The week after New Years we rolled into Lakeland for my 1 year anniversary of starting this crazy racing journey. El Lagarto was my first 6 hour endurance race last year, and even though it was cold, wet, and the toughest course I’ve ever seen before or since, I was hooked. That was run by Red Trail Racing who is no more, but they’d always have 2 separate courses. The Red Course was all the toughest options, and the Corporate Course was an easier version for racers looking for something a little less insane. With El Lagarto moving over to Gone Riding, Dave Berger combined both of those courses into one challenging but rideable course on which we all could compete for 6 hours.
Coming off of the fall XC season and looking forward to the Endurance Season, I was ready to go on race day. There were people there competing as teams, solo, and for 3 and 6 hours, so whatever you want to do there’s a class for you. We motopaced out with Dave’s sweet Honda Trail and then when he let us loose we took off in a far more responsible manner than the group did at the Club Scrub 6 hour race at Jonathan Dickinson State Park a few weeks earlier.
Whether that was because there was no $100 preme on the line or that these guys and girls knew we had a long 6 hours ahead of us, I greatly appreciated the reasonable pace and went into the woods towards the front. Not sure who was ahead or behind me that was racing my class (Amateur 6 hour Solo), I just tried to press on at a fast pace for the first half a lap to make sure I was through any traffic before I settled into my endurance pace.
The course was so good, nothing too technical and brutal but enough to keep you on your toes, and I settled into a pace that felt comfortable. I knew the laps would be about 40 minutes, so I had tried to mix my bottles of Infinit Nutrition mix to be about 1 bottle per lap (which I miscalculated by 25%), so finishing up the first lap I grabbed a bottle and went back into the woods. I was trying to target a certain power for the entire lap, but felt so good I was mostly ignoring the data on my Garmin Edge 520 and just clicking off laps.
Laps 2, 3 and 4 went off without a hitch and I was in a groove out there riding by myself. At the end of lap 5 I stopped to grab an energy drink and take a little break as we were around 3 hours in. The problem was, I hadn’t set out the energy drink, so I ran around the pits looking for it and couldn’t find it. Lesson learned: get your nutrition setup before you get rolling, because in the middle of the race you’re not going to find it.
After a 4-5 minute scavenger hunt I just grabbed a bottle of Infinit and went back out on the course. All I could think about for the entire 6th lap was where my energy drink was, and that distracted me from the task at hand. Jemma was out on course taking awesome pictures as usual, so I asked her (gruffly) if she could find me an energy drink before the start of my next lap which she did graciously. Whether it was the frustration and distraction about the stupid energy drink or the cumulative pace starting to add up on my legs, I could tell I wasn’t riding as well on lap 6 and 7 as I had previously.
Not really knowing where I was in the standings I pressed on to the 8th lap, already battling cramps and trying to do the math to see if a 9th lap was going to be possible. Another racer came by me in the 8th lap who I thought was in my class, I tried to hang on his wheel but the cramps were just taking over and I couldn’t hold his pace. I could see another rider about 5 minutes behind me, and some rough math told me that I’d have BARELY enough time to do another lap when I crossed the finish line at the end of the 8th lap.
With a little less than 45 minutes on the clock, I decided to sit at 8 laps and see where the day played out. It was then I found out that I was actually leading the class for the first 7 laps, and the guy that passed me on lap 8 was the new leader. Sitting in my chair it was too late to try and go back out, but another rider came through and went back out. I looked at the time and saw less than 40 minutes remaining, so I wasn’t particularly concerned as I battled cramps and reflected on the day. Turns out we had started the race a little bit after 9am, so that last rider on course had enough time to finish a lap and jump me in the final standings.
I ended up in 3rd place on the day which is awesome, but definitely left wondering what could have been if I made a few different choices. The best thing about these races is meeting new people and I was definitely able to do that, we all shared the experience of suffering out on the course and overcoming adversity. With great sponsors like Florida Beer Company, we enjoyed catching up after the race and sharing stories of what we saw and how we felt. Even after 1 year of racing, I’m still learning new things and getting stronger every week. I’m really looking forward to this Endurance season and seeing how I can continue to improve and grow. Hope to see you all out there Jan 21st at Snow Hill.
Jemma grabbed these photos and then some, be sure to check them out and use them for your latest bike race profile photo! We really hope you enjoy them, check out the full El Lagarto 2018 Endurance Race Gallery and sneak peek below!