words and photos by LLOYD WRIGHT
I wasn’t ready for what the Atlas Mountain race route would do to me, physically, mentally and emotionally, two weeks on i am still recovering from all three, and struggling with the last two. The terrain was rougher than i could have imagined, long sections of bone rattling riverbeds, ancient colonial roads with collapsed switchbacks. The rocks previously making up the road now cascading over the mountainside below, vast never ending desert trails seemingly forgotten to time, rarely used by anyone apart from the occasional lost sheep.
Traversing these awesome trails and climbs was actually the easiest part, the physical act of turning the pedals up to 18 hours a day isn’t that difficult if its all you’ve been thinking about for 6 months, you’re ready for that. The tough part is processing what lies ahead, what challenge you will have to face after the one your dealing with right now, what will you have to climb, descend or carry your bike over tomorrow? That’s the hard part, to keep turning the pedals towards the next section, even when the last one had you questioning why your doing it at all.
I did wonder many times why i was doing it, why had i committed so much time to this event, to ride myself into the ground for 6 days, sleep by the side of the road, not wash, not brush my teeth and live off junk food for a week. Why would anyone do this? That question was answered in so many ways every day. Each beautiful view that i would never otherwise have seen, each breathtaking sunrise, each warm smile from a stranger in a remote village, each ache, each painful pedal stroke, each tentative perch on my saddle, each time i felt i couldn’t go on any further, each and every moment of complete and utter despair that i would never have felt without the long days on the bike, the lack of sleep and the bad food wearing me down, chipping away at me. Without those things i would never have felt the determination to carry on, to keep going no matter what, and the feeling of extreme elation that burst from every pore in my body once i powered through the dark moments to find the light, where i felt i could conquer anything and anyone. That was why i was doing it, to feel these emotions that most of us don’t feel in our everyday lives, we rarely push ourselves to the edge of what were capable of physically and mentally.
Now i am home and the event is over, but part of me is still in Morocco, still involved in my great adventure across the Atlas mountains, my ankles are still swollen, nerve damage in my hands has left them feeling detached from my body and I am yet to unpack my bike and wash off the dust. Once i am healed, once my bike is fixed and cleaned ill be home for real, in the present, but i will be planning the next adventure, the next big challenge, the next race, because now i have experienced the extreme highs and lows of pushing myself to my limit i see it as one of the most valuable things i have ever done. If your planning an event that scares you a little or even a lot, i urge you to do it, you wont regret it.