Shred Girl IRL Luly Kaye is awesome—she’s a mountain biking superstar and this summer, she decided she wanted to tackle some bigger, longer races (for fun!), including the 120-mile UnPaved challenge in Pennsylvania earlier this month. After she finished—in under 13 hours!—she shared how the race went and her advice for how you can tackle a big challenge too!

(You can also read Luly’s first interview right here!)

Tell me about raceday!

It was amazing. It was so much fun. There was one spot where I really felt horrible. Because like I had a stomach ache. But it was like on this like really annoying flat windy road section. But other than that, it was amazing.

Can you walk us though the day?

I woke up at 6:15. And then I did some stretching and got dressed and made sure everything was packed on my bike. Since we were in a hotel, we didn’t really have a way to cook anything. I brought like bread and hard boiled eggs and tomatoes. And I just cut up the hard boiled egg and then tomato and ate it on the bread. I ate breakfast around 6:45 in the room, went to the bathroom, got everything done. And then by seven, we were on the road to the venue, to the start. I double checked that everything with my bike was working. And then we started at 7:30.

How was the start?

It was really relaxed because they didn’t do super official start times. So we kind of just got there and went when we were ready. We kind of just rolled out and onto the rail trail. And of course, while we are on the rail trail, there are all these dudes who are like gunning it going 25 miles an hour on the rail trails… So silly, you don’t need to prove anything on this rail trail.

How was all the climbing on the course?

The first climb was the longest and the steepest, which was good, because I was fresh and just paced myself. Later, if I got off the bike to walk, I would get shaky. But as long as I was on my bike, I never really felt that tired. Actually, the downhills were hard too! There was this one downhill that was pretty brutal, really rocky. I ended up with blisters on my hands!

And how was like the last 20 miles? I know you’ve ridden 100 before, but that last 20 is farther than you’ve done!

So the course is set up in a really nice way where the elevation is a lot at the beginning, and you end with a very long descent. So the last 15 miles was downhill and downhill Rail Trail so it really wasn’t that bad. It was actually a really chill finish. There was a little section on the rail trail in the last five miles where it was raining and dark and you couldn’t see the end, and you felt like, ‘I’m gonna be on this rail trail forever.’ But other than that, it wasn’t bad! And the last big climb, my mom was waiting at the top. So that really pushed me up.

What did you do for clothing to stay warm and dry?

I had a wool layer and I had a small windbreaker. But then my mom had my real raincoat at the top of the last climb, so I put that on and I put on some fresh gloves.

What kind of advice would you give another girl who’s like nervous about the idea of maybe not even 120 miles? Maybe they’re nervous about the idea of like a 50 miler because it’s more than they’ve ever done.

That’s a good question. I’d say just take it easy. Like, there’s really no point in trying to go fast. It’ll usually just tire you out, as I learned at my first gravel grinder in the spring. I definitely tired myself out on that one. So just and don’t like pay attention to all the dudes who are trying to go fast at the beginning. Like, it may look like everybody’s going fast. But a lot of them will probably not finish or drop behind you eventually, because they’re not pacing themselves… And even if they do go way faster than you, it’s really more about finishing in this case. Like, even finishing something that’s 50 miles is pretty difficult.

How did you deal with when you weren’t feeling great on the course?

I knew that we had plenty of time, we had been going pretty fast. And I was ahead of schedule. I reminded myself of that, and then I just tried to enjoy the fall foliage, and tried to keep eating some stuff that was easy to eat, and just kept pedaling. And Marie was riding with me, and she was very nice to just talk and chat to ignore me being uncomfortable.

Luly also has THE MOST BRILLIANT pre- and post-race journalling strategy that is SO good that I’m saving it for another article, so stay tuned for that!

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