I’ll get to the support thing in a minute. First let me talk about last weekend. I survived the 24 hrs of ERock mountain-bike race, which took place on a gorgeous track of open space that sits between Denver and Colorado Springs. I say, “survived” because my three-man team shrunk to a one-man team (me) after the first 10 hours. One teammate, Jim Rutberg, had to hustle home after riding for 2.5 hours overnight; his wife just had a baby the week before, and he had to be home to take care of his older son the next day. And my other teammate, Jeff (who’s also my brother-in-law), crashed and snapped his collarbone at 4:30 in the morning. That left me to grind through the remaining 14 hours of the race, and into a ferocious 20-30 mph headwind that roared through the remainder of the day.
While Jeff was carted off in an ambulance and enjoying the pleasant affects of morphine, I began to pace myself for the long haul. My 35-minute laps grew to 45-minutes with a 20-minute break between. I focused on eating and staying hydrated. And I kept on going. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my unofficial lap times weren’t growing that much throughout the day. At noon, Jim surprised me and showed up to rip through four straight laps and give me two hours to sleep. I’m glad he showed up when he did. I enjoyed the deepest and most welcome rest I’d had in the last 30 hours. Then I wrapped up the race and left feeling exhausted but immensely satisfied. Not so much with my performance, but by the fact that it never, ever crossed my mind to throw in the towel.
When I got home, my wife sent me straight to bed where I stayed unconscious for the next 12 hours. I woke up the next day, Sunday, and it was business as usual: get the kids breakfast, walk the dogs, wipe-down and vacuum out the RV I’d rented for the race, mow the lawn, do the laundry, etc. My wife was shocked to see that I wasn’t a useless basket case. And frankly so was I. I’d never ridden a singlespeed mountain bike 160 miles in 24 hours before. My little experiment on staying in good enough shape to live the life was really paying dividends at this point.
OK, so here’s where the support comes in. On Monday, I finally got in touch with Jeff to see how his collarbone was (it’s bad, he’s going to have to have a metal plate and screws inserted to shore up the bones), and our conversation quickly turned to how we’d do things differently next year. And while we were talking, I couldn’t help but think how lucky Jeff, Jim, and I were to be married to people who “get” our obsession with training and regular bouts of pre-planned physical punishment like a 24-hr. mountain bike race. It would be so easy for our spouses to ask us to shelve our athletic ambitions until our children are all older (none of our kids are over age 5), and I know we’d all do it. We’d sigh a lot, but we’d do it.
I also thought about how I’d handle the news that I was riding solo if I didn’t have the support of my wife behind me. Honestly, I can’t say I would’ve continued with the race. A funny thing about a support system: when you’ve got one, you don’t want to abuse its generosity by giving up and coming up short. It’s why successful weight-loss programs and training regimens are often conducted in regular groups. And I’m sure it’s why married men live longer than single guys.
If I learned anything from this race, it’s how valuable my support system is to my athletic ambitions and by default, my health. If you don’t have one, I strongly suggest you get one. Now.
Over the last decade Grant Davis has been writing and editing articles about health, fitness, and nutrition. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.