At the end of February I set off to Cordoba & Jaen to ride in the Andalucia Bike Race, a 6 stage UCI mountain bike race covering 425km and 10,000m of elevation. I’d put some good training in, I would consider myself to be fairly fit (riding 10-15,000km each year for the past 7 or 8 years with around 250-300 thousand metres of elevation) and was looking forward to the event.
I struggled on the TT, I had too may layers on and boiled myself whilst riding and perhaps held back a little knowing about the days to come. I had never done a multiple stage event before and did not want to go too hard too early and perhaps not finish the 6 days. The Stage 1 TT results defined where you started the following morning and after a rather disappointing performance I was in the 6th out of 7 starting gates the next morning.
Stages 2, 3 & 4 went well, I rode all the technical challenges, I had no mechanicals and did not crash out. Starting towards the back of the field, did have its down side, as it usually took 15-20k for the riders to thin out which meant you had to ride at the pace of the rider in front or get off and walk as the trail was blocked. The route and the trails were superb throughout the event. Some trails, I know I would not have ridden if I had seen them first so I was really pleased with the technical side of my riding.
However, multiple days in the saddle and consuming more energy gels/drinks/bars than normal started to play havock with my digestive system. Day 5 was grim! The longest and hottest day and my body was in shut down mode. I was pedalling but going nowhere fast!! The kilometers seemed to take forever to tick over. Although I finished the day I was physically wrecked, slightly dehydrated and not wanting to stray too far from the toilet (if you get my drift). That evening I slept a lot, I could not eat of drink without wanting to be ill from one end or the other. I seriously considered quitting! Luckily for me I’m a stubborn old git and even though I looked like death warmed up, on the last day I dragged myself to the start line and rode the last 50k on empty. A massive thanks to Keith who literally towed me home for the last 25km.
During the ride I had plenty of time to think about / question my performance. Can I or can I not make myself suffer? How did I end up feeling like this? Could I have avoided it? Will I ever enter a multiple stage race again? What can I take from this experience?
Can I make myself suffer? I’ve done an ‘Everesting Challenge’, I’ve ridden 300k in a day and I didn’t quit on the ABR so yeah I think I know how far I can push myself
How did I end up feeling like this? Perhaps the combination of riding multiple days & consuming more energy style products than usual, not having home cooked meals after each ride to recover and for me, one the longest day, there should have been more food/drink stops on the event. I dare say I hadnt drank or eaten enough on Day 5
Could I have avoided it? Perhaps, who knows! You can always train more before the event. I did my pre/post ride food/hydration routine good. Apart from after Day 5 when I just could not do anything
Will I ever enter a multi stage race again? My immediate reaction was never again, still 2 months later I would not consider doing another. Maybe in time I will, who knows, because I certainly dont! Never say never as the saying goes!
What can I take from this experience? I knew riding multiple days was going to be tough…. but not this tough. Hats off to anyone who does these events, they are not easy. However, fit you think you are, it’s not enough! You need to train more! Most of all I discovered how far I can push myself physically and mentally. I am tenacious! I have a strength and inner drive to complete any challenge I set myself! It takes a long time to recover from these physical endurance events, well it did for me!
As the saying goes
‘Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever”
So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with?
If I had quit, I would be signing up again to ride the event in 2018 and to try to complete it! Thankfully I stuck it out in 2017 and won’t have to!
Over 900 riders started the race. Less than 600 managed to finish it!
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