I’m a newcomer to the world of endurance riding. However, once I discovered it, I was immediately hooked and my training has been relentless. It was quite by accident that I discovered the AML400. I put it on the calendar and began my preparations. I was relaxed as the race actually began. I thought I would be much more uneasy but the other riders were so gracious and fun to be around I instantly felt at ease. IMG_0942The departure was simple and quick. My goal going into this amazing ride was to keep pedaling without sleep and hopefully beat the course record of 38 hours. Somewhere around the 150 mile mark my SPOT Tracker started acting up, but I pressed on. It had been raining and I was miserably soaked. On rides like this, it’s easy to feel like the roads are never going to end, but the loneliness and desperation really come out when the light kit gets turned on. This is when you experience utter darkness and solitude that can’t be explained. You find yourself talking out loud just to have companionship. IMG_0960 It was very cold and I had no idea how I was doing on the leaderboard. I had gotten off route for 10 miles, and then after making that up and getting back on course, I passed the guy in the lead. I was stunned. I was doing so well. We rolled on together for a few hours, napped on a picnic table for 22 minutes and then with great determination I left him on a massive climb up the ridge. I was on track to finish the ride in under 33 hours. I wasn’t sore and I felt great. IMG_0958 And then, out of nowhere at mile 268 I snapped my chain, which in turn severed my derailleur hanger. The bike immediately locked up and I was on the ground in the middle of an intense climb totally unable to unclip my shoes from the pedals fast enough. I’m far too new to cycling to have known at that moment that I could have taken a link out of the chain, made the bike a single speed and painfully punished my legs to finish the race. My local bike shop is teaching me that trick now, but you can be sure I would’ve ridden on with one gear if I had known. When I saw the problem, my heart sank. I knew right then that my AML400 was over. That feeling of regret was compounded by the fact that I was absolutely in the middle of nowhere with no cell service. I pushed the bike up the remaining part of the climb and then coasted 2 miles down the other side. I was able to flag down a truck and unbelievably they stopped, loaded me up and drove me 30 miles to the nearest town to call for help. Just before I dismounted the bike I took about 30 seconds and leaned over the handlebars and found myself crying like I had lost my best friend. IMG_0959 It was over for me and yet I had so much left in my tank. A “DNF” is no small thing to an ultra distance cyclist. It stings but it also motivates. I’m not disappointed with myself. I’m grateful for the experience. So now, my thoughts are filled with how I can do it better and faster next time. I will return. I will train harder and I will crush the record and the race at the elusive AML 400. Heck, I may even go for two laps next time.

4 Comments

  1. chuck kozora

    Greg,

    I understand your disappointment with a DNF after all that goes into preparing for an event of this magnitude. I also was on this year’s AML400 start list and prepared for months to take it on. In my case, i received a call from my wife just 2 hours before the start that we had a death in family. Family comes first so I packed-up and drove back home. Still, a DNS is very frustrating.

    The good news for both of us is that we can enter the 2015 October GD start or ride ITT at a time of our choosing. I predict our motivation will be even higher for the second attempt.

    Cheers!

  2. Please note: At the time of my break down, I had no knowledge that my previous “route correction” was not according to the exact route and I wouldv been disqualified anyhow. I’ve upgraded my equipment and will soon go for an ITT.

  3. Rick Harris

    Congratulations Greg, 268 miles is bucket list worthy! No doubt you did your best and will crush the full distance in time. Join us for N2N Memorial day 2015; fantastic people, great training and worthy cause. It takes us three days to ride 340 miles and we tack on a 4th day to make it an EPIC444. http://www.biken2n.com/

    See ya on the road.

  4. Greg,

    Thanks for sharing your story! I enjoy reading everything I can about any endurance mountain bike event. Everyone’s experience is always a chance to learn for others. I can understand the disappointment in the DNF, I’ve been through it. You have the right attitude, be proud of what you accomplished and apply what you learned to the next event. Don’t look back, look to the future! Congratulations and good luck on your next event!
    Fred

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