I was nervous prior to the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow and I am not just referring to the hours before the start. I had pre-race jitters starting the Tuesday before this race. WTF? Maybe it was because my last 24 Hour Solo didn’t go so well. Maybe it was because the weather forecast was looking a little ominous. Maybe it was because I had high expectations for my performance. It was probably all of the above.
My pit location was excellent and right on the course. As an added bonus, I was setup next to friends Jonathan Davis & Eszter Horyani who were racing Duo-Coed. Pitting next to friendly faces is always nice and can provide little bursts of stoke throughout a 24 hour race.
The two hours before the race were anxious with last-minute pit setup, organization, and trying to guess what the weather was going to do. We had rain turn to light snow 30 minutes before the start and it looked as if the race could turn really epic…and then it cleared up. Literally minutes before the start, the skies cleared and a cold north wind began to blow.
I had a two-part strategy for this race because I knew I would have great support later in the race. Dave & Lynda offered to support me from sunset Saturday through the finish Sunday morning so I needed to be self-sufficient from 10 AM until about 6 PM. I pre-mixed eight bottles of Carbo Rocket, made a thermos of hot tea, and left plenty of snacks & gels within easy reach to minimize my time in the pits.
Eszter and I discussing the lovely weather
The Early Laps
I am not a fast starter and I intentionally settled into a conservative pace and governed my HR during the opening laps. I know that if I go too hard early, even for short bursts, I will pay dearly for it later. However, even with my conservative pacing, the “warning light” came on very early as my lower back tightened up and I immediately had flashbacks to February’s Old Pueblo DNF. Lower back pain in endurance races continues to be my “crux” and a mystery I have yet to solve.
The moisture just before the start of the race left the JEM Trail in super-hero condition and I was “en fuego” every time I began the JEM descent. In fact, I was pretty confident that I was the “best mountain bike racer on the planet” every time down the JEM. Euphoria does funny things to the brain. Ha!
Out of the saddle, trying to stretch the lower back out early in the race. Photo by Miller Perspectives
After completing Lap #7, I rolled into the pit and Dave & Lynda were there and ready to rock. It was about 6:30 PM and it was time to add lights. Their stoke level was high but I was in a bit of a funk at the time. I was getting cold, my hands were numb, and I was kind of down on myself for my performance up to that point in the race. Basically, I was calling for the “Whaaaaaa-mbulance” for no good reason. I am not sure of my standing but it was nowhere near the top. Seeing Dave & Lynda definitely picked up my spirits and I let them to know that I was absolutely committed to seeing this thing through. This particular pit stop was the worst of my race and I fumbled around trying to decide what layers to put on and how to warm up my hands. When you look at my splits, Lap #8 is the worst and includes this sloppy 16’ pit stop.
Every minute counts
Own The Night
I love the night laps. My Lupine Betty lights turn the darkness into daylight and I simply enjoy riding at night. My pre-race planning was also paying off as I had changed into my Lake winter mtb shoes and installed Moose Mitts on my handlebars which allowed me to wear regular mountain bike gloves under them and have full dexterity despite the below-freezing temps. I was able to keep it rolling through the night with minimal stops in between laps to sip hot tea and eat one or two of Michelle’s homemade peanut butter chocolate chip bars. Three things absolutely kicked ass all night long:
1)My pit crew
3)Michelle’s peanut butter bars
Actually, there was a fourth thing that kicked ass during the night: The Fire Jump. Team Honey Stinger built a little kicker on course next to their campsite and lit a small fire on the backside of the jump. I hit that jump every lap throughout the night and there was usually an appreciative crowd on hand armed with cowbells. Nice!
By the early morning hours it was evident that the cold was taking its toll on some racers. I saw racers walking their bikes because they were too cold to ride and I saw many dark camps where it had been festive earlier in the night. These early morning hours were when I made my biggest gains in the standings and I had moved into 3rd place by 5:00 AM. It might have actually been earlier but the results being displayed in the timing tent were not always accurate during the event.
The Fire Jump
Sunrise to the Finish
My last three laps were the best of my entire race from a mental standpoint. I was proud to have overcome my early race funk and self-doubt, I was stoked to reward my rock-star crew with a big effort, and it was looking really good for a podium. Sure, a lot of body parts hurt at this point but I was riding on adrenaline and it was easy to push the pain to side and smile. Plus, I was still feeling like the “best mountain biker on the planet” every time down the JEM Trail. Ha!
I should be stoked with 2nd place right? Normally the answer would be "Hell yeah!" There is a part of me that is disappointed with 2nd place this time. I have never won a bicycle race of any distance or discipline. I have finished 2nd or 3rd many times. To lose a 25+ hour mountain bike race by three minutes stings more than a little. Let’s just say that I won’t have to look far for motivation this winter while riding the trainer in the basement.
Coming into the pit prior to my last lap
Dave Harris gives the bike some love one final time
My Raynaud's was a challenge throughout the entire race and I had to warm my hands by the fire at times in order to shift & brake
Men's Solo Podium; Me, Bill Martin, Tim Lutz
Coach Lynda and her athletes; Jonathan Davis & Eszter Horyani (1st Duo-Coed w/25 Laps), Me