Like grief, or a long-term relationship, a marathon mountain bike race is a journey through a spectrum of emotions, from joy to despair. Here’s our take on the seven emotional stages of a marathon mountain bike race.
You sign up. You call your mates and tell them to sign up. You’re all signed up. You’re all training. It’s awesome. You arrange car pooling. You tinker with your bikes. You discuss tyre choices, then nutrition, then tyre choices. You check the weather. You think about the track. You check the weather again. You pack some beers for after.
2. Too much anticipation
It’s race day. You’re still excited, but the excitement has sunk down. Deep down. Down to the bottom of your bowels. You visit the toilet three times before leaving for the race. Your mates are also in the toilet phase so car-pooling is a disappointment to everybody. At the venue you visit the port-a-loos. Then again. And again. The time for your carefully planned warmup comes and goes. Eventually you drag yourself to the start line. Is there any chamois cream left?
Never mind. It’s time to focus. You twitch and fidget. Your mind races. Have you packed enough gels? Did you check that tyre pressure? Maybe it’s too much? Are your shoes tight enough? Never mind, they’re counting down. CRACK. It’s on. Wait! Can you even do this?
You feel no pain. You get elbowed but it’s okay. That’s what mountain bike races are all about. Rubbing is racing. You are floating to heaven on your bike surrounded by 1,000 of your favourite people. And they are amazing people. What a feeling to share the joy of MTB with so many like-minded souls. Some of them are trying to get past, some of them won’t get out of the way. Bless them they are amazing. Racing is amazing. Bikes are amazing. What are the rich people doing today? You’d take this over a luxury yacht on the Mediterranean any day. These gels taste fantastic! You love your bike with a mad, endless passion. You feel so alive it burns.
Oh it burns. Who put this hill here? And what the fuck is that guy yelling about. No you won’t get out of the way. And fuck you guy in front, you should move over when a faster rider comes through. No you won’t wait. Why are you cramping? You’ve been drinking to a schedule… and eating. And oh fuck these gels are horrible. And it’s so hot. Why is it so hot? What the fuck were they thinking putting this hill here. It’s not enjoyable NOT AT ALL. You’ll be giving them some feedback then quitting bikes. Golf. Nobody ever vomited playing golf.
Is your tyre a little soft? Oh fuck you hope so.
Don’t look at the GPS. It won’t be good news. Don’t look down. Don’…
45 kilometres to go? 45? What? You’re gonna stop. You’re just gonna stop right here.
In the next shady spot.
Maybe in the next feedzone.
Yep. You’ll ride to the next feedzone then pull out and they can put you in the back of a car and drive you back to civilisation, where you’ll sink your beers and some chips and forget about the whole thing. Your mates. They left you. They left you for dead. What happened to all that talk about riding together? What about mateship? Camaraderie? Loyalty?
You get Machiavellian. You will get a lift to the finish. You will get there before they do. You will take off and leave your so-called friends without a car-pool home. You will show them.
You reach the feedzone, but there’s no car there, just an old guy in a hi-vis hat. You refill your bottle. You ask how far to go.
That’s what? An hour. Two?
You have some lollies. They are warm and stick together but they taste good. Hi-vis hatman offers you some coke. You drink it. You clip in. You are riding.
The kilometres tick by. Your legs, sensing the End of Suffering, come to life. 15 kilometres to go. You discover you are, once again, surrounded by friends. They are all around you. you share this hardship. You bond. 10 kilometres to go. The trails become fun again. 5 kilometres to go. You discover your inner strength. The zen of the bike. The calm, painless centre. 4 kilometres to go. You sense the meaning of life. You don’t speak it, you pedal it. It’s within you. You transcend.
Three kilometres to go.
You are the person you were always meant to be. Generous. Joyful. Kind. You forgive your mates.
Two kilometres to go.
You are a superhero.
One kilometre to go.
You are a god.
All your friends are there with you. You love all bikers. Your bike. The whole world. Cheers. You sink a beer. You hug. You tear up a bit.
You car-pool home. You discuss plans for next year’s race. You love marathon mountain biking.