The Wrap Up
You would think that once you finish racing 4230 miles on your bike, forgoing sleep and needed recovery along the way, that one would go to sleep and sleep for days, or at least many hours. I slept 2 hours and woke up. I used the restroom and went back to sleep for… 2 more hours. Then I got up. I was exhausted, but couldn’t sleep and really wanted some regular clothes. I had shipped my street clothes home from Astoria the day before the race started. Jeneen boxed them up and sent them general delivery to the Yorktown post office for me to pick up. I had gotten a shower when I reached the motel a few hours before, but I would have to put my wreaking, sweat soaked cycling garb back on to go to the post office and retrieve my box. Joy.
I dressed back in my gross clothes and rode back up to Yorktown proper, toward the monument and post office. Along the way to the post office, I saw people at the monument and went to check it out. Janie Hayes was there waiting for Jimmy. Soon enough Irena came in. She in fact had not been chasing me down and had slept along the way and came in almost 7 hours later. Shortly after her was Jimmy, then Reimo, almost immediately followed by Michela, Stefano and Piero. It was like a big party at the monument! There was a local couple there to meet Michela and Stefano. They had been in touch with the Italian pair and planned to host them for a few days as they prepared to travel home to Italy. In the end, Jimmy and Janie left with their friends and all the Europeans went with the local couple to stay at their house. I was invited, but passed on the chance. I regret that as I would then spend the next few days alone in a motel room. I left for the post office, picked up my clothes and headed down to the waterfront for some food.
I found a little restaurant, changed into my street clothes (which was heavenly!) and sat down for a relaxing meal and a beer. Afterward, I went back to my motel room and slept more.
Over the course of the next couple days, I hung out at the motel, sleeping, eating and waiting for the appointed time of my flight home. It worked out well that I was by myself as it gave me a chance to lay around au natural, airing out a nasty rash I had contracted over the last week of riding in soaking wet clothes every day. I think I got a little depressed with the end of such an epic ordeal and just needed some time to sit and reset. In my sulking/resting, I missed Luke Kocher, Lee Fancourt and Andi Buchs finishes and I was only 2 miles away.
On my final full day in Virgina, I rode the 7 miles or so to a bike shop in Newport News, boxed my bike, took it to the local UPS Store and shipped it home. I was lucky to get in touch with an old friend from high school, Chris Bouchard, who lived in the area. He offered to give me a ride from the UPS Store back to my motel. It was a treat to see him!
Very, very early the next morning, I took a cab ride to the airport in Norfolk and flew home. What a trip.
My Final Thoughts
I have so many mixed feelings about the race. First and foremost, it was a pleasure and a privilege to get to race it and especially so to get to finish it. That was my big goal. Goal achieved.
Beyond that, I had some really big aspirations of finishing much faster and thus higher in the standings. Those aspirations began slipping away from me on Day 2 and put a big hamper on my race. I know that all falls on me and my own expectations, but it is what it is. After DNF’ing the race in 2015, I made extensive plans for 2016. Part of those plans was a daily regiment of mental strengthening exercises, also known as affirmations. I typed out everyday a specific mantra of how I wanted to finish the race. When I toed the line in Astoria, I fully believed and expected that I would make those affirmations a reality. When in short order I saw that slipping away and soon realized it wouldn’t happen, I felt like I was failing.
I don’t think that those affirmations were wrong for me to do. It really helped to preach to myself everyday and build a confidence that I would achieve a certain set of objectives. The problem wasn’t the process, but rather the particular objectives. I told myself I would win. My thoughts were that if I was going to set a goal, I would shoot for the moon and if I missed, well, you know. Surely I would be happy with what would happen if I was off a little. I should have been saying something to the effect of, “I will finish TABR to the best of my ability and deal with adversity as it comes. Each decision made in the moment will be left fully in the past and I will move forward, swiftly and intentionally. I can only control things that are in my control. All other things are irrelevant. Stay moving no matter what. ”
So, in the end, I came home with a mixed bag of disappointment and feelings of victory. Add that to what some other racers have said is the normal physical and emotional recovery after an event like this and I was less than motivated to do much of anything for most of the next couple months. I got back to my work and tried to keep a positive outlook on things. Eventually I got back to normal. Because it was a gradual thing, I can’t really say exactly when. I would estimate it was between 2 and 3 months before I was really back to my old self, or at least the closest version of that “old self” you can get to after a life changing experience such as what I had. That’s the thing: these events change you in some ways. You can’t go that deep into the recesses of what you think you can or can’t do and not be permanently affected by it. You just can’t.
As I have written this blog, it has helped to go back over things. By milling over the maps, Trackleaders data, my Strava files and my memories, I recounted this epic adventure and the biggest take away I have gotten from it is that I am proud of my accomplishment. It didn’t turn out like I planned, but I learned a ton and in reality, it was only my first complete bikepacking race. Next time I look forward to using what I learned to enjoy it more and maybe even improve.
So what is next? I don’t know. I have made the agreement with my family that I wouldn’t do any bikepacking races in 2017. It has taken a toll on us financially over the course of the last two years and in turn has meant that we haven’t taken a regular family vacation. This year I will remedy that. I do have plans for a couple of smaller events though. In April, I will once again line up for Trans Iowa, a 340 mile gravel road race through the rolling hills of central Iowa. Then in September, I plan to do the OT100MTB, a 100 mile point-to-point race that is 98% single track though the hills of south-central Missouri on the Ozark Trail. Outside of those weekender events, I am sure there will be other small events, plenty of riding, some backpacking and who knows what else. Should my situation change and I find myself able to get away for a big race and not negatively impact my family, then I would consider it, but that would fall under the category of “big IF”. We’ll see!
As for the blog, I am looking at making a couple posts about training and the finances of TABR. Those will be coming up over the next week. Then I will be hitting the highlights of the coming year as they happen, including some exciting news I have regarding a new type of adventure I am looking into. Stay tuned for that as I will be relying on folks like you to help guide me through it!
As I wrap this post up on New Year’s Eve of 2016, I hope that this year has been all that you wished it would be. Whether it was or it wasn’t, you have the chance starting tomorrow to make the new year a great one. I hope you do! Blessings and cheers to you all and Happy New Year!