Yeah, that’s me in the picture! When your competitors are 1/2 your age, the best way to fit in is to give a passport pic that was taken at least a decade ago!
Last year, I participated in my first Trail Attack and since then, I decided to make it my annual retreat. I would be a liar if I said I didn’t want to win but in reality, I was unable to dedicate that time to practise. I believe more in the process of training and performing. And last year, I was in better shape (physically) but lacked experience and also, was riding my friend’s GS rather than mine. I had crashed mine. And we had only one motorcycle to compete and return home. So, it was more about finishing safely. Yet, I managed to come 5th.
This year, I decided to compete in the Xpulse class - the most competitive class. My reason was very simple: I can’t afford to keep breaking my GS. Once is enough! But I had a plan to train hard in Jan for the event in Feb but life had other plans - ankle injury in Dec meant I couldn’t train physically and I was too involved in our Trails & Tales event. So, I landed up with a belly. Now, this is directly proportional to the weight-power ratio. This matters on Xpulse and when you are racing guys half your age and weight!
Another setback was that the recce was a simple one-lap. So, I didn’t get that “warm-up” before the race. But my goal was to finish in the top half of the draw (be above average) and my plan to achieve that was to go hard. So, I packed my Alpinestar’s bionic armour - I need all that protection to go crazy.
Since it gets very physically demanding, I decided to hydrate a lot and skip the hydration bag. And though I was losing water, this actually helped me. Thanks to other guys, I stuck 7 bits of takes as a marker for 7 laps. Additionally, I had 0ed my odo and did the math for 7 laps - 30.8kms.
As Iron Mike Tyson says, “Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face”, I got punched very hard.
My first crash was within 50m from the start. I gassed it sooner and the rear slipped into the flat track. Nothing major. Picked it up and rode hard. I was slipping and sliding but I pushed it. I was at a good pace. I caught up with the traffic in front of me. This was the MX section and it was a fast right-hand turn. Not my strongest side too! I made a rookie mistake of trying to change the line while trying to exit the corner so that I could overtake the rider in front. The loose soil in the middle made my front slip and bang, I was on the ground. The fall was more intense than the first. I picked up my bike and rode. Lost a few places. Lap 1 Time: 11:59.586
This is still lap one. I don’t remember how many people have overtaken me. So, I push hard again. I was quick and towards the end of the MX section, I took a very bad fall. Honestly, I don’t remember what happened. I fell hard on my right side. The adrenaline pushed me to pick up the motorcycle and ride again. Within a few meters, I realised that my right controls (front brake and accelerator) were stuck. Stopped on the side and realigned it. And then a few meters later, I realised that I didn’t have rear brakes! I almost ran out of the track. I stopped again to check the motorcycle and realised that my entire right side was damaged - hand controls twisted and the rear brake pedal was almost close to my foot pegs. I couldn’t straighten it. I tried to brake using my heel and it didn’t work either.
I rode 1/3 of the track trying to figure out what was working and what wasn’t. I couldn’t manage the trail section. I stopped in one corner to review the motorcycle. And one dude (Dr or driver) of the ambulance was asking me to quit. And that’s when I said, no way. So, with the remainder of lap two I told myself that I would not quit. DNF isn’t my thing! Lap 2 Time: 11:46.065
I was slow. My bike was stuck in gears 1 and 2. No brakes. Everyone was overtaking me! That’s when the divine intervention happened - remember an old training routine of riding below capacity but not applying breaks so that you get the racing lines right? This is truly my guardian angel waking me up! So, from lap 3 to 7, I rode at a very controlled pace and was rolling off way too early so that I could turn without braking. The flip side of this track was that slower guys accelerated hard from behind and then, brake hard in front of me. It was frustrating. Lap 3 Time: 10:47.602
I know that I was taking my changes from lap 4 (lap time: 10:29.262). I was overtaking a few riders and I was getting aggressive. And as I always tell my son, in the last few meters of the marathon, give your heart out! I just did and that was my fastest lap!
Lap 5 Time: 10:29.957
Lap 6 Time: 10:37.359
Lap 7 Time: 10:22.105
I should be disappointed that I didn’t perform the way I should have. But actually, I’m proud of myself for not giving up and fighting through it. Over the years, I feel that I’ve got soft and so to fight back in this situation was a big win for me.
As Rocky said, "It ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!”
Well, it is almost two days since the event was over. And my right side is yet to find peace! But glad that everything is in one piece.
(this is my conversation with my wife)