Every once in a while a race comes along that is so big, and such a great learning experience, that just crossing the finish line feels like a win. Such was the case at the 2014 24-Hour Solo World Championships in Fort William, Scotland.
From the moment I committed to racing the 24-Hour World Championships it was all I could think about. This was my first time travelling out of the country and I hadn’t raced solo in a 24-hour race for a few years. Purchasing plane tickets, planning travel logistics, and investing in a large amount of rain gear took up most of my summer. Lots of sacrifices were made and a lot of sponsors, family and friends went above and beyond to help me out. Not a day went by where I didn’t think about the race.
While I was very excited to race, I was also very, very nervous. Because competing in such a BIG race and pouring so much energy into it meant potential BIG disappointment if things didn’t go well. I didn’t want to let my sponsors down and I didn’t want to let myself down. But part of being an athlete is putting it all out there and seeing where you end up.
Eventually it was the big day. Time to finally get my passport stamped! A lot of training and a lot of blood, sweat and tears had been spent while preparing for this race. I couldn’t wait to see how I stacked up against women from around the world.
On the plane ride over to Scotland I thought a lot about what I wanted to get out of the race. I knew that I would be racing on a World Cup course against an incredibly stacked field of female racers. Naturally I wanted to kick butt, but I also wanted to soak up the whole experience and enjoy every moment of what was sure to be a most excellent adventure. I also couldn’t wait to share the experience with my husband Scott Chambers and my mechanic Ted Bentley. I wanted the race to be great for all of us.
Scott and I on a course pre-ride...
My incredible mechanic Ted!
And I did that! From the moment the bagpipes started playing at the start line I enjoyed every single second of the race. The course was eight miles long with 1,500 feet of climbing per lap. While climbing up and up and up on my Spearfish, I focused on the beautiful views around me instead of focusing on how much my legs were hurting. I spent many miles pedaling with racers from many different countries and heard lots of different stories about racing in Australia and Portugal and Italy and Poland. The list of different countries went on and on, and while the accents were all different we all had something in common; we LOVED riding our bikes for a really long time.
Night was especially long at the 24-Hour World Championships. We rode in the dark for almost 13 straight hours. In the past I would normally have a “dark moment or two” in the middle of the night but that didn’t happen this time. Friends from back home had started a 24-Hours Of Cowbell page on facebook to cheer me on and I felt like I could hear the cheers all the way from the United States. Every time I would go by the pit area Scott or Ted would let me know who was cheering and the support was overwhelming, and completely appreciated. This was the first time EVER where the thought of taking a break or taking a nap never crossed my mind. Yes, I was hurting, and yes, I was tired, but I was still pushing myself as hard as I could. Not just for me, but for everyone who supported me and for everyone who was cheering.
To this day I can still taste how great the noodle cup was that Scott handed me at midnight and I vividly remember Ted laughing and taking pictures while I ate it. I remember eating Little Debbie Swiss Rolls (best things ever) at 3 AM and hearing a waterfall closeby while riding singletrack in the dark. I remember the sun coming up over the mountains and cresting a hill to beautiful views.
I remember being really, really happy.
Best of all I remember riding through the gates and across the finish line to a bunch of people cheering and the smiling faces of Scott and Ted. Someone handed me a beer, someone else opened it, and I finally stopped pedaling.
This was by far the best race/experience of my life. I’m proud of how hard I trained over the summer and I’m proud of my performance on race day. I rode on a course that was definitely out of my comfort zone and I never gave up. I was kind to my pit crew, I was kind to myself, and I was kind to others. In fact, one fellow racer said to me during the race, “You are so polite...you must be Canadian!” Ha ha!
Did I win the World Championships? No! Was my race flawless? Double no! I messed up a few technical singletrack sections, I banged my knee on a rock, and there was one hill in particular I had to walk at least three times. However, I never beat myself up over my mistakes, I always kept going, and I had so much fun. And that made my race feel like a total win.
In 2015 the 24-Hour Solo World Championships will take place in Weaverville, California. Here I go again. :)
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These are a few of my favorite things: Mountain biking, good coffee, good food, and hanging out with my husband, family and adopted greyhound. It really doesn't take much to make me happy. Of course, winning a race every now and then is good too! www.daniellemusto.blogspot.com