Chapter 1: My cycling history.
For this story I need to take you back. Way back. Back to my dark ages. Back to a time when I still lived at home with my mother. The year was 1988. A time when I was no longer a teenager, but definitely not an adult.
I had been cycling competitively for 6 years on the road and about 2 or 3 years on the track and progressively improving. After breaking into A-grade at the beginning of the track season which began in October 1987, I had a patchy run with most weekends ending in not enough prize money to pay the petrol, let alone the accommodation costs of the trip.
At the state championships in February 1988 I entered everything. After such a mediocre debut in the big time, I proved I belonged at the bottom of A-grade with a raft of dismal results at the championships. 20k scratch race – DNF. Point Score – DNF. Individual Pursuit – out in the qualifying round. Kilo – 14th, 9 seconds off the winner. Sprint – 4th.
What was that?! Where did that come from?! 4th. My mother was there and she was unbelievably proud. Embarrassingly proud. Get me a lawyer and get me an AVO proud.
But I had not been exposed to Zig Ziglar or Dale Carnegie or Og Mandino or Napoleon Hill. I saw myself, not as my mother saw me, but as the first loser. The first guy that doesn’t get a medal.
Chapter 2: The flawed logic training program™.
This was the first weekend of 3 weeks holiday from a good paying government job that I only left in 2001 after 15 years. Remember I was still living with mum. If you are thinking “disposable cash” you are spot on and this meant just grabbing a credit card and leaving on a monster road trip was very do-able.
Having inexplicably achieved a fourth place at the state championships in the sprint – the shortest, fastest, and often roughest event on the program – but failing horribly at every event that involved more than 400 metres of effort, I decided that I needed some miles in my legs before the next weekend.
It was a knee-jerk reaction from someone with no understanding of physiology, but I had a week until the next race carnival and I wasn’t about to waste it when my weakness was so glaringly obvious. Stamina. Stamina is fixed with endurance training. Lets hit the road.
Chapter 3: BIG Mike does 24 hours of MOAB (Mike On A Bike)
The next track carnival was 350 miles away. I packed the track bike and spares in a box and put it in the care of the gorillas at the railroad, then set off on a 4 day 350 mile solo ride to the venue. Along Highway 1, no less. Yes THE highway in Australia that links 6 of the 8 state capitals and represents 8500 miles of continuous blacktop. This thing is thick with semi-trailers 24 hours a day. So I just got on the bike and rode, no support vehicle, just a credit card and a change of clothes in a bonk bag.
Day 1 (Monday): was a straight forward 121 miles averaging over 19.5 miles per hour.
Day 2 (Tuesday): was supposed to be a relaxing 65 miles but it started with 2 punctures in the first 10 miles. I had 4 spares but didn’t like my chances so I took a detour to a town that had a bike shop of known quality. Total 104 miles at 18.5 mph.
Day 3 (Wednesday): I woke with tendonitis in one ankle so re-scheduled my big day and did the minimum to get to the next clean accommodation. 68 miles at 16.5 mph.
Day 4 (Thursday): 101 miles. Long, dead, lonely miles. But this was March weather (think Texas in September) and my knick tan was coming on a treat. I arrived at my destination at 6pm having struggled all day but still managing 17mph.
My 4 day tally was 21 hours and 48 minutes in the saddle. Thus, BIG Mikes (21.8) 24 hours of MOAB. Near enough.
Day 5 (Friday): I was where I needed to be and my body knew it. After a leisurely 394 miles in 4 days I couldn’t turn the pedals better than 12 mph on a dead flat road with no wind. Which was lucky because my track bike needed a lot of love to recover from it’s journey at the hands of the heathens.
Day 6 (Saturday): Race day. Come and visit again tomorrow to find out how it ends.
Footnote: fatty, I know you are a bit apprehensive about the whole track racing thing and my comments over time have only added to your anguish. We moved house earlier in the year and photo albums are a bit scarce so I can’t find photos of my injured self. But I warn you in advance that tomorrows post will contain a photo of my first track bike that will bring tears to the eyes of anyone who appreciates a thoroughbred racing machine.