It wasn’t that long ago that I was committed to not riding longer than a daylight day at any one time. 24 hour races were out of the question, and any sort of multi-day sleep deprivation was not even a consideration. There were a couple of reasons. The first was that it wasn’t really fun to push it past 7 or 8 hours. I like going hard, not noodling around, and riding longer requires an adjustment of pace. Those desires have changed, and I’m not sure why, but can only guess that the adventures that can be had over longer ride times are worth it. The other reason I didn’t want to ride longer than the daylight hours is the damage to your body that occurs over ultra distances. By damage, I didn’t really know exactly what was bad, but I thought about overuse injuries of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and the stress your body is put under. Last year I all but forgot about my body and luckily had nothing more than achy knees when the temperatures dropped. This year, it’s occupied my mind a bit more as I try to recognize the risk and reward the CTR dishes out.
It was probably the blog reading that got me thinking about the health a ride like the CTR leaves you in, but to be fair, a 5 day effort is nothing like some of the longer races. (Mike Hall struggling after his around the world race. Eszter describing feeling shelled after the iditabike). The obvious is that it will take a while to recover and be ready to race again. There’s more to it than just catching up on sleep and healing some sore muscles. Your hormones have gone haywire which significantly inhibits the healing process, and that is what takes so long to get back to normal. You’re not just tired physically, you’re tired emotionally, hormonally, cellularly. Foolishly you could think you might be back to normal, racing strong in a week or two, but it’s more on the order of a month if you’re careful, and you might not be able to salvage any good speed for the rest of August and September if you don’t really rest. It comes down the CTR needing to be more fun that being in top shape for the rest of the races of the year, and I really think it is. While there’s no sense in living a carefully guarded life, I’ve had consider the expected aftermath of the CTR, the risks of injury, and be okay with them.
Memories, whether they are selective, or even accurate, is all you have, days, weeks, and especially years later. I don’t remember whether I actually enjoyed the experience or not but I remember it as one of the greatest things I’ve gotten to do outside. For this year, it’s worth it.