This was my first ultra race, which for anyone that has done one before will know is quite daunting. Riding through the night and napping on pavements is one thing. But dealing with body aches, sleep deprivation, and at times riding on an empty stomach is another for me. I spent so much time when I raced competitively on the road, making sure that my body was in the best condition possible to ride, fuelled optimally for the distance and no injuries to contend with, the knowledge that I would have to push through these feelings really was the main thing that scared me. I guess it wouldn’t be much fun if it was easy, right?
It’s never simple to pace yourself correctly for what is an unknown effort. Pace your mental motivation, your speed and your resource consumption. I knew there were sections of 100km with little to no shops so leaving the bulk of nutritional products that I brought with me from Styrkr for then was a good plan that paid off. It left my mind at ease knowing I could fall back on the stock I had with me on the bike.
With 720km still to go I slit my tyre, a hole too big to plug (even with multiple efforts) so the emergency super glue came out (a last minute addition to the kit list) and saved the day, gluing it together and filling the rest in with plugs and sealant. The thought of the puncture ending or disrupting my ride really gave me clarity of what I wanted to get out of this. I wasn’t there just to finish which was the feeling I had before starting. I wanted to find that grey area of my personal limit during these days on the bike and I was willing to push for it.
About 620km later, sitting in a bar eating some food I found that dark place, with the plan of pressing on through the night to finish around 2am, I realised that I really couldn’t keep myself going. I had slept for 20mins on the first night, and around 2:30 hours on the second night. This plan would require another night of very minimal sleep which I didn’t think would be safe. I went off into this town in search of a hotel, not realising I hadn’t paid for my food and drink and I had left my bike behind at the cafe. This whole experience felt so normal at the time, just wobbling around this town and not thinking straight about what or where I was going, and definitely not self conscious about how it all looked. After a few odd interactions, all bills were settled and a hotel was found for a decent rest.
The next 100km were inside my own head, I loved it. I really found my rhythm, disconnecting from the idea that I had a lot of climbing and distance still to cover, but thinking about it more like a constant low level effort I had to get comfortable with, I just had to keep moving slowly and I would make it in good time. None of this was done with a race in mind, or a determination to beat someone ahead or behind me. It was just a desire to push myself and get it done with. Cringy tunes in the headphones, and a trail of thought that would sound as incoherent as a dream if I repeated it. I kept doing the basics, salts and drink mixes in every bottle refill, stretching the back and neck at every stop and never letting myself get too comfortable with being stationary.
By 8am I was on the home stretch, final uphill sections with the sun rising on my left warming me back up after another chilly night. The views throughout the race were incredible, there was no point during the route that the landscapes weren’t a source of entertainment or inspiration. This final sunrise over the mountains gave me the energy needed to enjoy that last 10km rather than suffer through it. I would have said that I hated the experience as a whole all the way until this point. I realised then that I had achieved something, not anything monumental or unique, but something that I could be proud of. And that satisfaction was worth it.
I’m sure I’ll be back for more…