In my first year of racing, the plan was simple – Ride 3 x 12 hour races. Its a good start in preparation for the 24 hour races. I fell 7 miles short from my 200 miles goal in Ohio. I was just hoping that it doesnt rain all day again like my previous race. 200 miles in good conditions should be an easy task . . . or not so easy.
My training this year was not sufficient enough. There was simply no time. Nothing longer than few 200 km rides. One very beatifull in 3 different states – NY, CT, MA. And also my RUSA permanent of 64 miles as a base training monthly. During the week the goal was to go out for 3 rides, and train for speed and power. Its been hard maintaining 20 mph over long period of time. To get to 200 miles in 12 hours I should be able to maintain above 17.5 mph the whole ride, including stops. My bike was the trusted steel frame bike that got me around Paris-Brest-Paris. Heavy , but comfortable. Despite that, my will and determination are unstoppable!
I signed up for the Mid Atlantic 12 hour race a week prior the event. It was a tough call with a fligh to Europe the following day after the race. My spirits were high because we had DC Randonneurs represented well by Andrea Matney; Gardner M Duvall; Nancy Guth; John Guth; Joe Pixley; Barry Benson.
After work on Friday the 18th I drove straight to Washington, North Carolina . It rained alot as I was entering the city.
What a great view they have at the Inner Banks Outfitters. I took my race number there and a sheet with instructions for the race.
Later that night was the offical pasta dinner at the Magnuson Hotel. Now I am carbo-loaded for the race:) Upon arrival I met some DC Randonneurs. It feels great going to any state or country to see familiar faces. We are like a big family. Andrea and her husband- Bones were also at the event. They had a canopy set up at the start location. This was to help refueling after each lap. They offered help and I gladly accepted. Thank you for everything !
After final mechanical check on my bike it was time to go to bed. My body was exasuted and I slept for good 6 hours . Normally I can`t get more than 3 or 4 before big event.
One of my biggest concers as always was the wheather. It was supposed to be cloudy,very high humidity with a chance of rain and temeperatures in the 90s .
I got up in the morning a little later than I expected around 5 am. The race starts at 7 oclock sharp. Quickly packed my bags and bike , loaded everything in the car and checked out of the hotel.
They had a huge stage set up. Everyone was getting their gear prepared. I quickly found Bones, Andrea and Gardner. Parked my car next to theirs and gave Bones instructions on how to hand out my food and drinks. I wanted to make it as simple as possible for him.
My plan was to get 9 laps of 26 miles for a 228 miles, or at least 8 to go above 200 miles. The loop was extremely flat. Deffinately my type of terrain!
I had pre-mixed bottles ready. For every lap Bones was to hand me one bottle with food and one bottle with water, plus banana when needed. I also had some gels in my jersey pockets. The best thing that I did was get a brand new chain. As a result the bike felt very smooth . . .
We started together with the 24 hour group but we could not draft them, and they can`t draft us. Before you know it , we were on the road racing. My plan was not to go hard in the beggining and save energy for the final 2 laps and attack. I didnt want my speed to drop drastically in the end. We had a nice draft since the group was big in the beggining. We were chating while riding with Gardner. Andrea had to stop and adjust something quick and I never saw her afterwards. With a nice draft I was able to maintain almost 21mph in the first 2 laps. It was so foggy and humid – my clotes were soaking wet!
The exchange after each lap was very efficient . A lot of time was saved leading to a longer distance in the end. It took me about 5 seconds to just drop the old bottles , get new ones from Bones and some food. It was so hot and humid with temepratures in the 90s that I also decided to stuff my jersey with Ice after each lap, and even dipped my feet inside the cooler full of Ice – It felt like I was in heaven 🙂
After 2 laps and 52 miles, my speed was still at almost 21mph. My crew was giving me word of encouragement after each lap. I was told that I am moving ahead of my goal. On the third lap the field was already very slim. the 24 hour group was either too far behind to save energy, or too far in front. No drafting for me for another 3 laps. The speed slightrly dropped, but I was still in great position.I knew I had a chance of 210 or even 220 miles If I can just keep up the pace.
As the ride was progressing I had to take all measures to conserve energy and maintain almost 20 mph. Hydration and food is very important to me. During the two hot afternoon laps I took an extra water bottle and more food. Also some salt pills and few ibuprofens. I was so tired of liquid food and bananas that I made a quick stop by a gas station on the site of the road.I got a bag of chips and it felt like heaven. The most delicious food I ate all day.
At one point during lap 5 I was pulled over by the police.They asked me what am throwing away. After I explained that is simply babana peal and wasted 1 minute they let me go. He even told me – Rock On my man.
It was nice to draft with a gyue from Wisconsin and his partner. He was a solo RAAM finisher. To be able to keep up with them was nice .
On the next lap I was caught by another racer and he was moving at blistering fast speed. This older Gentleman end up finishing first in his age group with almost 250 miles. He also gave me words of encouragement and offered that we draft one another. It word great as my energy level was going down. He told me that this was his lap number 7 and I was still on 6th. It was a great energy booster. We were spinning the pedals and averaging almost 24 mph. We waited on a tandem that was in the same race so we can draft them. I kept decent speed behind them for the first half of the loop and let them go. Their pace was too fast for me, and I didnt wanted to waste all I had quite yet.
The goal for my final lap was simple simple: go as hard as possible. It was time for all energy saved to be unleased. I started out very well averaging 22 miles an hour but my body wasn’t having it. I slowed down a bit as I reached the finish line. My main goal was accomplished – 208 miles and still had about 12 minutes to spare.
I told my support buddy Bones that I was about done. He simply responded:
– ” Are you crazy, you need to go out and keep pushing.”
I was pushing myself to the limit. The event support car was sitting by the side of the road following us. It was a real race now. Two strong riders were chasing behind. The organizer told me that this was a chase for 6th place overall in the 12 hour race. I had a 200 yards lead on the chasing group and finished ahead of them. I got credit for 4 miles for a total of 212.
Such a huge success for me coming up from 194 miles in Ohio. The award ceremony was to start in 10 minutes so I decided to wait.
This was a great group of people and a big reason why I like cycling. We are like a big family. As the award ceremony began for the 12-hour race it was already dark. Knowing how competitive this bunch of racers was, I was hoping for a top five finish in my age group. It was time to announce the top three finishers in my age category. To my surprise they called my name. as I got up on the stage I didnt even knew what place I finished. I even asked the guy next to me what cube do I need to get up on. He told me that I placed 1st.
My second race ,with a bike build by me out of steel. Without the necessary training or bike and tired after work I was still able to accomplish something bigger than expected. I was proudly wearing my Randonneurs Bulgaria unofrm. This was not only a personal win , or a club win but also a win for my Country.
I plan on coming back and riding even stronger next year. In the meantime my next goal os to participate at the 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championship on November 4-5, 2016 in Borrego Springs, California. Stay tuned