The toughest hour of my life

On Sunday, last week, I made an attempt for the junior national hour record. Noah Williams was the record holder for more than two years, which is pretty impressive to say the least.

I had heard about the record from my dad earlier in the year, and I decided to go for it sometime in the spring. It was a hard process to actually set up the event. It took months to schedule and was expensive.

The event was scheduled for May 8, and boy was it a nervous build up to the event. The day before the event, I remember feeling sick to my stomach and shivering just thinking about it. The day before, I had the chance to ride the track – Colorado Springs 7-11 Velodrome at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. It was a fast, indoor track, pressurized, and the climate was controlled completely when needed.

42 kilometers

Levi Kramer hour record start

I met up with multi-time national champion and Arizona native Dominic Suozzi (who would also be attempting the 200m record) and other locally famous track cyclists who were also practicing. I would have to average more than 24.1 mph or more than 38.766 km to break the record, which I was very capable of, but I was just worried about the potential of something going wrong. My goal for the hour was to average 26 mph, which would put me at about 42 kilometers. It would be decent, but not very impressive to some of my competition by any means.

The day of the event, we got up, packed the car and drove over to the velodrome. I had about an hour and a half before my attempt. My dad, James Kramer, was to go off around 4 p.m. It was very nerve wracking getting ready and warming up. My coach, Lee Povey, reassured me it would be okay as I took my bike to the officials to see if it would pass the weight and technical requirements.

Then I took it to the start to actually begin the attempt once my Faster teammate and friend Cliff Cassidy finished his. Cliff broke his record, and now it was my turn, time to go out and suffer more so than I ever had before.

‘Nothing more grueling’

Levi Kramer during hour recordI will be honest, you might think you have done some pretty hard efforts, and I don’t doubt that, but I canassure you, nothing is more grueling, painful, mentally challenging and all around awful than attempting to break a national hour record. It requires such a balance of not starting too hard and pacing it well that if you make even a slight error in judgment you can find yourself blowing up with 10 minutes to go. And at that point, it’s over for you.

I lined up for my start and set my bike on the starting stretch. I waited a mere half a minute before the official began his countdown from five, to four, to three, to two, to one, and go. I used all my weight to swing forward. It was time to go deep in the pain cave. The effort started slow, like all time trials, but would slowly become harder. The first 10 minutes was easy, I felt comfortable in fact for the first 30 minutes, steadily averaging about 26 mph.

Around 40 minutes it started to become uncomfortable, and by 45 minutes, I realized why people hated this event. The last 15 minutes were an eternity, and the last 10 minutes of that 15 was the most challenging thing I have ever done. I felt like I was being stabbed in the glutes and the hamstrings, but my lap times were coming down, and that was enough motivation to keep going.

Smashing the record

Levi Kramer hour record final

With five minutes to go, the announcer declared I was 14 laps up on Williams.  The next lap, I broke his record, and everything else was icing on the cake. I continued to speed up until the last lap with people screaming at me to go all the way, coming around the last corner I heard the “bang bang” of the gun. I had finished the effort. I was a national hour record holder.

I cannot stress the absolute pain and joy I experienced finishing the attempt. It is such a whirlwind of wanting to scream in pain and being overjoyed of finishing the hardest thing you have ever done. I could not walk. I needed people to catch me and lift me off the bike. I laid down until the officials brought the official details of my attempt – a white board with all the details.

As they walked we all looked over and saw the 44.076 km plastered on it. It was 2.1 more kilometers than I expected to do, and the math showed a 27.3 mph average. I could not believe it. The previous record had been smashed, and so had I.

But I had accomplished the biggest goal I have ever set in my life.