A few posts back I tried to make sense of the post event slump I felt after my France trip this year and figure my way through it. Once you push through to inevitable low following achieving a goal you set it’s hard not to look to whats next so I recently pulled the trigger on entering my next event, but first a little context.
You can keep your nice, your leisurely and your convenience.
Now, I never knew Mike Hall. I never met him. In fact, I hadn’t actually heard his name until it was being reported that a cyclist had died taking part in a race in Australia. No matter whether you knew a cyclist or not, to hear of them dying whilst out riding/racing hits home. Hard. We’ve all had close calls with other road users to some degree.
I read a few articles about Mike in the days afterwards to learn what had happened and that he had been racing in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. I’d never even heard of self-supported bike racing but the concept fascinated me. How do you ride 1000’s of kilometres on your own with no support crew, no feed stations, perhaps not seeing another riders for hours or days? I started reading everything I could find about the Pacific Rim Wheel Race, The Trans Continental Race, the Race Across America, the Tour Divide, individual blogs, anything.
It’s fascinating to me to read the stories these riders have to tell after knowingly going into these events and pushing themselves further and further. Sleeping road side or in hotels they found en route for a few hours before jumping back on the bike for another days racing knowing that their fellow racers may well be stopped for their own rest or may have still been racing whilst they slept.
I read more and more into ultra distance cycling, self supported races, bikepacking and whilst I had already set my sights on the Marmotte for 2018, I kept coming back to the idea of the self-supported racing.
In the post slump landscape I hadn’t really found anything that drew me in enough to enter until my good friend Andy sent me a link to an article about a new bikepacking race running in July 2019. I ploughed through the article and within a day I had sent my registration in to ride the inaugural Trans Alba Race in July 2019.
It’ll be a little over 1700km (give or take a few) as fast as I can manage from Edinburgh around Scotland and back in to Edinburgh several days later, taking in the Cairngorms, the Highlands, the Ilse’s of Skye and Mull as well as Southern Scotland entirely self-supported.
No feed stations.
No stationed mechanics.
No time limits each day.
No riding in groups.
I’ll sleep when I’m tired, eat when I’m hungry and ride all day through a truly beautiful country and wake up to do it all again until I’m back in Edinburgh.
Signing all the paperwork to get my spot.
I’m not a criterium racer, I’m certainly not a fast climber (though i love the mountains!) and whilst I have enjoyed the track riding I have been able to try, what I really love about cycling is the adventure of going somewhere new; experiencing new places, meeting new people and deep, deep down seeing just how far I can push myself. I was never particularly gifted when it came to sports, in truth, I’m still not. I’m not under any illusions about winning a race, but I enjoy that suffering that can come from physically pushing as far as I can. I think you learn a lot about yourself in those situations where you are on the edge. I certainly did this year at times and now I want to keep learning.
I want to know whether I can ride 200+ miles a day for day after day.
I want to know how I cope with waking up in strange places and within 15 minutes being on my bike and moving for the rest of the day.
I want to know how I can drink in the Scottish landscape whilst pushing those pedals as hard as I can until I roll back into Edinburgh in however many days it takes me to complete the route.
I want that childish sense of adventure back when I would roll out of my parents driveway to meet friends and go off doing whatever we wanted for the day.
(I also really want the hip flask of whiskey mentioned in the rider info as a finishers reward!)
For me, it was never a case of “Why would you want to do that?!” because when there is so much you can get out of an event like this, then why wouldn’t you?
It’s never been about winning anything and never will be. I’m in it for the adventure.