Todtnauberg 12 Stunden Race Report What a weekend! And I even feel good enough to sit here and write this, I thought Id be dead.
I won the WS1 category in the 12 hour Todtnauberg race on Saturday. My first ever 12 hour bike race. I had been excited to get out racing again as we all know, my summer has been so disappointing, not being able to do the NAM, then the Beast of Ballyhoura and the Trans Alps due to accidents preventing me from competing.
So now that I am finally able to race I was really geared up for this day to finally arrive. I left work a little early on Friday to get to Schwarzwald in time to register before 9pm. Thinking that leaving on the 5.30 train from Zurich would get me there some time around 8pm, what I didnt realise that Swiss efficiency and bike friendliness doesnt cross the border into Germany and when I arrived at Zell, the bus driver only took my bike because I threatened tears. He dropped me off at Todtnau and I had to bike the last 10km and 600mtrs uphill with all my gear, to get to Todtnauberg where registration and my hostel were located.
I managed to arrive, in the dark, register and bike the last 1km up the last 300mtrs to the hostel appropriately on the tip top of the hill overlooking the village. The hostel owners were so friendly, I even got dinner at 10pm and I would definitely recommend staying here if anyone is thinking of doing a spot of biking in the Black Forest. I got all my food and drinks ready, pumped my wheels, checked the bike and crawled into bed just before 11pm, alarm set for 6.15 and slept straight away knowing that I had everything as prepared as possible without a support person.
It was a bright morning on Saturday, I really prefer the weather conditions there to Zurich where it is still really hot and humid. In the Black Forest its quite chilly, the air is crisp but the skies were blue. After breakfast in the team area I managed to orientate the einzelfahren support trable just before the start and left all my stuff there. I was a bit afraid before the race that because I had no one to help me, Id be wasting time during the race, filling up my water bottles and rummaging in my bag for food, but as it turns out, the women at the support area were so helpful, they even got into the hang of refilling my empty bottles while I was out on rounds so when I got back into the station they were ready for me to pick up and exchange for the empty ones.
Before the race too I got talking to two of the other girls in my category, Regina Jaeger from Freiburg and has the same job as me, Gisela Makowski who is the the world 12 hour champ, and another girl called Sandra Kohler. All of them have done plenty of ultra biking and were really cool and relaxed, which I found so nice after the experience of the one and only cross country race Ive ever done which was really highly charged.
So, into the nitty gritty. We started off and as usual, were confronted by a nice long steady climb. I was taking it handy and I knew at this stage that there were a few girls ahead of me. I soon caught the girl in what I thought was second place, then Regina went flying past me with a cheeky slap and Kirsten Kolehutter was just behind me. Thinking that I was in the battle for 2nd place, it was me, and the blonde Kirsten who was tight on my wheel, she passed me, I followed her and vice versa for about 2 laps which was getting really annoying. We really going at the same pace and I knew that it was too fast but I didnt want to get her go all the same, I was just waiting for her to drop off and I wouldnt let her get away from me.
Finally, as I was leading on hte 3rd round, I speeded up on one of the downhill sections and saw my opportunity. There were 3 men ahead of me, and I thought if I draft them for a while, that should help me open up the gap, so off I went and by the end of that lap, she was nowhere in sight. I still kept looking over my shoulder though as I never knew how far behind me or how close to me she could have been. Next task, try to find out where Regina was. I had no idea where I was standing in the race. So on lap 6 I asked the ladies at the food station if they could check for me. I was told I was in second place and I bombed off out of the station to go look for Regina ahead of me. I felt good, my back was very stiff but everything else was working fine, head, heart lungs all ticking away nicely and the gels were great giving me a caffeine boost too when I needed it.
At the end of round 7 I saw Regina ahead of me, I kept saying “stay cool, stay cool, dont mess up and dont let her see you” I kept a distance between us, figuring that sheh must be slowing down if I had caught up to here and that because she was in 1st place there was no need to kill myself right now, I should just keep her in sight and see what happens. When we came into the town again, I chased her up the hill and decided to make my move as the crowd were shouting and there was a great buzz about the place. Just as we went over the timing line, she pulled in to the right to the fuel station, she must have had no idea I was on her tail, and I just kept going, forfeiting my planned stop to open up a gap between us. I charged that following lap to open up some distance and from then on, really monitored my time on stops and only got off the bike to pee (really really quikly) and grab some food and eat it while pedalling.
I had some soft pretzels prepared too and I remember hearing people laughing at me surprised at the Irish girl stuffing her face with an oversized pretzel while trying to bike at the same time. So..there I was, the hard work done, in the lead going round and round circles. The course was seriously tough, 13km a lap with 300mtrs of climbing it is very deceptive on paper but what it consists of is climb climb climb, and very fast decents. There were a few casualties. On the 6th round I came upon a guy who had come out of one of the fast road decents onto a technical, rutty steep uphill and had obviously hit it very wrong, came off and hit his head off the ground. By the next time I had come around, Rega had already arrived in the chopper and he was being heli’d off to the hospital. I subsequently saw on the forum this morning that he is ok. I thought of him for the following few rounds, with crossed fingers. So. On it went, I never once felt really bad.
There were moments when my legs were getting tired on the hills but looking back, I really think that I could have gone a lot faster. My eyes were getting sore from having to maintain that tunnel vision on all the technical bits so I started drinking coca-cola in the transitions and for the last four laps all I was eating were jellies, gels and coca-cola.
When it got to four o’clock I remember thinking “only 2.5 hours until the last lap. Anyone who came in after 7pm, were finished. If you came in, lets say, at 7.59pm, you were allowed to do another round, but anything after and you were oficially over. So..I thought (it was so hard to do even this simple maths at this stage) “ok, its 17.08, I’ll be finished this lap at around 18.00 give or take a little, Ill be in just before 19.00 and have to do another lap” I wasnt sure if I was happy or sad about this, I thought if I had opened up a big enough a gap then I wouldnt have to do the last round, but it wasnt a chance I could take as there was no one there to tell me how far behind me she was at that stage. I kept meeting some of the other einzelfahrers on the way who were going much slower than me at this stage, and they were all telling me “ahhh this is my last lap” and I was feeling very very jealous knowing that I had to keep going to make the last lap cut off of 19.00. So flying around, I made the cut off with 7 minutes to spare, coming in at 18.53 and off I headed to lots of cheers and encouragement from some familiar faces in the crowd for my last lonely lap. By that time lots of the teams had finished and there werent many single riders out there anymore.
But what a good feeling to cross the finishing line. Getting off the bike was like having been at sea for a few years, I really couldnt walk properly or see properly for that matter, for a while. I am so happy to have a result like this, I had doubted that Id ever be out there racing again, sometimes thinking Im not cut out for biking with all the accidents Id had this summer.
But now that Ive proven I can do it, and I have found a distance and time I can perform well in, Ill definitely be aiming to do more of these over the next few years. I placed 28th out of 100 solo riders including men. 196km later, 4,200 metres climbed in 14 laps. Results Foley Fiola 14 11:42.04,1 (1031) BW S1 1.