I feel like I want to chip in here and share my experiences.
First of all, I want to express how sad I feel about the loss of another rider, it's something we never want to hear and has been too often of late. My sincere condolences go to all of Eric's family and friends
So, last year I successfully completed the Dakar Rally and to be honest (and I'll tell anyone this) it was easier than I expected from a technical riding point of view. Now, don't let that make you think it was easy, it wasn't, and you can make it harder by riding faster! We all different opinions and experiences on what is hard terrain, just like we all have different riding abilities, different physical abilities and different levels of ability to withstand discomfort. I just expected more difficult. Seeing this years race unfold to be what seems to be a more challenging one, only makes me want to be there more, to beat the ultimate challenge. Nonetheless, I am utterly content with what I achieved.
Preparation is key for this event, everything has to be lined up, everything has to work right including the rider and you need to know how to ride a bike at a reasonable pace, otherwise things will snowball fast. Anyone of you internet followers who thinks it looks like fun and would like a go, better get a serious long term training and racing regime in place or it will end in disappointment. It's not just about the rider either, we've seen a lot of mechanical breakdowns also. Don't underestimate how important the development work is that goes into the bikes to compete in these harsh conditions. The ability for the rider to overcome the unexpected is also paramount, look at Cyril this year and my fork leg repair
. This is still the longest and most arduous race in the world and amateur or pro, don't expect an easy ride!
There were some tough days on 2013 and for me, the shortest was one of the toughest and most technical so I can concur with a comment Ned made earlier on. The road book on that day scrolled a lot slower than I would have liked.
For me the altitude experienced in South America last year at circa 15,000ft, was brutal. I could not practically train in that altitude so just had to deal with it and it sucked. I really struggled to stay focussed and also to stay healthy in terms of hydration and food (and for us it was on an unpaved liaison, not a special stage). I was physically sick, had to stop numerous times and had to dig really deep to make the bivouac. For me, this was the without doubt the hardest part of the rally and can you believe it wasn't even on a special!
Now onto hydration and nutrition and I feel I have real experience to share here, this is SERIOUS stuff and should not be glossed over. For the Dakar I'd read about it a bit before I went, understood what I needed to do and how I needed to be disciplined to stay on top of it. I always drank and ate lots in the morning before departing and ran with electrolytes in my camel pack, I even carried additional tablets for if I needed to fill my camel pack at a fuel point. I'd also try to eat shot blocks or energy bars at stops. In training I got used to calibrating how much to drink depending on how far there was to go and how much I had left in my camel back so as not to run out while riding as that would have been a distraction. I also filled up at any opportunity, I'd never be sorry to have too much. On return to the bivouac each night I would drink at least a litre of recovery shake and eat lots again. I bet I consumed at least 8 to 10 litres of water a day (ish).
So, I got through the Dakar but this year I have had two really bad experiences and neither of which were due to ignorance. I think some people watching the television and seeing people being recovered from seriously dehydrated conditions but have never experienced it, probably wonder "why do they let themselves get that way, why don't they just drink more"....it's really not that straight forward.
Early in the year I was out training on a regular run aiming for 13 miles. It was a particular hot day and I had had a busy week at home / work. I set out to do a personal best and was on course for that. I'd taken on water at regular intervals and was feeling good right up to the 8 mile mark where I started to have to dig deep. I made the 10 mile point but after that the only way I have of telling what was going in was by looking at the download from my running watch. I had pushed my body so hard that it went into meltdown, kidney failure and the lot.
I knew I was finding it tough but I was chasing the goal of a personal best, I just kept saying "push through the pain Lyndon", much like a lot of the riders must have to do on the Dakar. Your inner desire to get to the end and achieve what you set out to achieve can see you push yourself beyond your own limits. We should not underestimate the power of the human mind to push through boundaries. I never thought I could push myself to the point of no return but I did. I owe my life to a few very special people who were first on the scene and the paramedics thereafter. 5 days in hospital gave me time to think, a lot. I had done nothing different to what I normally do, the only difference being the conditions (hotter) and the fact I was pushing myself for a faster time, two of the classic variables that we see influencing riders on the Dakar.
The second was later this year, in the Merzouga Rally where I got food poisoning which drained everything I had. I still tried to ride because I did not want to give up but this very nearly ended in disaster for me. I got so disorientated I had to stop the bike on the piste, I could not navigate or concentrate any more. I sat next to the bike, in the shade and seriously thought my time was up. I only had 20km remaining of the stage. This time, a fellow rider stopped and encouraged me to follow him in. I really struggled but made the bivouac. Again, an experience triggered from an outside influence that I could not train for.
I know this is a long winded post, and I probably was not considering sharing these experiences with the internet but you know what, it's life and I think it's important to share these sometimes to make people understand how dangerous and close to the edge it can get. We should not underestimate what these guys and girls are going through.
I did have a tear in my eye writing some of that, especially as it really hits home how close and lucky I was. Reading of others who did not get so lucky makes me sad
Anyway, it is rest day and the riders can have a little time to recover and replenish and this is the "coolest fucking race" so we shall continue to follow and enjoy the events that unfold. Rest day for LPR 2013.....
Oh and here's one to compete with Manny, I got seriously distracted at this fuel station