Thursday, April 15, 2010

HOS 200 Race report

The Heart of the South 200 started at 5am on Saturday morning. It was dark. Like, really dark. And cold. About 40 degrees. But the high was slated to be 75, so it was all about layering. We were just outside Birmingham, AL, which is gorgeous country. There were probably 25 of us that started the race (small, I know) and we had a nice paceline going. In the dark, pace lines can be tricky. I was incredibly grateful that there were a few recumbants that stay in the back, for drafting purposes, and have huge spotlights. My little light peetered out after about an hour because I forgot to charge it. Duh!

This is the description of the beginning of the course from the website:
Starting you will encounter some short sharp hills before getting out of the Cahaba River area; by mile 20 these are gone. The next few miles are rolling hills

Before long, the sun began to rise. And the sky was lit up all fushia and orange. It was breath taking! We passed through farmland, rolling hills, lush green fields full of cows and horses and the occasional barn or house. The crowd of cyclists started to break up a bit, but six of our seven were still together at mile 30.

And that's when I felt that pee. But I held on until someone else absolutely had to go. Three of us stopped together and the other three of our team went on ahead in the lead pack. These were also the only three of our team that had done the race the year before. So, it was me, my buddy Ackerman, whom I train with pretty consistently, and Kromer, who is a climbing machine and very, very nice guy that I'd had little riding experience with prior to this double century.

After some rolling hills, we hit some major fog and assumed we were near a body of water. It wasn't until we passed the dam that we were able to see the lake and the people fishing on it.

We paused at mile 40 for the first check-in and to refill water bottles. We were all still feeling quite spry. It wasn't even 7am, so that's pretty normal, I suppose.

We went through some flats and took five minute pulls. Ackerman started giving us a guided bird tour. And we came across wild turkeys. But not very many people.

We stopped again at mile 70, where our SAG was waiting in the parking lot of a small car dealership. We did our business, refueled, and told SAG to meet us again in about 20 miles. Between miles 85 and 92, the roads had been repaved and covered the marker where there was a turn. Just before we hit it, we stopped to ask a couple locals (who thought we were absolutely NUTS) if we were on the right track. We hit a few mile+ climbs that were brutal fun. We were aware that the real climbs started after the 100 mile mark. And that's when Ackerman said "If we haven't climbed a mountain yet, I'm in trouble".

And here's how the remainder of the ride is described:
After the back roads you end up at route 78 and the last two significantly long sections of climbing. The first is the run up to Cheaha Mountain. The Park Service recently put its’ famous stone and tar covering on the surface of the road. ... since this is a “scenic” road, there are four steep climbs. A profile has been created, click here; Scenic Highway 281.

Ok, so, this part wasn't so bad. I was still feeling pretty fresh. We'd hit the century mark at about five hours and we'd all been surprised at how great we were feeling. I took off and Kromer joined me. We had also started playing tag with a group of four other cyclists, one of whom was another female. She'd done the 500 mile ride a couple years ago. Sounds insane to me! But, anyway, she's telling us a little about the course and everyone is still smiling...
After this section you start the climb of Mount Cheaha, a longer, steady climb to the highest point in Alabama. A profile has been created, click here; Mount Cheaha.

This is when things turned sour. The sun had come out. My forearms were on fire. I couldn't get my breathing under control. I hadn't eaten in almost two hours. And I was feeling a little dizy. I started to question my ability to even finish the race. I was on the back of my saddle grinding in my smallest gear, willing my legs to turn over. Every time I looked up, I could see Kromer ahead of me. And I swear, he never stopped going up.

And then finally...sweet relief!!! Our SAG was at the top of Cheaha. He had a Gatorade bottle and a water bottle in his hands and was ready to pass them off. But I was ready to cry. And get off my bike. Or quit. I yelled to him "DON'T LEAVE!". It must've been a pretty convincing wimper because he stayed. 

I got some fluids and some food and salt tabs. And took a pee. And my mood lifted as I saw Ackerman rising over the crest of the mountain. Unfortunately, his mood was much like mine when I had arrived at that spot - foul. He smarted off something. We all stripped some more clothes and hopped back on our bikes. It was close to 75 degrees at that point. And not a cloud in the sky.

And this was what came next:
A nice decent, with some ups and downs on the way and then back in the flatter lands of rolling terrain, and across another dam, south of the first crossed, same river. Getting close to the finish there are two 1.5 mile climbs, shown on the profile; Last Two Climbs

Kromer and I lost Ackerman on the downhill as he had some technical difficulty with his gearing. We bombed through some rollers. We stopped around mile 135. And while 65 miles doesn't seem like that much in the grand scheme of things, my legs were thinking differently. They wanted it to be over. But my mind knew there was much more to come.

There were potty breaks and reapplications of Chamois Butt'r (which I HIGHLY endorse). And eating of peanut butter crackers. There were cows and horses and even an emu farm!

Kromer and I continued to play tag with that group of four I mentioned earlier. We hit a check point with about 50 miles remaining, just after picking up Ackerman again. We filled up with water there and ran into our SAG just a few miles later. We stopped and I had the most amazing thing of the ice cold Coke!

Kromer and I took off and Ack decided to rest a while. The two of us took turns pulling and worked together those last miles. It was rough. And I was whiney. But at that point, I knew there were only a couple hours remaining. By the time we hit those last two big climbs, my legs were toast. But I was so so so relieved to see the Cracker Barrel parking lot (ie - the finish) at 11 hours 53 mins, just under that 12 hour goal. I was second female (although there were only four of us) and 9th finisher overall. My coach set a new course record (in 10:35!!!) and my teammate, Missy, set a new women's course record in 10:55.

Afterward, we showered, had bar-b-que and hit the sack. I thought I'd not want to be on the bike for days...but don't ya know, I've ridden the last two nights :)


zencycle said...

200 miles in 12 hours with big hills - excellent work.

Colliers Arnold said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Morgan said...


I am literally speechless.

You are amazing.

That is all.

Adam said...

GOOD LORD. I can't even imagine this. how many cals did you calculate that you burned during something like this!?!?

way to fight through the deamons and get it done. all 200 miles of it.

Amanda said...

@Adam - Ackerman and Kromer both had on their Garmins, which indicated a calorie burn of 12,800 and 12,500 respectively. But I'm a few pounds lighter

Sean in DC said...

Is this a new distance PR?

Thanks for the butt'r recommendation! I'll give that one a shot after I slather my way through my "udderly smooth."

Are you sore at all? You can't tell me you rode 200 miles and your ass isn't KILLING you right now.

What's next?? (i can't even imagine how you follow this up!)

Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) said...

Wow...that is amazing! I can't believe you rode 200miles! Congrats on an awesome ride. :)

Oh, and I totally would have reapplied chamois butter too..ha ha!

Christi said...

You go girl! That is an absolutely great feat! I think I will add a 200 mile ride on my list!

Ryan said...

Yikes...what's next???100 mile ultra run? Hmmm

Marni said...

Unbelievable!! I bet you were ready to be OFF the bike (but that feeling didn't last long :)
Congrats to you and the other women for demonstrating your tough endurance!

Melissa said...

Hey I got a chance to read your race report. That is an awesome time for the legnth of ride. Congrats.. I loved reading how your were feeling like toast but then you carried on regardless.