Sunday, June 28, 2009

24 Hours of Matanuska

Yesterday I had the best day of mountain biking of my life. Before 24 hours ago, my longest mountain bike ride was only 6 hours and about 40 miles. Yesterday I rode 12.5 hours pretty much non stop on mostly singletrack for a total of 72 miles.

And I felt great. The entire time. It was totally unexpected. It was the opposite of my experience last week.

I rolled into the start line at 12:20am after my last lap and could not believe what had just happened.

I went into the race thinking that I would ride for 6 hours and then probably crash, Maybe I would struggle through another lap or two. But 10pm rolled around (after 10 hours of riding) and I was having the best lap of the day. So when I came through the checkpoint at 10:30, I rode through and kept going. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined feeling that good after 10 and half hours of riding.

I'm am convinced now that my body is built for endurance. I used to think that I was a fast twitch muscle kind of person because when I was young, I could run really fast for short distances. But put me in a race of 1 mile or more and I struggled.

Things have changed. I'm obviously not fast. But I know now that I do have endurance. And my confidence in being able to complete the Soggy Bottom has been restored.

The way the 24 hour race is set up is probably the best kind of race for me. There is no finish line. There is no pressure to get to a certain point where people will be waiting for you. You just have 24 or 12 hours to ride and that works for me mentally and physically.

I can move along at my own pace knowing that I'm saving my legs for the next 12 hours and not have to worry about going slow. That allowed me to really enjoy the trails that I was riding. I could live in the moment and not think about where I would be riding in the future and when I would get there.

It helped that there was tons of fun singletrack followed by a beautiful grassy meadow with views of Matanuska Lake and Pioneer Peak. Every time I came up out into the meadow and got a break from the hills, my body and mind were refreshed. Any pain I felt before went away and I would roll into the finish line feeling really good.

After getting four laps in I decided to do a photo lap. I relaxed the entire lap, getting off the bike and taking photos every chance I got. I think this really did the trick in keeping me going. It was like a mini recovery. My next lap was the best one I had all day.

At the start of lap seven I rolled through the checkpoint and just kept going. It was 10:30 and I knew I had one more lap in me. The sun was starting to go down so I knew if I waited to start I would be riding in the dark. So I just kept on going.

About 10 minutes in is when I hit the wall. But I was glad that it had happened. I wanted to see if I could push myself through the pain. I talked myself through it. Every time I got through a certain section I would say, "That's the last time I have to do that hill." and "That's the last rooty singletrack I will ride today." and "Just the grassy meadow and I'm home free." I kept saying "You can do this. You are going to do this."

I crossed the finish with a huge smile on my face.

Here are some more pictures.

Monkee ready to go...

So many hills... there was about 1000 feet of climbing in each lap.

I walked quite a few of them...

7pm was significant because at that point I had ridden 7 hours making it my longest ride ever...

I clipped a tree after thinking, damn these trees are close, I wonder how many people have... boom, I was on the ground. What the hell just happened?

Happy to be done...

My friends greeted me at the finish line. I was soo happy to see them... and their beer.