Have you ever done a ride where you felt completely and totally elated and energized ... where you felt strong ... where you felt like you could ride harder and faster than ever before?
I rarely feel that way when I ride. In fact, I can hardly remember the last time I felt that way on any ride. Running used to give me that feeling back in my late teens. Weightlifting still gives me that feeling. But cycling doesn't.
Until September 2, 2006.
In the days leading up to the UMCA 24-hour race, after the BMB attempt, I was toying with the idea of withdrawing from the UMCA 24-hour and just packing in my cycling for the year. I cycled a little during those 10 days but most of the rides were a bit of a slog. Then I discovered that there were four women in my category on the 24-hour race, and I resigned myself to the idea that I would likely place 4th ... and quite likely many miles behind.
But on the morning of the event, I woke up with a thought ... "What if I push myself a bit out there?" I felt pretty good that morning, the ride was only 24 hours long (not 90 hours like the BMB), the course was supposed to be relatively flat, and the weather was good ...... I thought maybe I could beat my distance from last year, and maybe, just maybe, I could set a new personal best for distance covered in 24 hours. And so, I decided not to take my usual "pacing myself" approach, and decided instead to push myself on the first day loop.
NOTE: To some of you the speeds and distances covered in the rest of the story may seem incredibly slow, and if that is the case, I'd encourage you to try 24-hour Time Trials ... you'll do well. But for me, these speeds mark a considerable improvement over what I've been doing in recent years.
ABOUT THE COURSE:
The day lap was approx. 72 miles with approx. 2015 ft of climbing. Some riders rode that loop two times, others three. That loop closed at 2:30 pm.
The mid lap was approx. 20 miles with approx. 697 ft of climbing. Riders rode that loop as many times as they could until it closed at 5:30 am.
The short lap was approx. 8 miles with approx. 325 ft of climbing. Most riders got 1 or 2 laps before the 6:30 am closing time.
I did the first day lap at an average speed of 23.2 km/h (including one break), and felt absolutely wonderful!! I haven't felt that energized on the bicycle in YEARS!! My second day lap was a bit slower (21.5 km/h, including two breaks) - it was hotter and there was more wind - but I still felt more energized than I have ever felt on a bicycle before!!
By that point of the race, I had already made two significant accomplishments... I had done a 7-hour century (my third fastest century, and the fastest century I’ve done in about 6 years), and a 9-hour and 20 minute 200K, my fastest 200K by about half an hour.
Then I started the mid laps. During those laps, I rode my fastest 300K beating my previous best by 1 hour and 10 minutes. I beat my previous best 200-mile time by half an hour. And I logged my second best 400K time. My previous best quantity of kilometers in a 24-hour period of time was 442 kms, the first 442 kms of the RM1200. Somewhere in there, I realized that it might be possible to beat that too!!
Meanwhile, I discovered that I was actually in the running to place!! One girl was way ahead, but the other three of us were pretty close ... it was anybody's game! That knowledge encouraged me to get out there lap after lap after lap.
I had been stopping to check the standings of the women every two laps, and then, on one such check-in, I was told that one of the girls had a flat and had to be rescued off the course, and then she napped while I rode, putting her 2.5 laps behind me. A couple laps later, I was told that the second woman had quit with 279 miles. She was exactly 2 laps ahead of me. I had 3.5 hours to go till time was up. The lap I had just finished took me 1 hour and 40 minutes ... one of my slowest ones. I was getting tired and my enthusiasm was waning. However with this news, I knew that second place was within my grasp ... but I'd have to get moving to do it.
I downed a bottle of Ensure and a cup of heavily sweetened coffee, and roared around the lap finishing it in 1 hour and 25 minutes. I downed a second bottle of Ensure and another cup of sweetened coffee, and roared around the next lap, finishing it in 1 hour and 25 minutes too. With 35 minutes to go till the end of the race, we switched to the small lap. I downed two packets of gel and off we went. I didn't think it was possible for my legs to do that after all that time on the bicycle, but we finished the last 8 miles with 15 seconds to spare!!
Rowan and I completed 287.3 miles (462.4 kms), beating my previous best quantity in a 24-hour period of time by 20 kms. Adding it all up, we climbed approx. 9234 ft. in that distance. And I placed second ... an accomplishment which was only on my "wish list" but which I never thought would really be possible!
Because of the way they did the awards, I have a lovely trophy in front of me now which says “2006 UMCA 24 HR CHAMPIONSHIPS … 25-49 WOMEN … FIRST PLACE”. They awarded a very large trophy to the overall winner for men and for women. Because there was only one women’s category in the 24-hour, the woman who won first place got the overall winner trophy. Then the second place winner (me) got the first place trophy, and the third place winner got the second place medal, etc.
A few other things …
Rowan rode 20 yards behind me the whole way (we couldn't draft so he couldn't ride any closer), and let me set the pace. He was extremely encouraging especially toward the end when my energy and enthusiasm was waning.
The results which were emailed to all the participants were “preliminary results”, so I assume they are still going through a checking process and that the “official results” will be awarded when everything has been confirmed.
In the 24-hour event, (not including the 12-hour and 6-hour events), there were 40 riders. 5 riders quit riding very early on – that really surprised me considering who some of those riders were. 4 riders were RAAM qualified and 2 missed it by a fraction of a mile.
The route was good – very, very well marked, and with very little traffic. The roads were also pretty good.