Championship. Although I wanted to race the national event, winning the 24h last year suggested I shall be defending my title!

My first goal was to complete the entire 24 hours after the injuries sustained at Bike Nonstop US. The last 6 hours of this race a year ago were painful while another attempt at 24h race in November was cut short due to the same reason (and so was Sebring 24h in early 2022). I felt in good enough form to be competitive and perhaps even better my personal best of 408 miles. One noticeable change was my not so aero position on the bike in hopes to prevent aggravating my back injury. What good was aero position doing for me if I can`t hold it the entire race?

The event was also my first as member of RRT4G Ultra Cycling and I sure hoped to bring the gold to the team. My friend Sakhti volunteered his wife Prasanna to help both of us after realizing I had nobody crewing. Honestly, I owe her a lot for my success so big shoutout to her!

The weather forecast was as good as we’ve seen it, high temperatures in the mid to high 80s and low in the mid 50s. Tailwind was my Hydration drink mix choice and I loved it. As usual, my food selection can easily be described as disaster 😦 What I was working with was Bobo’s Oat Bites, RX bars and few bottles of Ensure 🙂

The course was the original route used for this race :

25.15 miles long (Ride with GPS shows 25.7 with the entry / exit through the school & 178 feet climbing per loop).

Climbing was not the problem but rather the wind and inability to coast or stand up and stretch. The length was perfect to go around with one bottle of hydration mix except when extremely hot.

Generally, I tend to perform better when starting easier while controlling my heart rate and power while conserving energy and the plan for this edition was no exception. Based on my calculations, I wanted to average ~ 21 mph for the first 3 laps and the goal was to hit ~220 miles by the 12 hour mark. With typical fading towards the end, this mileage will still allow for achieving 400 miles (distance giving racer Solo RAAM Qualification). Although it sounded great, I have accomplished this feat 5 times since 2018. I am not doing this to compete solo at RAAM but rather because I like training and racing hard. Do I believe I can finish RAAM, most definitely, but is just not a goal of mine at the moment unless there is a serious sponsor to help. Another goal of mine was to limit the stoppage time. During my 2021 win, I was off for 1 hour and 59 seconds but we experienced temperatures well above 100F and my back was giving me serious problems that required stopping and stretching.

The Race

Few fist bumps were exchanged with the 12h racers and I staged behind them at the start line. They formed solid group with Ryan being the clear favorite (current 12h National Champion). He was attempting again to break the elusive 300 mile barrier, a task nobody in Northern America has ever achieved! The conditions were definitely ideal for record breaking performances and personal bests. Most importantly, there was real firepower in the 12h event and the race was draft legal. Four of my RRT4G teammates were on the start line and I expected nothing less but spectacular performances. Marc Poland , Alan Simons, Michael Elliott & Gene Caffrey are super strong riders and we can expect beautiful paceline forming.

The lead car pulled to the side after few miles and our 12h racers took off. I was trying to establish decent pace around 210W while keeping my HR at ~150 BPM or below. Looking behind my shoulder after only five miles revealed shockingly that I was opening a decent gap. Chasing is my thing but I can play this role as well. If anyone got closer, I was letting them do it while recovering nicely and pushing for 5 minutes to open the gap again in hopes to shake them off and burn them down! Kind of a cat and mouse game.

Lap one was understandably my best, finishing the 25.15 mile loop in 1:10:31. I started with two bottles and Prasanna was handing me over one each lap. The second one was the extra and to be used when things heat up in the afternoon. All in all, after 3 laps and nearly 80 miles down, I was still holding first overall in the 24h event while averaging ~21.1 Mph.

The oat bites with fruit filling were nice but a bit dry in my mouth and I was eating slow, chewing and drinking as I go. The RX bars on the other hand were disaster, packed with good ingredients but hard to digest. Luckily, those were to be consumed every 3rd lap or so for protein purposes.

If Ryan is to hit 300 miles, basic math tells me he needed ~25 Mph average speed and therefore, he should lap me around my 5th time going around the course. The exchanges were very efficient and Prassana was doing fabulous job. We kept it simple – take one bottle each lap and attach a bag of oat bites or energy bar with rubber band to it. Sure enough, around mile 160, Ryan blew by me with the speed of light, just incredible to witness as I was still moving at above 20 Mph. To my surprise, he was on his own and I was a bit worried that he doesn’t have good paceline with over four hours remaining. . . My teammate Alan was not far behind and going strong, followed by Marc Poland, Michael and Gene who were also trailing by a small margin. The assumption is that the boys could not hold Ryan wheel (I know that exact feeling). A lap later and Gene looked to be suffering a bit. He was being held while getting on his bike at the pit area and I yelled – ” 1,2,3 go ” 🙂

Even with the temperature increasing the afternoon, I was still going strong without a second of stoppage time and nearly 200 miles behind me! During the first planned stop, the Lintaman shoes that tend to keep the feet hot were replaced with my BIomac super ventilated shoes. According to the notes Prassana kept, it says that the time was 2:55 pm, I stopped to change my shoes, took 2 large bottles with extra scoop of Taiwlind and continued racing. It also says that I felt good but I am not so sure about that, looks can be deceiving you know. . . The only problem was my inability to consume all the needed food as my stomach was not cooperating. All I can really do was turn the pace down a notch and drink some clear water until my gut situation improves.

With ~4 miles remaining of each lap on the last straight stretch of US 264, I had the habit of looking behind as one could clearly see far back. Once again, there was no racers in sight. Strangely enough, each time I exited the start/ finish line, the same racer was coming in. He must be going like 40 Mph on the last 2 to 3 miles of each loop to catch me.

The temperature increased to 90F and I was sweating buckets. My Skinsuit black color was replaced with salty white color, pure magic.

My GPS was showing 219.4 miles at the 12h mark while the average speed dropped to18.5 Mph, right where I wanted it to be. I’m disappointed by my average speed but we can`t always have it our way. In the meantime, Ryan finished in supersonic fashion while doing the “impossible” and racing to 300 miles in12 hours, what a legend!

I was also overtaken by John around the 12 hour mark and as far as I can tell, this was the only person ahead of me. The question was, can he sustain this tempo for too long? Are we even on the same lap or he stopped already for extended time and is full lap behind? At this very moment, I was still slowly recovering and had no desire to chase him down.

It was time for 8 minute break, Prassana gave me some grapes + banana and my stomach was finally feeling better. The hardest part of ultra racing is to manage everything when you’re tired, sleepy and hungry all the time . . .

The night was ahead and I was excited to get this over with. On the next lap, I put my reflective gear on and turned the headlight & taillight. I’ve also changed to my non aero helmet and clear lense glasses. Perhaps switching to non aero helmet was mistake I could have avoided but being in aero position all day with heavier helmet was wearing off my neck.

To my surprise, I noticed Eliptigo in front of me with four miles remaining on that loop. It was no other than Didi and I was super happy to see her compete in the 12h event. She was even able to snap quick photo of me as I was passing by the pit area.

In the following four hours or so until midnight, the temperature dropped from about 80F to nearly 55F and we were all feeling it. The reflective vest was keeping me warm but my head was not in it and I was falling asleep. The hardest part of the race is usually between 1 am & 4 am. I was dozing off and my eyes were closing but some music, coke and redbull kept me going. Based on my power graph, things were not looking good from midnight until around 2 am but then I upped the tempo towards the end.

Deer warning

The craziest thing happened around 4am when I was full of confidence in reaching 400 miles. While riding next to a cornfield in complete darkness, a deer jumped from my left side.

I saw its hooves almost underneath my handlebar before it jumped again sideways and up while disappearing to the right. It happened so fast, it reminded me of car accidents where you have no time for reaction, scary stuff ! The back of the deer was so close to my front wheel, perhaps 1 to 2 inches and I could have easily reached out and touch it! How exactly I avoided a nasty crash was complete miracle!

Hey, who is now fully awake without any coke or redbull needed 🙂 ? While processing what just happened, the sun was coming out and my energy levels were increasing. The 400 miles were secured and in fact I was able to complete the lap that I didn’t in 2021 when I finished with 408 miles. On top of that, I had roughly 4 minutes remaining race and I needed ~3 minutes for another mile if I pressed on. I raced my butt off beyond the one mile marker thus giving me the distance to the next mile marker per race rules. At the end, I won overall for second consecutive year & scored new personal best in 24h with 418 miles.

Some info for the data nerds:

Total time racing was 23:36:41 or 23 minutes and 19 seconds stoppage time. My average HR, Normalized Power, Intensity and Load were all lower than in 2021. This is directly correlating to achieving better result with slightly less effort due to lack of heat this year & better stoppage time.

Dave McDonald was the only other person to go over 400 miles and finished 2nd with 408 miles while J Michael Phillips finished 3rd with 381 miles (Over 60 category). Valerie Letznerski-Eicholtz was the only female on course and smashed the race while clocking 370 miles.

Huge shoutout to Sakthi and Prasanna.

Mike was also racing Spiegel Bike & using Inifinity seat, a winning combo for sure. You already know I am Infinity Seat ambassador so please reach out if you have any questions. My first name used as a promo code on their we page can save you some $ on a new seat. My buddy Sakhti sadly pulled out early due to reaggravating existing injury &I hope to see him back fully recovered.

In the National 12h, overall win for Ryan Collins who smashed the 300 mile barrier, Alan Simmons finished 2nd with 261 miles, followed by 3 racers tied for 3rd place with 259 miles. Congrats to Alan, Michael and Marc for new personal best finishes. My buddy Marshall Nord won the 50-59 age group with outstanding 253 miles, Eugene was 3rd with 208 miles while Didi won her age group on EliptiGo finishing with 146 miles. Tami Lonhardt won the National 12h title. Congrats to all !

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