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Sunday, November 14, 2021

Dead2Red - Ride Is All I Needed

After cycling here in Jordan with The Element Team, I learned about this popular race - Dead2Red.  Simple race really, start at the lowest point on earth at the Dead Sea and cycling on one road through the desert until you get to the Ayla Resort in Aqaba and then on to the finish.  A 200 km race suits me well, long and steady, no aspirations of being the fastest, but of course I always want to do my best.  

In total, my guess would be that there were between 150 and 200 people entered in the race, there were
Teams of 3, Teams of 5, Open Bike Solo (non road bike), Road Bike Solo and Elite Bike Solo.  The race was very well organized and setup differently than any other event I have been in.  As solo riders we had to have a Team car that would be our support for the day - Ali from Jordan Cycling was our Team Car (S9), supporting Nabil, Aref, Egi, Martine and myself.  I was a little nervous about how this would work out, I knew that if I rode to my potential, I would likely be riding with a little more pace than the others wanted to.  I was also a little conflicted about staying with the group of my friends and riding at my potential. Shortly before the race, Martine and Aref told me to ride your pace -  the Car (Ali) will take care of you.  With that, I made my decision to ride to my potential.  

Now it is race time. After a trek from Amman at 1:30 am to the Dead Sea, it is almost 5:30 am and we are ready to go.  Lined up behind The Element Team, ahead I can see Martin, Martin and Filip - riders that I wonder if I can ride with, what I mean is would I have the pace to ride with them - they are all excellent riders and littered on Top Ten of many Strava segments in Jordan.  Part of riding my best race would be riding with a few riders so that we could share the load.  

The race starts and we all casually leave the start line, quickly Nabil and Sarah pedal onwards, I ride with them and I see that Martin and crew are just ahead. I bridge up and this group of likely 10 start to pass several other riders as things start to sort out.  I realize Nabil is no longer here and I hope the best for him - many other Element Team members are there behind so he should be good.  Now my focus is just the wheel in front, really quickly it is sorted, I know there are a bunch of riders ahead, but riding Martin, Martin and Filip would be best for me, so long as I could hold the pace - big if!  At this point on a fairly flat section we are holding 34-35 km/hr and we begin to rotate and take turns.  I knew Martin Thompson as he is a principal at the International Academy Amman where Brenda works as a Learning Support Coordinator - we have ridden together once.  Martin took me and Nabil out with David and Merry couple of months ago and we learned how folks can climb - wow, was a tough but great ride.   I didn't know the other two, Martin from Germany and Filip from Belgium.  We would get to know one another over the next 6 hours.

There were no words uttered for a while, we all took turns, pulling for 2 minutes and then rotating back.  I guess this is a period of assessment - Martin T would give me a shout as I finished my pull, 'thanks' and back to last wheel - after about 40 minutes, then I hear 'nice work' from Martin and he asks me my name, then Filip acknowledges a pull.  Now I am in - accepted if you will, which is great and scary at the same time.  We hit one of the few tough climbs of the day, most are quite gradual and simply knock the pace down, you continue to roll, but this one was a bit over 2 km and was at 5.3% - these guys are machines on climbs - I was near my limit on the way up - 7:13 to the top and I was happy to still be with them.

For the next 20 km, pretty quiet really, we catch RS47 Abdel and he joins us - now we are 5.  As we get to the one hour mark, I am starting to feel the pace - this seems to be a little quick for me, I wonder if I could possibly hold this effort for another 5 hrs, I just kept talking myself into one more pull - 2 minutes hard, actually it was more than 2 minutes hard as when I was second wheel it was tough as well.  Finally at around 45 km, I say out loud 'Halas' (I am done) - I can't hold this pace.  There was relief amongst our group as Filip said: "We are suffering in silence, let's take it down a notch" - this was welcome news.  We stop for
a quick pee break and we are onward.  Up the road a bit we catch another rider, this time an Elite rider - I believe it is Samer.  He joins our group of now 5, shortly after he and Abdel power onwards.  We are all content at our still quick pace.  Now, I just need to stick to my nutrition plan!  My plan ahead of the race was to consume 1.5 bottles of Ride per hour, I had 9 Ride bottles prepared, two were frozen to keep the other bottles cool in my cooler.  The only issue now is that these bottles are in S9 - our support car that is back with the others from The Element Team.  Aref's words earlier - "the guys at Cycling Jordan will take care of you, don't worry."  Around the 50 km mark, Ali speeds by and stops on the side of the road, holds out a bottle for me and I swap an empty for a full one, awesome - I am good for a while now - I have two full bottles again - I had been carry 3 from the start - figured a good plan to tuck one in my jersey just in case. We soldier on.

At kilometer 66 we stop. The support vehicle for Martin and crew, S9, was on the side of the road as well
as the Cycling Jordan Van - this was a good point for the others to replenish - my car isn't there, but I have almost 2 full bottles - should be ok for a while - I take on 300-400 ml of water and a small banana.  While we are stopped, Martin B realizes he has a tire going flat - great timing.  Sari and Team take care of the flat, we are stopped for 10 minutes - just short enough to stay ahead of an approaching group of 8 or so. It was good to stay ahead of these riders - we had worked hard to establish a gap, nice to keep it.  At this point we just continued on, pace was good - we have another 30 km until we reach the high point from an elevation perspective - and for the remainder we will be more down than up.  

For me on the day, it was all about reaching the halfway point. I figured from that point on, no one else will have nutrition as optimized as mine (whether that is true or not, it matters not, this is what I believe so it
propels me).  Things are steady and we start to gain the benefit of a mostly north wind at our backs and the slight downhill - pace quickens.  I am now out of fuel and we had planned to stop at 133 km, it is only

120, likely hold on, but magically Ali speeds by and stops on the side of the road. I tell the others I need to grab some more nutrition - I swap out the bottles - 3 to get to the finish will be lots - I chug a half of a bottle for good measure and leave it in the car.  The others fuel up as the other support vehicle arrives - we should all be good to the end.  We managed the pace to the level of the 4 of us, we came up on Abdel - he is cracking, likely with about 30-40 km to go.  I feel good and know this is just about keeping hydrated and fuelled as the heat is now building a bit.  Just keep taking turns and the km's will tick down.

We pass Samer who looks a bit rough at 170 km and then with about 20 km left we see another 3 riders ahead - we are all keen on grabbing them, we do.  Martin T. tells us to go on, he doesn't have as much volume in his legs so he encourages us to go on.  One of the riders from the Elite Cycling Club was a sitting duck as we passed, the other two riders ahead one from ECC - Anas and one an Elite rider Rashed from Inspired Endurance Training were in our sights.  To be honest Martin, Filip and I didn't handle the pass well - we had the energy to zip by them and there couldn't be a response - therefore they quickly upped their pace and joined us.  Again there are 5 riders, a missed opportunity for us.  So we put our heads down and move on with 15 km to go.

The problem now is the two joining riders only want the tow and aren't willing to do any work, even after words from the three of us, and I know they understand English.  This is literally my first road cycling race, but I have ridden in some pretty competitive groups and watched lots of racing, so I start to think of the turn into the Ayla Resort - here you are hit with the wind that has been at our backs.  I feel really good, I say to Martin and Filip - "let's hold a good pace but save a bit, as they are going to hang out and rest until the finish."  I am frustrated, but understand that this is part of racing.  So the 3 of us trade turns while the
others remain at the back, we turn into the resort with 5 km, still altogether.  Now we are into a stiff wind and same deal, only the 3 of us doing the work. I take the lead wheel, and now Rashed is right on my wheel as displaced Martin and Filip from my wheel.  I am growing frustrated, but try to think, this is just part of racing.  I know if I have an acceleration and can hold for a few meters, he won't have the pace to hold and it will be down to the 3 of us - the other two will fall off.  Now we make a left and I see there is a slight downhill - I give it my all to try to snap him.  I have no idea with 4 km left if it has worked or not, I don't care - I am riding my limit until the end.  I get to the 3 km mark and I look back and I see no one, there is a bend in the road but I have a big gap.  This fuels me more, I keep on hammering, 2 km mark no one in sight and by the time I hit the 1 km mark, I realize that I have held them off - I keep on powering to a 5:51:10.  I am grateful to see Martin G come across next and a few seconds later Filip - we were all able to take the spots we deserved.  I felt bad - not my intent to separate from Martin and Filip as we shared so much on the day. My only intent was to drop the two taking a free ride for the last 15 km.  Martin T came in just a bit after us - we all had a great day all finishing solidly under 6hrs - my Strava moving time 5:38:22 and a 35.0 km/hr pace - really jacked with 1000 m of elevation.

My theory or thoughts were bang on. If I could get to the halfway point, I would likely have more energy from my nutrition than anyone else from that point forward.  This is where my race begins - I just have to get there.  The greatest evidence of this, is in what was left in my legs:

I rode the last 3.3 km faster than all the Elite and Road Solo riders on the day, 5th fastest ever.  Those who ride with me, know that I don't have big top end power but can grind it out for the longer haul.  The reason I share this part is nothing to do with boasting, it is all about showing what good nutrition can do for you. I took in 7.5 servings of ride (600ml each), 300 ml of water and a small Jordanian banana - total 2200 calories that not only passed my gut, but was usable energy that allowed me to feel great in the back half of this race.  At 54 years only, nutrition is my secret weapon - it doesn't have to be.  I finished a race with 13 Elite riders - national level riders and 49 Road Solo riders in 15th overall and 7th in the Road division. Yes, I have strong mind, but I have stronger nutrition.  Ride is all I needed.

If you ever want help with what's in your bottle and really what is in your legs, I would love to help - just email me at darcy@infinitnutrition.ca.

- Darcy Haggith, President, Infinit Nutrition Canada