This past month marked the latest iteration of the 360one MTB and the culmination of months of training. In the end, it wasn’t just a race, but a journey that tested my limits and revealed an inner strength I wasn’t sure I possessed.
Back in October, I embarked on a hare-brained idea that would hopefully get me to race day. This involved getting my body accustomed to riding further than I had ever ridden before. Granted, much of that long-distance riding was due to my addiction to adventure. My training might not have been what other folks would have planned. Most of my focus was spent on building my different energy systems using the TrainerRoad platform, which involved a lot of indoor work, supplemented with the occasional longer outdoor ride to test different pieces of kit or nutrition strategies. One of the trickier elements I had to contend with, that most others didn’t, was having the fasting month of Ramadan fall one month before race day. This meant I had to be done with the majority of my training before the start of the fasting month. Once the fasting began, the focus was simply on maintenance and ensuring I didn’t lose any fitness or become sick.
Race day was a whirlwind of excitement, anxiety, and relentless rain. The cold downpour drenched us before the starting gun even fired, setting the stage for the challenging 25 hours ahead.
The race was a rollercoaster, not just in terms of terrain, but also the physical and mental trials. One of my concerns was my choice of tires. I had slick Vittoria Terreno dry tires, designed for dry, hard-pack conditions, yet they surprised me with their exceptional handling in the muddy conditions. I also grappled with numbness in my hands and feet and bouts of sleepiness that seemed to hit at the most inopportune times. While numbness is generally normal on long-distance rides, the combination of the cold and rain resulted in me being unable to shift gears (the mud probably didn’t help either).
Nutrition was another challenge. The harsh conditions made eating on the move difficult, forcing me to catch up at the water points, which was far from ideal. The cold made it impossible to keep my nutrition in my jersey pockets or my tri bag (my preferred storage choice). Unfortunately, with only the tri bag being an option (not a great one given the mud), I had to rely on liquid nutrition for the most part.
Despite these hurdles, there were moments of camaraderie that shone brightly. My riding partner for the later half of the race, Mike Rollers, found just before check point 2 and then ended up giving me company and coaching me through the later half of the race when things got kinda dark. Without Mike’s kind words and patience, I really think I might not have made it across the finish line.
In the end, it was worth it. Not only did I finish the race, but I also beat my stretch goal of 26 hours, finishing in 25 hours and 39 minutes, including stops. Most people couldn’t really comprehend that I managed to do the race on a gravel bike as a first timer and given the conditions. On some level it felt great to prove everyone wrong and demonstrate just what these machines are capable off (though I suspect the race winner finishing on a gravel bike probably drove that point home much more succinctly).
The 36ONE was a revelation. It taught me about endurance, resilience, and the power of the human spirit. It showed me how to lean into the pain and push through the darkest moments. If you’ve ever contemplated an ultra-distance race, I say, go for it. It’s tough, grueling even, but the indescribable feeling of accomplishment is worth every pedal stroke.