Thursday, September 10, 2020

Utah Mixed Epic Summary and Lesson Learned

 So, I pulled the plug. I believe this is the second big race I ever quit, and I certainly have mixed emotions. I feel I let a lot of people down; Kids on Bikes, the people who donated, and myself.  There were some good things to come out of this though, and I’ll get to those later.

At the Start with Leadville Legend Todd Murray

Heading out of Salt Lake and into the Mountains

Normally, I thrive on these kinds of races and conditions. The harder it is, the more I like it. But this race was different. Almost from the beginning, I wasn’t feeling myself. My body would not acclimate to the heat. The first three days were over mountain ranges and rough terrain, that normally, I would have loved. But the heat, even at 9,000 – 10,000 feet seemed to really take its toll on me. I was constantly, lightheaded, nauseous, and couldn’t force myself to eat. I was riding 15 – 18 hours a day, with almost 30,000 feet of climbing in the first 200+ miles and not eating anywhere near enough.

Typical Day 1 and 1 Terrain

Day 1 and 2 Climbs

Beginning the very first climb off pavement

I just had no appetite. I pushed on, hoping that after three days my body and mind would acclimate, and I’d be able to turn things around. The wind picked up on the evening of the third day and a smoky haze filled the air. I rode into the night, finally stopping and setting up camp around 11:00 PM. I was now out of the mountains and into the desert. I was really looking forward to the incredible views of the Milky Way, typical of the desert night, but instead the haze blocked everything but a hazy orange moon. Getting up and continuing on at approximately 4:30 the next morning, I could smell the haze and smoke as I rode through the early morning. As the sun rose it became obvious that there was a large fire somewhere and the haze was thick. The rest of the day was spent riding through a moonscape looking desert, dealing with heat, smoke, wind, and sand. It was a long day, and I still had no appetite, I was really getting sick of drinking warm plastic tasting water but it was absolutely necessary to stay hydrated. Bloody smoke buggers now turned into a full on running bloody nose. A female racer, Jackie, who I’d been going back and forth with the last couple days caught me after I took a short 15-minute nap. She had a great attitude, only disappointed that we could not enjoy the scenery because of the smoke. I was not so jovial, and my conversation was limited to grunts of displeasure, and statements such as “I’m done”. My attitude and morale were at an all-time low. This really bothers me, because I pride myself in staying positive no matter how tough things get. Eventually, I came into Hanksville, UT a little after dark. I needed to get a hotel, or access to electricity to recharge my lights, Garmin, phone, and backup batteries. Hanksville consists of two gas stations, two motels, a couple of restaurants, and a campground with cabins. I booked a cabin, re-supplied with water and junk food at the gas station, took a shower and ate dinner. Other than a gas station pizza, that was the first real food in four days. My nose was still bleeding off and on and my throat felt like it had been ripped inside out.

Hitting the High Point of the Race

Riding in the Haze

I woke up at 4:30 the next morning to take on the next segment of the race, which was supposed to be the toughest; passing over the Henry Mountains. The wind was blasting, which as far as I could tell, blew the smoke out, but my throat and lungs still burned. My nose was clogged with smoke buggers, that no matter how much I blew, seem to keep coming back. I was feeling weak and nauseated, so I decided to wait until 7:00 when the restaurant opened, and eat breakfast. I had no appetite and was still feeling weak at mid-morning. It was at this point I came to the decision that I was going to have to scratch from the race. I still couldn’t come to grips with that decision, so I thought I would hang around for a day, and see how I felt the next day. Others ahead of me, including my friend Todd Murray (Lisa Iwamiya Murray) did the very same thing, and continued on after a day’s rest.

Not Looking to Well after 4 days of heat, exhaustion, and not eating much

Logistics getting home from Hanksville were complicated. There were no Uber, buses or any other type of commercial services that I could get a ride with. At home we were having contract work done, and my wife could not leave until they finished toward the end of the week.

This is where a miracle happened. One of the good things that came out of this. Brent Colwell, who I met seven years ago, while participating in a weeklong ultra-endurance running race in Costa Rica, reached out to me and asked if he could give me a ride home. I was flabbergasted and speechless. Surely, he couldn’t be serious. He lived in Utah, ( the course went right by his house which I had passed by two days earlier), had the week off from work, and was headed to the mountains in Colorado to do some camping, hiking, and biking, and would be happy to take me with him. This is nothing short of incredible.

We drove through a bit of a snowstorm over Vail Pass and the Eisenhower Tunnel but made it safely back to Colorado Springs some time around midnight. The next day we hooked up with  Steve Bremner, who also ran the ultra-endurance race seven years ago, and we did the “must do while in Colorado Springs” Incline/Barr Trail Loop. For some reason I felt pretty good on this outing, which made me beat myself up even more for quitting the Utah Mixed Epic. However, after Brent left for Leadville, it all came down on me and I slept for almost 13 hours straight and am still feeling wasted. Despite the race being a disaster, we had a great “Coastal Challenge Reunion” and I got to show Brent a little bit of my beloved Colorado Springs.

The other good thing that came out of this, even though I failed to finish, is we raised almost $2,000 for Kids on Bikes. This is the real victory of this whole endeavor. And for that I can’t thank everyone enough. Believe it or not this goes a long way to help KoB accomplish their mission to “…empower all kids to lead healthy, active, and happy lives through bicycling…” Despite my failure, we helped a lot of kids.

Finally, What went wrong?

Over the last two days, I have analyzed and obsessed over what went wrong. As I said above, normally I thrive in tough ultra-endurance challenges. But the answer is simple. It’s exactly, as a coach, I’m always preaching against and preventing my athletes from doing: OverTraining! As my wife Roswitha (Rose DeWitt) said, I never gave myself a chance to fully recover from breaking my back on July 15. Now that I look at my training log, I realize she is absolutely right. I was hideously stupid. Just 2 ½ weeks after breaking my back I did a 100-mile virtual race/ride on Zwift, followed a week later with a 135-mile ride followed a week later with a 165-mile fully packed ride (the naked guy ride). Three days later, six weeks from breaking my back, a big day riding most of the Leadville 100 MTB course followed by another virtual 100-mile race/ride three days after that. Finally, a 100 mile gravel race just 6 days before the start of the Utah Mixed Epic, which started just a little more than eight weeks after breaking my back. Throw in all the riding in between, and this is an extreme example of stupid overtraining. I simply blew it, and as a coach there is no excuse for that. The good news though, is my back feels fine, I’m just exhausted and will recover.

I have nothing but awe and respect for those that are still out there. They will be finishing up over the next two to five days. And everyone still out there deserves huge kudos. The Mixed Utah Epic is no joke.

Thanks for reading, your encouragement, and support of Kids on Bikes.


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