Bad ideas are born from insomnia at 11:30pm. Like signing up for 8 hour solo races as you’re recovering from having organs removed from your body.
But… there I was driving up to Casper on June 22nd, the night before the Bear Bait 8, to give it a go. A week prior I had inquired about dropping down into the 4 hour category (which I would’ve been competitive in), and Christy Olsen convinced me to stay in the 8 hour category. You know… I haven’t decided what’s worse: chasing Georgia Gould in a race, or chasing Christy Olsen in a race, but there I was… remaining in the 8 hour. Dammit.
Luckily pulling into the venue area in search of camping I ran into Tracy and Nick Thelen, who invited me to crash their parking lot car camping party. It was nice to have people to chatter with, and it was intriguing watching them map out their duo race. They’re quite the badass duo when it comes to these races, so it was nice to observe the strategies and preparation. Tracy was also the latest 24 hour mountain bike national champion, so she knows a thing or two about riding a bike for a long time. I mostly know how to toodle along in the woods, crash into things, and how to make one hell of a bed in the back of my car.
Race morning came after a surprisingly good night of sleep in my Subaru Forester. It was chilly, but not cold… refreshing if anything. I hate riding/racing/anything in the heat, so I welcomed the forecast predicting highs in the 60s. Amelia Meyer (who I raced at the Tatanka last year) bumped up to the 8 hour solo female category, meaning at least there would be three of us for a full podium. I had never been on a bike for 8 hours, and didn’t really know how things would go as it was my 4th race in a 7 day period, and my body is still figure out what the hell is going on. I set a goal of 6 laps for myself. I knew I could never challenge Christy even on her worse day and my best day, and that my lack of training and time on the bike all spring was making me pay the price, so personal goal setting is where I was at for this race.
1st Lap: Was Awful. My legs screamed and I quickly got discouraged at my lack of ability to climb anymore and how my bike tires feel like they’re filled with concrete. But I settled in, just paying attention and learning the course. I’ve only raced on Casper Mountain once before in 2015 at the AMBC, but knew they added in new trails. The trails were still damp, and the tree roots slick. I got taken out suddenly by a diagonal one that caught my rear wheel and was thrown left knee first into a stump. I actually let myself cry, which I normally don’t do while actually racing. That’s it, I was done. I’m riding back to my car and driving back home and pouting. I hate Casper, I hate mountain bike races, and I hate being slow. Yay pity party in the woods!
2nd Lap: Well, clearly I didn’t drive back home. I continued on. The 58 minutes of the first lap allowed my legs to kinda warm up and I fell into a better groove. Then I just started getting silly. The trees/scenery in parts remind me of footage I’ve seen from the Nove Mesto World Cup in the Czech Republic. So there I was, giggling in the woods thinking about Jaroslav Kulhavy appearing out of the trees, wearing a gnome hat and confessing his love to me in Czech… which I can’t understand, so how would I know it was words of love?! I digress… then Peter Sagan would roll up and say, “Heidi, let’s do donuts!” Yes, this is what was going through my mind while “racing” my bike. It kept me entertained this entire lap. Which was good… it got me in mentally better spirits. Crazy, maybe. But it worked. I’d giggle about it the rest of the day.
3rd Lap: This lap I then started daydreaming that I was leading a World Cup race. Ha! I knew I would take a break in the pits after this lap to refill and snack, so it was mostly about getting through it.
I took a break, and ate a pizza Lunchable and drank half of a Pepsi. I don’t drink soda normally, but it is so delightful in the middle of an endurance race. I refilled my Camelbak, as I had drank 2 liters of Tailwind Nutrition mix of lemon and green tea flavors.
4th Lap: Onward! I just wanted to keep pushing to hopefully meet my goal. I would stop at the port-a-pottie before coming through the timing line to pee. I normally never ever pee during races. But today was definitely more about surviving then racing. And it beat going in the woods.
5th Lap: Yes, second to last lap, I told myself. I knew 7 laps was quite possible. But 6 was the goal. Into the Czech-wannabe gnome woods, out into the sage brush of Wyoming… into the gnome woods, out into Wyoming. The course seemed to be flying by as I really knew it by now. I applied some Squirt barrier balm that I found a sample of in my Camelbak to my palms which were chaffing and wanting to blister. What a weird substance. I think I’ll definitely stick to Chamois Butt’r for my chamois area bits, but the Squirt stuff worked in a pinch on my poor palms.
I stopped for another break at my pits to check my Camelbak. It was still decently full, so I ate one cracker sandwich from another Lunchable and set out. My back badly needed stretched out, too.
6th Lap: It had begun to rain as the afternoon wore on, and I knew to start playing it safe on the rocks and roots again. I told someone it was my last lap, and he told me I should really do 7. Sigh. I’ll see how it goes. Luckily it only appeared to have rained on half the course, leaving the part with a ton of roots, logs to ride over, and rocks, mostly dry. As I approached a narrow part between two trees, I lost focus and punched another tree at speed with my right hand. I stopped and whined as feeling left my poor right pinky finger. Grrr… I wrapped it around my bars and continued on.
7th Lap: I had plenty of time before the 4pm cut off to set out on lap 7 at 2:45pm, so there I was… beating my goal of 6 laps without even really hesitating as I crossed the line. I actually felt a bit more energy for this lap, though the rain had started to fall steady (and temps dropped into the 40s), and I felt like I was all alone out there in the gnome woods. I was trudging up a hill when the solo men’s leader passed me, scaring the crap out of me as he approached suddenly. It’d happen again. My bike’s chain was making all sorts of noise, so these quiet riders were way too sneaky! The rain soaked the entire course, making things rather slippery. Since I already had a bloody knee and battered pinky finger, I ended up walking some of the log features for my own safety, and stared intently at the trail for roots waiting to take me out. I couldn’t tell if I felt hungry, but just kept moving. I actually managed to big chain ring the final climb, which I hadn’t done all day, and the sun poked out as I neared the finish…
…And I came through at 3:58pm. Technically, I could’ve gone out for an 8th lap. I probably would have if I knew how much Tailwind I had left in my Camelbak, or had a time for another solid food snack. But by then I had been on my bike for 51.8 miles and 7 hours 58 minutes, so I felt plenty accomplished!
Upon removing my right glove I discovered a bloody and blue pink finger that had swollen up so much I could barely bend it. I actually had forgotten about punching a tree on lap 6, with adrenaline erasing that short term memory. I was concerned, but not enough to really care, and stumbled over to my chair to gather my pit belongings… which I insisted on trudging back to the car with my bike in one single load. It was like hauling groceries in when I carry all 20 bags at once… I was hoping someone would offer some help, but they didn’t. Grr. Don’t worry, I’ve only been riding my bike 8 hours, I got this load of a mountain bike, cooler, bag full of gallons of water and Tailwind powder, chair, Camelbak, and clothing bag all by myself! Ha!
My effort was good enough for 3rd place in our 3 woman field, LOL! But hey, it was mostly about racing for my own personal goals. I had never done a lap-endurance format before as a solo, only as a 4 person team and duo, so this was something new to try. I bettered my goal by one additional lap to boot. Luckily the trails on Casper Mountain are super awesome, though tough (it always seems like you’re climbing, even if you’re descending). That made it all the more better. I’ve done some terrible endurance races for 50-60 miles (like Battle the Bear… what’s with races named after bears?!) with awful courses that are boring and/or exposed, so suffering with a fun to ride course is just better. And, Strava gifted me with the knowledge that on several trails my times from this race in 2018 were much faster than times during my cat 1 race in 2015 when I was fit, 30 pounds lighter, and only racing a couple of hours! Woohoo! Always nice to see skills improvement, especially on the descending.
- 7 laps @ 51.8 miles
- 5,636 feet of climbing
- 7 hours 58 minutes 18 seconds total
- Breakfast: 1 cinnamon raisin bagel with plain cream cheese, banana
- 4 liters of Tailwind Nutrition
- 1st round: The rest of my lemon bag with 2 scoops of green tea (hoping that was about 700 calories)
- 2nd round: 4 scoops of naked, 3 scoops of green tea (700 calories)
- 1 bottle of Pepsi
- 1 pepperoni pizza Lunchable
- 1 sandwich (cracker + turkey + cheese) from a Lunchable
Nutritionally, I felt great during this race. Tailwind kept me going, and the Lunchable and Pepsi were just comfort foods as I was sitting down for my break. I’ve never tried to use Tailwind on this long of a ride before and had it work successfully (last attempt was the Leadville 100 in 2015, and that was before I really had my formula of Tailwind down and had squandered the “omg, I must eat food, too!” notion). I did switch it up, and use a non-caffeinated flavor as my main flavor. I think too much caffeine leads me to getting really weird during races. Not that imagining Jaroslav Kulhavy in a gnome hat isn’t weird… but I didn’t need to see where that daydream would’ve gone if I was running a straight caffeinated mix!
I definitely can see myself returning to this race next year, and even continuing on racing it as a solo! Now that I’ve done both a duo and a solo, I can confirm the rumors I’ve heard that duos are harder. They are. At least with going solo my legs never have a decent break to allow the lactic acid and fatigue to build up. Solo keeps them spinning. And it’s nice to know I’m solely responsible for myself and my result.
Next up is some recovery. My form is at -69 right now, which is comical as I tend to race best around +2-10. I’m not really sure I will attempt LMBS #2 this week, as I think it’s just too much and I need some recovery from weeks of trying to cram in fitness. My next big race is the Breck-32 in mid-July, and then the Laramie Enduro at the end of July.