I had been planning to do this as a 2-man relay, but my buddy decided not to do it so I did what any insane Ironman-type person would do - I signed up anyway for the solo category.
8 hours of mountain biking, straight, solo.
Beautiful setting up in Harwood Ski and Bike
in Ontario. Each lap consisted of a 10km loop through mostly singletrack trails (with some doubletrack connecting the pieces). Most laps in 8 hours wins, and if it's a tie then it's whoever completed their last counted lap first.
My Race - Lap 1
I lined up somewhere in the middle of the 200+ riders. We started on doubletrack, and it thinned out a little, but then we got to the first singletrack and there was literally a line-up to get in. Lost a few minutes, but this was an 8 hour event and I was playing the very long game.
First time through the singletrack was a bit daunting, having not seen it before. I was pleasantly surprised, though, despite the names "Gnarly" and "Radical" everything was very rideable. Challenging, but rideable.
Then I wiped out. Stupid stupid stupid, just one moment of inattention and I caught the handlebar on a little tree. My shoulder hurt quite a lot as I got up, I was so pissed at myself. On lap 1? Really??
Got going again quick enough, the pain in my shoulder would subside in a few laps (but my pride hurt forever!).
Lap 2, 3, 4, 5...
It's all a bit of a blur, pretty much found a rhythm and kept on it. The fatigue and even a bit of cramping set in awfully early, but that's hardly a surprise given I didn't really train for this kind of thing!
Traffic was a bit of a problem pretty much the whole race. As a solo my pace was reasonably consistent, but by lap 3 or 4 the faster teams started lapping me. They were switching off, so they're fresh as a daisy and hammering it - meanwhile I'm pacing for 8 long hours! So a lot of my race was spent trying to let people by without screwing myself. The other side was me catching up to slower traffic, but I didn't mind slowing down for a bit if I had to.
That being said - most people were awesome about it. I found that especially true of the more experienced guys - they would always yell "great job solo", "keep it up solo", very supportive.
Of course that's 95%, not 100%... some people are pricks. One guy in particular tried to squeeze by me without calling out what side he was going on, and I ended up off the trail and on my ass! Boo.
There was one little spot where the roots were brutal and the dirt got worn away badly, you had to hit it with speed to get over it as you exitted the single track and got back on double track.
I had managed it the first 5 laps, but it was getting worse and worse... I messed up the angle, my wheel slid, and I went down hard. I'm pretty sure I landed on my bike, because my ribs hurt very badly. Took the wind right out of me. I popped up and assessed... I could breathe OK, but wasn't sure at all whether I was intact or not. Got back on the bike and just tried to get back at it.
But the pain was pretty bad, every bump was excruciating. It never entirely subsided for the rest of the race, only got manageable after awhile.
Lap 7, 8, 9, 10...
After that my pace dropped quite a bit. It was hard to attack the single-track due to pain and fatigue in my arms. There were some dark moments, some fun moments, times I wanted to stop and times I wanted to giggle like a schoolgirl. That's just the nature of endurance events, it reminded me a lot of Ironman actually! Good times, good times.
Nutrition-wise, I had a bottle every single lap, with one scoop of Heed, one scoop of Gatorade. Also had a couple of bananas, figured some solid food and potassium were important to keep the tummy happy. Worked out great.
I finished lap 10 with about 55 minutes to spare, which meant I had time for another lap. At this point I was cooked, the last thing I wanted to do was another lap! But another competitor I had met up with said "if you don't do it you'll regret it later!", those words resonated with me. My laps to this point had been in the 44-46 minute range, so I knew I could mail it in for 10km and get the 11th done.
This lap went pretty well, except I bit it again. Yes, another crash. @#$%! It was really mild, but with the bruised ribs and pain everywhere already it just sucked.
But I did it - finished lap 11 in plenty of time.
11 laps (110km), 7:49:57
. 14/29 Men Solo 39 & under.
Whew! What a challenge. That was the second longest I've ever been on a bike, and to do it on singletrack mountain bike trails was tough. Full body pain.
Best of all - when I looked at the results, a bunch of guys had stopped at 10 laps, with times faster than what I had done laps in. By mailing in the 11th I picked up at least 5 spots! I don't blame them, it's tough, but to quote Tosh.0: "I'm better than you, nah nah nah nah boo boo, stick your head in doo doo"!
Not sure I will ever do this again without a teammate - stopping to eat/rest/chill sounds amazing. I'll savour this one for awhile, it was awesome and way beyond what I thought I could do when I signed up.