This was my 5th trip to the 12 Hours Of Tsali at Tsali recreation area in Western NC. I like this race because it's put on by good people and usually has a fair amount of competition, plus it's just fun. After getting 3rd last year, I was looking to step up a couple of steps this year. This is my 9th year at the endurance game and although I have stood atop the podium before on teams, I have yet to win a solo race. I wanted this. I had a decent build up to Tsali although a main race that I planned to use for a tune up on my fitness was the DSG debacle two weeks ago where I ended up pushing my bike half as much as I rode it. I tried not to let that bother me and look at it objectively.
I arrived at Tsali Friday with my family in tow for this one. This is the first time this year I'd have family plus a lot of friends at a race. Doing these things self-supported isn't a huge deal but it sure helps to have some help and encouragement. After getting camp set up, we turned in for some rest.
Saturday morning brought near perfect weather (unusual but very nice) for the 11:00 start. After going over my plan with Nancy and instructing her on when I'd need what, I checked my bike over got my stuff together and took my bike to the start. This race always starts with a rather unpleasant 1/4 mile run up a hill - yay. I got a decent start ( I don't run. That's why I started riding bikes!) and I spent the first 30 minutes trying to keep myself reeled in and not fall into the trap of racing with people on the first lap of the race (something that's amazingly hard to not do). I felt great and despite my efforts to hold it down, I turned in a 54:00 and change first lap. Too fast for all day so I worked on slowing down. I set my computer to show avg speed and tried to keep it at 10-11 mph. Without any incidents (except for a black snake, more on him later), I rode right into my 2nd lap. I was now pretty much alone except for the occasional team guy passing me or me passing some slower riders (I didn't waste any effort to get around them but I didn't waste any time riding behind them either). I felt good still and was climbing well.
It was getting hotter by now and I am not used to heat yet (we haven't had any.. just cold and wet) so I was trying to be sure I got enough to drink and plenty of electrolytes. It's a tricky game, racing in the heat and getting enough nutrition and fluids in you but not too much. Deep into my third lap, I came around a corner was was greeted by a huge black snake (I assumed it was the same one I saw on lap one). He was fairly aggressive and struck at me (even though I am certain they are harmless, you have a 3' black snake strike at you unexpectedly and see how loud you scream) I figured he was probably pretty pissed by now having seen a hundred or so bikes come by his little spot in the sun. I had slowed enough that I still felt comfortable despite the heat but I started walking a couple of steep places to save my legs for later.
Lap 4 is when it all went to hell.
I started the lap like I did the 3rd, with a fresh bottle of water and pacing myself in the heat. I had went through my first 3 hour bottle of Perpetuem and had a fresh one for the next three hours. I was feeling fine for the effort I was putting out and really just trying to cruise for the rest of the race and let attrition do it's thing (on everyone else, I never considered it would be me tanking). In the middle of a crappy little climb in a ditch, I got hit with stomach cramps so bad and so quick, I thought I'd look down and see an alien popping out of my stomach. It hurt and I was about 5 miles from the finish line. Decisions had to be made and quick.
What happened next is...uh.......... better left out of the public domain. Let's just say I found myself on the course and cramp free a few moments later and I finished that lap feeling pretty bad. I stopped for the first time in the race and sat in my pits for about 20 minutes hoping I'd feel better.
I never did really and I went out on my 5th lap unable to eat anything without feeling sick. I knew that unless I got to the point where I could get some nourishment back into my body, I would be digging myself into a deep, dark hole and things would end badly for me. The first thing to go was my climbing. I started really suffering on even the easy climbs and found myself pushing way more than I did a couple of laps earlier. I tried in vain to eat something. I ditched my "plan" that had worked for me in all the other races I have done this year and started trying anything. I grabbed some Twizzlers before my 6th lap and that worked ok but it was too little, too late. I was deep into my pain cave and digging deeper.
Going into my 7th lap, my pre-race goal of 12 laps was gone, my mid-race revised goal of 10 laps was in the process of being bitch-slapped and now I was just looking at finishing that lap. Not even a third of the way in, I started to bonk and by the time I got to the mid-point of that lap, I was in a really bad place. My blood sugar was probably about 7, I dunno but I was shaky, disoriented and feeling like crap. At the end of the lap, I looked at the standings and saw that I was in 5th, 10 minutes behind 4th and almost a full lap behind 1st. There was no point in going on and doing more damage to myself (it was now getting dark and the potential for serious damage would go up exponentially).
I stopped after 7 laps, 8 hours and about 80 miles of racing. I would end up 7th in s/s and 14th OA for Solo 12 Hour. Not what I wanted going in but it is what it is.
Did I mention the snakes? I saw no less than 5 black snakes (or the same snake 5 times) during the race. I know that at lest three of them were different because one was really big and the other two were about 6 miles apart from each other. The most freaky sighting was the big boy (4 feet long) had climbed up a tree and his head was about handlebar high right along the trail.
As for what made me sick. I don't know. I had been using the same fueling plan all year and it's worked for me over and over. I didn't try anything new. I was hotter than what I am used to and maybe that had something to do with it but otherwise, I don't have a clue as to what happened.