“I am alive” - Burra.
How do you put 402km of non-stop bike packing, 8500m of climbing and 28 hours of ride time into a short paragraph to share an experience with you? The answer is you simply don’t! Writing transforms the intangible of the motions and experiences into something more. A map to a future us with lessons, laughs and blessings. Nonetheless, all roads lead to this present moment and I wouldn’t change a thing as long as I am being the best version of myself every single day. It is both the big and the small moments that I write about and I acknowledge: “I am alive”.
With so much uncertainty in the past couple of months and ill health, I wasn’t sure if I would find myself at the start of the Burra500 race. Alas, there I was, ready to dig deep into my racing and cycling experience and…. suffer. Needless to say, that is exactly what I found myself doing for all 402km.
As I waited for 6:30 am to tick over to start Burra I thought, “Life is short - I am here to do cool stuff!” The start seemed fast and I was pretty quiet. I didn’t really have much to say… I was just there, going through the motions and probably questioning what “cool stuff” I had now got myself into. Burra was one of the many races on my 2021 race calendar that had been pushed out to 2022. I had convinced my riding buddy, Stu, to do a chilled coffee ride with me that would start on Friday and end on Sunday. For me, I was there to race. Having been familiar with parts of the Burra route, I kept waiting to recognise the next corner. But even with my front row seats, there seemed a lot of corners and climbs that were unfamiliar. I shifted my senses between the new sunrise showing off across the rolling hills and the idea of riding through the night. At the 7-hour mark, my mind went back and forth with some quick maths. We had only done 100km, but we were close to 3000m of climbing! Himeville was 180km and that was a good 7 hours away. The problem: the kitchen for dinner closed at 8:30 pm. This had always been a mini goal in a big goal, but as time passed the goal seemed equally big. Basically, this meant that our elapsed time needed to stay the same or Stu and I would be cold… and hungry! As we hit more familiar roads and admired the beauty of our country my mind eased as my sit bones, back and hands started to feel the discomfort of the rocky gravel. My bike was heavy and steering my Chappy was a full-body workout!
As the night sky turned from red to blue to black it was clear we were getting closer to Himeville. It was cold! Stu, silently suffered in the cold while we plodded on. We arrived at dinner and we sat in front of the fire at the beautiful Mooncroft Manor Boutique Country Hotel. Some motorbikers looked at us like we were mad, we probably are I thought, but I would be crazy to lose this opportunity. It was below freezing outside, our cheeks were rosy and our lips chapped. I took off as many top layers as I could to warm them up at the fire. Stu and I debated whether it was best to ride through the freezing cold night or sleep. I was wired, but Stu’s unusual work hours had found him ready for bed. With much convincing from my side and a chirp that I am a “tough cookie” we got dressed and ready to set back onto the route. But just as we were about to leave, Stu opened up his bag for his final layers only to find he had left it behind! My face dropped. “You have to be kidding me?” I blurted out. It wasn’t even a debate, we had no other option but to book ourselves in for the night. My evening ritual of cleaning my teeth and face was done and my mind had to adjust quickly to having a shower and to falling asleep in a warm comfortable bed. I know right, you must be thinking… adjust? See this is what adventuring does to you. You have to mentally dig so deep that a bed no longer sounds as exciting as sitting back on a bike after 14 hours with sore sitting bones. I am sitting here chuckling as I type. Well, it’s the truth! We knew the early morning would be coldest and so we debated the time of our next departure. As I let go of my expectations of riding through the full first night, I reminded myself of my “why”. I was doing these adventures for me… for the love of movement, the freedom to exercise, to be in nature, to push myself mentally and physically and to put life into perspective. Sleeping or not wasn’t going to change this for me. I do however have to admit that catching 6 hours of sleep, and having that hot shower certainly changed the ear