After another successful outing at the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow, I took some time to look over the results and the lap times teams were riding. One thing struck me - and it's something I've noticed before in these lap style endurance races. The teams who finished on the podium, especially those on the top step, were not just the fastest. Speed helps, but it was the consistency of the riders as the race progressed that really sealed the deal. Granted, the lap times don't always tell the whole story. Someone who was riding 1:05 laps and all of a sudden has a 1:45 lap might have had a mechanical or such happen out on course. But the trends are still there. If a mechanical was the reason, the next lap usually drops back down.
Looking just at the Coed Duo, which is the class Nick and I race, the combo of speed and consistency was what won the race for us. It's easy to be fast for a few laps, but at what cost? For the top three teams, the men's first lap was all within 3 minutes, with Nick coming in at 53:18 and the third place man finishing at 56:40. The women all did the second lap and I pulled the gap out to 13 minutes. It was back down to ten minutes after the third lap as Nick settled from the start lap pace to his race pace. As Nick and I kept riding, with his next three laps within a minute of each other and my first three laps within three minutes of each other, we steadily pulled away from second and third. We focused on staying consistent with our lap times and safe out on course. We both slowed at night, with mine being a little more drastic then Nick, but there were never any huge jumps in in time.
But here's where things get interesting. While we had broken the elastic at lap six, second and third were still within minutes of each other up through the 9th lap. Both teams were slowing dramatically at that point, with lap times jumping up by 30 minutes or more. The fast start looked like it was taking a toll on everyone. Instead of maintaining the consistent routine of alternations laps - which is actually the fastest despite the increased rest - both second and third began doubling up, or even once doing three in a row. When the men head out for two in a row, it's no longer an XC level effort. It has to become an endurance effort at that point in the race, which is automatically slower. And then if the other rider only does one lap, then the person who doubled up gets very little rest for the next effort. Any attempts at consistency are lost when the rotation is changed.
So what lessons can we learn and apply for the next event? The primary one is to stay consistent - not getting caught up in the excitement and energy of the start only to blow sky high in the pre-dawn hours. Be realistic with lap times and know some splits out on course to stay on track. While doubling up sounds attractive, it can actually be slower despite the increased rest. And the most important lesson? These are races, but trying to race for the entire 24 (or 25) hours can lead to an implosion. Keep an eye on the competition but stick to the plan.
If you're planning on racing a 24 or 12 hour race and want advice on setting up a plan that will keep your team consistant and turning out the laps, contact me. I'd love to help you reach your goals.