Wednesday, April 12, 2023

A Question Of Responsibility

From Jeff Kerkove's Instagram story
"Self-Support". It is a term I am intimately familiar with. Both as an event promoter and as an event participant. I've written reams on the subject here, mostly in conjunction with Trans Iowa, the ultra-distance gravel event I put on for 14 years, starting out things there with Jeff Kerkove. 

Jeff left Trans Iowa in about 2007, and since then he has not let his foot off the gas when it comes to self-supported, ultra-endurance bicycle riding/racing. This year he has already tackled the Atlas Mountains in Africa and most recently the Ozark Gravel Doom, or now just known as "DOOM", by setting the FKT for the event breaking Hailey Moore's previous record set just last year. Jeff's time was 42Hrs, 23min, shaving nearly an entire day off the previous record. By the way, the event is self-supported. 

43,000ft of vertical, 390 miles, and you have to get your own water and food. Oh.....and resupply is not guaranteed. Per Jeff's Instagram post:

"Resupply is lean. It’s even leaner when you cannot rely on said resupplies even being open even though their store hours say so. I resupplied at mile 90. Had pizza at mile 293 because my resupply 45 miles earlier was closed. The last resupply was Dollar General at mile 351 – arriving with just 5 minutes to spare."

Jeff also wrote that many years of this event saw no one finish at all. So, it has a certain reputation. Certain elements of the challenge certainly could be ferreted out, should you want to put yourself to this test. Research, understanding, and preparation are vital to success at such events. Also vital: Knowing when to stop. Also vital: Understanding your responsibility in undertaking a challenge with a high rate of failure. 

From Sonya Looney's Twitter feed.

 So, what is all this about "understanding your responsibility" as a self-supported rider anyway? 

Well, many times I have witnessed and have read about riders in these sorts of events that fail and then take the "blame someone else" route to justify their quitting. We saw this at the Gravel Doom event. One participant was upset that a resupply point that "might be open" wasn't and decided that they could not go on. It was intimated that that this was the fault of the race organizer. Of course, this also happened to Jeff, who persevered, somehow, and not only won, but set the fastest known time, (FKT) in the process.  

Jeff used to tell me all the time that everything has to work perfectly for a rider to finish one of these types of events. That does not always happen, and when it doesn't? Nutrition, mechanicals, weather, or even your mental state can make it so that you do not finish. 

Ultra-endurance events call out for a high degree of personal integrity, discipline, and discernment. One of the tenets of the genre' I was taught was that self-extraction from an event was to be highly prized and a thing worth being celebrated and acknowledged by others. The thing is, as a society and as a group, cyclists don't do this. Failure is seen in a negative light, and being able to know "when to say when" is an art that seems to be lost on many folks. It's hard to find that "right" balance, and well, if hard things are to be avoided, which seems to be the case these days, then maybe that is why blame games are played out like we see sometimes. 

But whatever. I think it is valuable to just have thrown yourself at a challenge, with all the resources and research you can muster, and then do the thing. If that ends in a non-completion of a challenge, well, that is still a very valuable thing. If you are learning anything, that is. 

By the way, "Congratulations, Jeff!" And Congratulations to anyone who tried that event and rode in it. 

1 comment:

NY Roll said...

Confidence is a lot of things, but I have found confidence is something that cannot be tweeted. Confidence is a myriad of things, and a lot of it is derived from experiences and a lot of it is from self-belief, and even more is remaining calm an able to handle the unexpected. And even that run on sentence is not justice for the word confidence.
But the adage is of fail to plan is a plan to fail.