The Fat 40 is over for another year. This has come to be my annual 'rite of passage' it seems. This year was as memorable as every other year. I just wish it was more positive! :-) The Ride
The ride this year was grueling. Simple as that. Last year I had just snuck under 4 hours for the event finishing in 3:59:55. I was hopeful that I would meet that mark. That and finishing were my only objectives. I surely expected to do better than 2002 when I did 4:25:13 and I knew I wouldn't even approach my best time from the first year I did it in 2001 of 3:44:00 (including a couple of flats).
As I rolled through the finish line at 4:41:32 I had survived my worst beating on the dirt of the Chequamegon that I had ever felt. There were solid rains earlier in the week and the course was pretty wet. The trails just felt like they were glue. As soon as you stopped pedaling you stopped, there was just no momentum.
This was my hardest 40 yet. I sort of lost it on the trail. My grandma reads this site so I'm not going to share some of the words that were coming through my mind, but they were choice.
Every cyclist at some point bonks. If you are not familiar with that term, it simply means you are on empty. You have not eaten, you have no more glycogen left, your muscles are completely empty. You're head can't keep a thought. You feel like a zombie on the bike. A lot of people think they have bonked, but really they were just hungry. When you forget what was happening for the last 10 minutes, then you've really bonked.
I've bonked before. And just like everyone else, I've sworn never to do it again. Well, I did it again, and this time on the very unforgiving trails of the Fat 40.
When I took off I felt a little uncomfortable. I had a waffle early in the morning and some oatmeal and it was still in my stomach. Whenever my heart rate got way up there it felt really uncomfortable. So, my genius solution was to skip some food. I waited until I was hungry. At this point, I'm toast and I just don't know it yet. About 28 miles in and a lot of pain later I realized that I could barely keep the pedals going. My head was light and I wasn't really comprehending everything going on. I was in real trouble. At the next stop I took on two bananas and some gatorade and I could fee the sugar instantly. However, it's nearly impossible to work yourself out of the hole dug by bonking.
After the race my inventory of what I had eaten showed that I ate about half of what I should have taken in. I would normally eat 300 calories an hour, so 1,200 calories on the 40 on a four hour pace. I figure I had about half of that. What a rookie move.
This was the first year on my new Specialized M4 Stumpjumper FSR Elite. Overall I was very pleased with the bike. It took the punishment of the course without any problems. I did appreciate the additional comfort of full-suspension over the hard-tail I had always ridden in the past. I did find climbing harder just because I'm an out-of-the-seat climber and when I did that the bike turned into a pogo stick. That is as much my problem as the bikes though, so I won't get too upset about that. All in all, very good.
I was also lucky not to have any flats since I realized 5 minutes before the start that I forgot to bring a trail pump with me. Oops!
I've always thought it would be fun to have someone riding in the 40 with me so this year I convinced by brother-in-law Dennis Daily to ride. I've known many people that ride in the past, like Jim Rikkers, but they are much faster than I.
Of course having your brother-in-law ride means there is at least a competition for pride to win. I have to tip my hat to the rookie who finished in 4:34:09, a full 7 minutes and 23 seconds before I did. It looked like he had a "fun" time, or at least as much fun as anyone has there. I will have to shoot for a rematch next year.
The Finish Line
I crossed the finish line and just sat for a long time. I really felt defeated by the course this year. Various promises were made to myself about training better next year, dropping weight, etc. I know I will be back (lottery provided!) even though I can't imagine it right now. The pain dissapears, the fun stays.