“You ok mate?”, another rider goes past, perhaps he recognises me. Perhaps he’s seen me before, stopped at the side of the trail either eating something or trying to coax my rear tyre into holding air by pumping it up and calling it “a f**kin’ tw*t”. I wasn’t swearing at it in a frantic, Oh My God I’m Losing Valuable Seconds sort of a way though, like I did at the World Champs race last year.
I don’t know why I was swearing at it, but then I often swear at misbehaving inanimate objects.
I’d been feeling increasingly ambivalent about this race, the UK 24 hour champs, for a few weeks. As far back as Revolve24 I’d been thinking that it would be a good idea to sit this one out but couldn’t put my finger on why. I’d assumed it was because I was riding around in a circle 167 times. As is often the case though, I carried on (reluctantly) preparing for the race, the delicate training/work/family balancing act becoming more and more tricky.
Even during the long drive to Fort William, I still had doubts and was questioning my reasons for taking part. It felt like there were several tails all wagging the same dog.
“It’ll be ok once the race gets started” I thought.
At first everything was ok. I’d been super-organised in the past week and Deb and I had a plan. We’d chatted it through on the way here and all being well and apart from necessary bike swaps, I should be able to race pretty much without stopping.
The plan was working for a couple of hours. I rode from 6th place up into 2nd without too much drama and felt fine – I was sure that I could keep this going for the next 22 hours….
22 hours. Jesus wept. This shit again.
It sort of hit me right then.
After thirty or so 24 hour solos, now I’m getting overawed by the length of the thing. Shouldn’t I have done all of this 25 races ago?
The Relentless course was as amazing as ever, my Santa Cruz bikes are amazing and so is my support. But I honestly didn’t care enough about the outcome of the race to actually ‘race’. I tried to focus, but instead I ended up talking myself out of it. Not because I was feeling weak or soft, just because I thought I could spend my time doing something more interesting.
Perhaps it was also significant that my youngest daughter’s birthday was on Sunday too, so as far as ‘talking myself out of it’ was concerned, there was plenty to get stuck into.
I bailed out of the race at 9 hours, deciding that if I was going to pull out I’d need to do it before the point where I’d need an extended recovery period. It’s ok breaking yourself if you’ve finished a race but a bit pointless otherwise.
I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I expected that to change into feelings of failure and regret after an hour or so, but that didn’t happen and it still hasn’t done. I just felt relief. I also felt guilty that I’d dragged my family 350 miles north for a bike race that I’d just abandoned. I’ll listen to my instincts next time. A lesson learned.
Instead of racing, packing up and going home, we rode the cable car, went out for breakfast and had some fun.
Bike racing will still be there when I decide to return to it, but Eleanor will only have one 9th birthday.
Now, where are my running shoes….?