Ultracycling: my new love
I was trying to sort out in my head thoughts and ideas about signing up for my first two ultra races. Yes, not one but two! :-)
I already had a conversation with my coach on whether I would be able to realistically face this challenge and despite his words of encouragement I was restless.
I was telling myself: “your strength are long flat sections, you’ll never be able to approach climbs like a true grimpeur would and be competitive in faster races, but you love mixed terrains ... why not find a more approachable solution, with an easier pace, better suited to your skills & qualities?”
And this is how I found myself, on christmas day, signing up for Ultradolomitica as team 2 mode and Dolomitics 24 on my own.
Big goals need careful planning and a meticulous training regime.
I had to change my mental approach to training and needed to step back and listen to my coach who helped me achieve more of a distance-focused mindset and listen less to my heart & body that would’ve otherwise taken me to giving it my all at every single ride.
It was all new to me, as i’d picked up cycling only 3 years prior, before that, the extent of my physical activity was getting on and off the sofa, so this was a totally different ball game for me.
However, having been a mother since age 18 and raised 5 kids, cycling became a way to express my freedom, reclaim my identity and getting in touch with myself.
I so started planning my rides according to my long distance goals which didn’t come easy at all but after a bit of trail and error it became more natural to pace myself and stick to the training plan.
Dolomitics 24 - first race
Middle of July 2018, Dolomitics 24 race day. Insecurity and fear overcome me, I’m surrounded by 'real' athletes and compared to them I feel tiny.
The race consists in a 30 km circuit with 1200m elevation gain in Val di Fiemme to complete as many times as possible in 24 hours, with a stop at every lap at a small gazebo where two of my teammates offered support & assistance. It's a sunny and beautiful day and we cross the start line at 12.30pm.
It all goes well daytime and as soon as we're immersed in darkness, temperature drops and moon and stars magically appear.
Occasionally i see a few small animals silently passing by... i feel like in a fairy tale.
At 4am I have my first break down - during the last stop, instead of taking a short 15 minute nap, I’m so tired that I snooze the alarm off and keep sleeping for two hours!
When I wake up it's too late, my body is in recovery mode thus making it much harder to start again.
I still have 4 more laps to go after doing 5 already, but now i have to rush and the body isn't collaborating.
Struggling with emotions from discouragement, to being upset to being angry, I decide to do just one more lap with the energy left and finish my first Ultra, with "only" 6 laps and a total of 182,5 km and 8052m elevation gain.
On paper the result appears as an amazing achievement, it's my first ultra race after all, but part of me resents my rookie mistake and wish I’d done better.
The UltraDolomitica was scheduled just a month later in August.
Having enrolled as team 2 meant that i had a partner to share & tag team the race with. I wasn't alone.
I approached my friend Iryna, an excellent and talented granfondo rider, and asked her to join me in this ultra distance marathon. She immeditately accepted my offer.
The way it works is that we take turns riding the full distance of the race and while one is on the bike the other rests on the van that follows us all the way.
The advantage of riding as team 2 is that we can leverage our individual skills and choose which segments to ride, so it's key to meticulously study the route well in advance and train towards covering those sections!
I'm better suited for flat lands and rolling hills, while Iryna is a fabulous fast climber.
Having said that, we wouldn't do without the support of a small team: my brother in law and her husband took turns behind the wheel, while my husband has the most important task: taking care of our children and Iryna’s daughter back at home!
Ready, steady, go! The adventure begins, which takes us through 16 beautiful passes in the Dolomites, 675km - 16,000m elev. gain, and a killer scenery.
I had never shared such a cycling experience with anyone, very emotional as we swing from laughter to tiredness, from freezing temperatures to boiling hot, from suffering on the pedals to cheering for the other.
Simply amazing team work by everyone involved!
Thanks to our perfectly tuned plan and compatible cycling styles we won the first place in the team 2 category at the Ultra Dolomitica 2018!
What an achievement and a moral boost! We get back home proud, energized and after less than a week, we're already planning our following adventure: the Adriatic Marathon in September!
Ultracycling for me is about having fun, pushing myself towards a new goal and being motivated to always raise the bar higher, get farther and farther.
Above all, sharing this type of adventure, mindset and lifestyle with a team mate is also a fulfilling experience that has taught me about being selfless and generous.
At the end of the day cycling, in whichever shape or form, makes me happy and keeps my smile of my face on every ride!