14hrs 30mins in my pain cave.
Just as I finished my second vEveresting within a week a friend forwarded a post about the v360km+ happening the following Friday. The 36ONE mtb race was supposed to be on 24th/25th April, which I had entered, but due to Covid-19 a few guys had organised a virtual race on Zwift instead. At that moment I was like ‘no thank you, I’ve done enough long rides for now!’ But after a couple of days thinking about it, mentioning it to my coach and checking with my boyfriend that he didn’t mind if I did it (he just rolled his eyes! He already knows I’m a little crazy!) I decided why not?! I knew my legs would be ok, I was just concerned if I’d mentally cope. These long rides on indoor trainers take a huge amount of mental strength, which in itself is exhausting. But there seemed to be a great bunch of people planning to do it, which would help with motivation, and we would raise money for SA Harvest, so at least all of our cycling had a purpose!
Having done my two vEverests I knew what was ahead of me. The most important things needed for these looooong indoor rides are:
• Good bib shorts: I use Pavé Performance Cycling bib shorts.
• Comfortable saddles: I use ISM saddles on all my bikes – nobody wants any pain down there and ISM saddles make you sit on your sit bones so you don’t have pressure elsewhere.
• Lots of anti-chafe cream. I use Wintergreen. Apply it often throughout the ride.
• Plenty of food: Have all your usual race nutrition but have other stuff too as you never know what you might crave after 10hours and you might struggle to eat your usual stuff. I’ve listed what I ate below.
• Electrolytes: don’t just drink water. If you just drink water you are just flushing your system. You need to replace the salt which you are losing when you’re sweating. Sodium not only maintains fluid balance but assists in the absorption of nutrients in the gut, and is needed for nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction.
• Ice and a fan: I was eating ice by the end to try get my core temperature down.
• Checkpoints/laps: write these down so you can check them off. After several hours cycling your head is all over the place so you can easily forget how many laps you’ve done and it’s also nice to have each lap or checkpoint as something to aim for and so the whole thing is broken into sections which makes it seem easier.
The start was 3pm on Friday. But before this we needed to register our basic details on a spreadsheet, register on ZwiftPower, weigh ourselves, select a mountain bike on Zwift (we were allowed to have any bike on the indoor trainer), calibrate our trainers on Zwift, have the Zwift trainer difficulty setting set to MAX (makes the climbs feel 100% realistic), add v360km+ to our names (so we can spot everyone) and then send pics of all of this the group. And I made a donation to the SA Harvest.
The route was 5 laps of Watopia Pretzel which would mean 6800m of climbing. Thanks Dion! 🥵 It was a tough route (see pic below or check out the link: https://zwiftinsider.com/the-pretzel/); basically a 30min climb followed by a 10min hectic climb (17% gradient in place!) then all the way back down, with some sneaky little uphill bits!, then a long flat section, then do the 30 min climb again but in reverse (and fortunately not the extra climb on top), then down to a short flat section to complete the lap.
We had a 3pm Meet Up on Zwift and then we were supposed to easy pedal to the arch but everyone seemed to shoot off from the word go. I set off a bit too hard for fear of being left behind! I quickly reminded myself that there was a long way to go and not to burn matches early as I’d only suffer later. I know roughly what power I can hold for several hours. (My average power for the 14 hours 30 mins ended up as 176w (2.8w/kg) and average heart rate 133) I recognised a couple of the ladies names around me and I tried not to be too competitive 🙄🤣 I had no idea if there were any ladies in front. The first climb came quite quickly and I then managed to get into a rhythm and settle my heart rate.
We had checkpoints where we needed to submit the time of day and there was a link to a leadboard but it was too much for my phone to cope with so I just stayed on the checkpoint page. I also took screenshots at the checkpoints for proof and in case Zwift crashed! I used the KOM leadboard on screen which gave me a rough idea where I was placing. There was a name A.C. which confused me for a while; they were ahead of me start with but when I passed them the avatar looked quite manly (all the avatars kind of look the same but this one had short hair and slightly chunkier (😂) than a female and then I remembered someone saying they were using their wife’s Zwift account. So it looked like I was leading the ladies from more or less the start and maybe around 14th overall early on.
I rode my Trek Speed Concept tt bike which has a 50/39 crank and 11-28t rear cassette. (I don’t own a road bike and I’ve never tried to fit my mountain bike on my Kickr.) Perfect for climbing but I ran out of gears on the downhills, plus I couldn’t use the bottom couple of gears as it sounded like my Kickr was going to take off!
Usually on long indoor rides I watch Netflix movies or YouTube (GTN or Graham Norton or comedy shows) but this time, for over 14hours I basically just watched Zwift on my laptop, with YouTube music on the TV. And I switched between WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and Zwift Companion App on my phone; thanks for all the messages of encouragement and the v360km+ WhatsApp chat was entertaining! The gradient of the route changed constantly, sometimes quite abruptly, so you needed to be ready to change gear. I had a ‘schoolboy error’ moment early on when my chain slipped when changing from the big blade to small blade and got stuck. Fortunately I got it sorted quickly without braking anything!
Cobus was awesome 🥰He filled my bottles with water and ice whenever I needed. And he brought me coffee and pizza, before he headed off to bed at 11pm.
I had all my food and drinks alongside my bike so I could easily reach anything I needed. I had a quick toilet stop after lap 2 and then before the last lap, where I also grabbed more ice and some emergency energy drinks from the fridge!
I had told myself that on my last lap I could eat or drink anything (all the bad sugary things or whatever I felt I wanted). I was actually struggling to eat by now. I ended up having two cans of red bull, a can of coke and forced down a BarOne chocolate bar in the last 3 hours.
I strangely enjoyed the climbs, despite how tough they were! My glutes were firing and I felt strong. I’ve done a lot of hill training in the past few months prior to Covid-19 in prep for The 36ONE and Celtman before they were cancelled. I struggled more on the flat sections, which seemed to go on forever!
Throughout the race I had been slowly picking off v360km+ riders. I was guessing I was in the top 10 overall. Towards the end I was lapping some riders and I kept seeing Waldo from Pure Savage ahead of me on the list of riders on the side of the screen. I seemed to gain on him on the climbs but he got away from me on the descents.
At 5:30am I completed the 361km, although I wasn’t sure if this was the finish, so I cycled on to the arch (362km) just in case!, completing the 5 laps. I was delighted to make the top 5 overall and first Lady. I really enjoyed the ‘race’. It was super tough and despite it taking 14.5 hours it actually went very quickly! My legs definitely felt more tender after this v360km+ race than after vEveresting.
139 registered, 105 started, 50 finished.
Thank you to the organisers and a huge well done to all the riders, however far you cycled!
Over R100,000 has been raised for SA Harvest. Donations still being accepted until 30th April: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/v361-ultra
What I drank and ate:
1 x Pruvit
4 x Nuun electrolytes
2 x Rehidrate
1 x Ice Tea
1 x Coke
2 x Red bull
2 x Coffee
3 x Banana bread slices
4 x Marmite and cheese sandwiches
1 x pizza
1 x Trek Oat bar
1 x tangerine
1 x Farbar
1 x BarOne
1 x banana
Jelly sweets (handful)
Start time: Friday 15:00
1st lap (72km): 17:42
2nd lap (144km): 20:31
3rd lap (216km): 23:29
4th lap (288km): 02:26
5th lap (362km): 05:32
Total time: 14hrs30mins