I woke up at 4 am to get one last big meal before hours of consuming nothing but blocks and gels. I made pancakes in the morning and soon found myself sitting in the car in the dark and cold hours of the morning. I was ready, but was it enough?
We began the race at a quick clip, wasting no time at tackling the 75 miles. Two riders went on ahead setting a blistering pace, but I knew my body and held back anticipating the hours ahead of me. I soon found myself sitting in a group of 3 riding from 3rd to 5th place. My legs felt heavy, and it was tough to maintain the pace. I was sitting in 5th and repeating my early race mantra: “You have time.” You have time…to recovery, to attack, to feel stronger, to race. Ninety minutes into the event, a switch flipped and I began to feel stronger. I moved into 4th. 3rd place and I separated ourselves from 5th place. Two and a half hours into the event, 3rd place pulled ahead and I began my new mantra: “Ride your own pace.” I felt confident. I stayed exactly on my nutrition plan, consuming either blocks or gels every 30 minutes throughout the entire event. 4.5 hours into the race, I caught 3rd place. I increased the pace and charged up the long climb. I gained a small gap.
As I entered the 2nd feed station, I was in a daze. I was hanging on a sting. I was 5 hours into an 8-hour race. It was difficult to imagine 3 more hours of pure suffering out on the bike. My feed crew surrounded me. I felt like I was in the middle of a NASCAR pit stop. Someone was lubing my chain, someone else placing a Camelbak on my back, and Clayton pushing blocks into my shaking hands. After hours of solitude, this moment passed like a blur. As I pushed out of the aid, I said “Ok.” That was all I needed. I was ready for the final 3-hour push.
Fourth place was only 30 seconds behind me at hour 5 as I left Aid 2, but 200 meters later at the top of a steep climb, I was already 1 minute ahead. I wasn’t going to look back. I knew if I wanted to secure my third place finish, it was now or never. My body begged to slow down and stop, but my brain reasoned that I had to go harder. There is something so raw and beautiful about this feeling. Treating your body like a machine for hours on end, while maintaining all of the emotions of a human shows me who we truly are. This creates an out of body experience for me. I am reminded that my body is just a vessel, and my true feelings, worth, and will power are located in my heart, soul, and head.
I pushed hard for the final 2 hours of race, counting down the miles 1/10th at a time. I crashed 2 miles from the finish line and as I scrambled to remount my bike and rushed to continue onward– I smiled. Over 7 hours into racing, I still wanted it. I was still rushing, I still had to ability to give it everything I had. When is the last time you focused, endured pain, and felt a burning desire for over 7 hours? 7 hours 46 minutes and 39 seconds later I crossed the finish line in 3rd place. I felt so much joy to cross the line. I love that feeling. I love being completely depleted but completely satisfied. I can’t wait to come back next year. To learn more about this amazing athlete, check out hannahfinchamp.com
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