75 miles of singletrack. 10,000 feet of climbing. 7 hours and 46 minutes. I have always considered myself an endurance athlete. I excel at longer events, but, to me, longer events have always been in the realm of 90 minutes to 4 hours. When I signed up to race the Park City Point 2 Point I was both excited and nervous. I was excited to see just how I could do at a test of true endurance, but nervous wondering exactly how I would react to the race nearly 2 times the length of the longest event I had ever done.
This event was a true test of my endurance, mental fortitude, my understanding of physiology, and pure, blind faith in God and myself. I spent hours preparing my race equipment. For a usual 90 minute race it only takes a few minutes to put a few gels in my pocket and fill up my bottles with mix. This race took hours of counting carbohydrates, fluid ounces, and organizing feed zone bags. I had to begin racing days before the event topping off my glycogen stores and calculating exactly what it would take to complete an event of this length.
I woke up at 4 am to get one last big meal before hours of consuming nothing but blocks and gels. I made pancakes in the morning and soon found myself sitting in the car in the dark and cold hours of the morning. I was ready, but was it enough?
We began the race at a quick clip, wasting no time at tackling the 75 miles. Two riders went on ahead setting a blistering pace, but I knew my body and held back anticipating the hours ahead of me. I soon found myself sitting in a group of 3 riding from 3rd to 5th place. My legs felt heavy, and it was tough to maintain the pace. I was sitting in 5th and repeating my early race mantra: “You have time.” You have time…to recovery, to attack, to feel stronger, to race. Ninety minutes into the event, a switch flipped and I began to feel stronger. I moved into 4th. 3rd place and I separated ourselves from 5th place. Two and a half hours into the event, 3rd place pulled ahead and I began my new mantra: “Ride your own pace.” I felt confident. I stayed exactly on my nutrition plan, consuming either blocks or gels every 30 minutes throughout the entire event. 4.5 hours into the race, I caught 3rd place. I increased the pace and charged up the long climb. I gained a small gap.
As I entered the 2nd feed station, I was in a daze. I was hanging on a sting. I was 5 hours into an 8 hour race. It was difficult to imagine 3 more hours of pure suffering out on the bike. My feed crew surrounded me. I felt like I was in the middle of a NASCAR pit stop. Someone was lubing my chain, someone else placing a camelbak on my back, and Clayton pushing blocks into my shaking hands. After hours of solitude this moment passed like a blur. As I pushed out of the aid, I said “Ok.” That was all I needed. I was ready for the final 3 hour push.
Fourth place was only 30 seconds behind me at hour 5 as I left Aid 2, but 200 meters later at the top of a steep climb, I was already 1 minute ahead. I wasn’t going to look back. I knew if I wanted to secure my third place finish, it was now or never. My body begged to slow down and stop, but my brain reasoned that I had to go harder. There is something so raw and beautiful about this feeling. Treating your body like a machine for hours on end, while maintaining all of the emotions of a human shows me who we truly are. This creates an out of body experience for me. I am reminded that my body is just a vessel, and my true feelings, worth, and will power are located in my heart, soul, and head.
I pushed hard for the final 2 hours of race, counting down the miles 1/10th at a time. I crashed 2 miles from the finish line and as I scrambled to remount my bike and rushed to continue onward– I smiled. Over 7 hours into racing, I still wanted it. I was still rushing, I still had to ability to give it everything I had. When is the last time you focused, endured pain, and felt burning desire for over 7 hours? 7 hours 46 minutes and 39 seconds later I crossed the finish line in 3rd place. I felt so much joy to cross the line. I love that feeling. I love being completely depleted but completely satisfied. I can’t wait to come back next year.