Some times the odds are just stacked right up against you, so rather than beat your head against a wall its best to just say “what did I learn from that” and in my case there were some great lessons to take away with me.
Of all the types of cycling I have done, I can honestly say bike-packing is the toughest, not merely due to the addition weight on the bike, but because there is so much that can go wrong and no one else to sort it out for you. You’re on your own buddy and that’s what excites me about this type of racing.
Everything I rode in was tried and tested, from small things like contact lenses which I’d need to leave in overnight if there was no place to clean my hands to generating my own electricity.
So the last thing I expected was a seat post that gradually slipped down as I pedalled along. This never happened in all my training or test rides and despite tightening the bolt to an inch of it’s life, down it kept on going over the course of a few hours. I’d feel my back start hurting and then know the saddle has dropped too much.
I probably should be more emotional about quitting, but I am not. I know everything I did to prepare was spot on and my body was feeling really happy doing the 300km plus distances. What I can’t fix in an instant is an inflamed tendon caused by the lowering saddle, so it was an easy call to make once all the options to try and ride with the injury had been exhausted.
Failures are just lessons for the next time and despite not getting to the end what I saw of the race blew me away. Every town we went through people were talking about the race, all the other cyclists on route would ask about the race and there’d be updates of how far ahead everyone else was. For an inaugural race with no entry fee, media coverage or big budget sponsor, the number of people following it is just amazing. It is this aspect of the race I feel sad to leave behind.
My favourite moment was cycling into a little town called Prairie City, having found all hotels booked up in the towns before left my only option to find a camp site and even those were few and far between. I threw the tent on the ground and climbed inside to pump it up. A car pulls up and the Dude from the Big Lebowski comes towards me say “are you Peta” – ok he’s wasn’t really the Dude, but he sure looking like it. A hesitant “A ha” on my part is followed by “if you want to come and take a shower and wash your kit – we live just up the road, you can stay as well.”
Turns out Jimmy and his wife Karen are cyclists who belong to Warm Showers (folk who offer out a warm shower to travellers) and have been following the race. They armed me with a towel, a shower with shampoo and conditioner (heaven) and the offer of a bed.
They had been tracking the race and when a cyclist headed into town they’d run down to the route to chat, offer showers or a bed for the night if needs be. How incredible.
When I pedalled into Prairie City my mind was toiling away on whether to quit or go on. The route was about to head north into an area without many services and getting out of the area would be tough. When Jimmy said they could drop me in Boise (around 170km away with an airport), it seemed the most sensible thing to do. Deep down I knew I was going to struggle to ride the distance injured, so it was best to exit where the signs were pointing.
After struggling on a beach for two weeks in Florida, I will be back at the drawing board planning and training for the Transcon race, excited by what I saw people riding on TransAm and keen to try out some new options.
If there is a laser eye surgeon out there wanting to sponsor my next ride, I could really do without contact lenses on a bike-packing race:)