• The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

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A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

Wausau 12 Hour Solo: Here's to Dust, Demons, and Never, Ever, Quitting.

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Photo: Wausau 24 is complete. This one was tough  and a much different race for me compared to last year (in a suffering kind of way). Good news is podium goes 5 deep and I was 4th! Actually, the better news is I tried my best and I'm glad I saw it through to the end when all I could hear in my head was QUIT, QUIT!!As my backside hit the lawn chair with a thud, the result of a somewhat controlled fall into a sitting position, I knew that things were not going smoothly. I was 6.5 hours into my effort and I had broken my cardinal rule of not taking a pit stop. I guess maybe I could have pushed through the pit, wobbling on down the trail, but after weighing the pros and cons of the stop I concluded that the benefit of taking a short break would somehow out weigh the benefits of pushing on deeper into the hurt tank. Amy happened to be there when I stopped which was a good thing as it was nice to see her face and receive the help she was offering. For what it was worth, I made sure to let her know that I was feeling "pretty worked over", in the hopes that at least saying the words to her would somehow ease the pain. The chair seemed to pull me deeper in as if I were an anchor sinking to the bottom of the sea. Not sure when I'd hit bottom I decided that I better get moving before getting up no longer was an option. "I'll see you at the finish", I yelled over my shoulder as I rolled away. I was back to the single track, but lacking the pop I had displayed during the early hours of the race.

Rolling through "no man's land" I pushed on alone riding disappointingly slow as the doll drums took over emotionally as well as physically. Over and over again I reviewed my strategy of resting on the bike when things were bad and pushing hard when things were good. The problem was that the resting seemed to be dominating the ride. I grew increasingly concerned about my position within the field as the intensity I'd felt in previous years was lacking and I seemed to just be on a very long bike ride. It wasn't long after these concerns emerged that the demons came out in full force. "Failure. You're a failure", was the phrase that grooved in my head. I couldn't shake it no matter how hard I tried. I've dealt with negative thoughts countless times during races, but for some reason this time was different. The negativity was so strong that even my conscious efforts to replace them with the reality that I was most likely in 3rd position could not take over. Finally, a moment of clarity came to me and I concluded that my electrolytes were most likely off kilter which was affecting my mood and rational thought. I promised I'd pop some tablets the next time I passed my pit area.

Photo: Soon

The sun had passed it's high point a while back and was now casting long shadows through the trees making the darker sections of the trail more difficult to navigate. As a result of my compromised vision I relied on my Spearfish to get me through the rough stuff. The course itself was not that physically demanding, but it was rough and required a great deal of attention. Scattered with roots and rocks the trail wouldn't take much to dislodge a rider from his or her machine. I was fortunate enough to stay mounted despite a few close calls. Deep fatigue dominated my being as I searched for any inspiration I could find. The trees and landscape were aesthetically pleasing, but offered little in the way of encouragement, I was alone with the bad guys in my head.

Sunset had arrived as I climbed slowly up a gravel road, my eyes focused on a camp fire burning at the top. A small group of 20 somethings relaxed around the fire, spent beer cans at their feet and smiles on their faces. "C'mon Salsa!" they shouted to me as I crested the climb and entered their party. They begged me for a small smile, but I could not muster one. I liked these guys and they became my inspiration. I tried to communicate with them telepathically given the fact that I could not spare the energy it would take to exchange comments. Instead, I thanked them in my mind and let them know I heard their encouragement by slamming into harder gears at the top of the climb and pinning the following descent as hard as I could with their cheers fading behind me.b2ap3_thumbnail_securedownload.jpg

I was into my 9th lap of what I had concluded could be an 11 lap race for me, but most likely would only be 10. I had already worked out all the details, all the excuses, and all the ways I'd live with the fact that I only did 10 laps when 11 were possible. Still, there was a tiny voice that would emerge stating, "If you stop early, it's the same as quitting and you don't quit." The dilemma became all encompassing and ultimately very confusing to me. It sounds easy, but at the time I could not make sense of what the right thing to do was. I decided that I would make the final decision as to how the race would end for me when the moment was upon me. In other words, it would be a decision I'd make at the completion of the 10th lap. If I finished the lap before 10 p.m. and wanted to end my race I'd need to stop and wait before crossing the finish line until the 10 o'clock hour passed. Conversely, if I wished to continue on with my race I would need to cross the finish line of my 10th lap before 10 p.m., and push on into my 11th and final lap.

Decision time came at 9:10 p.m. Over 11 hours into the race I approached the conclusion of lap 10. I suddenly accelerated toward the line, took a deep breath and rolled over it. "Now you're committed, you have to see this through to the end" I thought as I gingerly moved out of the start/finish area toward the single track. I had lost my 3rd place position at the start of the previous lap to a fast moving rider that I could not keep up to, but it mattered little. I had now been reduced to the race in my head and the one that existed between my wheels and the dry single track beneath them.

Throughout the day I had broken the course down into sections, all of which contained one difficult portion, usually a rock garden. I planned to ride to each section, get through it and then ride to the next one. My headlights would show me the way as the dust swirled through the beams of light. At times I'd find myself focusing on the tiny specs floating innocently toward me as struggled down the trail. Amazingly, I had met with the gravel road section which not only told me that I in fact was making forward progress, but I was actually nearing the end. "Push down, Pull up" I repeated to myself as I turned the pedals over up a short climb when I heard a familiar voice say "Last lap!". "Thanks Danielle" I whispered as I watched my fellow Salsa rider blow past me on her way to a podium finish in the co-ed duo 12 hour.

"You did it!" I said out loud as the final piece of single track was behind me. A deep yawn grabbed me as I spun toward the lights of the finishing area where Amy and my sister-in-law's family waited for me. I couldn't wait to see them.

I may not have had the same fire I had last year and I may not have done as well in the race, but tenacity and mental toughness ruled the day and for that I am proud. After 12.5 hours and some 120 miles I had completed the Wausau 12 hour solo, finishing in 4th position. I recently read that one trait of mentally tough people is that they only worry about impressing themselves. I'm not sure if "impressed" is the word I'd use to describe how I feel about my effort, but what I do know is that I stayed true to my values out on that course and I DID NOT QUIT! b2ap3_thumbnail_securedownload-2.jpg

Special thanks to Salsa Cycles, Rudy Project, Schwalbe Tires, and Ski Hut. Also, thank you Amy for understanding what it takes, helping me with the cramps later, and always drawing me toward the finish line. Thank you Gina, Nick, Morgan, and Kate. It sure was nice to see you guys waiting for me in the dark of the finish line.

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A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

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