24 hour World Championships Race Debrief
The preparations towards the main goals of the year – the 24 Hour Word Championships – have not been easy at all. First of all Covd-19 made it difficult for us to even get into the U.S. due to travel restrictions. Around 3 weeks before race date we received the permission to travel by the U.S. authorities. Now everything had to be planned and booked. The training was planned by my lovely coach Mads Frank, so with the National Interest Exception in place the training had to be completed.
Five days before race-day me, Mads and our crew boarded in Copenhagen towards Los Angeles. Everything was packed and we were ready.
Arrived in the desert of Borrego Springs we started our temperature specific preparations. The temperature was high (around 40-45 degrees Celsius) and the humidity extremely low – not what we are used to in Denmark. The first training ride was not a pleasure. My heart rate was way too high, and my body was not cooperation well with the heat. We discussed maybe rescheduling the pacing-plan a bit – not the most motivating thing to do so close to race day. As the days went on I started feeling more comfortable in the heat – and the temperatures went a bit down. I was starting to feel ready for the 24 hour world championships.
The race started at 05.00 PM. Something I have never tried from the European ultra races . I was a bit tense about how the late start would affect the race and my rhythm during the 24 hour world championships. The day started as usual with a breakfast and then the last preparations before the race. I tried to sleep a bit during the day but it was more a try than real sleep. I was beginning to feel the excitement of racing.
Everything was packed and we headed towards the starting area. Mads had to start at 05:00 PM and I was planned to start at 05:05 PM. The temperature was around 21 degrees Celsius (The lowest during the week) and there was a heavy wind – not the kind of weather we had been used to in the desert.
The 24 hour world championships was on. Legs were feeling good and I quickly found my own planned pace. I knew the course. We had done our homework and tested heavily in the days leading up to the race. There was a heavy crosswind on the last long section and I struggled to stay in the aerobars and to keep the bike on the road. The wind continued the whole evening and night and I was beginning to feel some pain in my neck and shoulders. I had a talk with the crew and we decided to make a short stop for a bit of neck massage after around 8 hours. It helped and I could go on. Even after the stop I was still on schedule and in 4th position.
Dark Night in the Desert
The nights in Borrego Springs are long and they are dark…very dark. I could not see anything beside the little space of light from my head light and then of course all the red taillights out on the course. The sky was full of stars. It was beautiful. Even though it was dark I was still feeling well and my legs were still going strong. I kept chasing the red lights. Consistently trying to keep my planned pace and ignore the competitors.
After around 13 hours of racing in the dark, the sun arrived. As sudden as it had gone by night it arrived in the horizon. It was a beautiful sight. The mountains slowly came in sight and I could enjoy the view from the bike. The temperature was still not too high but as the sun rose the wind disappeared. All of a sudden the temperature was starting to go up quickly. I still managed to do my laps with the planned pacing. The crew did everything to keep me going with water, food and short breaks to cool down.
I have done two other 24-hour races and both started in the morning – meaning when the night was over and sun came up, the race was coming to an end. But at the 24 hour World Championships there were still around 10 hours left after sunrise. I struggled a bit with the motivation in the morning hours. But during the night we had advanced to 3rd position. The race was not over yet, and it was not the time to quit. I tried to refocus and stick to the plan.
Boiling hot 24 Hour World Championships
The crew called me on every lap and asked how I felt and if I needed anything when riding through the pit. With around 5 hours left my answer was “I am not feeling well, I am feeling nausea”. I really did not feel like riding anymore. The crew helped me and cheered on my in the radio. They told me to come to the pit. In the pit I was placed in a chair where the crew cooled me down with our cooling vests and gave me something to drink and eat. After a short break the crew send me back to the course. I was now in the 2nd position. The temperature was just over 40 degrees Celsius.
The work from the crew had helped. I slowly started feeling better, still tired but the nausea was not that strong anymore. The crew gave me split times and calculated on how my pacing should be. For the next few laps I focused on keeping the pace that kept our lead to number 3. My own motivation was long gone at this time. I was suffering mentally but Mads called me and gave me a small pep-talk and the crew updated me on the position every round. When in 2nd place at the 24 hour World Championships you do not give up.
The Last Laps of the 24 hour World Championships
After 22 laps on the 18-mile main loop the crew told me to do 4 laps on the final 4-mile short course. I was not feeling like riding anymore but I knew I needed to finish it off to secure the second place. Every time I passed the finish area the crew and Mads were cheering for me – that kept me going. 4, 3, 2 and then the last one. I knew it would soon be over.
With 10 minutes left of the 24 hour World Championships I crossed the finish line for the last time. The race was over. I was done. I was dusted. I ended up 2nd in the overall women category, 6th when comparing with the men and 1st in me age-group category while setting a new course record. I was tired and happy. I could not have done it without Mads as a coach or without the support of the crew. They did an amazing job supporting me all the way through the race. Therefore I think it is not my result, it is ours. Thank you so much to everyone helping me reaching the podium and thank you for all the support through social media during the race. You are all a part of this.
A special thanks to Folkebo Cykler, Bioracer, Shimano, Scope Cycling, Schwalbe, Nyborg Strand, Secret Saddle Club, Meldgaard and Frank Institute of Sports for your continued support. You guys kept the engine going.
If you liked this post you might like the race debrief from Caroline's previous race in Midt24 right here. All pictures by Simon Roesskov Photo.