On November 4-5 I participated on a mixed 2-person relay team in the 24 hour race at the 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships (WTTC) in Borrego Springs, CA. This event has a special place in my heart as the 24 hour solo race was my first experience in ultracycling in 2017, and I’ve raced that event every year that it’s been held since then (it was canceled in 2020 during the pandemic). I started working with Pav about three months ago after a disappointing first half of the year and wasn’t sure what my fitness or motivation would look like by race day, so I switched from the solo division to a two-person relay for the first time and asked my friend Rich to join me. Rich hadn’t been doing much riding until I asked him to race with me, but he was excited to get back on his bike and see what he could do. His approach to training is almost the polar opposite to my own. He doesn’t work with a coach and his idea of training is to just go out and ride as hard as he can whenever he can and keep increasing the distance of his long rides while trying to hold a pace of at least 20 mph. When he joined me for some of my long base rides, he would sit on my wheel and tell me he understood what I was doing but that it was so hard mentally for him to be taking it so easy. Nevertheless, I think we were both feeling pretty confident about our fitness by race day. We had an outside goal of hitting 500 miles in 24 hours, which would have broken the course record for a relay team (which I believe is actually held by Rich and his brother, but is still less than the 24 hour solo course record), but I don’t think we really knew if we were capable of hitting that number and we also knew it would depend a lot on the weather come race day. Fortunately, as the day drew closer, the forecast was looking very favorable. The wind in Borrego Springs can be humbling, especially when it’s blowing from the west which results in a headwind on a long false flat on the southern end of the 18 mile loop. The wind forecast was minimal, daytime temps were reasonable, but we were bracing for some very cold overnight temperatures in the low 40’s.
We decided that I would take the first lap at the 5 pm start time, so I lined up for the 4th starting wave with the other relay teams and some of the lower tier solo racers. I was supposed to be pacing myself fairly easily for the first few laps, but I think we all know how that goes. In trying to separate myself from the other racers while also overtaking the solo racers who had started in front of me, I was well into my red zone for most of the first lap. It was almost a blessing that I got a front flat about 35 minutes in and had to take a few minutes to calm down while I changed it. Fortunately, I got back on the road within about five minutes and still finished the first lap in about 56 minutes for my slowest lap of the race. I passed off the timing chip to Rich and then headed to our RV to regroup and rest until I’d have to head back to the pit area to ride again. I had to spend a few extra minutes replacing my flat repair supplies, but otherwise tried to settle into a routine that became consistent over almost every break. I set a timer for 40 minutes as soon as I got off the bike, got a new bottle ready for the next lap, made sure to finish the bottle I had on my bike and keep sipping fluids in between, made sure lights were fresh for the next lap, drank an Ensure Plus, and then settled into lay flat on my back in the RV until the timer went off. I occasionally took in some solid food if I was feeling hungry, but tried to stick to a mostly liquid diet. I had one or two Rice Krispy treats and some M&M’s and I think I had a packet of peanut butter at one point. Towards the end I started taking in some Skratch chew and Clif Shot Bloks as well. I was using Skratch electrolyte mix for fluids.
Rich and I stuck to our plan to continue riding one lap each with a contingency plan to have someone take an extra lap if the other person needed a longer break. Fortunately that never happened. I was a little concerned that I went a little too hard on my first two laps and was starting to cramp up after my first 3-4 laps. My power did gradually drop over the course of the race, but not drastically, and my splits were impressively consistent. Most of my 18 mile laps were between about 52 and 56 minutes.
During the final 90 minutes of the race, they divert us to a smaller loop of about 5 miles. I came in from the last 18 mile loop with less than an hour on the clock. Rich took off to do two short loops with the plan that I would take over to finish off the remaining time on the clock. Rich’s brother Terry had been hanging out in the pit area for most of the race to help facilitate our exchanges. As we were waiting for Rich to come back in we started looking at how much time was left on the clock. I told him I figured it would be close, but I might be able to push it out to two more short loops. He said that would be a “pretty tall ask”, which I took as a challenge. With about 28 minutes left on the clock, I started at an aggressive pace with every intention of emptying the tank. I looked at my time as I came in from the first lap and saw about 13 ½ minutes and rolled through for a second loop. I kept looking at my watch knowing that I had until 5:03 pm to finish in order to get credit for the lap. When I rounded the final corner with a few minutes left, I knew I had it in the bag so I finished it off and we had our own little celebration at the finish. I hadn’t been bothering to check our stats or position in the race since the night before when I saw that another mixed relay team had at least one full loop of 18 miles on us. We were just racing our own race and having some fun in the process. We both left everything out on the course and were satisfied that we couldn’t have squeezed anymore out of ourselves that day.
Our final stats:
Total Distance: 469.2 miles (later downgraded to 464.4 miles because Rich missed the timing mat for one of his short loops)
2nd place overall in relay division and 2nd place in Mixed 2-person relay 50-59 age group
7th place out of 90 finishers overall (meaning that five solo racers completed more miles than Rich and I together)
I covered about 244 miles of our 469. I recorded my files separately and haven’t attempted to work out averages, but I would estimate that my power output averaged out around 200 W with my speed between 19-20 mph for most of my laps.
It was definitely a new experience to do this race on a relay team compared to racing it solo. In the last five years, I’ve spent so much time racing and training on this course that I arguably know it better than almost anyone in the world. It was strange riding it with a different mentality. When I race solo, I often take advantage of certain sections to allow myself to sit up and get a break from the aero position and to coast to let my legs rest to avoid fatigue later in the race. Doing the relay, I was doing my best to stay aero and pedal the entire time I was on the bike, knowing that I would be spending about half of the race resting in the RV. Thanks to the many hours of workouts on the smart trainer and long base rides on some bike trails, I was able to stay disciplined enough to hold my aero position throughout the race. It was also a fun experience being able to fly around the 18 mile loop at a faster pace than I’m used to riding it. I tend to mentally break the loop into sections and realized I was often coming up to landmarks on the course much more quickly than I anticipated because I was riding so fast.
I’m very thankful to Coach Pav for putting me on a training program that is so different from what I’ve been doing for the last few years. I went into this event with a new sense of confidence and the best fitness I’ve had in about two years now. I’m looking forward to some great races to come. I’ve mostly been a solo racer, but I’m kind of enjoying this relay mentality for now. Next up is two-person Race Across America in June 2023, so hopefully there will be another epic race report to come!