St Albans Convict 100 Mountain bike race. Start line. Dominic Byrne

7 May 24

By Dominic Byrne

Single Parent Getting After It

After the race, I was putting my bike on the car when I needed to pee. I consumed 3.5 litres of water during the 68K event after 1-2 litres in the car on the drive to the race, so it made sense I had to go. My car was in a paddock makeshift car park and no one was around, my legs were feeling like lead, and I didn’t have the energy to walk to the aromatic-porter-loos that had their fair share of nervous pre-race traffic, so I made a quick go at peeing at the rear of my vehicle.

On what I thought was going to be a marathon piss, I wouldn’t have filled a shot glass and it stung like I had a urinary tract infection. I hadn’t experienced this before, I smiled in astonishment and was like, “fuck yeah I gave that race a nudge alright.”

When the alarm went off at 4 am to pack my bag and load my bike, my heart rate had an elevated beat. I felt a combination of excitement and nervousness, even a little David Goggins stupidity as I had only been on the bike twice in twelve months and the distances I rode were far from the length I was about to embark on. (*Although Goggins would have entered the 100k and carried his bike)

The Drive into Wiseman’s Ferry was beautiful. It was misty, the sun was rising, and the water along the Hawkesbury was like mystic reflective glass. I passed a beautiful farm homestead where the kids, Lou and I stayed in 2018 when she was sick; It was an excellent memory. I was listening to a super interesting podcast and thought, what a privilege to be alive. How lucky am I to be enthusiastically up with the sun and race in these magnificent mountains just a few hour’s drive from my home?

St Albans dawned with a crisp chill that cut through the air, mingling with the palpable sense of anticipation. As I stood among the sea of cyclists, the fluttering of nerves in my stomach matched the rhythm of my heart. 68 kilometres lay ahead, a daunting distance that promised physical exertion and mental fortitude.

Peddling out of the starting line, even though I was only racing for myself, the adrenaline surged through my veins, propelling me forward with determination to see what my body was capable of under stress. The first few kilometres were a blur of motion; I was chatting to a bloke named Kevin, who looked to be about 60 and way too relaxed. I thought perhaps I was not going as fast as I felt as the wind was whipping past my ears, but I was to discover that Kevin won Gold in the 1984 Olympics and rode in three consecutive Olympic Games, so peddling fast was like walking to this guy. What a legend!

start of the race dominic byrne

In the first 10K’s, I went out knowingly a little too hard. The lead group was travelling at about 35K’s an hour, and my heart rate was way too high to sustain this pace, but I pushed anyway. This race was an experiment, so I was happy to be at my limit.

I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said towards the top of the ‘6 kilometre Browns Trail Hill’, that doubts didn’t begin to creep into my mind like insidious whispers. “You have a long way to go; your heart has been in the red zone for over an hour, and your legs are custard.”

Around the halfway mark, fatigue had set in like an unwelcome guest. My muscles burned with every rotation of the pedals, and doubt gnawed at the edges of my resolve. The voice in my head grew louder, urging me to give in, to stop and rest my weary limbs. Every incline felt like a mountain to conquer, every descent a test of courage.

I got my first leg cramps at 37ks. I had to walk for a few minutes, eat, drink, and have another energy gel and a high dose of electrolytes.

I came good.

downhill-convict-100-st-albansWith each passing kilometre, the temptation to quit grew stronger. My legs screamed in protest, and my lungs gasped for air like each breath was a precious commodity. But amidst the pain and exhaustion, a fire ignited within me—a stubborn refusal to surrender.

I dug deep, drawing upon reserves of strength I didn’t know I possessed. With gritted teeth and a steely determination, I pushed through the agony, one pedal stroke at a time.

I was solid until 48K’s.

Then my legs blew up.

My quads and hammies (both legs) were spasming simultaneously.

I was in all sorts.

A guy (race number 654 – Henry) who passed by on an e-bike when I was huddled over with my seat pressed into my stomach to hold my body weight, not able to stand, turned around and came back to help. He had this magic “cramp stop” mouth spray that worked (I had never heard of it). I had to wait about three minutes (where I lost about 25 + positions), but this golden spray got another 20 Kilometres out of my expired legs. I had to ride the last hour seated, with a slightly lowered seat to prevent my legs from locking up again.

With 5K’s to go, I got a little emotional as I knew I would make it. The finish line beckoned like a beacon of hope, a symbol of triumph over adversity.

As I crossed the finish line, a wave of euphoria washed over me, eclipsing the pain and exhaustion. A few tears of pain, expenditure and elation blurred my vision as I realised the magnitude of what I had accomplished. At that moment, I knew that the struggle had been worth it—that sometimes, the most significant personal victories are born from the brink of defeat.

I wanted to do it in <5 hours. I did it in 3:52. I went to my physical limits.

Dominic ByrneLooking back only a few days from the event, I cherish the memory of that race—the physical and mental battle, the moments of doubt and despair, and ultimately, the sweet taste of crossing the line, even though 100 riders crossed before me. It taught me that resilience lies not in the absence of fear or pain but in the courage to persevere in adversity. And though my body may have faltered, my spirit soared as I made the distance (when I was confident at 48K’s I would be getting an embarrassing ride to my car with a medic), triumphant in my defiance of defeat.

It was one of the hardest things I have done physically, but it was extremely fun. Perhaps I will ride my bike before next years event, or maybe not.

I thank life for the opportunity to test my limits. I also thank bike number 654 and his magic spray.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment