Left to right – me (3rd place), Brian Jastrebsky (1st place), and Ray Brown (2nd place) after the race.
I took these screenshots of my Garmin 1000 at the farthest out point on the course a couple minutes before the clocked tick back over to 7AM Sunday morning 24 hours after starting the race at 7AM on Saturday. It seemed fitting to stop early at exactly 444 miles – the length of the Natchez Trace parkway – after last year’s #epic444 which was not only an amazing time of camaraderie and support for Team Red White and Blue, but also a first experimental step towards ultracycling. It was also fitting to be on the farthest out point of the rural course away from everybody and everything. Ultra-endurance cycling is such an intriguing mix of both solo determination and team support. That makes Ray Brown’s 2nd place finish all the more impressive as he did the event completely unsupported! Brian Jastrebsky’s 1st place win is also phenomenal given that his longest ride prior to this 24 hour race was 150 miles.
I’m skipping ahead of myself, though. How did we get to this moment in time? It all started 24 hours earlier at Washington High School in rural, flat, coastal Washington, North Carolina. How flat is it? The climbing ratio for this ride was 54:1, which means that I had to ride 54 miles to climb 100 feet. To put that in perspective, in Birmingham I frequently climb 10,000 feet in that same distance … in other words, the course was 100 times flatter than my normal routes and over 10 times flatter than my previous flattest ride (Tour of Elk Grove in Chicago). A lot of times with this kind of flat coastal terrain, you get strong coastal winds. But the course and entire area was heavily forested and sheltered from the wind. As a storm rolled in later in the day, the winds picked up to maybe 5-10mph max.
It was an interesting mix of bikes at the start line — everything from time trial bikes with disc wheels to road bikes with clip-on TT bars and several recumbents. I think I may have been the only rider doing it Mercx style with no TT bars – but I did have my Martindale 6.0 wheels, which are some of the most aero and smoothest rolling wheels I’ve ever used.
The race started with a neutral roll-out, but then it became obvious (to me at least) that there is a problem in trying to separate everyone in a non-drafting race?? I was told by a few people that it would “take care of itself” within a few miles – but there was still basically an awkward group together near the end of the first 25 mile lap. I took off and passed everyone so that I could give Kristine something to cheer for and not get caught up waiting on others to queue up in the slow 10mph section through the start/finish. Going through the start/finish plus my acceleration split the group up. I led for the next half lap until someone on a recumbent very gradually reeled me in. I dropped back behind him to what I hope was a legal follow distance of something in the neighborhood of 75-100 feet and tried to match my pace to his. This lasted for most of that lap until in pretty close succession a second recumbent who had been gradually closing the gap finally caught up to me and then simultaneously another rider (full TT bike, aero helmet, and disc wheel) passed me.
This was towards the end of the second lap. For the third lap, one of the recumbents stopped for an extended period so it was just me, the first recumbent, and the TT rider who set out at nearly the same time. I was in third position keeping an eye on what the other two were doing up the road. It’s deceiving on such a flat course that it looks like they are drafting, but I realized eventually that what they were doing is exchanging positions every 10-15 minutes within what looked like all the acceptable parameters. This seemed like a good idea because you got a bit of a draft during the pass so I sped up to catch up to them and immediately passed both of them. Eventually the recumbent passed me and a few minutes later so did the TT rider. Both of these “passes” gave me a bit of a break as you got a bit of a draft when they pulled over in front of you. It’s only a few seconds worth of drafting, but it is within the rules and it gives you a good mental break.
In third position, I dropped off the pace a bit but after a few miles I started catching back up to them when I felt like they were slowing down. I moved to pass both of them again. I made it past the TT rider who was falling off the pace a bit with no problem, but when I started to pass the recumbent a few minutes later, he jacked his speed up to match mine as I went by him. I thought that was interesting so I pushed even harder and harder eventually topping out at close to 30 mph before I realized that he absolutely didn’t want me to pass him. This all took about a minute and then I said to myself “forget it, you can have it” and let him go up the road. This was all about a mile or two before the finish of the third lap.
The recumbent rider stopped for an extended period after this lap, and I kept going so that meant I led from that point about 75 miles into the race until about mile 200 when I made an extended stop to use the bathroom, change clothes, eat, and rest. Leading up to mile 200 I pushed it really hard because I thought I had a legitimate shot at breaking the 9 hour mark for 200 miles given that the first 100 miles was in less than 4.5 hours. Unfortunately, I missed the mark by about 20 minutes and paid dearly for my hard effort later when I got tired. During my extended stop after 8 laps, eventual winner Brian Jastrebsky caught and passed me. I would catch him a couple laps later, and we ended up riding side by side for a bit chatting about racing and our backgrounds. It was a huge mental break to have someone to talk to for a while. I’m not sure how long we were together (maybe 15-20 minutes), but eventually I got a phone call from my kids back home in Alabama before they were going to bed so I fell off the pace to chat with them. Definitely a highlight of the race for me.
I never caught back up to Brian because I think my earlier efforts during the first 200 miles really started to catch back up to me, and I couldn’t hold more than about 150-175 watts consistently any more. I knew when I was pushing the pace really hard earlier that it was a big “no-no”, but it is something I wanted to do because how often do you get a chance to set those kinds of speed records for that distance??? For the Race Across America, I’m going to have to be more disciplined and keep my pace and effort under control even when I get uber-excited about racing and riding.
“In case you’re wondering what @kartoone76 looks like 20 hours into a race… still managing a tired smile, munching on a homemade rice cake (thanks Feedzone cookbook! These were the go-to food when his stomach went downhill). #myhusbandisepic”
One of the things I struggled with after about 18 hours was queasiness. I’ve done several long extended 22+ hour rides, one 24 hour race, and a 32 hour race (516 miles) and never had stomach problems, but about 18 hours into this race I kept on feeling like I was going to throw up if I turned my head too often to see if any riders were catching up to me. Even during this time of nausea, I was able to chow down on the peanut butter and jelly rice cakes that Kristine made at the end of each lap. I also would get one bottle of coke and one bottle of water (I stopped drinking gatorade about 16 hours into the race) and two energy gels. This was my nutrition very consistently for the last 150 miles or so of the race.
The picture above is right about the time that eventual 2nd place finisher Ray Brown caught up to me in the rest area. I watched from a chair next to our car as he pulled in to refill his bottles and rest for a minute. I left shortly afterwards and about halfway through the lap, he came flying by me. He was so much fresher than I was nearly 21 hours into the race. In the ensuing 3 hours of the race, he would pull almost exactly half a lap ahead of me (13 miles) almost catching the first place winner in the process!
The beauty of starting a 24 hour race at 7AM is that you are basically racing to the sunrise the next day. If you start the race later at say 10 or 11AM, then just having the sun come up doesn’t mean you are almost done. But with this race, as the day started to get brighter you got physical confirmation every second that the race was almost over. This picture above was on the final half lap that I did. Another nice thing about the setup of this particular race is that you could ride all the way out to 24 hours and report your finishing location. I worked it out in my head with about 2 laps to go that I would probably finish somewhere at the farthest out point of the course — and that’s exactly what happened!
One final picture to include before all my data is one I snapped of the motocross race that happened late in the afternoon carrying on into one of the night laps of our race. Even on the first lap at 7 in the morning, there was some activity at the track. Each lap as we passed the course, there was more activity. Eventually racers started to show up, but they were still working on the track so they were riding their dirt bikes around in the parking lot. Late in the day, about the time the storm started to pass through the course, the race started and I came around one lap to see dirt bikes flying over the jumps. The next lap I was fortunate to see the checkered flag out for one of the races. There must have been more races, though, because they were still racing during the first night lap. It was all over by the second night lap, and people were leaving the course. A lap or two later, the last clean-up crew worker was leaving, and the lights at the track were turned off. It was very cool to see the evolution of a motocross event from start to finish while racing our own race right by the track!
RIDE AND SHIFTING STATISTISTICS
|# Total shifts||2694|
|# Front shifts||77|
|# Rear shifts||2617|
|Time b/t shifts||29.9 seconds|
|Climbing ratio||54.18 (miles per 100 feet climbed)|
|Climbing rate||37 ft/hour|
|Avg/max speed||19.86 / 29.45 mph|
|Avg/nrm/max pow||177 / 189 / 558 watts|
|Avg/max HR||131 / 180 bpm|
|Avg/max cadence||74 / 113 rpm|