My first brevet: The Transcontinental Race
Posted by Alix Williams on
"Life is a bitch and then TCR!"
Day 3, Germany, near Villingen where my father was born, after my very first 24 hours of riding kinda non stop (6 hours cafe time on the Wahoo).
Scratching is probably the best thing that could happen to me. I always saw
myself as a quitter, turns out I am pretty stubborn. My race was gone on day 2
and there was very little chance I’d ever make a check point in time.
Then the trip switches from a race to an adventure.
And though you are not scratched yet, you know the race is over, you can be a finisher if you can afford the time it will take with all the accumulated delays, but if not, you are a red lantern and “about to be a scratcher” .
Hanging on is tough when everything is happening ahead of you. You see others' troubles and also their high times. You know you'll get the same trouble but you won’t get the highs of meeting other riders and meeting staff at the check points. It's hard on the morale.
You don’t know what scratching means until you really scratched and even more
when you stop pedalling, hassle with bringing yourself and your bike home, you
start sitting in the same place for too long, watching landscapes moving but
from a train window or getting actually bored at the comfort of a nice hotel and
Then scratching is bitter but it still can be a blessing because you've got this
urge for revenge, you want to prove it to yourself and no one else that it's you
who decides what you are about and able to.
You want to prove it tomorrow, hell you’d like to prove it now already. So you start plotting your vengeance at failure, you don’t see yet all that you have achieved but you see clearly all the mistakes you have done, you count them and it makes you dizzy, you repeat them one by one until they become the mantra of silence, the mistakes will turn into lessons, you start plotting and planning, how long to recover, when will my knees just get better, well it won’t take too long given you did a no-show performance.
In my case you might be too hard on yourself, you might forget you did ride your bike 25 hours in a row, climbed mountains in the night and did a 330 km catch up to the rest of the race just not to be alone at the back, you might forget you left while you were recovering a slipped disk in your lower back, had to cut off training when you were just about to build the power for climbing your heavy weight more efficiently.
But you don’t care. You know you shouldn’t, but if you don’t beat yourself, no one will, most people think 100 km is an achievement, climbing a mountain is amazing, it's not and you know it because if you can do it then anyone else can.
I was always the last guy to be picked for the recess football game team
selection, I am not the obvious athlete type of rider, am the slow guy who just
happens to love cycling enough that he'll stay longer in the saddle.
But that there, that magical feeling of the earth moving under my wheels and
me just sitting contemplating, that overwhelming feeling of freedom, adventure, that whole meditation feeling, buzz of silence, peace of mind in a frenetic heart beat music, that's me and no one can take that away.
So you wake up the next day, a bit later than you should but you jump back on it
through the heat and what ever comes, light hearted and determined. To make
the most of it, and ”it” is a precious gift from the TCR organisation, it,is gonna
take you through the beauty of Europe, the beauty of the adventure.
Now you’re on, eyes peeled open because something is in the making, something
is in the making, always, at night when you sleep or just between two random
thoughts, at the end of the road or on a detour sign you didn’t even notice first.
Something coming up your way.
Adventure makes you feel naked, a comfortable kind of naked, not that “naked
in the middle of the classroom” nightmare you had as a teenager but more of
that down-to-nature naked state, a primal feel, almost obvious. You have been
naked your whole life but you just didn’t know.
There is a dramatic beauty to ex-communist countries, it’s almost disrespectful to find it poetic yet, there is something seductively disenchanted in the very landscapes, architecture and objects you come across.
The outskirts of Brno, Czech Republic.
“SON, IN LIFE, YOU OUGHTA DO ONLY THE THINGS THAT GIVE YOU KICKS
OF JOY OR A SENSE OF PURPOSE, THE REST IS ONLY KILLING TIME AND
TIME IS A BLESSING YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO WASTE.”
That man, he gave me food and water when I knocked at his door because I heard kids and my brain went “kids, ice cream” but once I had eaten out on the road, laying down in the shade, I had a sudden urge so knocked at his door again and he gracefully let me use the toilets for what was the “digestion epic fail” of a sweet diet and litres of energy drink for the last two days. That other one had
done Paris Brest in the seventies. Pick your hero.
So scratching ain’t that bad. It makes you more careful, more attentive, more
aware, more eager more serious, stronger and wiser like my dot watcher said.
You now know exactly your flaws and cycling is all about pushing your limits, blurring them, caressing them, kissing them and mingling, blowing them away and destroying them, leaving them behind far behind like when you thought 100 km was a lot and find out you can ride 3 times that.
I’ve made a list of my mistakes which I hope can help any rookie dreaming of TCR. The first one being: do not attempt TCR. Unless you really know you can, unless you did all the Audax, the intervals, the hill repeats, the weight lifting, the chanting and hypnoses, the rough nights in bus stops, the riding on yesterday’s smelly and burning sweat, the saddle sores, the everything sore, the sleep deprivation effect on remapping or thinking straight, the eating whatever, whenever, however and more than you want or can, the million saddle tests and thousand kit combos.
Do attempt if you're not scared to “fail, fail again, fail better”. Do attempt if you have a bike, and a brave and a generous soul. Do attempt with all your loved ones well aware of the magnitude of what you re about to go through.
Leave your ego with your pain, shut and locked down at the bottom of your mind. Do attempt if that’s not just a dream you have but the drive and the will. Do attempt if you're scared of being scared.
Or you can always find a new hobby.
"Among all objects, only a few, like music instruments, can have a soul, the bike is among those and is the only one who is not designed to be an art tool, yet it is".
I have a list of about 53 mistakes I made as a rookie on the TCR and I’d be glad
to share it with you if you drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, thank you for