This isn't an article about garnering sympathy for myself, but to increase your adulation for those still pedalling. I'm out. My pain is over. Theirs is still going. I deserve a 'good job buddy' - they deserve a goddam parade. Here's my experience withdrawing from the Indian Pacific Wheel Race.
Wrods - James Raison
I wanted to write something while everything is still fresh. It's been a few hours since I decided to abandon the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. I'm in the back of a Toyota Coaster bus where some lovely people (Andy and Bec) are giving me a lift to where mates (Rob and Francis, my goddam heroes) will pick me up and ferry my broken self home.
Let's pull the band-aid off quickly: this race defeated me mentally. I have a lot of physical problems, but so does everyone else. They're still going because they're mentally stronger than me. This race found me lacking. It was my biggest fear before he race. I wanted to find strength on the road and instead the road found my weakness.
Physically my knees ballooned up a couple of days ago and pushing at 19 kph into constant headwinds broke me. I have saddle sores. I'm sunburnt. Everything hurts. I nearly crashed several times from starting to fall asleep. Food was causing me to gag. That's all normal for this race. Again, people survive that. It cracked me.
I woke up in the Nullarbor Roadhouse with knees still aching. There were 2 other Indy Paccers sharing a room and we all had swollen knees. The stench of grubby kit, Deep Heat, and our rancid breath was thick in the air. One of the others had already abandoned and the other abandoned shortly after I did. A quick roll around the carpark confirmed my knees were shot. The top of every pedal stroke was agonising. I couldn't bring myself to kit up and roll out for another 150 km of wind and heat to the next roadhouse and the several hundred more back to my home in Adelaide.
In one hour of riding you can feel blissful joy, crushing lows, bored indifference, and irrationally shouting at the wind. It's very strange. Your mood turns in seconds. The world can seem like sunshine and rainbows before immediately turning to constant punches to your genitals.
Imagine spending a perceived hour chewing stem to then flick through your Garmin screens and see you've done 5 kms since you last checked. Also, you've done 45 km in the first 3 hours of the day and there's 150 km of nothing to your destination. The wind is so strong you can't hear the music from your headphones, there's no phone coverage, and there's only lollies to eat for the next 5 hours. It's rough.
That's what everyone faced across the Nullarbor. It's an unforgiving place. I hated the 140 km dead straight road the most. The road stretches infinitely into the distance. You pedal towards a horizon you will never reach. It goes for hours, pancake flat.
My setup was fantastically comfortable, helping my contact points weather the awfulness, but nothing can save you from pedalling constantly. Pain seems to move around your legs. Calf, thigh, ITB, Achilles, knees, they all make an appearance. You only focus on the worst though.
The chipseal roads are draining too with constant vibration pulsing through you. The relentless flat of the Nullarbor means there's no recovery either. You pedal or you coast to a stop, shockingly quickly in the constant headwinds.
There was a small rise into Eucla that hit a whopping 6% and I crawled up at 7 kph in the 34x36 ratio. I nearly cried at the top. That's what this race can do to you. I'm a climber. Not on that day.
This type of racing saps your power and leaves you with aches and pains all over. You can snatch some hours of recovery in your bivvy or an expensive roadhouse motel. But your alarm is going off at 3am the next day and you have to get up, shove whatever food you have into your face and do it all again.
THE PEOPLE'S RACE
The organisation has used this incredibly appropriate moniker for the event. No one is a pro. No-one is making money, rather they're all haemorrhaging it paying for roadhouse food. There's no prize, no podium, and potentially no-one waiting at the end for them. They're sleeping in ditches, riding with saddle sores, riding with all kinds of pain, fighting the elements, and being away from home just because. Because adventure, because challenge, because competition, and because they're all partially nuts.
Right now I don't regret withdrawing. My mental condition, physical issues, and what I had ahead of me was enough to break my will to go on. I didn't have the grit. At this stage I won't be lining up for future Indy Pacs either. This format beat me and has beaten a lot of others. I failed to achieve what I wanted and now I have to come to terms with that.
I'd like to thank everyone who supported me with messages, kind words, and encouragement. I'll be back on the bike soon once my knees recover to see every person who rolls through Adelaide. They're all heroes to me because I know what they've been through was too much for me. For now, dot watching will have to do.
On the plus side, I have some great product reviews to write!
As always, BIG BIG thanks to Cycle Closet for supporting me in this endeavour.