First off, if your reading this and you have any questions, please tune in tonight (10/11/21) for the live race recap with Q and A!
Second, I want to send out a blanket thank you to everyone that helped me this season and at this race. I am not going to try and list you all because I will for sure miss one or more of you, but you all know who you are. THANK YOU!
Check Out This Photo!
Lets start this recap with this AMAZING PHOTO that, I think, Vic captured! Thank you for this. If you know me, you know I am a photographer too, and I can really appreciate this image.
Four Score and Three Weeks Ago
Ok here is where my race recap begins. 3 weeks prior to Worlds at The Silver State 508. I went out to that race, I gave it my all, I emptied the tank trying to chase down Marko Baloh's course record, which I missed by a half hour. Then the next week I went to Tyler's, The Vegan Cyclists camp, and my initial plan and advice of my coach was to ride recovery the entire camp. Looking back, I see that this was a good plan, but man when your out with 30 dudes who all love to smash pedals, its just so hard to pull back, plus I felt sooo good that week! So I smashed. Now, to be clear, I don't think I was actually over-trained. I got back from camp and a few days later was smashing 500 watts by 90 seconds, feeling absolutely amazing! I felt great that entire week and the week after.
Fast forward to the Tuesday before the race. I had taken Monday as a recovery day and rode 50 percent FTP, felt good, Tuesdays plan was 2 hours at endurance pace/race pace 245 watts. I know to some 245 seems like a big number, but just to give you an idea, I always push 245 watts for endurance pace, my HR stays at 65 percent while pushing that number. It is my endurance pace, my pace that I can hold, at 5,000 feet of altitude for 8-12 hours. I am going to try to stay away from too many numbers because I don't want to bore everyone to death, but to give you a quick conversion this number is about 255-260 at sea level, so my race pace at sea level for 24 hours (225-245 watts) is my endurance pace up here at 5k where I live and am acclimated at. So Tuesday, I jump on the bike I do my normal 2 hours at 245 watts, and.....I feel awful! My HR went way up into the 75 percent zone, I got off the bike and felt like I just rode 6 hours, I was cold and tired.
A quick interjection, I have this thing where sometimes before races I think I am getting a sore throat. Nikki and I always joke about it, but its always just allergies or nerves and I get on the bike and I am fine.
So I assume, "ok dude its your body being nervous, that is why that ride felt so hard." Next day I jump on the bike for my 45 minute recovery ride. As soon as I get on I feel weak. Like legs feel empty and hard to push. I also had a stomach ache most that day. Again, trying to stay focused, and chalk it up to nerves.
Tuesday and Wednesday whoop is telling me my HRV is tanking and I am not recovering, I again think it is nerves and maybe my body responding to my back and neck pain (I also threw my back out on Tuesday). See recovery in yellow above? The reason its green on race day is because I dropped to sea level. It went to green because my respiratory rate dropped due to TONS of oxygen, although my HR and HRV stayed high, which isn't normal. When I go to sea level normally I sky rocket to 95-100 percent, respiratory rate dumps, resting HR goes down to high 30s low 40s and HRV jumps.
Again I try to re-focus, push the numbers aside and I KNOW that once I get on the bike I will feel good and be fine. I hit the hot tub the night before, try to relax the back and nervous system.
Race day arrives, we setup in the pits. I feel weak, like really weak, and for some reason its only about 75 degrees out and I feel cold but I am sweating. My stomach is hurting and all I ate all day was bananas, Powerade, Gatorade and Flow, because my stomach was giving me trouble I wanted to stay all liquid. "Damn Nerves!" I think.
Real quick, here was my race plan:
Lap 1 - Go out a little hot at 260-270 watts, try to drop everyone and make anyone that hung on regret that decision.
Lap 2 to Lap 16 - Hold 235-245 depending how I felt
Lap 16 to Lap 24 - Hold 205 to 235 depending how I felt
Lap 24 on- Whatever I could do, give it my all.
"Ok here we go, line up for the race, I know as soon as I get on the bike and pedal everything will clear all will be well!" So we fire off the line, I begin to execute the race plan, we take off on the back stretch I feel ok, I hold 270 watts, hold my position and go. We make the first right hand turn, I cock my head to the side to take a peak at everyone. They are dropped, all gone... I mean this was shocking for me to see for a few reasons.
I know that Marko typically goes out hard and then pulls back, so I expected him to be there no matter what! (I later learned that he tried a new race plan this year and just held exact numbers he needed to get 500 and did not chase no matter what)
I expected a few in the field to try to hang on with me, but none of them did. Josh Stockinger I knew was strong, but also did not have a ton of race experience. So part of my plan was to see if he would jump on for that first lap or hold back. Same for Mads Frank.
It was a shock to see how far back they actually were.
Anyhow, I stick to plan I hold 270 and just keep going. I figure well they are gapped now, the wind was absolutely smashing, so LFG baby!
About the wind:
The wind was FUH KING STRONG. It lasted the whole entire night. There were 2 laps where it died a little, but it only died down to mess with our heads. Then it kicked right back up. It gave us a taste of freedom just so we could feel the pain of being shackled again. I estimate that the average lap speed for myself was decreased by at least 1mph due to the wind.
Now about that wind:
I was super grateful for that wind. Why? Because it gave me the edge. I weigh 190 pounds, I was probably the heaviest dude out there. So anyone that weighs less than me or has less OVERALL power than me (I'm not talking watts per kilo, I am talking total FTP) was at a disadvantage due to the wind. Think of it this way, the wind is a constant force and is the same force to everyone. However lets assume the wind takes away 10 watts average on the back stretch. For me at an FTP of 380 watts, that amounts to about 2.5 percent of my power. For the person behind me that weighs only 150 pounds but their FTP is 200, they just lost 5 percent of their power. See how that works there?
So I know this, and all the while the wind is smashing the SHIT out of us, I am loving every minute of it. I called Nikki and told her this wind is great for two reasons:
It's like a fun game to me, so I won't get bored on course. When its pushing me I enjoy the fast ride and pretend like its building me up to push harder in the head wind sections. When its a cross wind I pretend like I am sailing a boat and try to get it to push me forward. When it's a headwind I just bury my head, practice keeping perfect aero form, and day dream about how fast I'll be going when I make that turn to have a tailwind.
I know that every time that wind hits me, its hitting everyone harder. So every time the wind smashes me I just let it pump me up and say things like "Thank You", "Wind I Am Grateful You Are Here", "I Know You Have To Hurt Me To Help Me"
Back To Lap 1
If you own a newer Garmin head unit, a Heart Rate Monitor and a Power Meter, then you know Garmin does this cool thing where it calculates your performance level and VO2 max based off of your heart rate, power and weight over a 20 minute period. Every time I have ever dropped down to sea level for a race or ride, after about 20 minutes on the bike the Garmin does it's little calculation and says Performance Level +5.
My Garmin does its little beep thing and says, "Hey bro, I don't know how to tell you this, but your FUCKED!" Ok your right the Garmin doesn't call you bro and also doesn't cuss at you, but it pops up and says Performance Level -7
"Shut the fuck up Garmin, you don't know shit!" I literally yell that out loud.
So I finish the lap, come in do the bottle swap and continue on.
One thing I do when I am racing and my brain tells me I am hurting or its time to quit, is a quick self assessment. I think to myself, "What actually is hurting on your body, why do you think you hurt?" I do a quick scan and analyze my whole body from my toes to the top of my head. This is typically an excellent remedy for that part of my brain that is constantly telling me to get off the bike. It tends to creep up here and there in these Ultra events. Ill do the scan and realize that everything is fine, nothing actually hurts and I am good to keep going. By the time I get through the scan I forget that I even wanted to get off the bike and go back into full enjoyment of riding mode. For the most part during all my Ultra Races, I am feeling really good, enjoying the ride and enjoying the experience, except for those brief moments where that little part of the head tells me I need to stop.
Watch Me Fall Apart
Lap 1 done, I think I put something like 4 minutes on Baloh, I wasn't really concerned with a time gap at this point, more concerned why I didn't feel good and why my Garmin told me I shouldn't feel good. I am super analytical person, so it still bugs me right now that I can't nail down exactly what went wrong, and I probably will never be able to know exactly what it was. Although I think it was a combination of a little over trained (due to me going to hard and not listening to my coach) and some sort of stomach bug.
I call Nikki, I let her know I am hurting already. I report the same to my sister Siera (running the Instagram updates). I do a self assessment, and determine that:
My legs feel ok
My stomach is in knots and hurts
I feel like I am cold sweating. I was sweating a ton and it wasn't hot and I wasn't pushing hard enough to sweat that much.
I knew right then and there I was forced with a decision. I had two options.
Quit the race early or go all in and stay on the bike no mater what.
My main fear of stopping the race early was that all the pain and sickness was in my head. If I stopped the race now and then felt good later, I would regret it for a long long time. I trained all year for this race and I had put so much time and effort into my ultra cycling career over the past 3 years, all aiming toward this goal. I couldn't sit with stopping now and risking that.
So..... right then, right there I made the decision. I will stay on the bike until I pass out and fall off.
I called Nikki and Siera and let them know the situation. I pulled back my power to what should have been recovery or low endurance. 215-225
It's Not Time Yet!
Usually at some point during any ultra race I push my body to its physical limit and I end up puking. This isn't a fueling issue or anything like that. Ask anyone that has crewed for me and they will tell you, I puke, usually after about 20 hours on the bike at 3am. I stay on the bike and I puke. Then I feel better, I re-fuel and keep pedaling.
I was 3 hours into the race, I puked. My body had hit its limit and I was 3 hours into the race. I pulled my power back even more now, down to 190-210 range. At 3 hours into the race I felt like I had just felt at the very end of the Silver State 508.
Your Gonna Say "Good"
Jocko Willink, has this thing where anytime anything goes wrong, he says "Good." There is always something positive you can find in any bad situation. I absolutely love this, and I live by it. So 3 hours in, I said "Good!" I am going to learn how to suffer today. I am going to go to the darkest place I have ever been and I am going to learn from it.
Hang On Until the Sun Rises
Getting through the night, in an ultra race, is tough! But if you can make it through without going down, taking a break or anything of that sort, once that sun comes up, it juices you up. Getting through the night was tough. I just kept telling myself, just hang on until the wind dies down, then you will feel better. The wind died down, I still felt like shit. Just hang on until the sun rises, that will make you feel better. The sun started rising, still felt bad. The sun came all the way up, I felt worse.
I was cold sweating, stomach hurt, had already thrown up numerous times, actually enough that I lost count. The sun coming up and warm air was making me feel worse. I was starting to get dizzy on the bike. Not the dizzy you get from bonking, but the dizzy you get form over heating, and it was only 70 degrees out. I had been taking Tylenol and Ibuprofen through the night. The first time I took the Tylenol I felt better and the cold sweats went away, that was at hour 5 of the ride. If you are a numbers geek and look back through my laps, you will see that lap, its the one where I went back to pushing race pace for the lap.
(Side note here, I don't need your recommendation on what to take during a race. Sorry to be a dick, but every time I mention that I do 400mg of IB a few times during an ultra race, people freak out, somehow become and MD and give me their full dissertation on why I shouldn't do it.)
The Tylenol was no longer taking away the cold sweats or having any affect. This combined with the dizziness had me worried. I wanted to push through the race, but I did not want to die for the race. Although early on I did consider it and thought, wow what a way to go! But I still have a lot of shit I wanna do before I die, so dying for this race, not worth it.
I made the decision to get off the bike for a few minutes and try to eat some solid food. As long as I could rest a minute, get food down I could continue. At this point I think Marko was about 15-20 minutes behind me, so I knew that this meant loosing the lead or coming real close to loosing it.
Lets Make A Scene!
I came in sat down on the chair the crew had waiting for me. I slowly drank water. I felt worse sitting there. I slowly tried to take small bites of a sandwich. Still felt worse. You know that feeling when you are about to projectile vomit, it comes on very rapidly? Yeah that. I run over to the dirt area to puke, but I have nothing to give. I collapse on the dirt area.
I had put so much into this race. I wanted to win, not just my AG or my category, I wanted to be the World Fucking Champion, 1st place. I really wanted, and I knew I could do 540 miles, but I knew that was out the window with the wind and with my current situation. At this point I knew I had lost the race. There was no possible way to hang on with the way I felt.
That Is MINE!
I was so angry I just broke down and started crying. I felt like I was 3 years old and somebody just stole my favorite toy. I gave so much and put so much training into this year, its almost like I already had the result and someone took it from me. I don't know how to explain it but I was so mad I just cried.
A wonderful gal that I coach, Maria, came over. She asked Nikki if she could talk to me. Nikki obliged. She shot some words my way that I would have told her if she was in the same situation. My brain started to jump out of the self pity and think.
As I lay in the dirt crying and having my mental break it occurred to me that I now had two options:
Walk away from the race with 300 miles and some change, throw a fit and quit.
Keep going, in spite of not getting what I wanted. Push myself to the limit and suffer for a result I didn't want.
It Was Always Going To Be Option 2
I got back up, got on the bike and rode. My daughters called me. They have heard and seen me cry maybe twice in their lives. I answer the phone sobbing. They cried with me and encouraged me. I had several other people call and they kept me going.
I continued to race. A few laps later, I started sweating again really bad, cold sweating very dizzy. I knew that I could keep going, but I wanted to make sure I didn't kill myself. I had the crew get a thermometer. As long as my temp was good I could keep going without risking injury. I didn't want to boil my brain with a fever while trying to push through on the bike.
I came in they took my temp. 2° Celsius, low? That was weird, I was sitting at 94°. So I laid in the van for a few, and was able to eat a bagel. After talking with my sister Siera, a nurse, she explained that most likely my skin temp was cool because my body was cooling itself and I was probably fine. We took my temp again, it was normal. I had athletes out on the course sufferring, time to get back in it.
The Rest Is Kind of Blurry
I know that I stayed on the bike, I kept spinning laps, slowly, coming in eating a bagel and getting back out on the bike.
I got to the point where I knew I could hold 2nd place overall even if I took a 45 minute break and waited for the short course to open, or I could go out and do another long lap to get 450 miles and then see what I could do on the short laps. I went back out and grabbed the 450, then proceeded to come in and push as hard as I possibly could for the short laps.
The end result of this race, one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given. I learned to suffer. I learned to suffer more than ever before. As I sit and write this two days later, I still have a stomach ache, I spent a ton of time in the bathroom the past two days and my legs feel like they have been ran over. I was able to go to the darkest place I have ever been on a bike and pull through.
This result, this gift, was better than any result I thought I deserved. I am truly grateful for everything I was given and the fact that I was able to push through.
Now its time for two weeks of recovery and rest! Then I'll get started with that base phase, because next year is going to be bigger than this year. And this year was really fucking big!