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A Fine Line Between Performance and Delusions by David Speering

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Cycling can have many ups and downs, and not just because of the hills we ride. This story starts almost three weeks ago on the 3rd of May 2016. Whilst on my evening commute home, I inadvertently caught a taxi. I knew the taxi was behind me, he was about to pull out onto the road from a driveway and I was getting ready to turn right off the road and onto the bike path. What I didn’t know was that as I was turning right he decided to fly up my right hand side to overtake me. I just caught the flash of white before the impact, slid up the bonnet and windscreen with my backpack smashing the roof rack and lights off the taxi. At this point the taxi slammed on the brakes and I slid back down onto the road, somehow still clipped in and rubber side down and rolled off to the safety of the side of the road. The drivers only concern was putting the roof racks and lights back on and I appeared to have all my limbs intact, my single speed commuter bike seemed to be just fine, so I jumped onto the bike path and continued on my way home without giving the incident another thought. Shortly after the impact the adrenaline kicked in and what followed was quite a quick ride home, I even managed to pick up a couple of geared roadies and drag them along for the ride. Needless to say the over the next couple of days things started to become a bit stiff and sore, my bike was still ok, but my hips in particular were on the tender side and I found myself driving to work. Friday morning it was time to saddle up again, given that I was due to race the Rocky Trail Entertainment 7hr MTB race at Mt Stromlo on Saturday, I thought it best to try and get the legs moving again. On Saturday the 6th of May I lined up for the Round 3 of the Shimano 7hr MTB GP at my home track Mt Stromlo, hosted by Rocky Trail Entertainment, this event also includes a 4hr race starting at the same time. Now even as I lined up I wasn’t sure what to expect, getting hit by a taxi earlier in the week is not what you would call ideal preparation! My goals for the day were quite simple; 1 – I wanted to win the 7hr single speed category, 2 – I wanted to finish well into the top 10 in the 7hr GC, 3 – I really wanted to beat all the 4hr competitors as well, 4 – Oh, and coming out in one piece would also be good. Given that I wanted to beat the 4hrs lads, there wasn’t any pacing strategy, the plan was to go as hard as I could for as long as I could. The first 4hrs flew by, my HR peaked at 181 and at the end of the 4hrs my average HR was 161 and I was well and truly in the hurt locker. I did manage to achieve goal no. 3; I beat all the 4hr competitors and managed to lap all bar one of them. So it was 7 laps completed and still another 3 hours to go. Lap number 8 hurt, a lot. I’d started vomiting and goals 1, 2 & 4 were looking quite shaky. All I could do was sit up a bit and try and recover as best I could. Every time I came through the support pits my crew were telling me that I only had a lead over 2nd in the 7hr single speed category of a few minutes. Laps number 9 and 10 felt slightly better and legs were starting to come good again, but 2nd place was still only minutes behind me, or so I was being told. At the end of lap 10, my support crew Kris had a beer open and waiting for me, she was expecting me to stop, she must have forgotten that for the last 6hrs she had been telling me that 2nd place was only minutes behind me! I grabbed the beer and drank it as I rolled through the pits whilst looking over my shoulder for 2nd place and headed back out for the last lap. Lap number 11 turned out to be the quickest of the last 4 laps, perhaps I should work beer into my race nutrition plan more often! There is always something about knowing you are on your last lap, the legs felt great and the bike just went with the flow and as I crossed the finish line I felt that I still had more to give. At this point I knew that I had achieved all the goals that I set out at the start of the day; 1 – I had won the 7hr single speed category, turns out that my support crew Kris had been feeding me some misinformation all day long on the gap to       2nd, 2nd place was actually 2 laps down. 2 – I finished 7th overall in the GC, so I was quite happy with that 3 – I had beaten the 4hr single speed competitors 4 – And oddly enough I had managed to survive in one piece. Sunday was spent resting and doing some shopping, and I was now 6 days out from racing my 2nd 24hr MTB event for the year, it actually felt like I had turned the corner and overall I was quite happy to get my season back on track. On Sunday night the bikes were cleaned up and packed for the trip to Townsville later in the week. I took another day off the bike to rest the legs and by Monday evening, something just didn’t feel quite right. Breathing was a bit laboured and there was a dreaded tickle down the back of my throat. By Tuesday morning I realised I had turned a corner all right, and ran smack into the flu. It hit me like an oncoming freight train. On Wednesday morning I was sent home from work and spent all day in bed hoping that it would pass overnight and that when the sun dawned on Thursday morning I’d be picture of health. Well that didn’t happen did it! The alarm went off at 4am Thursday morning and Kris and I headed to the airport for trip to Townsville. I was doing my best to soldier on just like they show on the TV ads, but the cold and flu tablets were at best just making me bearable. Have you ever been on a plane when you sinuses are blocked and your head feels like it’s going to explode?? Not much fun, but I tried my best to put on a brave face. When we left Canberra it was 2°C, when we landed in Townsville it was 30°C and rather humid. I spent Thursday night rebuilding bikes and still hoping for the best. Come Friday morning I knew I had to saddle up and go for a ride. Kris and I headed out to check out some of the local trails and thankfully it was a slow ride, as I didn’t really have much in the way of balance at the start. I did feel like I was starting to come good by the end of the ride, everything felt a touch better and there was a glimmer of hope that I could still pull this off and race the Hot Rock 24hr MTB race the following morning. When the sun rose on Saturday the 13th May, I was reasonably sure I was in for a tough day in the office. Not only was the flu still clinging to me like a bad rash, Kris had spent most of Friday night recovering from a mild dose of heat stroke and a couple of crashes, so it would be fair to say that her current condition was occupying my thoughts. Goals for the 24hr race? Well two weeks ago I wanted to win the single speed category and was looking to be at the top of the GC, and given the legs I had the week before these would have been reasonable expectations. That would be before being hit by a taxi and sick for coming on 6 days now. So at 8:30am, 30min prior to the start, my only thoughts were about survival. With 30 min until the start gun I was warming up, just gently rolling the legs over, keeping the hydration up and trying not to dwell on the week gone by. At 9am we were under way, and it was pretty clear that whilst the legs were willing, the engine just wasn’t there, now I was ok with that, it was what I expected. My plan was simple, keeping eating, keep drinking, keep the heart rate down and not worry about anyone else. I was pretty sure that if I could survive the first 8hrs until the sun went down that I would be ok. The first 4 laps went by in just on 3hrs 20min, my heart rate was a bit higher then I would have liked but I was working to bring that down, just roll the legs over and let the bike go with the flow. I currently sitting 2nd in the single speed category and inside the top 10 overall, so considering everything that has been going on I was quite happy. Perhaps I was too happy, because after riding 4 laps, the next thing I remember is spotting a KFC sign. The next part of this story is all secondhand, I finished lap 4 at approx. 12:20 and spotted the KFC sign somewhere between 16:30 and 17:00, over 4hrs that I have no recollection of. The official results show that I completed 6 laps in 5hrs. Therefore between 12:20 and 14:00 I was still on the bike racing, completing 2 laps that I don’t remember riding. At this point in time I was still in 2nd place in the single speed category. At the end of the 6th lap, “apparently” I rode past my pit and it was only Kris yelling out that stopped me. Over the next hour or so, I “apparently” vomited a number of times. “Apparently” I didn’t want to stop, I came to race and I was going to keep on going. In order to get me off the bike, Kris “apparently” told me that they needed to put lights on this bike before I could ride it again. Despite being over 3hrs until it would get dark, I was ok with this. Kris and Sandy got me off the bike and put me into a chair and gave me more to drink, I wanted to get onto my other bike but Kris told me that I couldn’t ride it because it had lights fitted to it, “apparently” I was ok with that explanation. They then told me that the bike I had been riding was broken and Kris said that she needed to fix it with her sewing kit, “apparently” that made sense to me. Kris took my shoes off and when I protested she told me that I was wearing 2 right shoes, and when I found my other shoes she told me that I couldn’t wear them because they were both left shoes. Again, “apparently” none of this seemed odd to me. It would appear that after these conversations, I became even more delusional, I stopped responding to questions, didn’t know where I was, wasn’t sure what Kris’ name was, and a whole lot of other things. And then the dog came to administer first aid to me! It was actually a man who had a dog with him, but “apparently” I thought the dog was the first aider. It was probably at this point in time that Kris and the first aid man were minutes away from calling an Ambulance for me, however they gave me a little bit more time as “apparently” I was showing signs of improvement. And that would bring me to the KFC sign. Now whilst I remember the KFC sign, I have no idea if we went through drive through or got out of the car and went into the store. Throughout the rest of Saturday evening things continued to improve, a little bit later that night we even went out for dinner. One thing I do know that I will be heading back to Townsville in 2017 for the Hot Rock 24hr MTB event, I have unfinished business there. David Speering 2016 I am fortunate to receive support / sponsorship from the following great companies; Onya Bike Canberra Shotz Sports Nutrition Bikebox – Schwalbe Redwhite Apparel
Many thanks again to David for this fascinating insight into endurance mountain bike events and hope you enjoyed his blog. If you would like to tell your cycling story simply contact us via Twitter or e-mail leisurecycling@outlook.com and we’ll share your experiences with the world!