The goal for 2018 was accomplished. Seana was able to beat the 2017 time. Congratulations to Jenn Orr who was on Seana's RAAM crew 2018. Jenn now holds the 24hr record time, with Seana still claiming the 50+.
A New 50+ Record! With more confidence and training Seana exceeds her previous record. 2019 Here we go!
Elevation sickness becomes an issue around the 300 mile marker. The Body can only handle so much, at lower elevation Seana was back to her normal self. Zion National Park was a great recovery.
I am so pleased and excited to see 34 women participants in the women's solo field at the 6-12-24 World TT Championships in Borrego Springs! The enthusiasm was electric! Another generation of champions coming up! And the results, two of the women on the overall 24-hour podium were rookie 24-hour racers along with Jasmijn Muller, 24-hour Overall Champion: a superstar in the making!Ultracycling is woman-friendly. Women can flourish and are encouraged to race to their potential; men and women race together creating an atmosphere of support and camaraderie.
Despite having an off-day, I managed to win my classification, although my goal was an overall podium position (if not another win!). Racing over 50 is a challenge since physiologically everything changes with menopause. I race with land mines never knowing what or when some new unanticipated challenge will arise. Last year I felt very good the whole way and set the overall women's course record (at age 57) which still holds, but by a thread!
Up until around mile 200, I felt pretty good. In training I have been experiencing unexplained power loss and muscle fatigue at higher mileage. Not wanting to embrace a problem, I ignored it and chalked it up to training too hard. In my last long training ride prior to this race I experienced this problem, but again I did not want to face it, so I ignored it. During the race I struggled to 300 miles and I was really ready to call it a day (Inside myself I see this monster rearing its ugly head, thinking this is it. My racing over 24-hours days are over unless I can get beyond this.). I stopped in the pit to consult with my crew. I had several ideas on what I could do to reduce the muscle pain I was experiencing. I cannot take ibuprofen, so I asked for Aleve. I told my crew that I would give it two more laps to see if it helped. I stopped again after two laps, still in pain. This time my husband, Pat, was there. He contacted our friend Steve Born, Lead Fueling Advisor/Product Development at Hammer Nutrition, for advice (Steve is a three-time Race Across America finisher, the 1994 Furnace Creek 508 Champion and 1999 runner-up, the only cyclist in history to complete a Double Furnace Creek 508, and is the holder of two ultra marathon cycling records. In 2003, Steve was inducted into the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association Hall of Fame, the fifth person to receive this recognition.).
I have known Steve since 1992 when he was just beginning to pursue his passion with sports nutrition. His knowledge and experience are second to none after over 25 years of passionate study when it comes to ultracycling. He offered some advice; thankfully, Karin Weller had an extra supply of Hammer products, so I was able to follow Steve's advice by using Hammer products that he knows well and advised. Since the damage had already been done, I was looking for mitigating further slowing. I had to dig deep because I really had no power and my leg muscles really hurt; Steve's recommendations reduced the muscle pain, but the muscles had suffered injury by now. 400 miles was still in reach, so I set that as my goal; I always need a goal to stay motivated. At this point, I had four 18-mile laps to do and as many 5-mile laps as I had time remaining after that. I did the laps one at a time not thinking about what remained: 3 laps to go, then 2, then 1 and finally on the 5-mile loop. I had time to finish only three laps which would take me to 392.4 miles. I made it to 24-hours and am happy that I persevered with the encouragement of my crew and my family. A big THANKS to Steve Born and Hammer Nutrition!
After RAAM and HooDoo this year, I was not done racing. With only the WTTC in November on my calendar I champed at the bit for another race! The perfect time was the third week in September. This timing offers two races, the SS508 and the Ohio RAAM Challenge. Well, the SS508 is NOT the Furnace Creek 508 (a race in Death Valley that moved to become the SS508). There was no way I was going to race the SS508, the traffic is dangerous, the nights are freezing and the route is boring. I chose Ohio, although with a bit of trepidation. How would I get crew and organize a race in less than three weeks? In no time I had three experienced volunteers for crew: Michael Hunter, Maria Del P. Vasquez and Steve Gerbig. Together we were an unstoppable machine!
The challenge that the Ohio course offered surprised me. I am not sure what I expected, but I loved this course! The scenery is beautiful, painted in near autumn colors. With over 17K of elevation gain in hundreds of miles of 'rollers', I am glad my climbing game was on; these are not the type where you can run down one to get to the top of the other. No. Almost every one of them involves a 9%-14% grade to climb on the other side: a challenge indeed. The countless rollers became relentless, but this means 'fun' for seasoned ultracyclists! I was happy to get past the last nasty climb outside of Chillicothe, but not before asking the crew 'When are these things going to end?!'
Somewhere in those rollers about half way through the race, I went from second place overall to first place. It was a deja vu with Geoff Brunner. During RAAM 2016 he and I traded places in Kansas when I eventualy pulled ahead, but this time it was a single pass.
Michael had special insight to the course after having raced it a couple of times and his 'heads-up' helped on many occasions. On the last big climb, he said, 'Watch out for this one, it is longer and steeper than you might expect.'. I heeded his warning relaxed and didn't fight it. It was dark, so I could not see my Garmin, but I guess that the grade was 12% for a significant bit of it (this could be a distorted perception because of the miles and hills on my legs by that time.).
Steve brought a special calm that comes with experience. He was the man on the mic and dealt with a significant communications issue that coincidentally occurred as we encountered a detour. As the lead rider, you end up being the final course scout, so if there are course problems detours etc, you have to deal with it. Typically this involves communicating with hq and rerouting on the fly while updating hq so that the following riders are aware of the issues.
Maria was the nerve center and she was the social media maven. With laser-like focus, she understood that efficiency is the prime goal of the crew. She was ecstatic to achieved a personal milestone during the race (she tells the story better than I).
When will you go for your Triple RAAM Challenge?
I love to train. People frequently ask me why I come back to RAAM again and again. Much of my life has been about training and focus. When I was a child, I was a swimmer on a national team; I practiced twice a day for two hours, often riding my bike to practice. I learned to be independently hard working at a very young age due to my mother's mental illness; although devastating to the family, it gave me strength and focus. I thrived on the consistency of training and it is my 'happy place'. Thus, RAAM training is a natural for me. RAAM to me is not just a race, but a lifestyle, one that I like, that fits who I am. I thrive on working hard. I thrive on having one main goal to work toward. I thrive on being fit. Training keeps my body and mind young. I do not always have to succeed in the usual sense; success is always doing your best and learning from mistakes to make your best better. Success to me is a 'big picture' thing. My real goal at this time in my life is to stay 'young' and vibrant for my whole life. RAAM helps me achieve that, I suspect it is the same for people like Valerio Zamboni and Nancy Guth, two people who have not let age deter them. With all that said, it is still desirable to finish RAAM, the goal should always be to finish. I hope that my best in the given circumstances gets me to the finish: sometimes it is a record but other times it is a DNF (did not finish). The point is that it is my best. If my best effort does not match my immediate goal then a post-mortem is in order. But this also fits me, I love problem solving! I cannot race like I used to, so riding and racing in my fifties has been a challenge and learning experience trying to reconcile my thirty-five-year-old mind with the limitations imposed by an older body.
Since I arrived home from RAAM 2017, my husband and I have had several discussions on what went wrong. My goal was to improve my 50+ record time by a significant amount. We made a lot of positive changes leading up to the race so this goal was attainable. I drove my on-the-bike training to be the best in years; although my gym time had decreased, I figured that that would have negligible effect and that seemed to have held true. I improved my saddle situation and I had a good strategy to get over the Rockies in a better than pathetic fashion. These methods proved themselves somewhat, at least to Blanca, Colorado; the saddle situation was better than 2016 and worlds better than in 2015 when it caused my DNF.
During one of our conversations, I expressed to Pat that given all of the complications in our lives over the last year, I should have stayed home and made plans for 2018. "Yea, like that would have ever happened.", was his response! Pat's father had gotten progressively more ill over the last year and we knew that God was going to call him home soon; Pat needed to devote his time to his Dad and understandably could not plan to be on my RAAM crew. The funeral was the Friday before we left for Oceanside and neither of us was in the best shape emotionally (he went with us to Oceanside to assist preparation and to see me off).
I had not prepared for RAAM as usual regarding all of the ancillary things to training. I had left a lot of loose-ends untied due to life getting in the way and living in the sticks which limits the availablity of help, but I thought I was okay given my experience. Unfortunately and retrosepectively, the lack of preparation combined with Pat not being there left me feeling not very confident in the situation.
As I have gotten older, I find that I can get by on less sleep and I am able to ride seemingly forever, albeit not as fast as I used to be. In 2016, I took sleep breaks when I was not quite sleepy, so this year I thought I could save some real time in that regard. Now, when Pat participates on the crew, he is my brain away from brain; he is my common sense and reigns me in from doing stupid things. (A big drawback to being as experienced as I am, is that people think I always know what I am doing and do not question me.) Ahead of the race, I decided to ride to Cortez, CO, before sleep: Cortez came and went; Durango came and went. Suddenly, about 10 miles before Pagosa Springs, I decided to sleep; I stopped in a dangerous spot and the sleep van could not get to me. My first sleep was an hour or so completely upright in a car seat after riding for over 1000 miles.
If Pat had been there, he would have forced me to sleep in Cortez and he would not have allowed me to stop in a dangerous place to sleep. In defense of my crew, I have a very strong personality and with my experience I am difficult to question. I am quite headstrong and uncontrollable. This is no affront to my crew! They did an excellent job and I would have every one of them back in a heartbeat! I was the problem.
I went over 1000 miles without stopping except for a few potty stops. Perhaps this might have worked with a younger body, but I have a 'young' mind attached to an older body and I really need to synch the two. Altitude and I are not friends. That with no rest resulted in extreme edema that settled in my legs and undercarriage where the excess fluid began to cause tissue breakdown. I had seen this before and it caused a very painful DNF in Arkansas in 1996. I was not going to reach my goal and I lacked confidence in the logistics, so I decided unilaterally to stop my race. I felt good mentally and followed the rule to never stop or quit during a 'bad patch'.
The lesson learned is that I need Pat for success. I will not attempt RAAM again without him there. Pat's response: palm-slap to forehead.