The Spirit Of The Race

No matter how much I strategize, no matter how many "mantras" I repeat in my head, the spirit of the race always wins. I guess what I'm saying is that in the sport of ultra distance racing a transformation of the rider seems to take place during the event. I'll call it an "event", because they often start as races and end as adventures. To me, that is an "event". Wait, let's back up, maybe "transformation" isn't the right word, maybe "evolution" fits better? Or perhaps it's just that words to describe it are hard to find.

I have competed in a number of ultra distance racing events, most of them in the discipline of gravel road racing. "Ultra" is a loose word, because it implies above and beyond distance, but one should take caution in knowing that it is not always the distance that makes it "ultra". I have pushed, carried, and slogged my bike through countless miles in races that are under 200 miles long. These events have been every bit as hard as the ones that have shot north of 300 miles in distance.

What I have found to be common in all of them is the progression of the spirit. When the body is broken and dirty, the mind takes over. The finish line begins to pull at you like some big magnet in the distance. The "race" has now taken on a personality that pits itself against yours. Some of them seem to embrace you, while others will fight you every step of the way, determined to keep you from attaching to that magnet. There are moments when this beast of sorts will allow you into its own spirit, letting you see its beauty, and experience its grace.

This crossover from racing to experiencing is when the magic happens. It's when life long friendships are formed with someone you started riding with 10 hours ago and had never met. It's when you've gone deep within yourself and discovered things you never knew. Not only have you discovered what you can take physically when the chips are down, but what you'll do for someone else, a stranger maybe, when you are at your most basic form. It is in those times that the true self emerges. It is in those times that you find out who you really are.

I've started many races, but more importantly I've finished them as adventures. Some of the best gifts I've received have come in the form of memories and feelings, given to me by the spirit of the race.

Eki (right) and Charlie Farrow celebrate the gifts received from finishing this years Trans Iowa 7. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kershaw's Cadence blog.

This post filed under topics: Gravel Sponsored Riders Tim Ek Ultra Racing

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Tim (Eki) Ek

Tim (Eki) Ek

Tim Ek was born and raised in Duluth, Minn., and still calls it home. He’s always had a passion for competition and seeking his own extremes. Tim's true love is the woods: Out in the wild is where he clears his head and finds his peace, and he prefers getting there by bike. Tim Ek: The Eki Chronicles,


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MG | June 15th, 2011

Amen brother…

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Tom Moore | June 15th, 2011

Great Post.

I will say that biking can be “experiencing” anytime, it doesn’t have to be only in races. Some of my best memories, both good and bad, come from centurys, tours rather than racing.

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charlie Farrow | June 15th, 2011

Bravo Eki!!! In the photograph: Who is that smiling, handsome, youthful-looking man in the foreground? He has “movie-star good-looks” and a physique not unlike that of an Olympian!

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | June 15th, 2011

Charlie - Our understanding is he might be a distant relative of the famed Ernest Shackleton.

Tom: Here, here. Experience happens everywhere. Good ones, bad ones, unforgettable ones.

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Tim Ek | June 15th, 2011

Thanks guys! Been gettin’ a lot of thinkin’ done this year on the “church of two wheels”.

Oh, and for those interested that picture depicts the best Charlie looked throughout the whole of the “event”.

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Jeremy | June 15th, 2011


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Dan Frayer | June 15th, 2011

Great job capturing the essence of endurance cycling with words. 

love dan

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Adventure Monkey | June 16th, 2011

Great description of what happens in a race or any big ride on two wheels. The humanity that comes out of these experiences is both rewarding and revealing. Damn Eki - so strong on the bike and with the pen.

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Ari | June 18th, 2011

It was an honor to see you guys roll in. Next year I would love to join you.

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