THE ENDURANCE JOURNEY
“It's good to have an end to journey toward, but it's the journey that matters in the end.”
2009 – THE JOURNEY BEGINS
"Failure is just a specialised form of training."
2012 – THE APPRENTICESHIP TO ENDURANCE
“Every pedal stroke counts because it takes you further than before.”
2013 - BELIEVING IN MYSELF
"Your life, all your experiences, can appear in a single pedal stroke. You move it all forward when you move the bike forward."
2014 - THE BIGGEST START LINE OF ALL
"To compete in endurance, your courage must be greater than your fear."
2015 - ENDURANCE DOESN'T SLEEP
“The road is life and life is the road. There are tremendous highs and lows. Just don’t forget to lift your head and enjoy the view.”
2016 - RESTORE, RECOVER, RENEW
2016 - RESTORE, RECOVER, RENEW
"The race will always take you to a very simple place where you have to decide if you can or you can't go the distance."
2017 - RACING OUT OF THE DARK
“Your mind-set is critical, it’s where the true race exists. It’s where the drive to move forward or the desire to stop comes from. You must master your inner race before you can win on the road.”
2018 - HOW FAR WE'VE COME
“Abraham Lincoln once said 'give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe'. I've been sharpening my Race Across America axe."
2019 - GOING HOME
“It is by constantly challenging what is possible that we can reach further with confidence.”
2020 - REACHING FURTHER
“You need courage to lean into the depths of disappointment, take responsibility and make the decision to fail forward. Always remember the important thing is not to keep winning but to keep reaching.”
2021 - IT'S MORE IMPORTANT TO KEEP REACHING THAN WINNING
WILD ATLANTIC WAY WORLD RECORD
World Record Set – Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, from North to South
2304 kilometres, 81,240 ft climbing, 127 hours 43 mins
The first few months of 2021 were spent in lock-down. Another year of racing was uncertain which meant we had to go back to our 2020 strategy of ‘controlling the controllables’ and making our own race.
Our philosophy of Reaching Further remained our guiding principle, which is how we came up with establishing a new World Record in Ireland, a race again time that was double the distance of our longest record to date.
The Wild Atlantic Way is an iconic route, which hugs the rugged and exposed West coast of Ireland. The climbing profile is severe and totals 3 Everest’s. It’s directionally a conundrum with large sections turning backwards or inwards on itself.
I am no stranger to racing in Ireland so expected the familiar obstacles of wind, rain and exposure coupled with unrelenting, steep climbing. I didn’t expect the mental impact of the directional challenges however, so when I made the first attempt on May 6th I got a rude awakening.
May 2021 turned out to be one of the coldest May’s on record. Exposed, coastal cold really bites day after day and night after night. That combined with the directional disorientation lead to a set of circumstances that proved too big to overcome.
Sometimes the race wins and in May 2021 the race won.
I knew I would be back. Ireland roads are my love and passion and I wasn’t going to walk away with a failure as a full stop. I was determined to ‘fail forward’.
Over the next month I unraveled the race. I didn’t rush as it’s easy to step over the more disappointing bits but these bits are often where the greatest lessons lie.
We made big changes to the functionality of the Reaching Further van and we made logistical changes that would allow me to ride according to ‘feel’ versus ride to ‘schedule’.
I worked with my mind-set with regards to how I would deal with the directional challenges. I trained with purpose, spending long hours preparing mentally for another meeting with what I now knew the Wild Atlantic Way to be.
When our second attempt, August 1st, came around I was ready. Unfortunately we just missed the heat wave, however, it certainly helped that my good friend and team member Marc Poland made it from the US. We’ve travelled some miles together and it was reassuring to have him beside me on this one.
I had a measured start through Donegal, one of the toughest and biggest counties. The weather was fair enough. Once we headed into Sligo and Mayo the deluge started. We hit severe patches of sheet rain, some of which forced me off the bike. I didn’t take any sleep stops however for the first 1000 KM’s. The rain could slow me but it wasn’t going to stop me. There were numerous clothing changes and nutritional stops to prevent the wet and cold from affecting my core temperature. This took time but it was worth it.
Nutrition was on par. Crew shifts were on par. The crew was working well together. My form was good. The Reaching Further van was working beautifully. My mind was strong. The only obstacle this time was the weather and I could deal with that. In fact, at times I relished battling with it. The further South I got the more aggressive I could be.
Memorable moments – eating pizza, glorious pizza, while crossing the Shannon estuary on the Ferry - the Connor Pass in Co. Kerry at 3AM with waterfalls coming from above and a river practically running down the road but climbing at 15mph in great form - the wind on the Beara Peninsula in Co. Kerry bouncing the bike across the road at 2AM towards the stone wall and the crashing ocean below – the crystal clear aquamarine color of the ocean in West Cork – the town of Bantry coming to life in the morning – the welcome tailwind once we got out of Mizen Head – the brilliance of team support throughout the journey – sailing into Kinsale knowing that the journey (for now) was coming to a close.
Will I roll the dice and go back again? Maybe. It’s an intricate, frustrating and beautiful route. It has it all and if I were lucky enough to get good weather I could do it in a significantly faster time. Good weather is always the hope when you race in Ireland….
We certainly reached further in 2021. We showed we were adaptable, innovative, courageous and gritty as a team. We showed we could fail forward and because of all of this we can now look to 2022 and reach further and forward with our old friend Race Across America.
"After the years of lockdowns I had no real benchmark on my performance on the world circuit. Sebring was an internal rallying cry, 'could I still measure up?' It was time to muster the courage and find out. Turns out I could."
2022 - A RETURN TO THE WORLD CIRCUIT
SEBRING 24 HOURS
482 kilometres in 24 hours
As travel started to open up post-Covid I was desperate to race. Sure, I had established new World Ultra-Cycling and Guinness World Records in 2020 and 2021 but nothing beats racing on the world circuit. Where was I now versus other people? Had age caught up with me? Could I still measure up? Doubt was creeping in and I simply needed to know.
Jill and I left for Florida in both a nervous and excited state. It was great to meet up with our great friend and team member Marc Poland and fellow BRL ambassador, Doug Chivington. Both were racing.
Race day came around quickly. It was my 3rd time on this route so I knew how to measure myself on each section. The first 100-miles is relatively flat out through the orange groves to the turn around point and back again. Jill kept a close eye and I was grateful for her presence. It took some time to settle down.
The second section, an 11 mile circuit, is lumpy enough but I was loving putting maiden race miles on the C64 and as I ticked off each lap my confidence grew.. It was windy, an obstacle for everyone to contend with but I was contending with it better than most.
The third section, during the nighttime hours, was on the Sebring race track. By now the wind has really picked up and it was cold. Jill sat trackside wrapped in a duvet and I had thermal clothing on. Inevitably I slowed, we all did. I had been on track for 500-miles but that started to slip away. The conditions were just not right. I refocused my attention to the overall win and kept the bike moving forward with good speed.
Crossing the line in first position overall was a confidence boost like no other. Racing was back and I was right back with it.
RACE ACROSS THE WEST
4th Overall, 1st Age Category, New Age Category Record
1500 kilometres, 17,068 metres of climbing in 68 hours 53 mins
Race Across the West (RAW) is the first 930-miles of Race Across America (RAAM). In many ways it's the best of RAAM in that it has heat, desert and Colorado without major altitude.
But the temperatures in California and Arizona have been steadily increasing over the years and this June brought temps that I haven't experienced before - upwards of 118 degrees.
Jill, Marc and I arrived 2 weeks before the start line to do some heat acclimation work. Thank goodness we did. Every bit of that work was needed.
I had high expectations going into RAW. The start line was packed with RAAM veterans and good ones. Leah Goldstein, last year's RAAM winner was there as was Marko Baloh, runner up in RAAM numerous times.
I knew to be on the podium I'd have to ride straight through, no major stops. From the beginning of the race I was positioned well. I had a few cramping issues within the first 6 hours on the way up to Lake Henshaw. This was race load. I managed it and I knew it would settle as I settled into a very fast race pace. Marko passed me at this point in his usual powerful manner. I knew I wouldn't see him again.
Great first night. I moved into 3rd position. The temperature didn't drop below 110 and by mid morning of the second day it was already 116 degrees. My feet were beginning to swell and hurt. Downward pressure points were tender. Still, I pushed on, this was race discomfort and to be expected. But by mid afternoon I was forced off the bike to do an ice cold foot bath. Andy, my physio had a good look. We dressed the blisters and pushed on.
The contact points between my foot and pedal became increasingly tender, which wasn't helped by the striated, concrete road surface. Words can't describe the pain of riding over horizontal striations on a concrete road for hundreds of miles when each bump causes pain.
By now I was in 4th position but Leah Goldstein was breathing down my neck. All the time off the bike to address my feet had cost me. At one point she briefly passed me but I engaged immediately, the race for 4th place was on.
We battled for some time with less than 20 mins between us. I blew through a couple of timing stations without stopping as a show of strength and this seemed to work. She dropped back and we moved on into Colorado. That night we encountered a very unusual but severe sand storm, we kept moving. There was nothing now but to keep moving, through the pain, through the sand storm, the headwind and the final climbs.
A 4th overall and 5 hours shaved from the age category record. A great team success and a steep learning curve re: foot management.
I've gone on to have my feet assessed. Numerous issues were revealed and I now have new spindle lengths on my pedals, custom foot beds and dare I say it, more power and confidence.
Bring on the next race!