Was this the end of my Route 66 record attempt? I’d come so far and with only around 600 miles to go, couldn’t I push through? If you’ve not read part three, click here for access!
Thankfully, my leg felt better in the morning. I did, however, opt to get a ride to re-join Route 66, this would technically be an end to any official world record, although Guinness were denying our pleas to get the attempt recognised saying it wasn’t significant enough.
But, the thought of using the car, and the depression lingering from the night before, brought me to a standstill at a gas station around 20 miles into the day. I had given up. With Luis by my side, I sat down and drank a cup of gas station coffee. I text Chris and waited to be picked up.
It is at our lowest points where we are defined. Do we sit and stare into the distance, never knowing what it would be like to try, or do we pick ourselves up and give it our best shot? After several minutes of meditation, thought and reflection, I got back up, jumped on the bike and headed off.
The wind had given me a break, the sun had come out and like a touch from the universe itself, I was revitalised. My energy and motivation returned and I was flying with a smile on my face.
I got about 30 miles further into the ride before my leg started hurting again. It was manageable but pain killers were no longer helping me. The thought of what the copious amounts of drugs were doing to my gut was frightening too. From that point, every 15 miles I’d need to stop and relax, but, I pushed on to the century mark, where we met ‘The Meg’ just outside of Joplin and I sat to reflect.
Thomas and I went to work to see what we could find about the condition, whether it could be managed, and I spoke to a physio friend, it wasn’t good news. What was almost certainly an elongated muscle wouldn’t get better while riding and could lead to serious complications later on. The modified pedalling style, to protect my ankle, was coming back to bite me. Sure, I may have finished the stage in agony, but, three more stages would be out of the question. It’s at times like these you need to be objective. One of the most powerful questions came from Luis, “what would I say if it was one of my clients?”. My answer was fast and firm “I would tell them to stop”. And that was it…
I wasn’t as upset as I thought I’d be. I had given it my best shot. My body had lasted longer than the bike. My mind had lasted longer than my body. Of course, I had moments, even that morning, where my mind had thought about quitting, but I carried on.
This event was never about physical performance; it was about mental. The fact that I knew I could finish, if my body was well enough, was satisfying. It was a tearful live video I posted that afternoon to tell everyone the sorry news. But, the support received was amazing. I know I couldn’t do anymore, but, I wasn’t beaten.
One of the strongest motivators for me was being able to ride with Chris in Illinois near his mother’s grave. I was heartbroken that this wouldn’t happen, it was his one wish and he sacrificed a lot to get it. I insisted that we still stop and pay our respects graveside. Then we went for an amazing dinner with his family. It was a warm and welcoming reception from them, something that characterises the American people.
There were two other items on the agenda; visit the Route 66 sign in Chicago and drop Luis off at the airport. After the first lay-in we had in over a week, we made this happen. I wasn’t as tired as I thought I would be. My ankle was sore to walk on, but, my leg was feeling ok. Mentally, it was hard to be at the Route 66 sign without being in my kit. Of course I was disappointed, but, I was motivated too. Even within an hour of quitting my event, Chris and I were planning the second attempt in a year’s time. That in itself tells you a lot.
One more night at a camp site near Chicago and we set off the following morning. A road trip that lasted about 30 hours to Las Vegas. ‘The Meg’ is a totally different beast when towing a car. To save two people driving, plus gas money, we rented a dolly and hitched up the car to the back.
I can remember being tossed around the bed in the back every turn Thomas made driving the RV up the Rockies in Colorado. We were all pretty disappointed that we made the Rockies at night, they are spectacular, and of course we missed it all.
We were all feeling pretty grim by the time we pulled in Las Vegas. A short turn around to get everything not needed off the RV and I drove the RV back home. If the theme of this trip was how big an influence the wind could be, it would be the same on the way back. Some of the wildest winds Nevada had experienced made driving the RV as difficult as it would be riding in it! I have even more respect for truck drivers who deal with that as part of their job.
Of course, it was great to be home. Home truly is where the heart is. Every night I still wake up and, dreaming, wonder where I am. I dream that I’ve been riding all day and we are pulling into a new location for the night. It takes me a while to recognise that I’m in my home. Can’t place why, I guess I have unfinished business…
Yes, I’ll be back next year. In terms of planning and execution, it went really well and I have no doubt that, without the injury, I’d have succeeded. I would change somethings though.
Firstly, I do need one of any of the following people with me in support; my fiancé, mum, dad or best friends. It’ll largely be the exact same team with the one addition. The extra one will double up as chef/nutritionist too. Something we definitely were lacking was a person who had nutrition, or at least my take on it, down. Having helped prep my food for years, either my fiancé or my dad would be perfect for that. Either of my best friends would be too, as they live my lifestyle and know exactly what I want and need. There is some truth to the myth that when you ride as much as I was you can eat anything. But, I always ask my clients who ride a lot “do you want muscles made of cake or of something a little more substantial?”.
We will also be more flexible with the route. The thought of facing as much headwind again is scary. If we could leave it until the last few days before the attempt and make a call based on current weather conditions, we could make the attempt far easier. It would mean the possibility of driving the RV all the way to Chicago to start, but, we have to drive it both ways inevitably. It could just be a rush to get started but I’d more than likely get a plane to ensure I wasn’t already fatigued by the start.
We might throw the rule book out… If Guinness won’t recognise it as an official record, then we could aim to just smash it! Allowing for change of bikes could mean that the faster interstate sections could be done on an aero or even time trial specific bike, we could use a lightweight bike for the hills and still have the comfortable bike for the harsh sections. We will see about this one, but, it could be fun to see exactly how quick it can be done, and what a demonstration of what different types of bike can do.
I will also probably work out my own route. While the ACA Bicycle Route 66 is good and fun, there are significant gains to be had from not following it. We would need to see where this stood in terms of a record, but, cutting the tourist parts out and being more direct could shave a big portion. The detour for Route 66 also takes you up to Santa Fe before returning back down, the original route followed this but was changed, taking this huge section out might shorten it by most of a day. I’ll definitely plan the ride through Petrified National Forest Park a little better too!
One of the more disappointing elements for me was the amount I raised. Granted, I could not be more grateful for every donation that people gave me, it was all personal donations, so I’ll be sure to get more sponsorship from businesses. Given that the sponsors and partner companies got exposure of almost 400,000 people, I think next year I should be able to get several large companies to put forth some serious cash to get their name next to mine.
The last thing would be testing some custom fitting clothing. I’ll be looking into getting some clothing made specific to my size. I think there’s definite comfort gains to be had from this. Nothing against what I have now, both the Direct Power Cycling Team and Assos shorts I use are great, but, after so many hours in the saddle it can still be uncomfortable. At least experimenting with this might add extra comfort.
For now, that’s it! I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me get this far again, I’ve named you all within this blog, so there’s no need to again. Feel free to reach out and get in contact, be you well-wisher, business or sponsor I’d love to hear from you.