I have finally broken the 24hr mark on a ride. This was my first attempt at this with 1 complete overnight ride prior. I have plenty of 10-15 hour rides under my belt and plenty of riding at night, but I needed to combine everything into 1 ride.
Extended rests at Seaside and Shelton then the ferry ride from Bremerton to Seattle (~3 hours total)
So overall not the fastest, furthest or most riding time in 28 hours but still a solid effort considering it was at the end of a week of riding with a loaded bike.
Why would I do this?
Usually if I talk about doing an extended ride like this, then people will ask “why?”. Motivations for this kind of thing can vary and it is sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly. This particular ride was to get me home in time for my next shift at work, but I could have picked a shorter route or taken a train/bus home if that was the only motivation. I think the main motivation is seeing how far I can push myself. There is a curiosity in trying. Starting the ride I had confidence that I would make it home safely, but I didn’t know what it would be like 20+ hours in. You can’t know your limits until you try to go past them.
The physical aspect:
The route I chose was pretty straightforward. There wasn’t a huge amount of climbing for the distance and it was all on paved roads. At the time of this ride I was in peak condition for the season and was coming off a decent rest day after some big rides. I kept a moderate pace the whole time and never tried to push too hard. This kept me feeling reasonably well for the duration of the ride.
There was definitely points where my legs, knees or back weren’t feeling particularly good, but stopping and stretching usually alleviated that. I was very conscious of keeping plenty of food and water on hand so I never ran into bonking or dehydration. This is a key thing that I have learned on long rides. If properly fueled then endurance events are much easier to manage. So with a good baseline training an endurance event turns into more of a mental game rather than just a physical one. Dealing with discomfort is easy enough for short amounts of time. If that same discomfort is prolonged to hours then it takes a mental shift to deal with that.
The mental aspect:
Ultra endurance is a mental game. And this ride was an amazing challenge. The first portion of the ride (from 8am to 8pm) wasn’t too tough. The normal things that creep into the mind while riding came and went and I kept pedaling. Things really got intense when it got dark. Night riding has its challenges even when fresh, but they are amplified when tired.
Around 10pm I was feeling drowsy. That is around my normal bedtime so it was expected. I stopped and made some coffee then kept going. Thinking back to the night portion of my ride, I don’t remember a whole lot. I was on some roads I hadn’t been on before and it was mostly long stretches of highway with no cars and no intersections so it seemed to blend together. This was the hardest part mentally. Fatigue starts to set in and getting drowsy can be dangerous so I had to focus on pedaling and following the lines on the road. This is also when all sorts of weird thoughts would pop into my head. I have read about and talked to people who have done ultra endurance events and it seems like this part of the night is the hardest. There were many times where I wanted to just stop. There were doubts and fears and a number of negative thoughts and emotions that would arise. Focusing on pedaling would be the constant. The pain and discomfort, as well as the random thoughts would come and go, but I had to continue pedaling one foot at a time.
Around 6am it started to get lighter and I was rolling into Shelton. This triggered a huge change in mindset. I stopped at a gas station and picked up some food and coffee. Although on a normal day the mediocre coffee and greasy food would have only been adequate at best; after riding for almost a whole day this was the best meal ever. I was fueled and energized and the sun was up so I was ready to keep pushing.
I was in good spirits the rest of the ride and it was fairly easy to keep positive. So after the dark part of the night the rest was easy. Maybe that’s an analogy for life, but maybe that’s a stretch.
Plans for next time:
It would be nice to make the starting and ending point at home so I wouldn’t have as much gear with me. This would allow me to go a faster pace and possibly do more miles or a route with more climbing. I know what to expect during such a long ride now so I can better prepare mentally for the night section. It would also be interesting to ride the whole thing with another person or two. Sometimes having someone to ride with can give motivation when you are struggling; this can help keep a faster pace if both riders are in similar shape and trade off leading. Whatever the exact situation is, I do plan on doing more long rides like this; I just have to make the time to do it.