October 10, 2009

2009 Unicoi 12 Hour - EPS Series Finale - Result: 3rd 
Daily Total: 37.04 Race Hours: 04:57

Time BG Carbs Units
---- -- ----- -----

05:58 188
07:26 99
09:13 63
10:00 Race Start
11:05 87
12:12 125
13:26 132
15:08 80 – My Race End
16:48 48
18:49 272
20:01 96
23:20 42

Calories: 5179kcal
Avg Heart Rate 160 bpm
MaxHeart Rate 188 bpm
Ascent: 9734ft
What started with a huge and painful effort back on March 14th in Oconee, GA ended with little drama on October 10th in Helen, GA. October 10th was the series finale in the Dirty Spokes Endurance race series. The final race was a double points event, and heading into the weekend I was in the lead in the 12 hour Solo Expert division. Having a 6 point lead, I only needed to finish within one place of the second place rider in the series, Jeremy Edge, to win outright.
Before I left home I was telling my four year old that I was heading out of town for a race. He asked if it was race in the mountains. I said yes. He then asked if it was a big race. I again replied yeah, pretty big. He asked how big? I tried to explain that it was the end of a series of races. He just looked at me. A serious? No, a series. Like the Piston Cup? I laughed. Yes, just like the Piston Cup.
The weekend started on Friday with George Scott (and his fresh Superfly 100) and I headed to what we thought was the tiny remote town of Helen, GA. We drove through a decent amount of rain on the way, and it had rained at our destination for a couple of days leading up to the weekend.

After over 6 hours in the car, George and I were surprised to round a country road bend to see stop and go traffic on the ONLY road that runs through the town of Helen. We must have been punchy since we spent so much time in the car, but I could not stop laughing at the shock of seeing a super busy, very crowded, Bavarian style mountain town. We later learned that this was due to the Octoberfest celebration that happens here every year (should be EASY to find support for this event next year armed with that knowledge).

We went straight to the race site to get a good pit location and pre-ride the course. The course was 8.3 miles in length which contained about 2500' of vertical, and some of the smoothest and most scenic trail I have ever raced on. (It also had the town of Helen “Waster Water Spray Field” - don't worry they said, it's been treated. Um, ok.). The trail had quite a bit of red Georgia clay surface that made for pretty slick conditions. Some of the climbs and descents were very slick and difficult to locate any amount of traction on. If we get the rain we are supposed to on race day, this is going to add to the challenge for sure. Trail conditions and surviving until late in the race would be the name of the game tomorrow. The trail would claim lots of victims.

Up early on Saturday, and to the race site by 08:15. We drove right up to our pits, and got the tent raised. We spent a fair amount of time securing the tent, which, as the person next to us found out, was time well spent. We offered one of the six hour competitors, Kay, the use of our tent to put his stuff in. He was a cool family guy, doing his first endurance race. (He did pretty well too, and I think we convinced him about a new 29er). I lowered my basal rate to its normal 55% reduction right at 09:00, which was one hour before the start. Also I inserted my backup infusion set, and set the target BG in the pump wizard to 150 from its normal 100.

Although the blood glucose was near race perfect earlier in the morning, my nerves where starting to have an affect and I was running a 63 at 09:13. I don't usually get overly nervous before events, but today felt different. I lowered my basal rate to a 80% reduction, and took in 40g of carbs via a nutrition bar. I wasn't feeling very sharp, and knew that it would be a tough day if it ended it a shoot out for position.

Since the plan was long term survivability for the day, George and I decided to start near the back and take out time to pick through the first lap. I just needed to keep the bike upright and see were I was 8 hours after the 10:00 start time.

First lap was pretty calm. LOTS of people going down all around me by pushing the pace too hard. I was sticking to my plan and ran about a 65 min first lap. I did take in two gels (20g of c ea) and 14oz of water with Nuun. BG was rebounding ok, and was now at an 87.

Next two laps were pretty much the same. Nice comfortable pace, same fuel and hydration intake, and my BG was at 125 and 132 after each one of those. The course was taking its toll early, and many riders were throwing it down, having drive train issues, and calling it a day.

After my third lap I stopped at the timing tent and noticed that there were only 3 experts still riding. I spent a couple of minutes confirming this, and doing the math. Jeremy was leading, I was within one finishing spot of that, so no matter what else happens today.....

I was the overall series 12 Hour Expert Solo Champion.

I headed out on lap 4 (which would be my last) to just enjoy the rest of the afternoon, and see what I could do to help George (and others) during their race. George ripped out 6 laps in 6 hours, which is impressive given the amount of climbing and slick trail that was there.
I saw Jeremy about an hour later, and his knee was giving him a bit of trouble. We discussed it, and made a gentleman's agreement to stop were we where and turn no more laps. Since we were no longer riding, it was cool to get a chance to hang out with him and his friends for a couple of hours leading into the awards ceremony. Super nice guy, and hella FAST!

By 15:08 I was off the bike and tested at an 80. The day racing wise was a little anticlimactic, but the overall goal had been achieved.
After I realized I had taken the series, I took 15 or 20 minutes alone to let it soak in. It will sound completely ridiculous to most as, although there are some very fast and talented riders in this fantastic series, I know that this isn't NORBA nationals, the 24 hour worlds champs, or anything close to that.... However, I was still pretty emotional about the result.

I realized that it was simply about the fact I had finally broken through a personal barrier. I could present tangible evidence to myself that I had gained enough control over my diabetes to allow me to race and compete in an endurance race series.

To me endurance mountain bike racing is a lot like living life as a diabetic, and the parallels of the win (in both) were not lost on me at this moment. Have a plan, keep a steady pace, be flexible, have enough knowledge to deal with things that come up, don't overreact to ups and downs, take it one time segment at a time, and be riding at the end.

All the memories about the hundreds of hours of insulin dosage and temporary basal rate trail and error, the sacrifices of myself and the boys for the cause, the analyzing of all related blood glucose data, the unwavering belief of friends like Marcee and Nancy, the BG lows and highs, the successes and the failures, the endless help and support from my sponsors in helping me to raise awareness, the 75,000 finger pricks, the hill repeats in dark in the rain, the night I had a low BG induced seizure while trail riding, the thousands of hours of training, the dangerous diabetes related disaster at Cohutta, the promise I made to a group of children I met while riding who were newly diagnosed with Type 1 that I would claim a victory for them in 2009, the endless testing of different hydration and nutritional intake methods that I had been through, and all the sheer hatred of this disease I have channeled though my pedal strokes over the years to get to the top of a podium descended into my head all at once. I NEVER thought a $40 12x10 plaque with the words “Series Champion” on it would mean so much.

I found a bit of privacy behind the Factory Trek demo truck and trailer, knelt down in the wet grass, and cried.

When I gathered myself back up, I called home. Hearing the outgoing message set me back a little bit. With a slightly cracking voice I left a message that simply said “Hug the kids when you get home, and tell them that daddy won the Piston Cup”.