12 Hours of Guts and Glory was quite possibly the hardest race Iíve ever participated in. I decided to race solo for the specific intent to gage my fitness level as Iím thinking about competing in a 100-mile race in the Shanandoah Mountains later in the year. The courses are similar in elevation gain and I need all the climbing training I can get.
Each lap of the GandG is 18 miles and there is a whopping 1655í of climbing per lap. For those of you who donít know, thatís a lot. I raced this course earlier in the year during a regular 1-lap race and was able to finish with a time of 1hour and 32 minutes. I figured I could average 2-hour laps with a little tacked on for resting and eating and I could knock out at least 5 laps with an ultimate goal of 6.
The evening before the race was very cool and decided not to set up my tent and just put air matrices in the bed of my truck and sleep under the stars. I was really hoping the cool night would carry over and make for a nice cool day. I tried not to expect too much I really just didnít want it to rain. I didnít actually sleep all that great because I was excited and the moon was so bright it kept waking me up.
We lined up at the start line at 8am and they sent us off. We ran the course in the reverse direction for how I raced it earlier in the year, which didnít really make all that much of a difference as it started with a really long steep climb either way. We started up the hill and 2 guys pass me before the top, I was actually in first but had to remember Iím not really racing them Iím racing myself and the clock so I tried to back down a little. I had my heart rate monitor on and set it to go off when it reached 175 bpmís. Seemed like it was never quiet.
I was doing pretty well and riding with a guy from Houston that I race. I was in front for a while then made a mistake then he got in front then I got back in front. We changed spots like this for most of the lap until he finally dropped off the back. I didnít really know what happened but I kept going. Some time or another I had a little accident where I hit my knee really hard on the stem of the bike. I didnít really feel it at the time but it would come back later to haunt me.
I came around the transition area and finished the first half lap in 49 minutes, which according to what I remembered was way to fast. If I kept up that pace there was no way I was going to last the day. I started the second half of the loop and really tried to keep my heart rate down even on the climbs. When my HRM started going off I would ease up the gears or get off and walk to stay in a good zone but I kept going on matter what. I finished up the final part of the loop for a total lap time of 1:41. Ouch that was going to bite me in the butt later. 18 miles down.
I was feeling ok physically but I couldnít really eat anything and knew ďMrBonkĒ was going to pay me a visit on the next lap. So I rested a little and ate half of a clif bar and headed out again. It was exactly 10:00am and I was right on my 2-hour lap schedule but really didnít think I was going to last long. The moment I started out I caught back up with Garth whom I was riding with during the first lap until he disappeared.
We started climbing that first hill and Garth said he had lost a brake pad rendering his rear brakes useless and had to do the rest of the lap without them. I really, really tried to focus on keeping my heart rate down on this lap and drinking plenty of fluids because the sun was really starting to warm things up. I wasnít ever really riding with Garth but wasnít more than a 100 feet behind. We came around a corner and there was a woman with a flat tire and Garth offered to help her change it and me also being the Good Samaritan helped out. It was a good break I guess. Then we took off again. Everything was ok but the heat really started getting to me and my back was starting to really hurt. I still managed a decent lap of 2 hours, which is what I should have done on the first. That last couple of miles I really bonked out though and when I got back in I decided to stop because I couldnít really eat anything and I would have to get some food down if I wanted to continue. 36 miles down.
So I downed a bottle of cytomax and took a 30-minute nap. When I got up I was feeling a little better but still had a bad attitude about the rest of the day. I noticed my knee hurting for the first time. I was able to get a sandwich down and drank some more. I walked around camp and chatted with the folks hanging out and decided I was feeling good enough to attempt another lap. I went out and started up that big climb. Early it was a big climb now it felt like a MAJOR climb but I settled in to a nice easy pace and pedaled up the hill. This lap was going to be slow because of the heat and my condition but I resigned myself to that fact and just kept going. Itís weird the things you think about but I was mostly thinking about staying upright.
About half way through that first climb I noticed my left knee really start hurting on the upstroke so I kind of switched to mashing on the right to take the pressure off of the left. As I went along it didnít get any better and started hurting on the down stroke too. I was only about 5 miles into the lap and was basically only climbing with one leg. The flats weíre too bad because I didnít have to put any real pressure on it but couldnít climb no descend well. I struggled all the rest of the way through this lap and just couldnít take it any more so I quit. It wasnít ďreallyĒ a tough decision because I knew I really couldnít go on much longer and I am going on vacation in a week and need to be well because Iím going hiking and biking out of state. 46 miles total.
Iím a little disappointed in my performance but not discouraged now. At the time it felt like the end of the world no being able to finish but I was just delirious from exhaustion I guess. I am once again thinking about racing the Shanandoah 100 but realize how much of a challenge itís going to be.