Vaune Davis made the trip from Toronto to Glen Rose for The 2012 Texas Time Trials looking to try her hand at competitive cycling.
Three days after she arrived, the 53-year-old Boston native found out what she was truly capable of. As the oldest of five competitors in her 500-mile race to be completed in 48 hours, Davis traversed 503.5 miles in 46:21:33, less than 11 minutes behind the only other woman to finish.
“I feel bad that so many of the women didn’t finish and I find it interesting that the two women who finished the highest in my race were the oldest,” Davis said just a couple of hours after she was done. “This is a race of attrition; it’s who can endure the most pain.”
Nothing comes easy
Adversity could be found at every turn. First of all, Davis woke up on Thursday morning, began racing at 6 p.m. that night and still hadn’t slept a wink as of Saturday evening.
“I was pretty sure about halfway through I’d be able to finish (the race), but trying to finish first became more important and that’s when I made the decision not to sleep,” she said. “I’ve ridden for 24 hours straight several times without difficulty, and 32 hours was hard when I did it before. I stretched this way beyond that.”
Davis went two days without a “real” meal, so it shouldn’t be surprising that she tried drinking some coffee and it upset her stomach.
“I had a couple of hallucinations, but I didn’t nearly have a wreck because I learned to anticipate every bump and pothole,” she said, considering Davis completed the racecourse 19 times. “I did feel like I was pushing the envelope with my mental faculties – a little concerned that I went too far on the danger scale. A three-hour nap probably would’ve helped me finish faster.”
Interestingly enough, Davis tried to sleep shortly after completing the race, but her body ached so much that she couldn’t pass out.
“I really felt good on Friday, knocking out laps at regular intervals,” she said. “My husband was texting me about how well I was doing, then I made the stupid decision not to sleep and paid for it by not enjoying the Saturday portion at all.”
An unkind Mother Nature also factored heavily into the equation.
“It rained lightly Thursday and Friday, but that was a relief because I’m not used to riding in that kind of heat,” she said. “It started pouring at 3 a.m. (Saturday), and I got so cold I had to go back to the hotel and take a bath just to warm up. Then I had to change clothes, go back outside and get back on the bike.
“It was a little scary because it was tough to see in the rain, but I’d memorized every crack in the road eventually. I still would take the heavy downpour over the Texas heat.”
Even the pavement played a part.
“Those Texas roads paved with crushed rock make it a very bumpy ride; imagine getting those vibrations on your bottom for 48 hours straight,” Davis said.
Frown upside down
Make no mistake – there was plenty of bright side for Davis this week.
“It was a beautifully organized event,” she said. “People were so hospitable. My friend James and I didn’t have a crew to help us out (at camp) like most riders to allow us to minimize our time off the road, but we very quickly found someone to help. People are really friendly here; I like Texas.
“The course was great. It had a lot of rolling hills; it was challenging – somehow the hills got steeper as you go through them 19 times.”
Davis actually battled severe arthritis for 30 years until a new drug put it in remission. She’d begun to ride a bike to work in Toronto because walking had been hurting her feet so much, and she found it easier to get around. She did a charity ride, really enjoyed it and her path to endurance cycling began.
Davis found she was very good at extreme endurance and had actually completed a 746-mile event prior to The Texas Time Trials, albeit it a non-competitive setting.
Her husband Robert Rotenberg doesn’t travel to events with Davis, but she calls him a “great supporter”.
“Not a lot of husbands would let their wives go riding all over the place with other people’s husbands,” she said. “He’s pretty cool with it and proud that I do it. This is the fourth time this year I’ve flown off to some strange place to go ride around all night long with a bunch of people. He won’t ride longer than six hours at a time.”
On Saturday night, Davis tried to provide some insight into her motivation.
“This is a very honest moment for me because I’ve just finished,” she said. “The elation typically doesn’t strike until the next day and I’ll start to only remember the good things – not how much I wanted it to end and how demoralized I was on the last day. In those final hours, you question why you’re doing this and say you never will again, and then in three days I’ll be on the Internet looking for new events to enjoy. I’m already thinking about The Race Across the West, which is 890 miles from San Diego to Durango, Colo.
“I’ve now qualified for The Race Across America, which is 3,000 miles in 12 days. The sense of accomplishment from pushing your limits to the extreme gets your adrenaline going and you want more, hence we’re called ‘endurance junkies’. I don’t know what my true limit is; humans are pretty tough, clearly.”
Despite the aforementioned negative aspects of her participation in The Texas Time Trials, is seems crystal-clear the week was a cumulative positive.
“This was my first ULTRA (over 200 miles competitively) race, and I felt something in common with everyone there,” Davis said. “We may be from all different walks of life, but we have this unusual enthusiasm that not many people share. You end up being friends with everybody; the competition didn’t override that.
“The bond is very special. This race was about a community of complete wackjobs – in the most wonderful way.”