A Day in the Life of an Endurance Cyclist – Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst
Finishing as overall SOLO WINNER of Race Across America 2021 was a surreal moment for me. As an endurance cyclist, I had basically trained for this event for over 20 years. In fact, I had actually trained non-stop for over 2 years for this race as a result of the global pandemic.
Upon my arrival home (and a short rest), I asked myself, “What am I going to do with all of this FITNESS? I just can’t waste it!” So, in total Leah fashion, I decided to begin training for another race in October. My crew and I decided on an 800+ km practice ride in hopes of finishing in 35 hours. After just finishing a 4800km+ ride; we all thought easy peasy right? Well, just ask any endurance cyclist… Hope for the best, prepare for the worst because anything can happen!
It all began the day before the ride.
We had electronic issues. It ended up to be a very long day for some of my crew members starting from 9am right until 10pm! The night before I could not sleep, woke up at 1am and that was it…. I knew riding through the night was not going to be fun. The plan was for me to leave at 6am and the first crew shift would catch me at around 10:30 am.
At 5:50am I was loading up the bike but the front light would not turn on. It’s dark in Vernon at that time so I can’t ride without one. I quickly grabbed another light, no worries, hopped on the bike and started riding. 5 kms out my shifters stopped working, (I have electronic shifting). I was stuck in the easiest gear because I was climbing at the time they jammed. I had to turn around and rode like a mouse on a spin wheel to grab another bike. By the time I got home it was 6:20am. I very quickly grabbed my spare bike, mounted all the lights and my Bryton GPS computer and rode like crazy to make up some lost time!
Yes!! We are finally going to make some time!
I finally got going at a good clip when I hit a small bump and my front light fell off… along with the mount. My light was laying there in the middle of a busy road and the mount was smashed in pieces. I jumped off my bike, grabbed the light and plastic mount which was now broken. I shoved the plastic, broken mount in my back pockets, (which were already exploding with food, spare tools, etc.) and had no choice but to hold the front light with one of my hands. It was a little chilly so I tried to zip up my vest. The zipper popped because of the overflow of supplies in my back pockets (no my belly is not really that big)! An endurance cyclist has gotta’ eat! So, I had to hold the damn light till the sun came up and as I’m riding one of my energy bars fell out of my back pocket.
At this point I knew it was just going to be one of those days.
Later that day, as we were riding into Merritt and I was descending, it was dark and I felt something fall off my bike. This time it was my Bryton!! We came to a screeching halt. My crew jumped out and tried to find it in the dark. It was a mad scramble! It took about 5 minutes but YESSSSS they found it. Miraculously it wasn’t broken! So we tried to mount it, only to discover the mount had broken. These bumps in the road motivate you to go harder and be faster. They are endurance fuel for cyclists!
Once again, I quickly changed bikes.
I had to, it’s super important for me to see my speed when I’m trying to set pace. So, now I’m on another bike! Around 2am we hit some construction, the pavement was very grooved for about 5km. One of my crew members was worried that I could puncture a tire because the road was so rough. Voila, it happened! My tire punctured. I grab another bike because changing a flat in the pitch dark is too time consuming. We decided to wait until we met our mechanic who was on the shift earlier and was probably sleeping.
Approximately 2 hours later we met with the mechanic, but he couldn’t change the tire because I didn’t pack long stem tubes. WHATTTTT???? I could go on and on about the easy peasy practice ride but I think ya get the picture.
My crew functioned like a well-oiled machine.
Despite all the issues, sometimes shit just happens, every endurance cyclist has to deal with it. Despite everything that went south, I ended up with a personal best time of 32 hours covering 800km with 8500 meters of climbing. Big thank you to Katrina, Gail, Kaitlen, Brock, and Sandy. You all ROCK!!
In every single practice, in every single race it is the crew that makes the difference. I have been so blessed during my career to have been surrounded with amazing, compassionate, strong, wise and KICK ASS team members! Thank you to you all!
Leah Goldstein is an internationally sought-after speaker. She is a World Champion Kickboxer, Israeli Undercover Police Officer, National Cycling Champion, record holder of multiple ultra-distance cycling races, 1st woman in history to win the gruelling 3000 mile Race Across America and all-around crazy person. Leah’s memoir, “No Limits” is available now at www.leahgoldstein.com/book/ and all online retailers.
What a great read, Leah. Brings back so many memories and you’re so right, all of these little things are just a day in the life for anyone in endurance sports. So many tiny setbacks. Thank you for writing this!