Sonya Looney Rides the Mongolia Bike Challenge: Part 3 – The Fetal Position

Race Coverage Travel

Stage 6

Stage 6. 104 miles. 100 milers are my bread and butter in the US. I love them and the distance seems to be my sweet spot. However, our 100 milers involve a serious amount of elevation gain, normally 10,000-15,000′ of climbing and singletrack. Quite the contrast to this one.

I was dreading another fast start. Much to my surprise, it was mellow. It was a group ride! The lead guys didn’t want to hammer so the beginning was quite enjoyable as long as you could manage not to get caught up in a crash. Even though it’s doubletrack, it is a little sketchy in the pack with mudholes and sandpits.

After Aide 1, the group surged. I was able to hang in there for awhile. Matt and Steve once again acted as my roadie teammates, keeping an eye on me. I dangled near the back of the pack several times, but stayed on. My epitaph for the day was signed when the group encountered a long section of washboard road. I wished for a full suspension as the road zapped my energy and my forward momentum. I tried to respond to another attack, but had nothing. Again, Matt, Steve, Daniel, and I rode together. We had probably 80km to go.

Matt was an animal for Stage 6. He literally pulled all of us for 90% of the time. Daniel took a few short pulls, but Steve and I were at our limit to hang on. I was really thankful again to have a group to ride with.

I won’t sugarcoat it, I was absolutely miserable for most of Stage 6. I suffered a lot on the windy flat sections as usual, but I just did not want to be there. There was nothing I could do to cheer myself up or make it easier. I was hurting badly. There were a couple brief moments where I quietly melted down. Tears were flowing, but I tried not to let anyone in my group know. I didn’t want to suffer anymore. Of course, crying is often a symptom of hypoglycemia, so I took in gels and was eating chips at the aide stations. In fact, my technique was to fill both hands with chips and shove the into my face as fast as possible. Those salty BBQ chips were so divine! The only thing that helped my mental state was knowing I wasn’t alone.

For the first time in the race, we saw a pack of camels. It was pretty cool. The scenery crushed my soul. Everything looked exactly the same. You’d crest one small grassy hill only to find more as far as the eye could see. It made me compare it to the Sahara Desert in movies. It all looks the same, and it’s absolutely overwhelming. I tried to look up but it only made me feel worse so I stared at the back of Matt’s tire for hours saying nothing.

Matt felt great and it was his first time riding 100 on a mountain bike. We ended up dropping Steve Hammer on one of the short hills. He later told Matt, “YOU ARE A MACHINE!” Daniel, Matt, and I finally neared the finish line. Daniel and Matt took off as they should, and I pedaled it in.

I was so relieved to be done. What made that day hard was the wind, the flats, and my general lack of interest for the terrain. It is also different to do a race with not a lot of elevation gain because it means you have to pedal more.

YouTube Preview Image Video: Mongolia Bike Challenge 2013 – Stage Six. Video courtesy of Mongolia Bike Challenge.

I crossed the line and was so mentally and physically exhausted that I lay down in the fetal position. It felt amazing to be resting on the ground in the sunshine. I didn’t move for a long time. Then we were off to the river for another “ice bath.” It felt great. We also were in a modern camp! There were hot showers in a building, but I didn’t get the memo. I was in the tent showers, but took a tip from Catherine – have the kitchen put half half water in your bottle and fill the rest with cold and shower with that. It was absolutely wonderful to dump hot water on my head and down my back for the first time in a week!

The culinary spread was also a real treat. We were inside and the food was so good. We also had real toilets and power in the main building. I didn’t want to leave! It’s funny how simple things really make a huge difference. As much as it sucked to be deprived of simple creature comforts and in some cases, my dignity, it always makes me appreciate everything more… we had a bed to sleep in that night too. I didn’t have to wake up to turn over ever 20 minutes on the cold, hard ground in my sleeping bag!

The warmth had also returned. I didn’t need my down jacket during the day! Matt took a nap on a blanket in the sun.

We were all excited to knock out Stage 7, the final stage of the race.

Sonya Looney Rides the Mongolia Bike Challenge: Part 1 – The Adventure Begins »
Sonya Looney Rides the Mongolia Bike Challenge: Part 2 – The Harsh Reality »
Sonya Looney Rides the Mongolia Bike Challenge: Part 4 – Bonfire and Shaman Dancer »

Sonya Looney Rides the Mongolia Bike Challenge: Part 3 – The Fetal Position Gallery
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Stage 5

Photo by MBC/Erik Peterson.
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Stage 5

Photo by MBC/Erik Peterson.
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Stage 5

Photo by Daniel Carruthers.
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More Sheep for Dinner

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Stage 5 Ger Family

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Stage 6

Photo by MBC/Erik Peterson.
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Stage 6

Photo by MBC/Erik Peterson.
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Stage 6 Podium

About the author: Sonya Looney

Sonya Looney is a world class ultra endurance mountain bike racer. She has competed in the hardest international stage races in the world, picking up several wins. She has three USA 24 Hour National Champion jerseys in her closet, as well as a Marathon World Championship USA team kit hiding in there as well. Her love is for big mountain adventures which helps her excel at her favorite race distance - 100 milers. Sonya's positive energy and love for life would never lead you to guess she suffers in her races and always is laughing with a grin on her face. She also prides herself in her taste for microbrews, red wine, and has a quick witted sense of humor.


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