Checking in with 36-Hour Washington Island Bike Race Champ Heidi Videto

Last month TeamSFQ'er Heidi Videto won the Washington Island Ultra 36-Hour Bike Race. Yes, 36 hours of pedaling....mind-blown?! So are we. She was gracious enough to share all about this experience with us for here. 


Heidi, congrats on a massive accomplishment: 440 miles on a bike in 35 hours 30 minutes. We are mind-blown!!! Can you talk about what this ride means to you, when you set this goal, etc? 

This is probably the greatest athletic achievement of my life for so many reasons. To be fit and healthy enough to handle the training and then actually finish the race without getting seriously ill made this one super special. I have ALWAYS had issues during training to some extent and the stress of training/racing has reactivated Epstein Barr Virus which basically means I have had raging mono after every single endurance event I have ever done. But not this year! I have always set seemingly high goals for myself (and usually fall short) and this event was no different. 2 years ago when I signed up for 2019 (I didn't go because I had major oral surgery a month before) I told Mary that I thought I could do 500. She agreed that with my 24 hour mileage that was doable. I lowered the goal in January because I realized that a goal of 450 miles is a very respectable goal that would still take work to achieve  and it wouldn't leave me feeling crushed like missing a 500 mile goal would. 

Did you get bored riding ten mile loops for a day and a half? What did you think about to keep yourself focused and on track?

I actually do really well with monotony haha!!! I ride really long indoors (12 hour and 170-200 mile rides) and practiced riding the same 10 miles during all my outdoor training just to get used to how it messes with one's mind. The reality is the race also starts at night so the first 7 hours don't count --at least that's what I kept telling myself. You cannot see what is ahead of you so that actually makes things a lot easier. Or should I say it was easier the 1st night...not the 2nd night. 2nd night was tough as hell. For the better part of the first 200 miles I just sang songs to myself and kept repeating my mantra: Do Your Job. I did this a lot during training. When stuff got hard I just told myself that for now this is my job. I just have to keep riding. It doesn't have to be fast  or pretty but it has to get done. I could then usually turn my mind "off" and just ride. That all worked great for the first 24 hours which I think was a huge testament to how great my training was.

What were your toughest moments during the ride and why? 

I remember I had a complete meltdown which included a panic attack and inhaler sometime around mile 270. Miles 201-260 took me almost 6 hours. I just couldn't turn my legs over. I was starting to get into my own head and lost focus on the task at hand. It also seemed exceptionally hot but the heat may have been exacerbated because the night before was exceptionally cold. Thankfully I had told Mary and Taryn ahead of time that if I lose it and start crying I more than likely need protein so they shoved a ton of chicken at me and I happily ate away. Things got better after that I think. Then night 2 came and it all seemed to fall apart again. I was utterly exhausted and had expended WAY too much energy on a lap because several people told me I was in the lead and I really wanted to get a few laps up. That was not a smart idea and I definitely will never do that again. I do not remember where I was mileage-wise but that was sometime between 11pm and 4am. It was tough because there were extreme highs and extreme lows. I went from hysterically crying while riding to laughing so hard I couldn't see straight. Very strange feelings.

What were the highlights?

The 1st 200 miles and the last 2 laps! The 1st 200 went SO quickly and I was smiling from ear to ear. I was in pure disbelief about how great I felt. The 2nd to last lap Jodi and I went out and CRUSHED the loop with the very specific goal of enjoying the last lap and taking pics.  Also at one point the Race Director apparently announced over the PA that I was at 300 miles and I had a goal of 450. A bunch of people out on the course knew my name and were super supportive and encouraging which was a huge morale boost.

Can you talk about the turning point with your health and autoimmune issues in the past year and how that impacted your training and preparation for this event?

Oh what a year! It started in March of 2019 when I discovered a new Naturopath and a Biological Dentis, both in the Phoenix area. The dentist discovered I had necrotic bone in my jaw and my mouth is way too small. He also promised me a decrease in some of the symptoms I was feeling on a daily basis if he removed some teeth, bone grafted 8 areas of my jaw and got me started on stretching my jaw to create space in my mouth which would ultimately lead to me breathing better. Oh and he also discovered I had a tooth root in my nasal cavity. As I was in the car high as a kite after the oral surgery I remember plugging up one nostril and singing "I can breathe" to my husband as I took my first sniffs through the other nostril. He was not amused FYI :).

The new Naturopath told me I reactivate Epstein Barr Virus and had quite a few hormonal irregularities and deficiencies. She also said I needed double the natural thyroid medicine I was on because the last Dr I had said I was "cured" and no longer had a shot thyroid (that isn't how it works by the way).  It took about 8 months of back and forth with supplements and follow up bloodwork  and a lot of dental visits but everything started to come together by the end of 2019. I could breathe better and in general feel like a new person.

Training in  2019 was pretty non-existent because I had mono after Hole 2 Hump then trained through for IMTX which nearly killed me. My EBV was super activated and I was on high doses of Vitamin C, ozone blood transfusions, a high dose vitamin transfusion and slept through the summer and most of the fall.

Relatedly, can you talk about your relationship with your Coach Mary Knott and how she helped you to keep this dream alive even when you were hardly able to train at all?

I don't even know where to start! I think because Mary saw me at my absolute lowest when I was having seizures 6 years ago (and she would baby-sit me on rides btw) she may get what I am going through more than most. She is actually the one who when my NP in Sedona retired found me my new one. She always seemed to understand that it was never a lack of effort or desire on my part but a lack of my body cooperating. As someone with what they call an "invisible illness" I can't even properly put into words what that means. There has always been a trust between us. I will tell her when I cannot go any further and she will believe me and not push it so we can live to fight another day. When my health first took an upswing before IMAZ a few years ago that was the first glimmer of what we could do together (little did we know that it would get worse again before it got better).

But even when it went downhill she knew when to push and when to ease off. I hate not working out. My biggest fear in life is inactivity. She was terrific at reminding me that resting today does not mean I am giving up on tomorrow. When I started training for this race in January and things were going SO incredibly well we still kept checking in on how I was feeling (I had zero setbacks in 2020).  I don't think we will ever let that go because the reality with autoimmune disease is it will progress-- it is just a matter of when and how. That is what I appreciate most about her. She won't give up on me. It can't be easy for a coach and friend to watch. I really owe her a lot. 

What were the hardest/ craziest workouts you did to prepare for this event?

Every month that I thought we hit a new crazy month goal then the next would get crazier haha! I guess the hardest was the back to back 12 hour weekends, especially the weekend I did in CA. Historically I do not travel well and the days leading into driving to CA I had to go to work training 5 hours away for 3 days of training so I went into my 1st 12 hour pretty beat BUT that was the point: simulate what could happen on race day because I knew I would be driving to the race. Day 2 was really tough. We were on a boat the 3rd day and I was SO tired. I remember laying on Mary's lap and saying "biking is hard". The other fun one was a version of the Yeti Challenge. Bike an hour every 4 hours for 36. I thought that was my last big workout then taper but the following weekend was my only weekend to get my indoor century for the month of July done. I'm trying to do 1-indoor -100 miler a month for 2020. 

There was some significant TeamSFQ involvement in your race, most directly with Mary Knott and Taryn Spates on your crew, then with Jodi Gilmour's overnight bike-escorting, and finally with power from above from TeamSFQ'er Robin Pelton's Greg #PBG . . . Tell us about it all please!:)

Whew..1st off a girl could not ask for a better crew. Zero worries at all on my side. Taryn and Mary took care of literally everything for me!! I am still hoping Taryn can come back next year and I haven't scared her away! Mary is already in.

At some point during the 1st few laps I was thinking about Robin and Greg. The ride was overall in memory of Fallen Officers but Greg's passing hit me harder than I expected. This race is one he would totally appreciate too. It has everything I think he loved about racing. I was going to dedicate my last few laps to him because I figured they would be the toughest (which he also would have loved haha) but then decided that the completion of each century would be a good idea so I decided we would ride out the end of each Century together. I actually had full on conversations with him. It really helped me get through a few truly tough laps.

When everything started to close in on me the last 12 hours Taryn said that she had a conversation with Jodi Campbell Gilmour earlier about how I was feeling and she offered to ride a few laps with me. I thought I was fine so I went out and did a few on my own only to come back and say I needed someone to make sure I stayed awake and safe out there. I really actually felt I wasn't safe alone. Jodi jumped in and listened to me cry, distracted me with stories and by the end , which she never intended I am sure, suffered alongside me as we rode the last 120 together . . . 120 miles! This girl did her 1st-ever century the DAY before. This girl did virtual midnight 100-mile rides with me in January and February and would tap out after 30 minutes because she was bored. She blew me away and I hope she realizes how amazing she is. And STRONG. What she did for me was priceless. She kept me safe by yelling at me when I was riding into bushes and trees and laughed with me as I said Lord knows what in my delirious state.

Dare we ask what's next??

Well......afterwards I decided that 24-hour is more my jam so I was going to go for my long lost goal from 12 years ago of doing a 400 mile 24 hour. But now it has been decided that I am going back next year and trying for 500 in 36 hours. If I can do 440 in 35.50 hours on 6 months of hard training I can only imagine what another year under my belt can get me. I am actually super super excited!


Smashfest Queen bike shorts or bibs? BIBS 4 LIFE!!!

How many kit changes in 36 hours? 2 but only because I had a terrible rash/sore sitch.

Minutes slept in 35 hours and 30 mins? 20 minute dirt nap of which maybe 5 was sleeping.

Amount of caffeine consumed? Not nearly enough but surely enough to have killed any other non-racing human haha!

Favorite bike snack during the race? SMASH Marshmallow bars in Strawberry flavor! 

Number of times you considered selling your Dimond? Never!!!! I joked about it at the end but I absolutely love and appreciate being able to ride. This is all I ever wanted out of my life.

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