• Mark Sortino

I Will Never Make These Mistakes Again!



Over the last three and a half years, I’ve fallen in love with Mountain Bike X/C riding and racing. I’ve done 24 hour races, multiple Leadville MTB 100 races, a 144 miler point-to-point, trail challenges, a 3-day stage race, single day races, XTERRA races and have run multiple MTB camps here in Boise. I became a quick student and have immersed myself in the sport. So you’d think racing another 24 hour race, although daunting, would be something I’d know how to prepare for and execute, right? Uh…..not so fast.


The 25 Hours in Frog Hollow in Virgin, Utah last November 2nd, 2019 should have been a perfect race for me. It was late into the year, I had a “crew” with me (my wife and another Team MPI athlete who got hurt and had to pull out but came to support) and another Team MPI athlete who was racing. Although I had not ridden the course before, we got in a recon lap (this course was just under 13 miles per lap with over 1,200 feet of climbing per lap) the day before so I knew what I was in for. Oh yeah, it’s “25 Hours” because it occurs over daylight savings time starting Saturday morning at 10am and ending 10am Sunday morning…hahahaha.


I was hoping to get in 14 laps with a goal of 16 laps (this would have put me over 200 miles of riding). The course had two technical sections. The first was a sketchy drop of about 30 feet with a couple of 180 turns - one of which most people, including me, unclipped and lifted the bike to turn. The second was transiting an eighth of a mile of broken slabs of rocks - with cracks ranging from a couple of inches to 6 or 7 inches. Other than that, it was a really fun course. I expected to do the laps ranging from 1:05:00 - 1:30:00+ throughout the day, night and following morning.


We had our “pit stop” all set up with two 10x10 tents, two tables, lights, and charging outlets (from the van), dozens of bottles of water, bars, supplements, food, and a solo stove for a fire at night. We’ve done this before and knew how to set up a great pit stop for quick refuels, a change of clothes, cleaning of bikes, etc.



So what could go possibly wrong? Here are the FIVE mistakes I made that made this event a not-so-fun one for me:


1. Assumption of Fitness.


I know how much I can train and want to train in my life now and am OK with racing without finishing in the top three. I am still hyper competitive, but my business is more important to me that medals in individual sports. However, just because I was in super good shape in August doesn’t mean I could carry that all the way to November. In fact, it was a crazy few months that really caused me to miss a ton of key sessions. But hey, I’ve ridden so much in three years that this shouldn’t be a problem. As I approached the race, I knew I hadn’t gotten in any real training and moved into the world of “I should be fine. I hope I’m fine. Let’s see what happens?” I, in fact, was NOT fit. Once I went over 100 miles, my body started aching, and I could barely sit on my bike without pain.


Lesson: Honesty with yourself is critical to expectations and race planning. Duh.


2. Nutrition Plan was Sort-of-a-Plan


I did have a plan, but this time I threw in an extra “meal” around 12 hours in. It tasted so good that I ate a lot. Within ten minutes of inhaling the food, while I was changing clothes, I got freezing cold as my dehydrated body sent all the blood to my gut. I had to stay in the van for 45 minutes with the heat on max just trying to get warm again. I didn’t drink enough on the last few laps. Combine that with the desert climate and sections of climbing that produced a lot of sweat and you get a body pretty ripe for the chills when the temperature drops.


Lesson: Create a nutrition plan and don’t deviate unless you have to.


3. Lack of Correct Clothing.


I knew it would get a bit cold on the course around the early morning hours, but I thought about it very little. When loading my clothes for the trip, I totally forgot correct shoe covers, gloves, head gear and layers. I was completely unprepared for the temperatures. My ride on the lowest part of the course at 5 am was in 26 degree air temperatures. I was so cold that I could not feel my feet nor the outside of two fingers on both hands. It was pure misery!


Lesson: You still have to plan extensively for every race you do!


4. Lack of Race Knowledge.


I didn’t really look at the rules and how they were going to finish the 25 hours. I assumed all laps counted that were completed by 10am the following day. In fact, riders were allowed to go out for one more lap provided they started that lap before 10am. Had I known this, I could have gotten in two more laps when the sun was up and it warmed up quickly. I completely skipped the race planning and study that I normally do.


Lesson: Do the work ahead of time so there are no surprises.


5. Total Lack of Attention to Detail.


This is a big event and a super challenging one. I totally took it for granted and treated it like a simple, short race. I didn’t make it a priority, and it showed throughout my entire preparation and execution. I “winged it” really, and I paid the price. I have never entered a race so ill-prepared in my adult life and really lost the joy of the event. The only saving grace was that our Team MPI athlete, Mike Baughman, won our age-group and got second overall for the entire race.



These were hard lessons for me to learn, but good ones. No matter how much experience an athlete has, you just can’t “wing it” through an endurance race such as this. My overall stats? I rode for a bit over 13 hours, a bit over 127 miles with a bit over 12,600 feet of elevation and 10 laps. Remember I was shooting for 16? There were some comical stories within this 25 hour period, but suffice it to say, I have learned my lessons and with never make those mistakes again!





#marksortino

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