Professional athlete and 3-time Ironman champion

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I don't often write race reports.  But this one seems worthy, I guess.  In fact, I haven’t blogged in so long, remembering how to upload this to my website may be harder than the event I am blogging about was!

This past Saturday, I raced the 12 Hour Time Trial World Championships in Borrego Springs, CA.  Borrego is a nothing of a town in the middle of the Anza-Borrego Desert.  The drive from Palm Springs was sobering.  No cell service, and roads from the Salton Sea westward were paved, yes....but barely.

There is not much to the town itself. It’s just a quiet little down in the desert.  We were rather impressed with some of the restaurants we found in town and the people could not have been more friendly.

But let’s back up.  What the heck is the 12 hour Time Trial World Champs?  And possibly more significantly, WHY would anyone ever?

There were 3 divisions in the race; 6-hour, 12-hour and 24-hour.  The race is a qualifier for RAAM (The Race Across America).  I don't know if I qualify for RAAM off the 12 hour, but honestly that was not my intent when I signed up.  I signed up because I've spent the last 4 months playing a not-so-glorious game of injury whack-a-mole.  Every time I got healthy and started to ramp up my running, some other niggle would creep up.  My coach and I finally decided that rushing the run to return to racing in 2016 was not productive, so as of late September, I said sayonara to 2016 and focused on a healthier year in 2017. 

Thru all my niggles this summer, I’d been able to bike.  So I biked.  And biked.  And biked.  I had some reasonable bike fitness, I guess.  This was one way to find out just how much. 

I’ve been asked, “Was there money in this?” and “What do you get for winning?”  The short answer is no and nothing.  So why bother?  Why subject yourself to it all?  I guess simply….why not?  To me, it seemed better to get out and do something.  To focus on what I could do and try to forgive myself for what I wasn’t yet able to do (race running).  As I always tell my coaching clients when they are pressed for time, or have to cut short a workout, something is better than nothing.  I could have pressed on with my gradual return to race-ready run training, stayed home and waited for the 2017 race season….and I am doing that.  I just chose to do something more with the work I had done all year.  This was it.  The reward was for me.  My coach gets that.  My husband gets that.  If you don’t?  That’s OK!  From the outside looking into another, I might not either. 

So Julie (Dibs, my coach) found this race and left it to me what division to race.  Straight off, the 24-hour was out.  I like my sleep too much.  The 6 hour didn't hold much intrigue for me because it was mostly just like any other long ride day, or Ironman.  The 12-hour seemed.....just right, to quote the 3 bears.  Enough out of my comfort zone to motivate me, but not totally insane.  So 12 hours it was.

I did a few "extra long" rides leading up to the race.  Alternating weeks, mostly, though in one 8 day span, I did an 8 hour, 7.5 hour and 6.5 hour. All solo.  All unsupported.  I was pretty f***ed after that little block.

I had hoped for a 10 hour ride, but with my levels of fatigue, Dibs decided to scrap it.  I had some concern about that.  Was 8 hours enough?  Had I really tested what was going to happen to me mentally and physically on the “dark side” after 8 hours?  I tried to take a lesson from my Ironman South Africa training block.  More isn’t always better. This is a difficult lesson for a work horse like myself to learn.  For whatever reason, thru my career as an athlete (which spans longer than most my competitors have been alive at this point, I might add) I always thought I could make up for a lack of talent with hard work.  Sometimes it works…sometimes, you end up a puddle on the floor.  Prior to South Africa, I had some of the best training of my life, but in retrospect, too much of a good thing?  It’s easy to get carried away in this endurance sports business.  So lesson learned.  Sometimes enough is enough. (for the record, Julie will be reminding me of this again within 2 weeks…guaranteed).

Back to the race.

The race itself takes place around an 18 mile loop. 

Come again?

Yes.  An 18 mile loop.  Round and round and round you go.  Mind numbing, and yet surprisingly not at all.

They set the 24 hour racers off at 6PM.  We went off at 6AM the following morning and the 6 hour racers started at 12 noon.  I felt rather soft driving back to our hotel after the race meeting on Friday afternoon, seeing the 24 hour folks ready themselves.  How could I complain about riding 12 hours when there were heaps of crazies lining up for 24 hours?  I was the “JV” show here.  The big guns were…well…big.

At 6AM were sent off in waves; 15 or so per wave, 1 minute apart.  I was in wave 1 of the 12 hour division.  I could see the looks from the men in my wave.  Some seemed incredible agitated that a woman was in front of the.  “In the way”.  One guy kept trying to nose his wheel in front of mine.  Half wheeling and we hadn’t even started yet.  …boys.  (sigh)

So you go round and round and round.  There’s a “pit” at the start/finish area.  The pit would be my DaveyG’s home for the entirety of the 12 hours (minus the time he spent running to the bike shop (dropped Co2s) and convenience store (ice and Coke).  The pit is just as it sounds.  A parking lot in the middle of the desert.  DaveyG is a good man.

You can roll thru the pit as often or as sparingly as you like.  In retrospect, I was amazed by the sense of cooperation in the pit.  During my 2nd “full stop” (one that includes a potty break), as Dave was frantically filling my bottles (I went off nutrition script earlier than expected, but more on that later), a total stranger was helping me pull my race kit back up.  “Oh, crap,” I said.  “Chamois cream!”  Without a pause, a perfect stranger reached into Dave’s backpack and handed it to me.  “Here you go.”  Awkward pause.  “You should probably do that yourself,” he said.  Right.  Bottles shoved in cages and off I went.  “Who was that guy?” I wondered as I rolled on.

At 4:30 PM, they move everyone to the "short loop" (4.8 miles) and you continue on the short loop until 6PM, or until you come thru "the pit" (start/finish area) and don't have enough time to complete another loop.  For me, that was at about 5:53PM.

My total mileage was 258.  I was stopped in the pit for a total of 12 minutes all day for potty breaks and refueling.  And then there was the 7 or so minutes at the end where I wouldn't have completed another loop so I did not continue on.  Only completed loops count toward total mileage.  My total ride time was 11 hours, 41 minutes and change, so my average moving speed was 22 mph. 

Now the good stuff.  What do you think and what do you eat all that time?

Enter Kelly Magelky.  Kelly is a Dibs buddy (and now a Deeds buddy too).  He’s a ultra mountain biking super freak (meant in a totally endearing way).  In other words, Kelly’s walked this road before.  He knows the dark side.  Going into this insane race, I fired off emails frantically to Kelly, “But what about (this)?” and “What happens if (that)?” and he replied every single time with incredible advice.  So we took Kelly’s advice and ran with it.

Creature comforts?  Indeed.  A fly new time trial race kit from BSGApparel (Pro Athlete Chris “Big Sexy” McDonald’s new custom apparel line.  Check them out bsgapparel.com.  NO MINIMUMS!  Creative design.  Quality cycling gear!).  Put it on the first time on race morning.  And I kid you not?  Not one saddle sore.  I’d post a picture, but that would be inappropriate.

Creature comfort #2?  Mercifully, we were allowed one earbud.  Reality sunk in when I went about making a play list for this event.  I got to 74 songs and was pretty proud of myself.  Let’s check and see how far that gets us.  5 hours 20 minutes. 

WHAT????

Music was key.  I didn’t indulge myself until lap 2 (way to be patient, Dede).  But honestly, I researched iPod battery life.  I thought it would make it 12 hours, but better safe than sorry.  Plus, it was still dark the first hour, so I didn’t want distractions.  Come mile 9 (into the dark side), the music was great.  I was belting out tunes (Yes.  Out loud)….and I wasn’t the only one.  I passed other athletes doing the same.  And no…”The Voice” didn’t miss out on any talent in those on the course so far as I could tell.  I don’t really remember any songs in particular that helped (or hurt) but music helps the mind wander just enough so you don’t think too much about what it is you are actually doing.  I do remember that when I went thru 220.4 miles (the former unofficial world record mileage for women), the theme song from Rocky was playing.  Priceless.

Nutrition.  I knew going in that nutrition would not go according to script.  And I had lots of options; my traditional INFINIT nutrition drink mix, modified slightly for a longer race day.  I never race tri with anything but liquid, but somehow knew that this might be different.  I had gels, of which I ate one.  I had something called Epic bars, which are essentially meat bars.  They are rather nasty and I don't recommend them, but they are a healthier form of beef jerky and did the trick on the savory side to cut all the sweet from the drinks.  I had loaded up on other essentials that had saved the day on training rides; sea salt and vinegar chips, red bull, coke, frosted blueberry pop tarts, peanut butter pretzels, Swedish fish, snickers bites, gum, honey stinger waffles and we had pb&j just in case.

The first 5 hours went on script for nutrition but from hour 4 to 5, I had a bit of a low.  The race was no longer new and exciting, and it was getting hot (temperatures peaked in the 90s).  Kelly and other ultra-endurance friends had advised to wait until after half way to start caffeine, and while I knew it was early, during my first potty break at 4:36, I asked for Red Bull.  Dave tossed me a bottle and said "There are 2 in there" and off I went. 

2? 

That might be a little much too soon, but over the next 30 minutes, I swigged it down and got a SOLID 3 really good hours out of it.  I went back to regular nutrition, but just before 8 hours (and not surprisingly after an Epic bar) I barfed.  So starting at 8 hours, I made the call.  I switched to coke and never went back.  My last 4 hours were fueled by coke and Swedish fish.  I never would have guessed that, but having never been to the dark side, who could have known?

Not gonna lie, I was pretty freaked out going into this event.  I tried to embrace the “ignorance is bliss” aspect, but this definitely took me out of my comfort zone a bit.  In fact, in the weeks leading up to it, whenever I told anyone I was doing this race, I got a lot of puzzled looks.  A few laughed (presumably at me, not with me), but one reaction stood out.  2-time Ironman World Champion, Tim DeBoom.  I bumped into Tim at Rally Sport one day.  Tim asked how I was going, knowing I’d struggled with some run niggles.  I told him about the race and he grinned.  “That’s awesome,” he said.  “Get out of your comfort zone.  Test your limits.  And lay down a truck load of bike fitness for 2017.”  Thank you, Tim.  When a 2-time World Champ thinks you are doing something smart, it helped.

   

Other tidbits?  The men's 24 hour winner went 550.8 miles.  Just wow!

The men's 12 hour winner went 253.2.

Remember before when I said my total mileage was 258?  Yep.  I “chicked” all the guys.  I even beat the 2-person teams in the 12 hour division.  It’s all still sinking in, but I think that’s pretty cool.  I established a new (unofficial) world record in the process.  Again, for what it’s worth?  Pretty cool.

As awesome as this event has been and as much as it has given me, my focus is on my continued run progress and a return to triathlon race courses in 2017!  Watch out!

Massive thanks to Julie Dibens, my coach, for suggesting this in the first place.  Something is better than nothing and this sure was something!  The JDCrew has been incredibly supportive thru all this crazy stuff!

Thanks to BSGApparel for incredible design on my time trial kit!  This was one instance where my Saucony tri kit with a tri chamois wasn’t enough.  So with no minimums required in ordering, some really creative design ideas and a chamois that just didn’t quit, the kit was the bomb.  Plus, it was great to look down at it from time to time and think about good friends and the support they had lent to this effort.

Thanks to Blue Competition Cycling.  I rode the new Elite and it was a solid and fast ride.  Dressed up with HED wheels?  I couldn’t have asked for more reliable equipment.

Thanks to INFINIT Nutrition; the base of any training and race day nutrition protocol.  Yes, I went off script, but you have to listen to your gut when you go to the dark side!  So to that end, thank you God, for inventing Coke and Swedish fish. 

Incredible shout out to the Biscay-Twelsiek family!  My only emotional wobble all day was the sound of Hillary’s voice cheering me on as I completed (yet another) loop.  I had begged them not to make the trip for the hassle with new Princess Madison Frankie to look after, but make the trip they did.  There’s not much more you can say about good friends.  They made me cry (in a good way).

Thanks to the rest of my sponsors for your support.  Going into 2017, I am now the oldest pro triathlete on the planet.  I once heard a training partner describe himself as being in the 4th quarter of his professional racing career.  If that is the case, I am for sure into double-over-time, but the way I see it, that’s where all the most exciting things happen in a game anyway.

And all my love and thanks to DaveyG for your patience, understanding and support.  The peanut butter to my jelly.  The bread to my butter.  And my partner in this incredible adventure called life.

Onward to 2017!

Persistence. Determination. Love. The Journey!

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