24 race story…2014
Hello and greetings inspirational people of my life that I am honoured to share the planet with. Here is the race recap as many were wondering how it went. It was an adventure for sure and I couldn’t have done it without you. When you read to the part where I had to get out of the trailer at hour 21 you’ll understand why. Thanks for your support always and for those who sent playlists, I loved every minute and so did those around me. I played them non-stop on a loud speaker in my pack and everyone around me laughed and enjoyed as well. There is nothing like rolling through the woods at 3 am listening to Dora, I’m the map and Akuna Matata. It made the erie moments quite funny actually:)
The 24 Hours of Adrenaline is a challenge I have been thinking about since I tried the Trans Rockies Mountain bike race back in 2010. In 2010 I was looking for the hardest mountain bike race I could find and it turned out to be just that, but the thought of trying to go an amazing distance in a single day was even more daunting. I ended up rupturing my ACL and my MCL on the other knee in a motorcycle mishap in August of 2013 and was discouraged about competing for the season, as knee surgery takes so long to recover from. ( I knew this first hand, as I had a complete ACL reconstruction in the past). I wanted to try and strengthen my knees to avoid surgery and the only way I thought I would have the integrity to train everyday was to sign up for something scary and huge, hence the 24 hours of Adrenaline…solo! Here is my story, the inspiration behind it, and a laugh or two along the way.
It was 1 AM, pitch black, and raining. I had come in from a lap of the 18km course to find my friend Chris, who had taken over from my wife as my pit manager for a few hours so she could sleep. In the 24, when you ride solo, you are required to have someone who looks after your needs for the full 24 hours. It is for your safety and sanity, as you tend to lose it a little after 8 hours or so of solid riding. My cramping had subsided and my magnesium/potassium ratio was finally on track again, as I had spent many laps fighting cramps that sent me vaulting from my bike into the trees, stiff legged and in pain, not being able to move for several minutes. I had fallen for one of the many no-no’s in this race early on, proof that knowing makes no difference in some circumstances. I had been told to come out of the gate and pace myself so that I didn’t overdue it on the first few hours and pay for it later. Well, when your in the front of the pack for a LeMons Start ( a 700 meter sprint to your bikes), and you get on the bike, with fast runners/riders ahead of you, and over half the field behind you, your kind of stuck in the middle as it were. I was indeed stuck. As I began the first hill climb which started about 100 meters into the race I was set on keeping my heart rate below 165 bpm, which would allow me to stay aerobic and allow for prolonged endurance. A good plan! Once I realized, however, that my trusty Garmin heart rate monitor had malfunctioned and was out of commission, I just decided to ride the first lap until things spread out a bit and then settle in. Unfortunately for me, the first climb is about 4 km long, which means anerobic time for my body. Too long at 170-190 beats per minute started a chain reaction that would come to haunt me later. I was redlining my heart just to stay on the bike during the climbs and keep my spot in line. If I pulled off to let others pass me, it would be an hour before the line of bikes allowed me back in, so I just kept peddling, knowing full well( but secretly hoping otherwise), that I was in for a crash( not a literal one but a physiological one where my body says ” hold the phone, you’ve got to pay for the checks your mind is writing”)…and pay I did.
Chris sleepily welcomed me back to my 10 by 10 spot on pit row( solo riders get to pit right on the course so they don’t waste any time getting to and from their tents). He had been napping under a sleeping bag in the relative quiet of the chilly night, and was half asleep when the lights I had borrowed from him, woke him from his doze. “Hey man, How’s it going out there?”
One might think I would be almost as groggy as him at this hour having been up for over 17 hours already and riding for 13 of them. I was, however, jacked up on Perpetuem and my mind was racing. ( my Perpetuem mixture has 50mg of caffeine in it, per hour and I had been racing for 13 hours…hmmm, what’s the math on that?) I began to tell him stories of fellow racers in trouble on the course, then I jumped to a book I am writing, then to the amazing roller section where you reach speeds of about 70 km/hr in the dark, and then we were discussing relationships and character development…hey wait a minute, I am supposed to be racing here. I had better get going. Oh I needed a tube as well, as I lent my spare to a racer who had a flat tire and his spare tube had a huge hole in it. I also needed warmer clothes as the temps had dropped and I was also, now, walking the 2 big hill sections, as my heart and body just couldn’t keep up the climbing at an E5 heart rate any longer. My crash had hit me on lap 3 and I was fearful of having to quit before I had even done 4 laps it was so bad. It is hard to describe not being able to move for fear of cramping. If I tried to move my leg just to remain balanced, it would cramp. Then I would transfer my weight to my other leg, and guess what? It would cramp! So I would try sitting. Big Mistake!…Hello Hamstrings…both cramping at the same time! I rode right off the course into a patch of moss and promptly fell over, still clipped into my peddles. If I didn’t move, I was ok. As soon as I even thought about getting more comfortable, my quads would cramp, straighten the legs, hamstrings would cramp, try to get out of the clips, toes would cramp, then calves, then back to hams….argggg, this is torture. Many riders passed me asking of I was, Ok? I answered Just fine( I was lying…why do we do that when we’re in trouble? I think it is so ingrained in me to be independent and show no signs of weakness that I could be having a heart attack and I would reply, just fine thanks, just taking a break) and there I remained until I had drank my camel pack dry , and had about 4 electro-lite pills from my pocket. I was hoping the cramping would go away but I wasn’t really sure, as I had never encountered this in training. I had to pee like crazy and forced myself to get detangled from the bike and stand up. My body had started to recover but the flood-gates were open and I had to stop to pee every 30 minutes or so, as I was drinking a tonne, but not getting the electro-lights I needed. This was turning into a race of science rather than a race of strength, and I was in trouble with my science teacher early( many of my past classmates will not be surprised by this. I was always the first to break a beaker, or cut my finger with the dissection scalpel).
After a long conversation, ( way longer than I had planned…) I hopped back on. Chris had me restocked with a fresh smoothy, a full camelback of water, a fresh bottle of Perpetuem, and a recharged brain stimulated by something other than the peddles going round and round and round and round. I was off again into the night. I should mention, I had on 2 Chamois shorts ( freshly lubricated with chamois butter…oh my aching sphinter), two jerseys( also lubricated…oh my aching nipples), my riding jacket, a bini under my helmet, a rain slicker, and windproof snowmobile gloves. I was cold! He had even charged up my helmet light for a 30 minute quick charge just in case( I was certain I wouldn’t need it as they had a full charge when I started…wrong!), and I was feeling good. My bike lights were long lasting and bullet proof so what happened later that hour came as quite a surprise.
Rewinding to the start of the race, where my wife Kelly and my Daughters Hunter and Piper, had worked hard to set up camp and have all the items that I would need over the course of the race laid out and accessible. The race takes an incredible amount of thought and preparation, as well as time away from the family for long rides to get your body prepared for the workload of being up and working for 24 hours. Signing up was the easy part! My girls had an easy up tent set up with tarp walls on 3 sides. I didn’t want a full tent siting there tempting me to have a short nap that I would wake from 8 hours later, so we had everything set up like a living room with 2 drawer systems but no bed and one wall missing. Each drawer was assigned to some special contents for easy accessibility. Parts in drawer one, lights and electronics drawer 2, race food,(bars, gels, protein, Nuun tabs, electrolytes from Hammer Nutrition, Perpetuem from Hammer as well), a cook stove and blender for smoothies ( my saving grace as I couldn’t stomach any food after hour 8 and only drank smoothies after that), and lastly a real food drawer ( bananas, stoked oats, apples. Chilli I had prepared and burned the night before…yuck). Besides the drawers, we had a recliner chair and 3 other camp chairs, a propane fire-pit for warmth for the pit crew, blankets, a bike stand, a gear bag but most importantly, the people. Kelly was super organized and supportive and the kids’ energy was infectious and positive. They believed in me and that was all I needed. I was committed to doing my best, but not attached to the result.
Many were asking me how many laps I was going to do? My answer, “ I have no idea, I’ve never done this before”. I just wanted to keep going if at all possible, and not get taken out by the voices in my head telling me to quit. I had done enough prep work to know it was possible to keep going for the 24 hours but I didn’t know what it was going to feel like physically but more importantly mentally. Your mind knows you very well and will pull every trick in the book to try and get in the way of your goal. This is true in the race and in everyday life. There were times when I lost that battle and took too long at breaks, got off the bike on long hills, and visited with friends and supporters on the course. It was a balancing act as I wanted to fully enjoy the experience but I also wanted to do what I had set out to do, and that was my best effort. In retrospect I didn’t give it my best effort but we often belittle our own experiences soon after we have completed something so I don’t know whether to trust this feeling or not. It really doesn’t matter either way. I did how I did, and I know what I have to do to be better next time.
While I did give in to that voice in my head at times, there was one victory for me, that stands out as one that will be with me forever. I will try and describe it but it truly is something you have to feel. It was 8:30 AM and I had been awake for over 24 hours. I had gone to the trailer at 6:30, shortly after sunrise and my light fiasco, ( more on that later) and I was spent. My mental state was good but I was cold, tired, ill from not eating, and I thought a little lay down might be nice. Kelly had warned me that other riders had tried this and had a very hard time getting back out of bed. Many had failed to do so. The rider across from our tent, for example, had suffered this fate at about 3 am when he had lost feeling in his hands and laid down to see if that would help. He would never return to the race.
My thoughts were that I was not like the others and I would be fine to get up after 2 hours of rest, (sleep was impossible after so much activity and caffeine). Oh how our minds are devious and cunning…haha. I set my alarm and laid down to listen to my mind chatter. As soon as I closed my eyes, I was back riding the course, dodging rocks, slogging up hills, bouncing along the decents, I had to keep opening my eyes to break the thought pattern. It was frustrating. I didn’t want to keep riding in my head, I wanted it to stop so I could sleep. Then my mind started to assess how depleted and beat I was. I started feeling like I could never get out of this bed even though I wasn’t sleeping. I began to think of how much work my family was doing and of how I wouldn’t be of much use to them if I continued. Who was going to pack up my trailer and the camp-site? Who was going to drive the truck and trailer home? They needed me so I should just say enough is enough and get some rest. Then I started thinking about the load on my heart. I was worried about the stories I had heard about long endurance athletes and the damage they do to their hearts over long periods of exertion and I started to have doubts as to whether I had trained enough for the event. I should quit before I robbed my daughters of their Dad, and what would Kelly do without me around. Life would be so hard for her and the kids.
My alarm went off and I shut it off and gave up! I was done, I would not return to the race. It just wasn’t worth it. It was a stupid goal, and I am not even competitive so who cares. No one would blame me. Kelly came in the trailer bright eyed and cheery telling me how beautiful the sunrise was and how the energy outside was awesome. It was 8:30, time to finish that lap and get another one in as I had planned earlier. Our pit was located about 1 km from the finish line along solo pit row, and I had not crossed the finish line for my 7th lap yet. It was then I told her that I would likely not continue. I was spent! Wake me at 11 and I will complete the 7th lap and go home. She shook me a little, told me she was proud of me either way, but she believed I could do it, if I just got vertical. I was like…no way, I feel like hell warmed over in a microwave. She came in 3 more times every 5 minutes or so like a mosquito who refuses to give up dinner. I wanted to swat her and her positive attitude flat and go back to dozing in my personal hell.
Then something overwhelmed me that I find difficult to describe. I welled up with emotions and realized I WANTED to continue. The rollercoaster in my head had stopped on a precipice, and I knew in my heart that I could and would find a way to continue. I let the people in my life wash over me like a warm shower of inspiration, the people who I chose to think about over the past 24 hours. In that moment I truly grasped the brilliance of the for-thought I had put into this race. ( that sounds like bragging until you look at the fact that I signed up and payed thousands of dollars to ride by myself for 24 hours…duh, right?) Somehow I knew this moment would come and I knew I would fail in the face of it. I knew I didn’t have it in me! I had thrown in the towel in situations in the past and I knew I would do it again. Something inside of me knew this and had a contingency plan. I couldn’t do it alone and Kelly was the catalyst for the fuse inside me needed to relight the flame. ( wow that was a lot of fire analogy…sorry) The flame started with her and got bigger with each spark of inspiration from all the believers in my life that knew I could continue. They were with me in that moment because I called them into being. I can’t express how it feels to have all that support come flowing in in your direst moment, but suffice it to say, it was overwhelming! I started to cry and knew I was going to get up and complete the race to the best of my abilities. I had decided early on in my training that I wanted to share the experience of what this race is about and some of the life lessons I have learned because of it. I had wanted to give back to the many people who helped me along the way and the many more who have thoughts, hopes, and dreams about completing something in their life that has significance or meaning to them. Your reading this because I chose to acknowledge those people in my life who make a spiritual difference to me, who lift me up with who they are. I arose from the dead that morning because of you, because you make a difference to me, and I didn’t want to let you down. I arose because I knew you were there with me. I had anticipated trouble and knew I would need some angels at some point and luckily I have many on hand. I just needed to acknowledge them and have them in my hip pocket to call upon when I needed them. It is such a great metaphor for living as we often feel we are alone with our troubles travelling through life, when in reality, we are surrounded by angels just waiting for the chance to contribute, because contributing lifts them up, gives them a reason to BE, and allows them to grow through others suffering and pain. Our experience in life feels like it is uniquely ours, but in truth, it is shared with the entire planet. Lending our support flows from us and the ocean of life eventually flows back. We will all need at some point…and there will always be someone to fill that need…if only we are present enough to see them and allow them to contribute.
I struggled out of bed( It took me about 10 minutes to get vertical…even longer to stand up) and I posted a picture on face book stating that I had given up, until this very moment, and I was going to continue if my body would allow it. I posted it because I wanted those people to know they were with me and they were the reason for my success in that moment. I wanted them to know I could feel them in the world and that they help and inspire me, even when they are not with me. I wanted them to know I loved them, helk I wanted the world to know I loved them! I was drunk with I don’t know what, because I had never felt this way before but I was that “ I love you man” drunk at the party that everybody rolls their eyes at. It was a feeling of absolute WONDER.
Cool, now on with the race…Kelly had gone to Ashley Myers tent to get some advice on how to get me to, rise and shine, as it were, and when she returned, she was surprised to see me up and changing into dry gear. I said I was back in the game and off she ran to prep my bike for another lap, more water in the camel back, another bottle of Perpetuem, more chamois butter. She had turned into a pro support team overnight. I was off and racing again by about 9:30, plenty of time to complete my 7th lap and do the required lap between 11 and 1. To complete the race, each team and solo rider must complete at least one lap from 11 until 1pm, making the race a 25 hour race rather than a measly 24 hour one. Great!
I had saved Kelly’s playlist for this lap as I knew I would need something special to complete on and with each song she had chosen, new tears would arise out of love and admiration for my loving wife of 14 years. Today was our anniversary which made life all the more special and her music, and my state of mind, made for what might appear to be a messy finish, but was in truth, the sweetest victory shared by her and the most influential and inspirational people of my life. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better place to be in the world, than right here with my family living this dream.
Oh. I almost forgot. The light story! On lap 7, which would be my longest lap, I headed out into the dreary, rainy night with 3 lights and two batteries. I started up the first climb and came across a rider who had broken his chain. I stopped to help and then it occurred to me that I had no idea how to fix a broken chain. I had signed up for this race and didn’t even know some of the basics of bike maintenance. Haha, so typical of me, flying by the seat of my pants. With my extra pair of hands he was able to get it repaired the second time ( although I only really held the chain while he did all the work). We fixed it once and realized we forgot to put the chain through the derailer…haha. I carried on feeling good about helping and feasting on the positive energy I get from helping others when 2 of my three lights went out. I stopped to investigate and it quickly became apparent that the battery was dead. So much for long life Lithium. I tried to descend this tricky downhill section with nasty rocks and roots with my last remaining light and it worked but I had to go very slowly as it was super dangerous. It was then I realized I had left my glasses back at the top of the hill where I was working with the chain guy…arg! I wasn’t going to leave my 120$ glasses on the trail to be trampled so I found a spot to stash my bike and was turning around to run the 2 km back up when my friend/mentor/trainer arrived on his bike and asked what the helk I was doing. Ashley is an elite cyclist with years of experience, and he had helped me prepare for the race in many capacities. He was looking at me funny and at first I was worried that he was in trouble. I asked how his race was going, and he replied he had had some trouble with illness and was struggling. I asked if he needed any food or gels or anything ( my pack was filled with emergency gear and food, A mistake I won’t make again. My pack was way to heavy and taxed me incredibly…next time …no pack!) and he replied no, so I waved goodbye and headed the wrong way, back up the course, to find my glasses. I encountered many riders coming the other way, but found my glasses intact, right where I had left them. As I was making my way back down to my bike which was still stashed in the trees hopefully, I noticed my last light begin to flicker…oh dear. It was then I realized I had given my emergency headlamp I always carry in my pack to Chris at the last pit stop so he could set up my lights. I had no back up plan! I managed to find my bike, but after that, the light was practically useless to ride with, only functioning as a weak flashlight. I was at Km 3, which meant I would have to walk out to KM 7 where the course came with 500 meters of my tent, where my spare lights were. That 4 km took me forever, and believe me when I say, the woods are very dark at 4 am. It was lonely, cold and slow, but I got to the pits and swapped lights. I didn’t want a repeat, so I packed 2 spare batteries and my spare lights. My pack was over 25lbs now, with the 3 liters of water, stereo speaker, spare tube, CO2 cartridges, and lights. I finished the lap after an exhausting 4 hours, which set me up for the whole gotta have a nap conversation, which lead to one of the greatest victories of my life. Which is the lesson in life that I will leave you with today. Life and circumstances have a way of happening, things come up and we label them as good or bad, slot them into experiences we liked or didn’t like, and we carry on. We often dwell on experiences, wish they wouldn’t have happened, wishing things could be different, wondering how they might have been if they didn’t happen. The truth is when life happens, it could be good luck or it could be bad luck. Some of our seemingly worst events, lead to our greatest triumphs. If that light didn’t fail, could I have got 2 or 3 more laps in? Maybe? Maybe I could have finished 11th instead of 13th. But then I would have been robbed of that getting out of bed experience. Which is more important? See what I mean?
I crossed the finish line with time to spare, finishing 13th out of the 17 crazy riders who signed up to ride solo and are in the senior, over 40 class. It was a life-changing race that will be with me forever. I learned to appreciate the people in my life and that anything in life is possible. Diet, exercise and thought, need to be impeccable, and applying these lessons in my daily life will, hopefully, keep me healthy and happy into my senior years. Many of my friends and family are suffering because they no longer have their health. Please remember, it’s never too late to take your life in your own hands, make the changes you need to so you can play catch with your grandkids. You have wisdom to give and will have more when your older…making a contribution to yourself, makes a contribution to the world. You make a difference, show the world what you can do, show it you can overcome your mind chatter and be unreasonable, that is, no reasons will get in the way of your goals. I highly recommend you read Younger Next Year and find a Kedge to aspire to, something out in the future to train for and to live into. Create a goal that is just out of reach ( or one that is way out there like I did), and alter your day to day living. Each potato chip you don’t eat gets you closer to your goal and when you reach it, that chip won’t even be missed. If you need some coaching or someone to talk to, contact me through daretodreamextreme.com. I’ll be happy to help; helk, I might even join you.
Namaste, Darin Bullivant
P.S. I later found out that Ashley had reported that he had come across me in the woods during the night, delirious and lost. He indicated I didn’t have a bike and was running the wrong way on the course. He was considering sending out the rescue sweepers to find me. Now I know why he was looking at me so funny. I can only imagine what he must have been thinking. Hahaha! What a race!
Huge thanks go out to My pit Crew Kelly, Hunter, Piper, Chris as well as Ashley’s family and pit crew who shared their knowledge, supplies and spirit, the Jarrett and Mealey families for coming out to cheer me on, the 24 inspirational people who kept me going throughout the race, many of whom supplied me with the music which I blared from my stereo in my back pack. Huge thanks as well to the race organizers and volunteers, you were awesome!
I was also delighted to find out the race was actually 25 hours long as I could then add one more inspirational person to my book who was there from the beginning, and has supported and believed in me for many years. You will be reading about him in the news when he wins the Men’s Solo 24 hour World Championship, and you’ll be reading about him in my new book 24 when it’s on the best-seller list at your local bookstore. Thanks Ashley!
2016 24 hours of Adrenaline
by Darin Bullivant, number 26.
It’s only been two weeks but I already forget the cold, the suffering, the mud, and all the drama. The 24 is so much more than just a loop. The race was going as planned and things were looking good right up until the mud turned to peanut butter. I’d been riding 12 hours straight, only stopping to wash out my derailleur and chain as it became too clogged up to pedal about every 2km.
My nutrition this year was spot on and I had had no cramping to this point and was able to ride most sections of the course. Hammer nutrition makes great products and also has tried and tested their nutritional programs thoroughly. Their long-distance program involved eating very little, to no, food and sustaining your energy only by drinking perpetuerm, a protein/carbohydrate blend that is the perfect 30/70% fuel for long-distance races. I was expending between 1500 to 1800 cal per hour on the bike, and I would be unable to put in and utilize that same amount of calories, because my body was still working. On long endurance races you’re only able to put in about 250 to 280 cal that are usable, anything extra just sits in your stomach and turns sour. I wanted to avoid this because I had felt the drastic results the last time I had attempted this race, when I tried to eat on every lap.
I got a fresh bottle of Perpetuem from Kelly, Hunter and Piper at the pit each lap which took about one hour 40 minutes after my bike wash per lap. I always took enough Perpetuem for two hours’ worth of riding, just in case I got into trouble somewhere. Such was the case when the lights went out at around 10:30 pm. With the drop in temperature, the varying amounts of rain, and all the riders traipsing across the course, the conditions had changed dramatically for the worst. Many sections were now unrideable, forcing riders to dismount and push their bikes through the mud, and sometimes the mud was so thick it clogged up the tires, the chain, the derailleur, any shock linkage and just made the bikes immobile. One would think it would be easy enough to push your bike off the trail and walk in the trees, but there was no way to do this at the Canmore Nordic Center on the long 2 to 3 km switchbacks that rise up the mountain. During the earlier laps I was able to stay seated for the entire course, keeping my heart rate between 145 to 165 bpm, but since the conditions had changed, frequently my heart rate was 170 and above, which wouldn’t bode well for future labs.
One lesson I learned last time was to curb my desire to run out hard at the start. It wasn’t necessarily the fast run that messed with me last time, but the mid pack line of riders that was too hard to hang with for my first lap. I had red lined too early last time so this time was going to be different. Hence, the cow outfit! Yes, I dressed up as a cow for the stampede theme, complete with udders and a cowboy hat. By the time I finished the run (cows don’t run much) and changed into my riding gear, I was pretty far back in the pack. At least I didn’t have anyone pushing me! I was riding my own pace and the rain was intermittent, nice! My laps were right where I wanted them to be and the course was holding up well. I was on track to ride 12-13 laps and feeling strong. No crashes, no walking, no bike issues…. right up until it started to pour! 24 hours is a long time both meteorologically and psychologically, and the poop was bound to hit the fan eventually.
The added resistance of the mud and all the pushing added up and my ACL injury and incredibly tight IT Bands were starting to complain. My knee felt like I had something stuck in the back of it and I had lost the ability to straighten it on the pedal stroke. My other leg was compensating and it was getting sore as well. The pain added to the mud in the world of distractions and I ended up going over the bars. Luckily, my feet released out of the clogged pedals and I was able to run down the rocky section of the race without breaking anything. It was incredibly challenging, fighting the foggy safety glasses, the rain, the complete blackness, and the course itself. It made the race a 10/10 on the pay attention scale and I was beginning to wonder if I should continue.
I was only 7 km in on the 6th lap and I decided to stop at km 9 where the course came close to the wash station and my pit. I ducked off the course and when I dismounted I realized I couldn’t even walk at this point. Decision time. I found Kelly, who was surprised to see me, and discussed the options. The more I tried to move, the more it became evident that I wouldn’t be able to continue with my leg in the shape it was. Kelly went to check on Physio or massage as options, while I stripped off the sopping gear and got into a warm down jacket. I opted for a visit to the physio tent, where my physio angel from Pivotal Physiotherapy hooked me up to this crazy compression machine that squished all the nastiness and blood right out of my legs. NormaTec is a wearable massage technology that wraps around a riders’ limb, sending pulsations through the limbs removing built up lactic acid. I was hoping to jump right up and head back out (well, truth be told I was cold, wet, tired and it was miserable still raining hard and you could see your breath…hmmm, it as pretty cozy under the electric blanket with the leg squishers on). When my treatment was completed I got up and limped away. It was time to take some Naproxen and wait out the pain (breaking yet another rule of mine), bad weather, crappy light and dangerous conditions. I was bummed but It would have taken me hours to complete the lap and I would have been a mess after.
I had a bowl of soup breaking my no food rule but I was hoping it wouldn’t hurt me as I was taking a prolonged break. Best bowl of soup ever at 2 am!!! I crawled into a cold trailer as the heater had crapped out, into a down sleeping bag and fell into an uncomfortable slumber. The last time I had raced this race, I had settled in for a quick nap and returning to the race was the most difficult thing I have ever done. I was worried it was going to be a repeat performance.
As it turned out, it wasn’t! I awoke feeling refreshed and ready to go again but as I stood up, that dang pain was still there with a vengeance. Back to Mohammad who was incredibly bright and cheery for having had zero sleep. (It wasn’t just the racers pulling an all nighter). He put on the leg squishers again and I visited with Chris in the next bed. They were providing all the physio services as well as racing the event. Troopers, angels and athletes! Triple threat, nice! Mohammad tried to stretch out my legs and my hamstrings and IT bands made him laugh, as did the expression on my face. It was excruciating! Chris offered to try needling and he got off the physio table next to me where he was receiving a treatment, to give me IMS. He stuck me a few times and I wish I could say I felt like I could race again but it still hurt. I decided to give it a go and headed to the tent to suit up. As I headed out to complete lap 6 I was worried that the course was going to get the better of me and my bum leg. I lowered my seat about 2 inches so I wouldn’t have to straighten my leg, and compensated with my right leg. I wasn’t fast at first, but as I got spinning, the pain became bearable and I started to pick up speed. I crashed hard at the top of one of the climbs and broke both the front and rear fenders off. So much for that valuable amount of mud protection. It was going to get nasty! I was trying to calculate how much time I would need to complete this lap and if I would have time to complete some more.
Visions of Simon Whitfield throwing his hat down and giving it his all were coming to mind and I decided to throw down and see what I could do. I picked up the pace and started to take a few chances. The mud was really bad but at least I could see now. I was letting the bike run down the long 60km per hour hills, hoping the bike would stay under me through the muddy ruts. The left hand turn at the bottom was so sketchy and I had to push my right foot hard into the peddle to keep the tires from washing out. That leg was taking a beating and it was only going to get worse. I flew through the tough rocky downhill with reckless abandon and it was then that I started to believe and really started to have fun. Despite it all, I was now in a race with myself to complete as many laps as I could before the time cut off.
I came into the pit in under an hour and headed right back out without a wash. The bike was so dang heavy and shifting like a double clutching semi, but I didn’t have time to wash it off. I had 3 hours left and 2 laps to cover. I had been doing 1:40 laps before the course had turned muddy and before my leg had turned sour, so it was going to be close (and rough) to pull off 2 back to back laps in under 1:30. It was my own Personal Podium to try and get in 2 laps and my hat was off. I ran up the muddy hills that I couldn’t climb, I pushed way past my training zone 5 heart rate, and I was working that right leg double time to make the time cut. I watched two riders go down hard on the muddy downhills and I was grateful for my motocross training and bike handling skills. I didn’t crash again, even though I was taking many chances on the messy terrain. I came in at 11:30 and Kelly thought I was done when I rolled up and asked for another bottle and some electrolytes. Her and the kids scrambled to get me what I needed while I sprayed half a can of WD40 into the chain and I was off again to beat the clock. The roar of approval at the timing tent spurred me into a run (you had to dismount in the tent which was about 50 meters long) and I was off on the last lap with less than 1:25 to complete. It would have to be my fastest lap! I wish I could explain the feeling, I wish I could express the anger, the glory, the frustration, the surrender, the refusal to surrender, the euphoria, the inner battle that has you race for the finish. It was 81 minutes of emotional tidal waves and physical tornadoes. I was running on reserves I didn’t know I had and I found myself screaming and yelling at myself not to give up when I felt like giving in. No one else was on the course. It was me and my voices doing battle and I wanted to win. I pushed and pushed, gave up, yelled again and pushed some more. It hurt! A lot! But it felt amazing because I was doing it. I was Whitfield and even though I was the only one watching, I was all that mattered. I had done this for me. To keep me in integrity, to keep me healthy and strong, to keep me enjoying life. Then all the people that mattered to me, that I had committed too, that I was dedicating this journey too, came to me as well. I thought of them and of all the lessons I have learned, of all the love I have for the people in my life and even though it was hard, the suffering disappeared. I was smiling and exhausted as I crossed the finish line with no fan fare, no timing crew, no clock running. My family was my fan fare, cheering me on despite being 4 minutes too late. I had turned my fastest lap but it wasn’t enough. The last lap didn’t count. It only counted for me, and it was my best. The memorable moments of that final lap: the pro rider who passed me and went down at high speed 6 minutes before the finish, the Italian family who came to compete ( he had done over 30, 24 hour races and said this was the toughest), the soup, the mud, the community who never let me forget I was a solo rider…every human being I passed cheered me on, the woman who obviously had never ridden the course and stuck with her 4 hour lap that she completed for her team, my physio angels, and my 24 and my Kelly, Hunter and Piper. It was quite a ride and even after a month of recovery, I’m still walking right footed….haha Thanks to all who helped and supported me, donated to Place of Rescue, and thanks for reading this and sharing in my journey. A big shout out to Ashley Myers of Personal Podium for the training advice and support and the good people of Pivotal Physiotherapy for keeping me going. Your expertise and enthusiasm got me back out there and I’ll never forget it.