Spoiler alert: I didn’t end up making it the full 24 hours as I intended to. I ended up getting about 406 miles in just over 18 hours before knowing my day was over. But with the support of my crew, managed to eek out around 413 miles before fully retiring for the night. But of course, there is far more to the story than just the numbers at the end. So here is my best recollection of the journey that had me riding my bicycle around an 8 mile loop over 51 times.
I outlined a lot of the details of the ride in prior posts, so will stick mostly to just the day of the ride here. I ended up waking up at 1:30 am leaving enough time for a thorough bowel movement and getting the final things ready to head out to the loop in Fruita. I had managed to sleep relatively well the nights leading into the ride despite the expected nerves. We got to the start line with just enough time to get the final things ready to get rolling. Everyone arrived just in time for the start, and I walked on over to my start line eager to get going. After some brief confusion about some of the signage on the follow vehicle (our mini-van), I officially started at 3:00:20 am.
I was feeling good and relaxed starting out, but it was COLD! I’d anticipated this, and still felt good in the first lap or two before it started eating away at me a bit more. I eventually checked the temperature on my bike computer to learn that it was sitting around 37 degrees. Which was about 10 degrees colder than I was expecting. I just sort of accepted the numbness in my hands and feet and knew I would have to increase my power some to keep warm enough until the sun came up.
The first 5 hours chugged along without too much excitement, though it was a lot tougher than I was expecting. I was just above World Record pace, and knew that as the temps warmed up my speed would only increase. So that gave me a lot of encouragement to try to just relax and keep at it knowing my body would eventually warm up. I had also decided to listen to the “Country Coffeehouse” playlist on Spotify for some reason for that entire 5 hours, trying to leave the more intense stuff for later in the ride!
With it being colder in the beginning, that meant a couple things for me physically. First, that I would have to pee a lot more than normal. This always happens when riding in the cold for me, and I was peeing on my bike pretty much every couple of laps. Second, and very importantly, I knew that I would be burning more calories just to keep warm. I really tried to stay on top of calories because of this, and took a couple extra hand ups from my support crew than I was initially planning.
Eventually the sun did rise, and as it got further into the morning so did the temps. I didn’t feel great still, but my laps were getting faster and faster and I was convincingly ahead of World Record pace. While still trying to keep from going too hard yet, I hit my quickest lap yet at 225 miles (and over 9 hours) in with an average of 25.2 mph. I had switched over to a playlist featuring Rush, Genesis, YES, and other classic rock bands hours prior. It was still hard, but I was embracing the suck and cranking away the miles.
More support people had begun to show up as the day continued which definitely lifted my spirits every time I passed the start line. Cowbells were now common place and Charleigh was awake and cheering! Photographers from the GJ Sentinel were also out and taking some shots. Especially on the corners which I was doing my best to carry momentum through to not waste any seconds. The CMU Triathlon Team had also shown up in full force and were a fantastic cheering squad!
At 248 miles (just over 10 hours) I made my first stop in order to take off my base layer since the temperatures were now in the mid-70’s. I had already removed my arm warmers while riding, but I wasn’t about to attempt to strip down while moving! Coach Wender and Savannah from the CMU Tri Team were in the support vehicle at the time and made quick work of helping me and I was off with barely any lost time.
As I continued on my energy levels were feeling good, but my lower back was slowly becoming a nuisance. I have certainly had issues there in the past, but had believed that it was resolved as I hadn’t noticed any problems there in my training leading in. At about 280 miles in it had become a major issue and was really struggling to keep a good position. I took another quick stop in hopes to address the issue and be able to continue normally again. I got off my bike and laid prone on the ground while my support crew did a number of tasks. Simultaneously they massaged my low back by hand and with a massage gun, dumped cold water on me, and replaced my nutrition on my bike. I also combined this with a pee break while laying on the ground, so definitely multitasking!
This helped for part of a lap, but soon my back returned to being painful and making aero position nearly impossible. We attempted another similar stop on the following lap, but it was now getting significantly worse as I continued. I was barely able to pedal as pain radiated from my low back around my hip and down my leg. Aero position was impossible and I couldn’t even manage 100 watts for a full, very slow, lap. I stopped again for significantly longer this time upon reaching the start line. We attempted multiple interventions including more massage, ice down the back of my suit, some ibuprofen, and more. It didn’t seem to help much as I managed another mile before stopping again to consult with my coach Jesse over the phone.
I was not ready to pull the plug yet, and after a few minutes, decided to just head out again in hopes that a miracle would happen. And then, just like that, I started feeling good again! Some combination of the interventions we attempted and pushing through allowed me to get back to a reasonable speed. And while I had spent a lot of time stopped trying to resolve my issues, I had still passed the 12 hour mark at 286 miles which still provided me a buffer over World Record pace. I certainly wasn’t feeling very fresh at this point, but I had renewed optimism and would ride the high as long as I could take it!
One thing that had unfortunately taken a back seat while I was dealing with my back issues was my fueling and hydration. I was starting to notice hunger setting in and a slight dip in energy levels. The minivan had to go refill with gas, and I was now accompanied my Joel and Danni in their truck. I immediately stole the tastiest peanut butter and jelly sandwich I’ve ever had from them followed by some cookies on the lap after. It was a welcome break from my prior nutrition at that point and powered me through another couple of solid laps.
As the time carried on I continued to get more and more fatigued. Finding holding position and generating power incrementally more difficult, but still fighting to keep a somewhat solid pace. A beautiful sunset aided in keeping my thoughts from turning too dark, but as the sun went down my focus was beginning to drift. I was now more frequently making stops every few laps to try to regain some energy and down some nutrition. But nothing was seeming to help me rally this time around. I continued to push through, trying to ignore the thoughts telling me to stop. The idea to at least get somewhere past 400 miles entered my head and I pushed hard to get there. Even if it wasn’t pretty by any means. I frequently found myself having to remind myself to focus on the road and what I was doing. My brain was in a fog and everything was sort of blurring together.
I eventually found myself slowly rolling into the start line at around 406 miles mentally and physically exhausted. My crew did their best to try to help me rally, but I was pretty much checked out and even scared to continue on. After enough persistent encouragement, I did manage another few miles in a combination of very slow pedaling, even slower walking, and a lot of delirious debates with Pablo (my crew chief) and Rebekah. I was completely and utterly spent by the end, barely producing enough energy for my brain and much less to stay warm and pedal. I was finally relieved to return to the RV after somewhere around 413 miles to get warm, snuggle a sleeping Charleigh, and eat some food.
In the end, I believe what got me was essentially a giant “bonk”. A large part of this endeavor was being able to fuel appropriately to be able to ride the entire duration. Throughout the ride I burned more matches and spent more energy than I should have, while also not sticking to my nutrition/hydration plan when things started going sideways about halfway through the day. My gut started shutting down, and eventually I found myself in too big of a hole to dig out of. I continued to push and push until my brain was running out of fuel to use, at which point it was too late. Had I not stubbornly pushed to that point and stopped earlier to fully refuel, then I may have been able to continue into the night. But there’s no way of really knowing, and I did what I could at the time and gave it all I had.
I was still in a bit of a mental fog the day after the ride and am still awaiting getting all of the feeling back in my fingers. I’m not quite as sore as a typical Ironman, but that’s simply because I didn’t have the pounding of running a marathon. And I’m still plenty sore! It’s hard to quantify just how tough something is mentally or physically, but I would certainly rate this effort towards the top. With the mental drain at the end equivalent to a personal emotional breakdown.
As far as doing this again, I have mixed feelings. I don’t see this as being over. The end result of this ride is not truly satisfying for me, even though I learned a lot on this attempt. I currently truly believe that I can still break and surpass the record in the future. This endeavor is not my main goal though as an athlete, even if I very much desire redemption. My aspirations are still very much focused on long distance triathlons and I’m hopeful that real racing will return soon there.
I also know this endeavor was not only huge for me, but also for my support crew. Rebekah took a huge portion of the burden in planning this event and coordinating things while I was riding. And I had fantastic support from family, friends, coworkers, CMU, and the local endurance community. Seeing everyone come together to support this endeavor was truly inspiring, and reminded me of a big part of why I love this sport. There is no way I can truly express the gratitude I have for all of those that came out to help during my ups and downs throughout the day.
For now, I will be resting and recovering some before setting my sights on hopefully racing at Ironman Arizona. It is still on the schedule for the end of November, and if it happens then I intend to be ready to give it everything I have!