For those of you who haven’t heard of the Transcontinental race, it is a 4200km un-supported one stage bike race from Belgium to Turkey. It’s a one stage race, the clock never stops. Racers choose where, when and if at all to rest. There is no support, racers can only use what they take with them, or what they can find en-route at commercially available services. There is no route, only mandatory checkpoints ensure that racers visit some of the most famous pieces of road in Europe and connect with the suffering of their forebears. The rest is up to you the racer.
In 2015 after 11 days of continual racing, in the torrid heat of Albania, I sadly collapsed off the bike with chronic dehydration and exhaustion having not been able to eat properly for the two previous days, and was forced to withdraw from the race. Of the 172 starters, 70 riders finished by the race cut off times. Of the 10 women who started the race, only 1 made the finish. Of the remaining 9 woman I was the only other to pass through the penultimate check point 4, covering a distance of 3200km before withdrawing.
In 2016 I couldn’t eat from the start, still unsure wether it was a bug or the stress and pressure I had put myself under making me sick, but I found just the site of food made me feel sick and then when I tried to force feed myself I just couldn’t keep it down. So 2.5 days into the race, having covered 900km on zero fuel, I was forced to pull out of the race from pure exhaustion.
There is no way this race can or will go unfinished, BUT I had been questioning whether racing again in 2017 was the right decision. Of course we compete in races like the TCR to push ourselves physically and mentally, but ultimately we enter because we LOVE cycling! I was worried that if I go straight back into doing the TCR again, with the pressure I put myself under to succeed and do well, the race could become more of a chore than a passion (and that is not what it is all about!) Plus it is imperative that I find a way to sort out the issue of my stomach rejecting all food when under high levels of stress or exhaustion as this put an end to my race in both 2015 & 2016.
After thinking long and hard about it, I concluded the sensible option is to spend a year learning how to deal with my stomach issues and the pressure I put myself under, whilst also growing in strength and confidence, so that I can come back to the TCR fighting fit.
Despite making this decision, it doesn’t mean I am not going to ask some big questions of myself in 2017! In fact I have set myself 12 challenges/adventures for the year, one every month, with the ‘big one’ in August instead of the TCR. In some respects it is bigger and harder than the TCR, but I have taken away some of the elements that may be adding to the pressure and preventing me eating, in a bid to learn what’s going on with my body.
I will update you on my 2017 challenges next week 🙂