The Toughest Challenge

“I think I’m being followed.”

Sovev Yerushalayim (“Around Jerusalem”) is a mountain biking event that was originally started as part of the celebrations to mark the opening of the Tachanah (“Station”) complex in Jerusalem, where the old Ottoman era train station was. It has continued each year since then, with a range of events – 8, 20, 40, and 50 km – to suit riders of all abilities.

Susan, Shosh and I have habitually done the 40 km event, starting and returning to the Tachanah, and feeling totally exhausted. Last year, Susan suggested we should aim to do the 50 km event in 2018. So, that’s what we decided to, though I was fearful that the extra 10 km was a bit too much.

Then real life interfered:

First, Susan had too many bouts of illness to properly train, so it was left to Shosh and me to live up to Susan’s suggestion!

Second, the event was postponed from 27 April (due to bad weather) to 11 May. It was bound to be hotter.

Third, they changed the route to keep us away from the Tachanah and the center of Jerusalem. Instead, we started and finished at the zoo. It was a much harder route even without the extra 10 km.

So, on the day, Shosh and I turned up ready for the 6.45 AM start we had in our welcome pack. Unbeknownst to us, the organizers had brought the start forward for the 50 km riders to 6.30 AM. As we were late, and ignorant of this, it meant we were caught in the much bigger mass of 40 km riders. The effect was to slow us down. Not that we would have been riding too much faster, but we would have avoided the stop-start delay at various choke points on the route, where the trails were not wide enough for everyone to pass at the same time.

The 50 km route included a circular 10 km add on to the 40 km route. When we eventually got to the start of that add on, many of the 50 km riders were finishing it. Needles to say, the add on was 10 km of hard, mostly uphill riding. And the sun was starting to make its presence felt.

Between gasps for breath and prayers for the pain to stop, I could admire the beautiful scenery: stunning views, fantastic panoramas, a glorious impossibly blue sky, and the buzz of a great biking event. Then back to the pain… Keep pedaling!

Shosh and I persevered, helping one another keep going until, eventually, we made it to the finish.

At the end, having long since drunk my water dry, I gladly accepted a bottle of water thrown to me by the staff at the finishing line. I took off the top and poured it over me. Unfortunately, the bottle had clearly been out in the heat too long, because it gave me a hot shower. Oh dear. Well, you cannot get everything you want, can you?

I was so exhausted, that I could not raise my bike enough to get it on the bike rack. I had to put it down and grab a five minute nap, to add a little charge to my drained batteries. I also drove home much more slowly than usual, conscious that I was not at my most alert.

“Five minutes rest, then I’ll put you on the rack.”

That 50 km event was the most physically demanding challenge I have ever faced. Immediately afterwards my feelings were along the lines of I’m never doing that again. In fact, I’m not doing the 50, the 40, the 20 or any part of the Sovev next year.

Of course, with the pain and effort slipping from my memory, I am not that sure what I will do. One thing is for sure though: next year, Susan is joining in, no matter what!

Share: