A solo, unsupported bike race means you get to take one set of kit only and crucially it needs to be the right kit. With no following car to support there isn’t an opportunity to swap out anything that you’re carrying. Given it is a bike race, time is miles, so any stopping costs you dearly compared to your competitors.
All my kit is tried and tested, apart from a few niggles on the knees and the back in training which I managed to resolve, I’ve mostly been pain-free. So the last thing I expected was a fat achilles singing “Pain and Suffering” with every turn of the pedal.
Given the very wet winter this season most of my training was with my mountain bike shoes. This was possibly the biggest kit choice I fretted over and chatting to a few long-distance riders we concluded that going with the road shoes would be more suitable for this type of race and I felt comfortable having done London to Bordeaux in the road shoes.
I did a final 220km test ride with the road shoes and the bike with all the kit loaded up and everything felt really good. The cleats needed replacing so this I did prior to leaving and there in lies the problem. I could feel the float adjustment was not exactly the same as the previous cleats but my feet still felt they were riding in the right position.
Despite marking up the handlebars, when I rebuilt the bike they felt out of position too and with the “time is miles” in the back of my mind when I stopped to adjust the handlebars it put pressure on the distances I was targeting. It took a good few hours to get the bike in the right position before I got into a rhythm of knocking out the miles, i was feeling really comfortable on the 310km I did on day one.
It was only on day two I started to notice the Achilles and with my training in sports massage I knew this was not going to end well.
In hindsight, and hindsight is always great in hindsight, I would have stuck to the mountain bike shoes and come out to Astoria a week before to ride the bike and fettle with it to my hearts content.
While I’m gutted not to be able to finish the race, part of the adventure has been putting my kit together and I know for sure this won’t be my last attempt at this kind of race. These races are about experience and take a huge amount of trial and error and I’ve certainly got a lot of both on the TransAm Bike Race.
I’ve loved the whole experience of getting to the start line and oddly enough I felt very chilled the day before, something which is very rare for me.
With a degree in logistical wizardry, I always have a plan A, B, C and D, so plan B is to head to Florida and hang out on the beach with my cousin who I’ve not seen in 20 years. Now as plan B’s go this one seems pretty hunky-dory.