So this is it, over a month ago I tackled my biggest goal of the season by completing the 7th edition of the legendary Trans Continental Race.
Let's be honest and go to the point, it has been a hell of a challenging race and for the first time in one of these events, I really asked myself what I was doing there and if it wouldn’t be better to just scratch and go back home!
The weather, the routes, countries we crossed, the length of the journey and the way I decided to push myself, all of this (and more) result to be the hardest race I've done so far. So hard that sometimes I had to set myself into this weird "survival / keep going" mode, spacing out mentally and not always paying attention to my surroundings. Unfortunately, during the very end of the race, going through an historical storm that sets over Brittany, I had to switch into this mode until the finish line facing the 110km/h wind, the hail and a raging storm.
The downside is that I didn't really experience the super high moment of happiness you would expect finishing such a challenge, the one that made you realize what you just accomplished. Instead of that joyful moment, I arrived totally zonked out and exhausted at 4am after a grueling 24hours final push.
As a result, it took me few more days to digest. My very first real step on that path was to analyze statistics and compare them with my previous long-distance experience (the 2018 Trans America Bike Race) and, as always with long distance challenges, it's all about questioning myself if I did any better than last time.
Numbers are helping my pragmatic inner me to feel and express some feelings I couldn’t read without. It helps to put a concrete view over a less concrete finish line feeling. It might seem silly but, after participating to many events the last few years, crossing the TCR finish line didn’t really felt any different than the other ones.
As I said, I wasn't ecstatic when I arrived in Brest, but It started to come out when, laying in my hotel room two days after the race, I started to write down these Strava Stats, and realized how consistent my TCR ride has been. I was even more surprised when by curiosity I looked into Trans America Strava stats (for the first time) and realized the progress I did since last year!
As you can see, I generally spent an extra 1.5 hour a day out on the roads and 1 hour less of break time. That brings my daily moving time from 12.5 to 15 hours. That increase of moving time (and with a little bit less of sleep) brought my daily average distance from 260 to 290 km. I was aiming for 300 but honestly with the conditions and total elevation, I am happy with 290 km!
The real big thing for me is that I managed that improvement without timing myself during the day. Of course, I rode a lot and try to ride the longest day possible, but if I was hungry and felt like stopping, I stopped. If I needed some real food, I at in a restaurant. If I needed a shower and some rest, I checked into a hotel room and rest.
I never forced myself to push harder than necessary, resulting in being timed by a ticking clock at every stop. I am realizing that I just get more efficient with these "off bike" aspects, and how it can drastically affect the overall performance. There is still some space for improvements, but it's an exciting feeling as I know I could be better! OFF the bike, but also ON the bike which is the second big part of my analysis: I could definitively cycle faster! According to Trackleader history, my moving average is 18,6km/h! Considering the elevation ratio, it is still faster than the 18,5km/h of last year during the flat Trans America race but still, it's ridiculously slow compare to other riders (Fiona, the winner of this year, has a moving average of 22,6km/h). Stop less, ride faster and go further: the ultimate goal of every ultra-distance cyclist I believe!
There is no doubt I'm still learning about ultra-distance cycling and it might have taken me 1 month to realize it, but I started to be really happy of my result completing this legendary Trans Continental Race! It wasn't any life-changing experience and it wasn’t stuck in my mind for months before the race but it was definitively a hell of an intense race! And like always, it was a blast to be surrounded by tons of other inspiring riders!
Here's a quick edit from the two first days on the TCR across Bulgaria, the rest is definitively coming. Sorting few hundreds of Gopro footages is an other part of the post race recovery process, which me luck with that and see you soon !