Race Report from AMR Co-Founder BIll Bailey: I'm not a very experianced mountain biker. I tend to crash a good bit. I don’t get much practice on rocks or even hills in Savannah. I also knew my last lap or two would be in the dark, but the complete extent of my night time off-road riding was about thirty minutes testing my light last week. So the logical next step after two short beginner XC races was to jump into a 12 Hour Solo.
I arrived Friday at Dauset to get set up and pre-ride the course. In two hours I managed to bend a derailleur hanger, break the left shifter bracket, and destroy the lower derailleur jockey wheel. The thought of trying to ride my CX bike on those trails for 12 hour provided great motivation to get the bike going again. I made sure to try to protect my bike from anymore damage on race day.
Camping on site meant I could sleep in late, and be fresh for the start, after oatmeal and coffee I made on my little alcohol stove. I didn’t have any pre-race anxiety or restlessness, since I didn’t have any expectations of myself except riding as many laps as I could during the 12 hrs. The LeMans start was sort of exciting, running uphill to the bikes at the start line. I put in a good first lap, keeping pace with the 6 hr and team racers, before settling down to an easier pace on lap two.
I had not managed to eat or drink very much, and by lap three the effort was taking its toll, especially on my focus. I've crashed a lot, but I've never hit the ground as fast or as hard as I did less than a mile from the end of the lap. I got up ok, but my left elbow hurt bad when I tried to move it. I was afraid it was broken, I considered quitting, and if I should get it checked out by the EMTs. I wondered how I would be able to ride once it got dark. I rode on to the pit, determined to keep racing, but at a safer pace, and to make myself keep up with eating.
Seven hours into the race, I’m still thinking I might have a broken elbow, I can't bend it enough to touch my face, and it's killing me on the climbs. I'm waiting for my derailleur to explode, and my bib shorts are now taking my skin off. Since I couldn't do anything about that stuff, I worked on the things I could. I pushed myself to drink and eat more, and I began walking the bike up the two short very steep sections where I was having trouble getting traction and just wearing myself out.
I slowed down on lap eight and nine, both because of the darkness, and I thought I wouldn't have enough time for an 11th lap. When I came through the timing chute after my tenth lap, I pulled off the course, done for the day. The race promoter came over and told me not to quit. The solo leader was “fading fast” all I had to do was go do one more lap and I finished in third place. I didn't hesitate, I turned my light back on and headed back out.
I came back in from my last lap, just happy to be done, and pleased with hanging in there, and getting that extra lap done. I ate another turkey sandwich, and chocolate milk from the cooler. I headed up to the pavilion, drawn there by the thought there might still be some food left from the dinner they served after the 6 hr race, plus the lights, and people. The idea that I might have actually finished third had slowly begun to sink in though the fog of tiredness and hunger.
The physical and emotional toll of what I had done was finally beginning to hit me, and I was still in my cycling kit, soaked through with sweat, and between the huge calorie deficit I was in, and the rapidly dropping temperature, I started shivering.
Of the five of us racing 12 hour solo, only three of us had stayed in the race. Despite my slow times, I had outlasted against some faster stronger guys. I almost fell off the podium block trying
to hold the comically huge trophy they handed me for third place.
I'm still reviewing what worked and didn't work for me, and areas where I can make some improvement. It will be a while before I tackle another 12 hr solo, but the lessons I’ve learned will help me in other endurance events, and racing in general. It was also an intensive skills clinic for me, being able to repeat the same course allowed me to ride the harder sections more confidently and fluidly. The physical effort required and the long day on the bike help build not just physical toughness, but mental toughness, and confidence, something that I have found myself to have in short supply on occasion. It was a great experience, and making the podium was an unexpected bonus.
-Race Report from AMR Co-Founder BIll Bailey