Today, June 25th, 2019 marks precisely two years, eight months and ten days since I completed a ride out of Alpine, Texas by the name No Country for Old Men.
The event had three ride options. Two hundred and eight miles, three hundred and eighty three miles and one thousand miles. The latter two were RAAM Qualifier rides however, all had to be completed within a given time. Solo riders had to complete the distances within twelve, thirty-two and ninety-six hours respectively.
Two hundred and eight miles felt too short having ridden to Austin and back to San Antonio on a handful of occassions while one thousand miles was too long for a first ultra endurance event. As a result, I settled for the three hundred and eighty three miles option.
Looking back, I realize my greatest opponent was time. I was the last of four to qualify for the solo riders doing the 383 mile ride. However, it is only now that I question whether I was last or fourth. Either way am happy I completed within the required time.
Perry who who completed after me, finished eighteen minutes after the thirty-two hour cutoff for our race. I can only imagine how driven he was to complete the race despite knowing he was out of time.
The race was flagged off on Saturday, October 15th, 2016 at 6:58 AM Central time. It was a chilly morning but quickly warmed up once the sun was up. A lead car guided riders out of Alpine to State Highway 118 and we were on our way to Big Bend National Park. The road was mostly straight, isolated and scenic with hills in the backdrop.
Once through the Big Bend park gate, I was anticipating the most challenging portion of the ride. This was the hilliest part of the ride with the ride up to Chisos Basin visitor center being the steepest. While I do not remember stopping, my speed dropped to 2 mph going up this climb.
Soon, Big Bend was behind us and we were headed for Marathon, TX and then on our way back to Alpine via Highway 385 and Highway 90. Soon we were back on State Highway 118 as we neared Alpine but this time continued towards Fort Davis. At Fort Davis, we continued straight until the point State Highway 166 joins Highway 118. At which point we took Highway 166.
Texas Highway 166 took us back to Highway 118. All went well through the night.
Soon the beautiful Sunday morning sunrise was upon us. Once it was 9 AM, we realized it was warming up pretty fast. Soon, Paul my SAG driver, had to pour ice cold water every so often to help bring down my body temperature. I would then get back on my bicycle and try ride as fast as I could before I was hot again.
From a distance perspective, the finish line was close. But finishing did not appear as elusive as these last few miles. Besides the heat, everything was getting sore. The points that make contact with the bicycle more so; the hands, feet and butt. I was determined not to quit.
The once scenic landscape now seemed hostile and determined to break me. At one point, I stopped the SAG(Support and Gear) truck only to get a little shade. It felt good.
Back to Normalcy
Upon crossing the finish line, I was awarded my medal and had photos taken. Once the formalities were done, Paul, the SAG driver asked what I wanted to do next. Nothing at this time was as pleasant as the idea of getting some sleep inspite my inability to ingest solid for more than the last 150 miles of the ride. I would gag as soon as the food touched my palet.
He handed me a recovery drink and we left for the hotel.
At 6 PM, we headed out for dinner and the idea of getting food felt like waking up on Christmas morning to a child. Excitement and anticipation.
The Unsung Heroes
While I was in a solo ride event, it would be far from the truth to say I did this alone. I would have achieved nothing without the great support from the people around me.
Paul, my SAG driver played the most roles. He played coach, nutritionist, driver among others. He reminded me I was permitted to fail when I doubted my preparation and abilities. What most people did not know is I had undergone an emergency surgery to save my eyesight six weeks before the race.
Beyond him, there was family who supported me around the time of the surgery. Uncle Jo who let me crash on his couch post-surgery when I returned to San Antonio and the many friends and colleagues who cheered me on.