UnBound 200 2022 Recap
This is hard to write. I delayed writing this. Hard to get all of this out...
I started and DNFd the 2021 Unbound XL. There were many factors to the DNF but mental strength and mind set were the biggest issue. That failure and learning opportunity fueled me to come back to the UnBound 200 in 2022.
I changed the way I trained. I changed the way I did strength work. I changed the way I fueled and drank. I worked on my mindset and mental strength. I was more ready than ever. Then I missed the time cut off for Aid Stop #1….
Let’s go back to March….
In March 2022 I completed the MidSouth Double. A 50k on Friday followed by the 100 mile bike on Saturday. After the 50k I was beat up, my right knee was unable to bend. I woke up Saturday and after a test ride I realized I could bike but barely walk. As long as I pedaled or kept my right knee bent when coasting I had no pain.
In the weeks after the MidSouth Double, I realized that my lower right back was pretty messed up from biking wonky for 10 hours. It was a big knot/pain that would act up after 45min-1 hour on the bike. It made it very uncomfortable to sit and bike. So, I did what every athlete would do. I went to the Chiro, cupped my back, yoga, and did proper strength training. Throughout the build up to Unbound, the back was off and on.
I had a 6 hour ride with no pain or stiffness, 2 hour rides where it was almost unbearable, 3 hour rides that were good, and 1 hour rides that were painful. I treated my back more like a tight muscle and not enough like an injury. Minimal time off and not giving it the proper attention.
I knew heading into Unbound my back was going to be a factor, but not as early as it was.
On to Unbound…. Let’s get right into it…
Race morning came early. 3am wake up call to eat and travel from our hotel in Topeka to the start line in Emporia. Pre-race went great. Solid breakfast, good hydration and good mindset. Rolled to the start line about 550am. We had a gorgeous sunrise! A nice orange glow with a good hype atmosphere. The start was delayed by 6 minutes due a train crossing within the first mile of the race route. At 606a we were off.
Very exciting and somewhat fast start to the day! We were quickly on the gravel and I started to settle into a comfortable position and effort. Taking note of my pace and timing to begin with my nutrition. We had a few turns and then onto a straight shot for about 8ish miles headed due west until we turned south. This is where things started to go south.
I felt that familiar pull and tightness in my right lower back. My mind panicked and my whole mindset shifted negative. I was angry. How could this happen so early? I did almost an hour pre-ride on Friday with nothing. I calmed down and continued on. I focused on nutrition and positions and relaxing. I drank and ate. This section was perfect gravel so I diverted all mental energy to staying positive.
Once we turned south, the road conditions started to change a bit but nothing crazy. We had a water crossing or two. This is where my back became painful. I couldn't get comfortable or relax. My mind was not in a good place. I wanted to be here. I wanted to be biking but my body was telling me something different. I stopped once to stretch out my back and glute which helped but only for a few moments. This is also where I started to see what damage Unbound does to the bike. I saw flats and another guy smashing his rear derailleur into place with a rock.
Around mile 20 the road started to deteriorate and became rough, rocky and rutted in places. Nothing I couldn't handle, just needed to focus more. This is also where everything started to blend together. At this point I knew I needed to survive and wouldn't be able to push it. Any higher effort pushing up a hill or just a harder effort resulted in more back pain. My mind started to narrow. I focused on the essentials. Food, water, pedaling. I tried to find a balance of pace that was as fast as possible and did not cause pain. It was slow. 8-10mph.
I told myself here, Do what you can to get first aid. Do not quit.
After what seemed like forever but in reality only a couple of hours I arrived at Water Oasis #1, atop Texaco Hill. The views were pretty but I was in a bad place mentally. The roads were uphill and somewhat rough leading up to the water oasis and that did a number on the back. I averaged 10mph to the aid and the last hour or so was less than that.I was frustrated. I refilled the bottles, ate, and stretched. Then headed out. I noticed at the aid I was the only 200 miler there. I was the back of the pack.
After turning off to the 200 miles course. I was instantly alone. I saw a biker about 1 mile ahead. It was crazy. To be at the Superbowl of gravel and be all alone. I decided here, I was also going to enjoy being alone and enjoy the scenery.
I just continued to peck my way forward. Slowly. Uncomfortably. I finally saw another biker and gave him a tube. He was on his 4th flat! I continued on.
Things blurred here again. We had a decent climb on some Cadillac gravel then turned off onto some rough roads. I actually got passed by a guy and then saw 2 more At mile 50ish when we had a rough downhill on some pretty rough rutted roads I decided to walk down, and the bikers pulled away. I was alone again.
The Course was pretty through here. Big rolling hills. Two lane roads. Time melted together. I was thinking a lot. Thinking about my back, what I did wrong. I was questioning if I was tough or not. I tried to stay positive. It started to rain. The rain had been moving in all day. It wasn't hard or crazy. A steady rain. Alone. Then out of nowhere a guy passes me who went 10 miles the wrong way on the 100 mile course. He was gone in a blur. Alone again.
I walked up a big climb at mile 58. I continued on. My back worsening. The pain worsening. I knew I was not going to make the time cut off for aid 1. Do not quit.
I have specific memories of the next 20 miles but I can't say what mileage or time. My mind was so focused on my back and on the conversation in my head. I remember awesome 2 track roads with mud and tall grass. Two track road along a river. I remember a very rough rocky muddy climb somewhere in the 60’s that I climbed, disregarding my pain. That was my favorite section of road. Here is also where I saw another rider waiting for a jeep to come pick him up. He asked how I was doing. I barely responded. I was listening to a book. That set me off.I was angry. How the hell do I think I am, I said to myself. I am the last f’ing rider. I felt shame and embarrassment.
After that climb and a few more minutes of B roads the roads improved into wide agricultural roads. Fast gravel. This is where I saw the truck coming up behind me with the racer he just picked up and then a jeep coming at me. Both race officials. They stopped behind me as I continued on. I looked back and they were chatting. Knowing I was the last racer on course, I feared they were going to pull me. I only had maybe 8 miles to the aid. But at my pace it was at least 45+minutes. The truck drove past and then the jeep pulled up. He asked if I was okay to finish. I stated I was. I asked, “am I the last racer?'' Yes. He told me he was going to follow me in.
So for the last 40+ minutes I had my own jeep follow car. All my emotions surfurced. I rode with emotions. Anger. Sadness. Failure. Weakness. Finally we came into Eureka. Pavement. I cried. I was mad. Jeep pulled up to confirm my name to let my crew know I was okay and almost there. I pedaled the last mile into the aid. Hung my head and rolled in….
Overall, tough day physically and mentally. Not much else to say besides I gotta get right and I will come to Unbound and conquer it. Third time's the charm.
Water : 162.5 total oz = 20oz/hr
Calories : 2090 total calories = 261 calories/hr