My first 12h (well 6.5h) solo race
I signed up for the Stamina12 race some time ago, wanting to try my luck at a solo 12h race. Due to various circumstances (family, job, selling house, lots of excuses) I did not actually train for this though. I had my training well thought out, but it just never materialized. A month before the race I seriously considered just selling my entry because I was so ill prepared, but in the end I decided to give it my best shot.
Well so I did, this saturday. I ended up number 68 out of 113 which, considering that I called it quits after 6.5 hours on the track, is not as absolutely terrible as I feared it would be.
So why did I chicken out early? Especially my upper body was simply "spent" and I started making really silly mistakes and taking falls where I should be perfectly able to ride safely. There were other factors (which I will get back to), but my own safety was the primary concern. I do not race for a living, I race because I like to.
I have raced before, just never a 12h solo. In the past, my main trouble has been with the bike, not with the body. This time I was better prepared than ever before - on the mechanical side - and I believe that my bike could have made it through the full race.
Here is a list of things that helped and stuff that I just got right:
- Hydration. I rode with two 750ml bottles on the bike, one with High5 4:1 Citrus and one with Summer Berries. This worked well as each lap took about 50 minutes, so I needed slightly more than one bottle of drink. I stayed hydrated the whole time (after about 2 hours I had one lap where I drank almost two bottles in less than 1 hour. It felt like I was not well hydrated, but after drinking extra, all went back to normal and I was fine).
- Clothes. I brought plenty. Shorts, shirts, anything. It was so good to be able to adjust after the first few laps. I even packed an extra pair of bike shoes, just in case I would lose the cleats off of the first pair.
- Brakes. The bike had almost new brake pads front and rear, but after six hours most of the rear wheel brake pad was gone so I would probably have needed to put on new pads, had I continued much futher. I had brought two sets of extra pads and the necessary tools so this would have been no problem at all.
- Power. Since I run my Edge 800 with backlight always-on, it goes through the battery a bit faster than the 15h claimed by Garmin. After 7 hours on the battery was down to about 10% but since I brought a fully charged "powermonkey", I could have charged the computer (while riding) over a couple of laps. This would have been no problem.
- Helosan. Or eight hour cream or vaseline or whatever you prefer to use to be able to continue to sit down and pedal. I brought it, I needed it after three hours and it absolutely saved the day. Some pain is ok and some pain isn't - this is one that is easily avoided.
- Glasses. To protect your eyes - always ride with glasses.
- Tools. For the first time ever, I raced without tools on the bike. Since a lap was less than 1h I figured that any adjustments or brake pad replacements etc. could be made in the pit. Since I run "flatless" (tubeless with sealant) a flat is very unlikely, so I chose to bet that I would not need tube, pump and tyre irons. The only "common" problem left is a broken chain - I chose to believe that this would be unlikely too. For this race, I was right on all accounts. I never needed a tool on the track and I was happy not to have to carry them around.
The following are issues I need to address next time:
- Train properly in advance. This should be obvious, but really, if I wanted to do better, I should have been in better shape.
- More diverse nutrition. I lived off of High5 "Citrus" and "Summer berries" 4:1, and switching between the two keeps me going for a long time while still feeling that the taste is ok. But after more than 6l of this stuff, I really wanted something else. Something milky or "soft" that does not upset the stomach too much. Maybe chocolate? I drank a "For Goodness Shakes" recovery drink (which contains milk powder) and it tasted absolutely fantastic at this time... Maybe I should just down one of those every four hours? I should bring coffee too - I really could have used a proper cup of coffee (not just nutrition with added caffeine).
- HRM. I train with an HRM strap every time and it works flawlessly. But after 1.5 hours in this race, the HRM transmitter gave up and I was left to my gut feeling at how hard I was pushing it. This was a setback as I really rely on the numbers when I know that I am pushing my limits. Things just feel differently in a race too, so having the numbers are fairly important to me in order to pace myself (keep the heart rate down - force myself to go slower than I intuitively would otherwise).
- Timing. I should stop the timer when in the pit and then I should use the "elapsed time" instead of the "time" field on the computer - that way, I would still see the elapsed race time when on the track, but when analyzing my laps post-race I would see the correct lap times instead of the lap+pit times.
- Chamois cream. Some people coat their shorts with this stuff before they ride. This is something I need to test, I think...
- Camelbak. I have a 3l (lobo) but I only just got it, have only ridden with it for a couple of hours, so I did not want to use it for the race. However, I did lose a bottle (without noticing) on a bumpy descent during one of the early laps and this would not have happened with a Camelbak of course. I need to figure out whether I want to ride with a Camelbak or continue with the one or two bottles on the frame (which have worked well for me so far).
- Pay attention all the time, not just most of it. I took a fall on a gravel road riding almost 40km/h very early on in the race, simply because I was not paying attention to where I was riding. It was a very stupid mistake which could and should have been avoided. I was lucky and got away with just cuts and bruises - but this race was in a forest and hitting a tree at that speed would not have been pretty.
The quick statistics of my race are:
|Ride time||About 6hr 30min|
|Vertical climb||About 1500m|
|Energy consumed||About 2000 kcal|
|Energy spent||About 3000 kcal|
|Placement||68 of 113|
For me this was a fantastic race. I would like to have done better (of course), but I gave it my best shot and I learned some valuable lessons. Next time I will do better.