It was hard to rest right away. I had a quick shower and was immediately desperate to be in the company of other people. One very surprising thing I learned about myself on this journey is that I am a very social creature! I can picture some of you thinking that's not really shocker as I am slightly extroverted, but I really love my alone time and thought I was going to love the isolation and alone time involved in ultra endurance cycling. In fact, whenever I had the chance, I was talking people's heads off! Even if they didn't understand a word I was saying! I still enjoyed the solitude, but it made me crave conversation especially by the end of it.
The next night, we had a dinner for the riders where we all sat around outside the Hayatt in Muscat and acknowledged what we had achieved. It was beautiful.
As a special surprise, I was given an award for "Bravest Rider" - an acknowledgement of the extra challenges I had faced on the route with the truck driver on Day 3 of my race. I was a bit embarrassed at first, but afterwards, so many of the other riders commented at how impressed they were that I continued on after that. It was an honour to be recognized amongst this group of extremely strong and brave cyclists.
Explore, Endure, Empower
Also during the event, we heard Axel Carion speak about the ethos of Bikingman and the three underpinning values: Explore, Endure and Empower.
For me, the Oman race meant all three of these and more. The spirit espoused by Axel and Andreas was established from early communications, the design of their website, the tone of their emails - all of it. From start to finish, they (and the whole team) showed immense dedication to making this race work in a way that supports the riders and respects the host country.
They were so thorough, and from my experience, this really supported me in making it to the finish. This is not easy to achieve, but they really pulled it off. Obviously, once you are out there riding, it's all you. But the organizers made sure they did what they could before the start to ensure they had done their part in setting us up for success.
My biggest takeaway from speaking with Axel and Andreas is their genuine passion for the sport and their commitment to the vision of Bikingman. Whether I get to participate in another one or not, I will continue to follow the rest of the series with great interest and a passion for what each one of the racers is doing out there. You can't ever imagine what it takes to complete an ultra-endurance race without doing one yourself.
Summer Camp Blues
Leaving on Saturday was like leaving your new friends after the best summer camp ever. We had made quick but deep connections in the few days we spent together, and they were the people who could even remotely relate to what I had just been through.
When I returned to work some of my colleagues were keen to hear about the experience, and it was hard to capture it in just a few words. Some people just didn't get it or had no idea what I had been away for. On my first day back to work (just two days after I had finished the race), "How was your holiday, Jenn?" to which I unconsciously cringed. It dawned on me that most people would never be able to comprehend what I had just been through.
And, perhaps more importantly, that this race changed me.
Filmmaker Anthony Gordon and I had talked about this before the race. You are never the same after this type of event. I suspect this is even truer when the goals are bigger and the stakes higher. In my case, I remember reading the initial announcement of Bikingman and thinking I might not be able to finish it, but wouldn't it be fun trying!
A new addiction
For the first few days, I was absorbed in social media. Trying to wring every drop from this life-changing experience. Messaging the Bikingman whatsapp group, posting my blogs, sharing photos, doing interviews, and commenting on other people's posts, blogs, etc.
It was hard to participate in offline life because it lacked the luster that the previous weeks had. The anticipation, the training and preparation had all been gaining momentum for us since we registered. Then came the race and all of the focus and physical exertion that comes with it. Finally, we had achieved something incredible and waited for the realization to sink in while sharing it with others who understood the enormity of it. And then it was over. And I didn't want it to be. I was sad and depressed. What now?
And that's when the new thought starts to creep in. What next indeed? Another ultra? Another Bikingman? I want to see these people again, to be in this club, to belong to something that I respect and find joy in.
I have been Skyping with others from the race - keeping it going and looking forward. I haven't made any decisions yet, but John has registered for Taiwan, and I am excited for him to have this experience too. No announcements yet for me, but I am already training for BC Bike Race, and feeling the need to have something else on the horizon beyond the stage race in July. Taiwan would be amazing...