We all have our goals and Shut Up Legs ambassador Maria had a special one this year. She competed in her first 24-hour race. 524km with more than 6400 meters of climbing. Read about her experience in the 24 hours pain cave.

What is the concept behind the 24-hour race?

The 24-hour race of Kelheim has a big history and tradition in Germany. 24 hours of racing and the participants try to tackle as many miles as possible. You race on a circuit, in teams of 5 or as an individual, through the beautiful village of Kelheim in Bavaria. The circuit is 16,7km long and features 180m of climbing. The biggest challenge of the circuit is to climb the infamous hill, „Col de Stausacker“.

Obviously 180m of altitude isn’t that much but imagine climbing that hill for 24 hours, again and again. You will get to know this nasty little drag pretty well, believe me 😀 Support is crucial to overcoming this physical and mental challenge. The good thing is that you receive this support by plenty of spectators who are cheering for you throughout the start/finish area. There are big tents full of people who are partying like hell, making this part of the course an awesome experience. It’s like riding through a tunnel of music and cheering fans, helping to overcome to the gradual increase of pain.

Was there time to sleep?

Sleep is a big topic in the race. You have to choose if your body needs a break or sleep. There are no official rules. It’s really challenging to find a balance between rest and racing.

Many of the participants took a nap for a couple of hours. For myself, I decided to skip sleep altogether. I raced from 2pm to 9pm when I took my first break for just around 40 minutes. I changed my clothes and got a little massage to relax my legs a bit before I started to race through the night. My second break was around 1am which I kept super short. I was scared of getting tired, so I put warm clothes on and just kept going. If you start to freeze, you’re done. And as you can imagine that’s a bad thing in a 24-hour race.

What motivates you to do a race like this?

I was always curious about my limits. Not just physical but also psychological. For the most part, it’s actually a mental thing to do this race and you need to overcome yourself. Furthermore, I’m not a punchy rider and prefer long distances in a race. So without knowing I thought the race would suit me very well. Because it was my first time doing this race I had no pressure. I went into the race with only one mission: have fun on the bike and do as good as I can.

What was the highlight of the race?

My highlight? There were plenty! First of all the great support by my family and friends which was phenomenal. They were there for me for all of the 24 hours. We made a plan and executed it in a perfect way. I always had something to drink, to eat and never had to care about the little things around the race. My mom and my boyfriend especially did a great job and prepared everything like true professionals.

I really enjoyed all the cheering by the spectators but also by other participants in the race. There was always somebody to chat to, to motivate you and to forget the screaming legs. Especially in the late hours when the hurt really kicked in, there was always somebody who suffered with me. It’s something special which you only experience in sports.

For sure it was overwhelming to finish the race. The relief felt awesome when I crossed the finish line and I wasn’t able to hold back a few tears of joy.

Was there a low point of the race?

Absolutely! Two hours before the end of the race. I was done – toast – the man with the hammer hit me hard. Nothing left in the tank and I simply wasn’t able to climb „Col de Stausacker“. I had to stop in the middle of the climb and took a little break. I sat down on the side of the course for a couple of minutes and watched the other cyclists doing their job. I felt a bit depressed but luckily I remembered three words: „Shut Up Legs“. It’s kind of funny how much inspiration is behind these simple words. I got back on the bike and finished the race.

Did you ever think of quitting?

No way! I had bad times in the race but quitting was never an option. I enjoyed riding my bike and was highly motivated to finish the race. That’s how I am.

10 Thing I learned from riding my bike for 24 hours

  1. You have to start somewhere
  2. “Steady pace makes the race”
  3. Take a break, but do it in the right time
  4. Don’t try new nutritions on race day
  5. Support is crucial
  6. Suffering is not bad if you understand it rightly
  7. Cycling reveals my character
  8. Quitting is never an option
  9. Cycling allows me to inspire myself (& others)
  10. I love life on two wheels

Find Maria on Instagram and follow her cycling adventures: @maryywilke